Beretta Silver Pigeon III Limited
Michael Yardley reviews a limited edition version of the highly successful Beretta Silver Pigeon III
Beretta have had an enormous success with their Silver Pigeon over and under range. The guns evolved from the 50 series guns which were developed after World War II, though a prototype that shared many features of the 50 series gun but which was made on a side lock action rather than the 50 series trigger plate was made in the early 1940s and is still on display in the Beretta museum at Gardonne. Then came the 600 series - 680, 682, 686, 687 et al. and the modern Silver Pigeons. The test gun is a Beretta Silver Pigeon III Limited Edition model.
Construction and build quality
First impressions of this 30” gun are certainly good. The action decoration - which more than any other feature distinguishes it - includes both well executed game scenes and some tight scroll work. The stock is of traditional form, but the chequering panels are a little modernistic for my taste with rounded borders. The wood of the butt is well figured but much darker to the rear than the front. Apart from these slight quibbles, this Limited model really cuts the mustard. It comes up well, feels reassuringly solid - as do most Silver Pigeons - and is not too muzzle heavy. It feels lighter than its 7 ¾ pounds.
The 30” long, 3” chambered barrels, are Mobil choked (the shorter Beretta style) and concealed. The barrels are of the typical monobloc production of the Gardonne giant. In my experience, they set a standard that others seek to achieve. There are solid joining ribs, and a 6mm parallel ventilated sighting rib. Everything has been put together well, achieving the consistent quality that one comes to expect from the world’s oldest and most successful shotgun manufacturer. It is, indeed, very rare to encounter a Beretta 68 series gun where the jointing between barrels and monobloc is anything but good. It is also most unusual to see a set of Beretta barrels that have suffered from heat or any other sort of distortion during manufacture (perhaps it is no co-incidence that Beretta developed monobloc manufacture and have perfected it over the last 100 years).
The barrels - a particular Beretta strongpoint - are made of Beretta’s famously tough tri-alloy steel, of course. They bear Italian proof marks for 2 ¾” and 3” shells (the so called ‘Euro-chamber’ now seen throughout the range) and are equipped with the new longer style of forcing cone (which also gets my vote). Both bores are marked at 18.4mm for diameter (a little tight, but typical for a Beretta game gun). The barrels are chromed internally and well formed inside and out. They are made by hammer forging where a slug of steel is put into a machine and subjected to tremendous force to create the barrel tube.
This special Silver Pigeon is fitted with a narrow, vented, rib as noted. This helps to keep barrel weight within reasonable limits (1480 grammes), improves handling, and presents an unobtrusive picture to the eye. I have a preference for solid ribs, though, because they don’t dent so easily. It is interesting that Beretta have not used this style much to date, though they are increasingly popular with competitors such as B.Rizzini and Guerini.
With regard to length, the barrels of the test gun are 30”. I usually advise 28” for game shooting over and unders, 30” for clays and 32” for clay shots who have the skill to use them (32” tubes are not usually suitable for field use - even for high birds - because they can check the swing). If you are going to use one gun for game and clays, I would make your decision depending on which sort of shooting you are going to do the most. If game shooting is your only interest, it is usually good advice to stick to the shorter tubes. Workmanship on this Silver Pigeon barrels, action, and woodwork is well up to standard. All departments tick the box.
The action of the test gun is one of the world’s best (though a new Beretta over and under action is in the pipeline). It combines trunnion hinging with clever conical bolt locking and is, just about literally, bullet proof. I simply do not know of anything more reliable. And, should any of the bearing surfaces wear, they are all replaceable. If the design has a weak point it is only that coil springs power the hammers so trigger pulls are not quite as refined as in a leaf spring gun.
The stock of the test gun generally impressed. The figure was better than average though a bit eccentric in that there was a very different pattern to the rear of the stock than the front. The finish was a little light for my taste and the chequering, though competently executed by laser, might have looked better with classic straight-line borders rather than the rounded sort that the designers seem to be inflicting on us at present. The shapes and measurements were excellent, however. The grip shape (see below) is good, and the comb shape is comfortable - neither thick nor thin with some taper and flutes near the nose that are not obtrusive.
I also liked the new forend which is not only more elegant than a lipped Schnabel but more user friendly. It allows for subtle changes in hand position. For those who want to, the front hand may be extended forward (though I would caution against this practice because it can impede swing).
The stock on the Silver Pigeon Limited has the distinct Beretta pistol grip - it is a little like the Prince of Wales grip as seen on Woodward guns but a bit fuller and slightly more radiused. Drop dimensions are just a fraction lower than my ideal at 1 3/8” and 2 1/4”, with very slight cast for a right hander (effectively the gun was straight). Length is just over 14 1/2” (fine for a field gun if heavy clothing is to be worn, a little short for Mr Average in warmer weather with less clothing). I was not especially fond of the rounded chequering panels as noted. But, I am nitpicking here, as the stock design is essentially sound; it is only that my aesthetic preference would have been for classic chequering panels that would have done better justice to a Limited model that in all other respects is traditionally styled.
To quote my test notes: “a very sweet shooting gun”. No surprise there, as 30” Silver pigeons usually suit me. This is a classic looking gun too. It balances and points well. Barrel weight was excellent at 1480 - heavy enough for control, light enough to be lively. Felt recoil was low thanks to good stock design and sensible measurements (guns with less cast usually feel softer - there is less wood impacting with the face as the gun accelerates rearwards). Trigger pulls were also as good as they get with this trigger-plate, coil-sprung action design (side locks, typically, offer the finest pulls). Practically speaking, it is a well made gun that performs. It looks good, shoots well and it is not outrageously expensive. Not a bad package all things considered.
I might conclude by noting that both the Field and Competition (sporter) version are also offered in Left-Hand spec. The UK will only receive 600 pieces of the Limited Silver Pigeon III in total – 300 Field and 300 Sport. Robert Frampton of GMK, the Beretta importers, tells me that more than half of these have already been sold on to the Dealers. So get movin’ if you want one!
My thanks to Vanessa Smith and Robert Frampton of GMK and to Lyalvale (Express) for the cartridges used in this test
|Model||Silver Pigeon III Limited|
|Action||600 series Beretta, bifurcated lump/split hinge pin with conical bolting|
|Barrel length||30" (28" option)|
|RRP||£2331 (game model as tested), £2525 (Optibore and Opti-choked competition model only available in 30")|
All Prices Are Guides Due to the Changes in US & European Exchange Rates