Beretta Silver Pigeon IV
Mike Yardley tests two Silver Pigeon IV shotguns on the South African veldt
It is not often that we present a gun test from Africa, but as I happened to be there recently, and two brand new Beretta Silver Pigeon IVs were available, I could not resist the temptation to do something a bit different. The guns, just imported from the UK, belong to Bryn Thomas who owns the magnificent Swala Lodge in the Limpopo region of South Africa (some hours north of
Johannesburg). We are going to bring the full story of Swala soon, but meanwhile, let's consider the Silver Pigeons. Bryn has moved to Africa and was looking for complete reliability from his guns, as he runs a professional hunting operation with more and more clients calling for bird shooting as well as plains game (the Swala speciality). Bryn is also exploring the development of clayshooting
He runs a very upmarket operation and wanted guns which would not only cope with heavy use and the tough local conditions - tough enough to defeat poor quality equipment very quickly. He wanted guns that looked good as well, and which would stay looking good in this challenging environment. Going for one of the enhanced Beretta models made a lot of sense in these circumstances.
Many shooting schools in the UK opt for Berettas. Bryn, moreover, has a EELL 28 bore at home with which he shoots game and which has replaced a traditional British best gun for most of his shooting. I seem to meet a lot of people these days who have given up on bench made guns for Beretta reliability. Bryn tells me that he was immediately attracted by the good looks of the
Silver Pigeon IV. This model is unusual both for its black action and neat gold inlays. It is available in fixed and multichoke form in both 12 and 20 bore. The 12s can be had with 20” or 30” barrels, the multi-choked 20 also has the 28”/30” option, but the 20 bore fixed choke gun is only available with 28" tubes. The RRP is £1,665 for the fixed choke guns and £1,785 for the multis (but
expect to pay a little less in most places).
The test guns
Our African Silver Pigeon IVs are both 12 bore and multichoked, but one has 28" barrels and the other 30". I chose the 30" for test because it balanced out so well. First impressions are very positive. Cosmetically, it is a handsome by any standard. I am not a great fan of excessive embellishment on a working gun as regular readers will well know, but this is in good taste. The
scroll engraving is neat, the inlays are well done and contrast nicely with the blacked action. The gun came to the shoulder well too. I have already noted that I liked the feel of the 30" tubes on this model. Grip and schnabel forend were comfortable. My only, very slight, small criticism concerns the form of the chequering on the grip - I thought the aesthetics might have been improved. I don't especially like the rounded, asymmetric panels.
This Silver Pigeon presents few mechanical surprises. Unusual decoration apart, it is the well proven low-profile Beretta design that has been in production now for 50 years (with subtle improvement from time to time). Boss inspired, bifurcated, lumps and conical locking lugs are the famous features. The action is quite slim these days at 39mm wide (as opposed to the 40mm of earlier Berettas). The trigger is recoil operated, and there is the usual selector on the safety (which I have always thought a bit of a fiddle to use). The trigger blade is simple and gold plated. The pulls are good, breaking with little noticeable creep at something just over three pounds (Beretta
usually set their 68 series guns at 3 1/4 and 3 1/2 lbs.).
The 3” (76mm) chambered barrels are made on the preferred continental system. Two hammer-forged, chrome molybdenum steel tubes are inserted into a monobloc and braised in place. Cheaper to make than chopper or demi-bloc barrels, and requiring less handwork, monobloc manufacture is nonetheless extremely strong – arguably the strongest of all. Beretta, more than any other manufacturer, have perfected it. Indeed, they have been making monobloc barrels for over 100 years and now many other manufacturers copy them.
The hammer-forged barrels on our Silver Pigeon IV had enough weight to be steady, but not so much as to impede swing (they are stamped up at 1480 grams). They are made of tough alloy steel as noted and chromed internally. Proofed, as is the fashion, for 3" (76mm) shells (though 2 ½ and 2¾ shells may all be safely fired). Chokes are of Beretta’s shorter, concealed, Mobil type, which I have always found to work perfectly well (though the modern trend is towards longer, extended, chokes).
The ventilated sighting rib is narrow (about 6mm) which is about ideal. My only other comment - and it is one I often make - is why not put a solid rib on a dedicated game gun? They get knocked about in the field and narrow ventilated ribs are all too easy to dent. You can still make a solid
rib that is light. Nevertheless, the barrels on the Silver Pigeon IV are very well constructed in the usual Beretta fashion. You would have to be very picky to fault them significantly. The spring loaded extractors are neatly machined, sliding in grooves machined into the monobloc either side of the chamber mouth. The side surfaces of the monobloc are engine turned as has always been typical of Beretta. The ejector mechanism is powerful and well timed. As with other aspects of the design, it is one of the most reliable in the business.
The stock on the Silver Pigeon IV has the distinct, open radius, Beretta style of half pistol grip (similar to a Prince of Wales grip but not properly described as such). The comb is moderately tapered and there is a schnabel forend (I would have preferred the new 'American' style forend as seen on SC and other new models). The drop on the gun suited me well and measured up about 1 3/8" at comb and 2 1/8" at heel - the modern Beretta norm. Sometimes, though, Beretta game guns are made a little flatter than the sporters, but not in this case. I also liked the stock length which was a whisker under 14 3/4" (typically Beretta Field guns are about 1/8" shorter than competition models) with a standard pad in place. It might, however, be modified thanks to Beretta's useful range of interchangeable pads.
Happily, I had the chance to use the Silver Pigeon IV a lot while I was staying at Swala. I used it for teaching purposes on a couple of occasions, I used it to shoot clays and I shot my fair share of live birds with it as well. Happily, I did not have the opportunity to shoot a snake with this Beretta (as I once had to with my old 303 semi-auto). The gun shot just as I expected it would - extremely well. That is the thing about these Silver Pigeon guns, whatever decorative spec they may have, they are very predictable beasts. I take full advantage of this when I am shooting abroad, so when I know that there will be a Beretta available for use at the other end I tend to take my own chokes. I did on this occasion - a Briley light full and a Seminole spreader choke were in my bag. I use the tighter choke for clays and the open choke for teaching and some live quarry situations (it was, for example, absolutely ideal for the doves that I had the chance to shoot at Swala).
In the pictures you will see Seymore Coetsee, the PH (Professional Hunter) at Swala. Seymore is a great rifle and pistol shot, and although he is not as experienced with wingshooting we soon had him breaking clays with the Silver Pigeon IV.
All things considered, the Silver Pigeon IV is an excellent gun. Attractive, excellent mechanical design, well sorted handling and good value.
|Model||Beretta Silver Pigeon IV|
|Action||Trigger-plate over and under|
|Rib type||6mm narrow ventilated|
|Multi-chokes||Beretta Mobil choke system|
All Prices Are Guides Due to the Changes in US & European Exchange Rates