This longer-barrelled over-and-under field gun – which uses many well-proven 68 series components – looks attractive and Michael Yardley finds it handles well
The new Beretta 691 32in uses many components from the well-proven 68 series guns. Michael Yardley is impressed, finding it a pleasant and pointable gun to use.
For more from the 69 series, read our review of the Beretta 695.
BERETTA 691 32IN
This 32in Beretta 691 over-and-under is 3in steel shot fleur-de-lys proofed, multichoked (five flush fit ‘Optima HP’ chokes are supplied in the ABS travel case) and has a single-selective, inertia-operated trigger. It weighs in at about 7½lb – not heavy for a 32in over-and-under. The gun is designated a field model and has a relatively narrow ventilated sighting rib, but it would not be out of place on a Sporting clay layout.
The 691 would suit someone who favours longer barrels but does not want to hulk an 8lb or 9lb behemoth around. It would be better suited to shooting live quarry than some bulkier 32in guns, though it might not be the first choice for walking up woodcock.
First impressions are good. Our 691 has a smart, quite bold, new engraving style and it would be my preference over the rolled-on, tighter scroll that adorns some 68 series guns. I would guess the engraving is applied by laser here. The action has double fences at the top that look attractive. General presentation of metal and woodwork is good, as one expects from Beretta. The stock wood is fairly plain and a little open grained – but this is a base-grade gun. The wood might be enhanced by extra oiling.
A word on the model is in order. The 690 series of guns first appeared in 2014. I was invited to the launch in Tuscany – a most enjoyable occasion – and by good fortune won the FITASC-style competition there that coincided with the launch. I was genuinely impressed with the new gun and found I shot it better than the almost always excellent 68 series Silver Pigeons. The gun available to me in Italy was 28in barrelled, but I have since shot several 30in guns. I looked forward to this test of a 32in version with great interest.
The 69 series might be described as an improved Silver Pigeon. The evolution was first attempted in the Beretta Perennia and Prevail SV10 chassis models. These are very similar to the new 690s (and the barrels may be swapped with minimum gunsmithing unlike barrels of the 68 series and 69 guns). The 69 and SV10 guns have, apart from a differently shaped action exterior, larger barrel shoulders and slightly wider hinge-pins than the 68 series. Hinging and bolting mechanics remain similar in the new guns.
The 690 action is, theoretically, stronger than the 68 series because of its larger bearing surfaces and may be proofed to higher pressures, not that this is likely to be a major issue as all Berettas are extremely robust. The internal mechanics of the 69 series are almost identical to the 68’s. Apart from the different barrel shoulders and wider hinging studs, there are small differences to the safety mechanism.
There are significant differences when it comes to ejector work, however – early 69 guns had ejectors that might be switched off by means of a screw in the monobloc, a facility that has now been dispensed with. There has also been slight modification of the way the ejector extractors are retained.
The stock of the test gun was adequate. I liked the rounded fore-end, although the butt shape and grip might be improved. A more tapered shape to the stock comb would suit and I would offset the comb slightly to achieve standard cast without unnecessary lateral bend. This is a common issue with many mass-produced guns; cast should not begin at the nose of the comb but from the back of the top tang (or with it on a bespoke gun). A small offset at the nose relative to the centre line coming back from the rib axis means less cast is required at the shoulder to achieve similar effect. The ‘angle of attack’ of the comb to the face may thus be reduced, resulting in reduced felt recoil.
The 69 action is a little bigger than the 68/Silver Pigeon. Bearing surfaces are larger, as noted. It is still built to bifurcated lump, trunnion hinged, Beretta plan, with conical locking bolts – actually a two-pronged U-bolt. The Beretta policy has been to use many well-proven 68 series components in the 690 – including hammers, sears, sear arms and inertia block – and still come up with a gun that looks different and may offer even more strength. The 691 combines its evolved action with ‘Steelium’ tri-alloy (nickel-chrome-molybdenum) barrels.
A billet is deep drilled and hammer forged under colossal pressure. Having been shaped by multiple industrial hammers, the tubes are vacuum stress relieved before insertion into the monobloc. All internal surfaces are hard chrome plated, too.
I am particularly interested in comparative gun testing, especially when exploring mechanically similar guns equipped with different barrels. We have looked at both 28in and 30in 690s in these pages, but the 32in test gun handled differently. It is a little muzzle heavy (which led me initially to over estimate its weight). Nevertheless, it was a pleasant and pointable gun to use. Felt recoil was no issue and trigger pulls were good – I thought it better in this respect than the average 68, although it shared similar components in the trigger group.
I shot the test 691 at both clays and game. It performed well in both situations. I felt a little over gunned on fast, high partridge, but the 32in 691 would be in its element with normal driven birds. It was ideal for clays, too, with the 32in barrels consistent and forgiving with quick recovery between shots. Although not expensive, the 691 has a solid, quality feel as well as good aesthetics. There were no malfunctions whatsoever during testing. Overall, this was a well-designed and well-engineered gun made from premium materials at a reasonable price.
BERETTA 691 32IN OVER-AND-UNDER
♦ RRP: £2,345 (inc VAT)
♦ GMK, Bear House, Concorde Way, Fareham, Hampshire PO15 5RL.
♦ 01489 579999