This extra-finish Beretta 687 Silver Pigeon V Field 12-bore is a handsome addition to the popular family of guns, which have long been praised for their simplicity and consistent reliability. By Michael Yardley
This month spotlights the new Beretta 687 Silver Pigeon V Field imported by GMK, the well-known firm that also brings in Benelli, Franchi, Chapuis, Sako and Tikka firearms. The latest in a long line of Beretta 600 series models, this is an extrafinish 12-bore (the 20-bore version is expected soon) with 30in Steelium barrels that are steel shot proof, a single selective trigger and long Optima HP multichokes. It weighs in at 7lb 6oz, mid-weight for a stack-barrelled game gun, and is distinguished by its acanthus scroll engraving and upgraded wood.
Beretta offered a Silver Pigeon V some 20 years ago but it looked significantly different to the test gun, with gold inlaid birds and a chemically coloured action emulating traditional case hardening. The old model is still sought after, but the new gun is more subtly adorned and may appeal to a broader audience. It retains the generic 680 series family resemblance but decoratively looks quite like the recently discontinued (but excellent) 695, which had not dissimilar scroll engraving and finish. The 695, like the 690 Field models (also gone), was built on a slightly different chassis to the Silver Pigeons (one still seen in the Ultraleggero lightweight model and 690 and 694 competition models).
Our test gun, meanwhile, with its attractively laser-engraved action, looks smart without overdoing the bling. Acanthus decoration has long appealed. The floral form is inspired by the Mediterranean plant Acanthus spinosus, seen in decorative arts since the Greeks put it at the top of their Corinthian columns (you will find it on William Morris wallpaper and china, too). Myth has it that a nymph called Acantha was rejected by Apollo. She scratched his face in spurning him and he turned her into a spiky plant. It has been used as a decorative motif for centuries since.
Like the original Silver Pigeon V, this gun is built on the ‘bulletproof’ 600 series trigger- plate action. Beretta’s 686 Field model first appeared in the mid-1970s, followed by the more elaborately engraved 687 in 1977. The Silver Pigeon name was added to the 686 and 687 series in the 1990s. These guns have been enormously successful, with more than a million made. The basic Beretta 686 is still the gun favoured by most shooting schools and by anyone who wants an utterly dependable workhorse that will carry on almost no matter what. It sets a standard. Both the mechanics and materials are proven (but still constantly tested and occasionally subtly improved). The monobloc barrels are particularly strong. Should a 680 series gun go wrong, which is rare, it is easily fixed. GMK maintains its own well-stocked service department and has expert Beretta-trained gunsmiths in its workshop at Fareham.
The 690 series guns (including the 695 as mentioned) seemed at one point to have been introduced to replace the Silver Pigeons. It did not happen. They were, themselves, an evolution of the Perennia and Prevail models built on a new SV10 chassis. These may have looked too modernistic but they led to the development of the 690s (which looked much more like the familiar Silver Pigeons). What was the difference between the 690 and 686/7 Silver Pigeon? The 690 had larger barrel shoulders and wider hinging studs, and the action was theoretically capable of withstanding higher proof pressures. Many internal parts were shared, though there were slight differences to the ejector mechanism, and an alloy rather than a steel fore-end iron initially. Beretta decided to rationalise its model line, keeping the excellent 690 series guns in its competition stable but maintaining the well-priced and enduringly popular Silver Pigeon 600s in the range of field guns.
Anything left to be said of the test gun? The acanthus decoration was attractive. I also liked the full-length joining ribs to the barrels and the long pattern chokes. However, I was not so fond of the modernistic chequering panels with rounded corners. Traditional panels and borders might have suited better. I remain amazed, though, at the consistent quality of Beretta factory output.
The Beretta 600 series is an engineering and commercial triumph. It was designed originally with economy of manufacture in mind but its simplicity has become its enduring strength. The much-copied mechanics include a low-profile action with trunnion hinging, barrel shoulders dovetailing into the top of the action walls, and conical bolt locking. Most bearing surfaces are replaceable. There is less handwork than in a Browning B25 but the gun still requires significant hand assembly. No gunmaker has entirely overcome the need for human input, most notably when putting barrels together, and in the final regulation of ejectors and trigger-pulls. Nevertheless, you will note the ascendance of robots in the main Beretta factory, still located at its Gardone HQ (and to be distinguished from the nearby Beretta Due factory, where the premium guns are made and where much more traditional benchwork remains evident).
This Silver Pigeon ticks many boxes. It is built on the near-indestructible 600 series platform and is particularly pretty. The weight is about right, although the balance is front-heavy with 30in multichoked barrels (adding butt weight or a solid recoil pad would help). The grip might be a bit deeper too. This applies to 686s and 687s generally and is a function of their low action profile, which reduces the depth available between the top strap and the bottom of the trigger plate. Another small gripe is comb height: I lost the bead when elevating the gun. The drop at heel is almost 2¼in, which is combined with quite a slim comb profile. Easily rectified. Mechanically it remains totally sound. It shoots well, pointing nicely with the narrow rib and recoiling comfortably. Bottom line? If I could only have one gun on a desert island, it would still be a 680 Beretta.
KEY INFORMATION FOR BERETTA 687 SILVER PIGEON V FIELD 12-BORE
♦ RRP: £4,300
♦ GMK, Bear House, Concorde Way, Fareham, Hampshire PO15 5RL
♦ 01489 579999