Topping the 69 series, this modern 12-bore over-and-under impresses Michael Yardley with its bold engraving, upgraded wood and positive shooting qualities
Michael Yardley is impressed by the new Beretta 695 12-bore over-and-under. With excellent first impressions, positive shooting qualities and an attainable price, who could want for more?
For more from Beretta, read Michael Yardley’s review of the Beretta Silver Pigeon 30in 12-bore.
This month’s test explores a 12-bore Beretta 695 over-and-under game gun in 30in, multichoked form. It weighs in at 7lb 9oz. The test gun is not a limited edition as such, although only 100 are being made available initially (with a 20-bore and a Sporting 12-gauge on the way). The RRP is £4,125, pitching it above the firm’s base models but significantly below the sideplated EELL, which starts at £6,450.
The 695, which Beretta bills as leading the 69 series line, is, in essence, a deluxe version of the 690 (launched in 2014) with fairly tight, deep-chased scroll engraving (achieved using new, five-axis laser technology) and significantly upgraded wood. There are some small mechanical changes regarding the ejector-work; otherwise, it is similar to previous 69 series guns mechanically (the chassis first appeared in 2012 with a 692 clay buster).
First impressions are excellent. The action is a little wider than some Beretta models and puts a bit more weight between the hands as a result, contributing to a quality, solid, feel. The acanthus engraving pattern, bolder and deeper than Beretta’s norm, is a departure from the usual house style and both visually appealing and practical (one forgotten function of engraving is to disguise future wear). The stock wood on the test gun was outstanding, too. The figure was far better than the average for modern, mass-produced guns (Beretta’s advertising notes that the 695s have “Grade III” wood, which is similar to that on the EELL). The highly figured butt, moreover, had fairly straight grain going through the hand, conforming to the traditional gunmaker’s ideal.
My only criticisms on the woodwork front are minor. The grain on the finished stock could have been filled a little more (but a keen owner could easily remedy this with a little supplementary hand oiling with a product such as CCL Gunstock Conditioning Oil, as recommended by GMK). My other slight quibble was the coverage of the chequering pattern on the grip, which might have been a little more extensive (traditional panel shapes would have accomplished this). It is small stuff, however, on a gun that really is unusually smart on all aesthetic fronts considering its price point.
The overall look of the 695 is appealing: stylish without excessive bling. The double-sculpted fences of the action look good and remind of London’s best. The technical specification impresses, too. The 3in chambered, steel-shot proofed, cold-hammer-forged barrels are made from Beretta’s new Steelium alloy and multichoked. The chokes are the latest Opti-choke HP longer type and are flush fitting. The barrels are lighter than some models. In the 30in gun tested they weighed 1480gm. Apart from the strong alloy steel, the barrel weight is kept down by a narrow, 6mm sighting rib; joining ribs are solid. The bores are 18.6mm, a little wider than Berettas used to be, and are well presented and straight, indicative of careful production processes. There are no real forcing cones in evidence so I presume there’s a gradual taper from the chambers into the main bore. Barrel blacking is up to Beretta standards, there is a brass bead of sensible size (not too big or small) at the muzzles and the sides of the monobloc are attractively jewelled. The stock of the 695 was of conventional Beretta form with a full pistol grip with fairly open radius (some might call it a variant of a Prince of Wales) and a schnabel fore-end.
I am not especially fond of schnabels and I examined it to see if there was sufficient wood to remove the “beak”. Happily there is and this would be an easy modification. Stock measurements were 14⅝in for length of pull with ¼in more to heel/bump and ½in to heel. The wooden buttplate had a good concave rear to it. Drop was a little low for me at 1½in and 2¼in. Stock shapes were all good, however.
The 695, like the 692 and 690, is in essence a trigger-plate design with rebounding, coil-spring powered hammers. Sharing some features in common with the SV10 chassis seen on the Perennia and Prevail, it has the same larger, asymmetric barrel shoulders when compared to the classic Beretta 600 series guns. The recoil-activated, single-trigger mechanism is almost identical to the Silver Pigeon. The stud-type hinge pins at the knuckle are the same as those on the 692/690. The actual area of bearing surface is the same as the 680 series guns but the disks are fitted from the inside of the action body and capped on the exterior. They are retained by small allen screws, unlike the 680s. The strengthened ejector system is the same as the 692 but the so-called “Eco switch” in the fore-end (which could be activated by a screwdriver when the ejectors were slightly depressed) has gone. The same deepened extractors run in and out of the monobloc on a dovetail (making them less subject to torque). The ejectors are retained in place by a small disc on either side of the monobloc.
I much enjoyed shooting the 695, which rekindled positive memories of the launches of the mechanically and functionally similar 692 and 690. I won a Beretta competition with a 28in 690 III at its launch in Tuscany, and was so impressed with the gun’s handling that I determined to acquire one. The test gun’s 30in 1480gm barrels seemed well suited to it, the stock dimensions were good save the slightly low comb, the weight – 7lb 9oz – was near my ideal for an all-rounder. The balance, well forward of the hinge pin, might have been marginally improved with a little weight in the butt (the 695 will accept Beretta “BFast” stock weights, which are not supplied). Overall, an exceptionally pretty gun and one that, for me, shot extremely well. Felt recoil was below average, trigger pulls good, general function excellent. The price is attainable. What more do you want?
BERETTA 695 12-BORE
♦ RRP: £4,125
♦ GMK, Bear House, Concorde Way, Fareham, Hampshire PO15 5RL.
♦ 01489 579999