Fast handling yet controllable, this lightweight, deep-scroll engraved addition to the Beretta stable shot well and offers value. Mike Yardley recommends it, especially for those of smaller stature
Mike Yardley finds the Beretta 695 20-bore a pretty, extra-finish gun that shoots well, looks good and offers value.
Take a look at Mike’s review of the Rizzini BR460, which he finds to be well made, refined and comfortable to use.
For more from Beratta, read Mike’s review of the Beretta 687 Silver Pigeon III.
BERATTA 695 20-BORE
This month’s test focuses on a smart little Beretta 695 20-bore, a development of the new 69 series guns. It is a single-trigger, multichoke over-and-under hitting the scales at just under 6½lb. An extra-finish gun, it is distinguished from other 690s – and most Silver Pigeons – by its deep-cut scroll engraving. This is applied by laser and looks rather superior to the thinner machine engraving that has been the norm on mass-produced guns (deeper cut engraving, ever harder to distinguish from hand work, has been enabled in recent years as laser technology progresses).
The test 695 has darkly coloured wood with good figure, which contrasts well with its coin-finished action. Wood and pleasing action decoration apart, basic form and specification are familiar. Like other 690s, this deluxe model is an evolution of the famous 68 series Silver Pigeon. If you scrutinise the gun, there are significantly larger barrel shoulders and a redesigned action body with double fences. The fore-end ‘iron’ is alloy, too (although this is dropped in the latest 694 clay gun, which returns to steel).
The barrels here, as on all modern Berettas, are constructed on the monobloc system. They are designated ‘Steelium’ and provided with Beretta Opti chokes (longer than the older Mobil type). They are made from initially deep-drilled and then hammer-forged nickel-chrome-moly steel, which is vacuum stress relieved and hard chromed internally for increased durability. Wall thicknesses are particularly consistent, as may be expected with the hammer-forging process.
Our 695, like almost all modern Beretta productions, is chambered for 3in/76mm cartridges and proofed for steel with chokes under half fitted. For the record, I have rarely used 3in cartridges in a 20-bore; frankly, it would be ill-advised to shoot anything other than light- and mid-payload 2½in and 2¾in cartridges in a gun of this weight unless you enjoy the experience of recoil. Three-inch 20-bore cartridges are, meantime, pretty rare in the UK but commonly seen in the States.
Moving on to handling qualities, the dainty test 695 comes up to the shoulder with minimum effort. Light by modern standards, it feels particularly well balanced – better than many mass-made multichoked guns, which often tend to tip forward when you attempt to balance them on the hinge pin. The balance point is just a fraction forward of the knuckle. Many multichoke guns – but not this one – are significantly muzzle heavy. A 6mm sighting rib contributes to the good dynamics (although my ideal on a game gun would always be for a hollowed, non-ventilated ‘solid’ design, which is less subject to accidental denting).
I will also venture to suggest that 30in tubes, as seen here, are preferable on a 20-bore because they increase control with little impact on overall weight. A 30in 20-bore is rarely a poor choice (and I often recommend them). They are a pleasure to use and a pleasure to carry. I do 90% of my shooting these days with a 30in 20 and rarely feel under-gunned. I use 21gm and 24gm cartridges for practice and 30gm and 32gm, No 6s and 5s in the field with my guns (with a gun of this lighter weight, my preferred payload in the field would be 26gm or 28gm).
The stock shapes of the test gun were excellent, as were the standard measurements, which would be hard to improve upon (the length of pull is 14¾in with 1½in and 2⅛in for drop with a little more cast than the norm). My only issue was grip purchase; I found my hand slipped a little on mounting. Something that could be addressed with a bit more chequering to the (smooth) front surface of the grip. The shape and form of the hand were otherwise good. This is a grip that, in proportion and rake, would suit a smaller hand (and might be part of a near-perfect spec for some female shots).
The 69 series was launched in 2012 as a hybrid of the 68 series Silver Pigeons and the more modernist SV10 chassis Prevails and Perennias. The latter never really took off in the sporting market. Underneath clear cosmetic differences, the 690s look a lot like the SV10s mechanically. They also share similar enlarged barrel shoulders (SV10 barrels, slight differences and small gunsmithing apart, seem to fit 69 series actions). The 69 guns have hinging studs with screw-in caps on the outside of the action body. Otherwise, 69 series guns and this 695 are much like a Silver Pigeon with conical locking bolts, bifurcated barrel lumps and coil springs driving the hammers. The 695 tested also has an alloy fore-end ‘iron’ instead of steel, as noted, and, unusually, a large spring in the fore-end pushes against the knuckle and the barrel loop to keep the gun well tensioned and the barrel on the face of the action.
I attended the launch of the 690 III game gun in Tuscany six years ago. Winning the inaugural FITASC-style competition, I was struck by how well the then new Beretta shot – dare I say, noticeably better than its older but still outstanding Silver Pigeon sibling. Since then, I have become sufficiently enamoured of the 690s to buy my own 30in 12-bore 695 as a driven and steel-shot gun. Shooting a near-identical 20-bore was particularly interesting. It is significantly lighter (almost a pound) but good shooting qualities are still evident. The test gun is fast handling but the 30in barrels keep it controllable. Recoil was modest with both Lyalvale Express 21 and 24gm loads. The only negative was grip purchase, as discussed. This is a pretty, extra-finish gun that shoots well, looks good and offers value.