Beretta Silver Pigeon III
Mike Yardley gives his opinion on a nominal game version of the Beretta Silver Pigeon III
With the new season approaching, I thought it would be nice to slip a game gun into our testing queue, and, as ever, the good folks at the West London Gun Room obliged me by providing a smart, silver actioned, game scene engraved, Beretta Silver Pigeon III. First impressions are A1, this is an attractive gun which is well presented. It is available with multichokes, ours, however, has fixed choke barrels and a 6mm game rib. It tips the scales just over 7lbs - 7lbs 2oz to be precise - a very good weight for a field gun, and, not so light as to make clay shooting with it uncomfortable either. This might, indeed, make a very good gun for a lady clay buster, or, anyone else who needs a bit less weight forward when breaking pitch disks. As a rule I do not take that much notice of manufacturer designations such as ‘game,’ ‘clay’, ‘sporter’, ‘trap’ etc. Sometimes you will find a gun that suits you which is not designated for your discipline or intended application.
I might note, in addition, that it is usually a big mistake to have a game gun that is too heavy. Mine – at least my over and unders – are all around the 7lb mark in 12 or 20 bore (the only exception being my 28 bore EELL which is about 6 ½lbs as I remember). Beretta, I am happy to report, understand this well. Heavy guns just don’t swing easily, and game shooting, can be a fast and furious business sometimes (but, for safety as well as good shotgun marksmanship, don’t ever rush too much!).
The Beretta Silver Pigeon III is a little more expensive than some Beretta entry level guns – the RRP is £2,260 (but expect to pay around 2K) – but there will be many people who will be happy to pay for the extra finish. The gun still is not expensive, and it does look good with an improved finish to the action and machine engraving which is competent without causing me to gasp. The overall effect is certainly pleasing, though.
Mechanically the gun is based on the classic Beretta 68 series trigger plate gun (some call it a boxlock, but this is technically incorrect as the springs and hammers are carried on a trigger plate, not in the action body). It stands alongside the new SV10 chassis (Perennia/Prevail) in the current Beretta line.
I have shot more of these 68 series guns in 28, 29 1/2, 30 and 32” form than I care to remember. Literally, hundreds. My usual field preference is for 30” barrels and a narrow rib, though the fixed choke and multi-choked 28” guns can be useful for walking-up and for applications such as woodcock and snipe. Some while back, I shot a mechanically similar 30” Silver Pigeon IV in Africa and shot a bundle of pigeon and francolin partridge with it. Whatever the model, these are usually very predictable guns to use. When I go abroad and borrow a gun, it is, almost invariably, a Silver Pigeon or 391 auto - because I know exactly what to expect.
The form of the test gun, meantime, is generally good. Mounting it only confirms the good initial impressions. The stock shapes are sound, and the wood on the test gun had reasonable figure, although the wooden butt plate was a little light, and, I did not especially like the rounded border to the chequering panels on the grip and forend. This Silver Pigeon has the usual Beretta almost a Prince-of-Wales open radius pistol grip and the familiar Schnabel forend rather than the ‘American’ (or Boss) style rounded forend which is my preference (though there is nothing wrong with the one on the test gun).
Elegant and stylish
This gun, even as 12, looks svelte. It is one of the more elegant and stylish mid-priced guns in the current Beretta line-up. The 30” barrels and narrow rib do suit it well as noted (though you can have multi-chokes if you prefer, and/or, 28” tubes). When mounted the stock feels comfortable, there is good purchase from the laser-cut chequering whatever I may think of the panel shapes. The ventilated rib presents a good picture to the eye, and I liked the traditional metal bead too – always the thing to have on a game gun (I also like a solid rib, provided it does not increase barrel weight excessively - see below). The balance here is slightly forward of the pin. The gun feels steady without being dead. The narrow ribbed 30” tubes also make it feel pointable.
The chrome-moly steel, hammer-forged barrels, are well presented and monobloc, I doubt if there is anything much stronger. Beretta have been perfecting this type of manufacture for well over 100 years. Barrel bores are both 18.5mm - which is not too tight- and the forcing cones are a bit longer than the average. The joining ribs are solid and extend the full length of the barrels (including the section under the forend). The ventilated sighting rib is a parallel vented design and 6mm wide. My only comment, and one I have made before, is why use a vented rib on a game gun? A solid design is tougher. Narrow vented ribs always get dented if a gun is hard used. In all other respects I would praise the barrels highly, they are made to the usual first class Beretta standard.
Game scenes and the cleverly applied new finish apart, the action on the test gun has not changed much when compared to previous models. It is the well proven low-profile Beretta - bifurcated lumps, conical locking lugs etc. The trigger is recoil operated and there is the usual barrel selector on the safety. The trigger blade is plain in form and matt gold plated. Pulls are pretty good with only the slightest sign of creep (though the quality of pulls has never been the great strength of this design). Ejectors are powerful and well timed. Which only leaves us with a few more words on the woodwork. The stock has a well proportioned, tapered, comb and a snabel forend as noted. Length of pull is 14 3/4” with the butt plate. Drop is 1 1/2” at comb and 2 1/4” at heel – typical of a Beretta game gun.
What can one say? It is a Beretta Silver Pigeon, and, frankly, they all shoot much the same which is one of their greatest strengths (the other is that they are likely to continue doing so almost indefinitely). The gun had no obvious vices. It pointed well as discussed, the stock shapes were good, and the felt recoil was not excessive. Trigger pulls were OK. The barrels – which bear superior Fleur de Lys proof – weigh 1,400 grams. Perhaps that could be reduced a fraction. I have sometimes noted the old, light barrelled, fixed choke, 28” guns shoot especially well in the field. I would also note that I would bring the heel up a fraction (2 1/8” is a good standard dimension). But, I am being picky. This is an excellent piece of kit, not overly expensive, and, it will last a very long time. If you wanted an inexpensive but good pair of guns for occasional use – this Silver Pigeon III could fit the bill. It would also be a useful gun for someone with a side by side looking for something reasonably smart but not excessively pricey for high birds.
My thanks to Ed, Gemma, and Martin at West London Gun Room (0208-845-8849 or 1377)
|Model||Beretta Silver Pigeon III|
|Type||O/U Game gun|
|Chokes||Fixed ¼ and ½|
|Chamber||3” (76mm) Fleurs de Lys proof|
|Weight||7lbs 2 oz|
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