The new Beretta 694 is designed first and foremost for the shooting ground, and thanks to the technical expertise that has gone into its design, it promises to be a competition winner, writes Michael Yardley
Michael Yardley is impressed by the new Beretta 694 12-bore, first and foremost a clay-breaking machine but could also be brought out for high birds.
For more from the 69 series, read our review of the Beretta 691 32in.
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BERETTA 694 12-BORE
It is always an occasion when Beretta unveils a new gun and the launch of the 694 was on a particularly grand scale. I was invited to Italy for the event, where those attending were fed and watered in the finest Italian style with wines grown in Beretta’s own vineyards. Happily, the gun lived up to the splendour of the party.
It became immediately clear that the 694 is the product of a great deal of high-tech research and development. Beretta is light years ahead of the opposition in applying science to the design and manufacturing processes – some of it derived from military experience. The company’s highly sophisticated computer modelling now includes the user as part of the mechanical processes behind a successful shot.
During multiple presentations in Brescia technicians explained how they have developed a recoil recorder that takes data from an electronic impact pad worn on the shoulder and placed between the firer and the butt sole. Using this information, Beretta discovered that changing the barrel’s steel can reduce felt recoil at the shoulder because the right steel alloy smoothes the transition of wad and shot down the bore.
This new Beretta is intended primarily for clays. In profile, it is not unlike a 692 – there is some DT11 there, and perhaps an echo of the late 680 model. The action finish is matt silver-grey (Beretta calls it Nitsan – a form of nickel plating). Simple decorative stripes are cut into the action. There is blue infill to these, similar to a DT11.
The mechanics of the 694 remain essentially 690/692 with what appears to be the same trigger-plate action used in the new gun. The asymmetric trapezoidal barrel shoulders are the same as other 69-series models such as the Perennia and Prevail. Some screws and pins are uprated. The action fences and head of the stock on the 694 have been cleverly reshaped to enhance target visibility as well as general aesthetics. Full marks to the design team here: it’s a simple change but beneficial both practically and stylistically.
There is a significant number of technical changes to what might otherwise be described as an improved 692. Apart from the resculptured action there is a new, smaller, all steel fore-end iron (which gunsmiths will like); a new, smaller and more positive fore-end latch that doesn’t heat up; and a new method of securing a significantly slimmed fore-end to the gun. The latter allows for simple servicing to keep the gun tight in the future. The top lever is all steel and ambidextrous. Joining ribs on the barrels extend the full length to improve handling dynamics and the rear part of the ribs is drilled, allowing for the attachment of dedicated balance weights. There is a three-position adjustable competition trigger.
The stock of the 694 – which is offered with both fixed and adjustable combs – has been raised at the heel. The standard dimensions now are 35mm and 50mm. This is a wise move, as far too many guns leave their makers with a stock that is just a little too low for the average user. The 694 stock is near the ideal. The hand on the 694 is also improved, with a slightly more acute radius and a hand-filling grip with a subtle and well-conceived palm swell. You can also add 20g and 40g balancing weights inside the stock. The barrels are Steelium Plus with a tapered bore, though not quite as radical as on the DT11. Chokes are of the extended Optima HP pattern. The rib on the Sporting version tapers from 10mm to 8mm, and is 10mm parallel on the trap gun.
The 694 has the usual Beretta hinging and locking: trunnions to the front, conical bolting to the rear with matching bites in the monobloc. It’s a well-proven, secure arrangement and improved in all 69 series guns with more substantial barrel shoulders than earlier 600s. The Steelium Plus barrels of the 694 are cold hammer forgings subjected to vacuum stress relief to maximise structural uniformity. The 12-bore barrels are marked as 18.6mm and have a taper for about half their length. The purpose is to reduce pellet deformity and initial operating pressure; felt recoil may be reduced, too. Full length joining ribs – which have provision for balance weights – add to central mass, as does a slightly heavier action. Ejector springs are uprated. Notably, the fore-end attachment mechanism now incorporates a replaceable piece on the back of a new rear loop (the DT11 has one similar but it’s located within the fore-end iron itself) to allow for easy tightening. This comes in six sizes: three for production adjustment and three over-sizes for future servicing.
I tried Sporting and trap variants of the 694 in both 30in- and 32in-barrelled versions. All performed well. No great difference was noted to the 692 Sporting (save that the 694 is slightly heavier at 7lb 10oz with 30in barrels) but I liked the balance and improved shapes. Ergonomics are improved, the fore-end is excellent with a little more chequering and the thickened stock-comb and grip are comfortable. Overall, the improvements justify the modest price increase over the 692. Either the Sporting or trap gun could be brought out for high birds but these are really clay-breaking machines. I shot at least a dozen of them hard on the Italian layouts and had no glitches save for a small ejector issue, probably relating to lubrication. Overall, I was extremely impressed with the new gun and the design team and process behind it.
BERETTA 694 12-BORE
♦ RRP: £3,300
♦ GMK, Bear House, Concorde Way, Fareham, Hampshire PO15 5RL.
♦ 01489 579999