Guns based on the 600 series action have been extraordinarily successful. They are bought by experienced sportsmen in great number and by novices, many of whom may have begun their shooting career with a borrowed Beretta. The guns are made from first-class materials, impeccably designed and shoot consistently.
For those in need of more bling, the famous Brescian house offers models such as the EELL and the Jubilee. They share the reliability and good shooting qualities of the basic 600 series guns but have upgraded wood, finer finish and sideplates that offer space for decoration and put a fraction more weight between the hands.
This market for ritzier guns based on well-proven mechanics seems to be growing. Tony Kennedy, one of the country’s best-known gun dealers and a specialist in the most expensive Italian marques (Fabbri, Piotti, Bertuzzi), has now introduced his own modified Berettas as part of a new custom-gunsmithing service involving Italian craftsmen.
Tony spends much time in Italy and knows many of the artisans and engravers in Gardone Val Trompia. Realising that not everyone has £40,000-plus to spend (the cost of a best Italian these days), he has put hiscontacts to good use to give serious and savvy punters another option somewhere between a machine-built gun and a bench-made one.
“What we are doing,” he says, “istaking a standard gun and making it into something special. You can buy a factory de luxe model but these have more real character. Not everyone wants an off-the-shelf gun with offthe- shelf measurements. Ours are all finished by hand to the customer’s measurements. Each one will be different. You can have sideplates or not, brush polish or true colour-case hardening. Engraving can be personalised, too. We are using topflight craftsmen, creating something beautiful, usable and affordable.”
The test gun, which carries a price tag of £12,000 (in the same ball park as a Beretta Jubilee or William Evans St James), certainly has the wow factor. Stocked in exhibition-grade walnut and profusely engraved, it has been built to show just what Tony can now offer. Intended for high birds, it is a big beast weighing 7lb 13oz, with tightly choked 30in barrels (reflecting the fact that it began its life as a trapgun). It has a 10mm sighting rib, a non-selective single trigger, and a
halfpistol grip stock. The fore-end is of rounded style and there is a Londonstyle push-button fastener to the front set in a skeletonised metal tip – a feature that will appeal for its looks and because it is practical, too (taking heat away from the front hand).
The quality of finish is impeccable, as good as or better than that of guns costing three times as much. The chequering is finely cut and the handrubbed oil and blacking to the monobloc 2¾in chambered barrels to London standard. What really sets this gun apart, however, are the striking game scenes on the sideplates and action engraved by Greco. The pheasants on the left-hand plate are especially eye-catching because they are larger than average and so well drawn. The deep and wide scroll pattern is well chosen, too.
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