ES100 semi auto shotgun
By: Mark Stone
The new ES100 semi auto is an unusual concept to bear the Beretta name; Mark Stone takes a closer look
Unusual for a Beretta branded shotgun, the new inertia driven ES100 is actually made in Spain by Beretta Benelli Iberica SA, although the barrel as you might expect has been manufactured by Beretta back in Italy. What really sets the ES100 apart from it’s more illustrious cousins is the fact it’s as near an out and out working tool as you’re ever likely to find, especially one that flies the famous and prestigious trident logo. That said it’s a genuine representative of the two great names - Beretta and Benelli - the ES100’s workaday persona typical of what many European hunters look for in a hard working, maltreated shotgun.
That’s all you get
In exchange for your £875 what you get is a cardboard box that contains a basic single-barrelled shotgun. If you were expecting the usual Beretta – Benelli bells and whistles package and travelling case, you’ll be sadly mistaken or have picked up the wrong gun. Open up the box and what awaits you is a matte black inertia 12 – bore, one ½ flush fit multi-choke and a matching black choke key. That’s it, end of story. But before you dismiss the ES100 as not the semi-automatic for you, do please read on.
Every part of the ES100 is there for a reason and that reason is down to earth, no frills hardcore utility. The black polymer stock is completely featureless apart from the two small panels of stipple patterned chequering that have been moulded into either side of the narrow, rather sharply radiused pistol grip. Moving to the opposite end, the slim and narrow although surprisingly comfortable fore-end echoes the grip in having two extended panels of matching chequering albeit the pattern is slightly more pronounced. What is slightly unusual is that surrounding the mag cap’s strong internal spring is a series of serrations that on screwing the cap into place, mate up to and lock onto a short pin that protrudes from the front right-hand side of the front of the fore-end, the cap seemingly stiffening as the final, audible clicks eventually indicate that the entire assembly is fixed together.
Two in one
Seemingly an amalgam of Benelli’s latest designs, the ES100 displays certain styling cues that have already been seen on some of Benelli’s latest high – tech offerings such as the two – piece receiver of the Raffaello along with the all – in – one barrel and bolt housing of what I regard as their most dynamic and exciting gun to date, the three – piece modular Vinci. Remove the fore – end and slide the barrel ring off the magazine extension and the entire matte black 28” chrome lined, steel proofed barrel comes away complete with 3” chamber, steel bolt housing, twin – claw rotating bolt and rat’s tail. This means the lower section of the alloy now fully exposed lockwork remain attached to the stock assembly, the design allowing for ease of drying out, cleaning, lubrication and maintenance.
To assemble, place the barrel ring over the mag extension and allow the rat’s tail to naturally find the stock recoil tube detent and slide gently together. Screw on the mag cap and job done. With the ES100 back together it also highlights the fact that apart from the stamping of the make and model along each side of the lower part of the receiver, the gun’s serial number and a small vent are the only things that stand out, both of which are on the left-hand side. The other points are that when loading, you need to depress the bolt release to unlock the shell lifter when inserting the second and third cartridges and that the cross-bolt safety located to the rear of the trigger-guard is rather small, especially when wearing gloves.
Like all testers the ES100 was initially dry mounted using the Arrow Laser Shot, the red beam proving interesting. Most Benellis and Benelli derived shotguns tend to shoot slightly high, the ES100 bucking this rather age old trend. For me it was almost flat in muzzle placement, the sight picture along the 7mm low vented, cross – cut rib and over the shiny steel bead allowing me to sit the target on the bead, just how I personally like them. Dimensionally the ES100 also suited, the drops and comb and heel of 13/8” and 2¼” combined with an excellent 14 11/16” length of pull meant the ES100 had been designed with full sized measurements in mind.
From there it was off to Yorkgate GC for the fifty bird sporting comp. Loading up with a selection of 28g Express English Sporting and World Cups the ES100 performed well from the off although one noticeable aspect became very clear. Tipping the scales at 7lbs 10oz, the ES100 ain’t no lightweight and with the balance point a good two inches back from the chamber means weight backwards.
The negative is that the gun needed to be driven quite hard by the leading hand if any life was to be injected into the gun’s physical performance on crossing birds, the effort made slightly easier by virtue of the fact the gun mounts very well. Conversely, with the weight already back towards the shooter, going away and driven clays required hardly any effort at all, the muzzle pointing skywards faster than I could.
Based around a time and reliability proven inertia action, the cyclic action of the gun is best described as snappy, each crisp pull of the 6lbs 2oz trigger resulting in brisk, precise spontaneity, the sensation in the shoulder comfortable and more than acceptable even when the load and shot size where increased to heavy game and 50g BB’s emphasising the ES100’s focused functionality. But to censure the gun as a clay breaker is to miss the point.
Although the ES100 will produce a more than notable performance around the layouts, it wasn’t intended for this. Instead its true metier is being able to withstand the most extreme conditions and to unfailingly deliver the goods, a task it’s impressively well suited for. Whilst the shooter might need thermals, woolly shirts and down filled jackets all the ES100 requires is to be itself and nothing more.
If you were to be buying a semi-auto on looks alone you wouldn’t give the ES100 a first let alone second glance. Similarly, if you were in the market for a budget priced semi whose package included a few extras such as even a partial set of choke tubes, once again you’d bypass the ES100 mainly due to the less than cost effective price tag. However, you might well be missing out despite the fact that even I think the suggested retail price could do with a few pounds shaving off, if only to enhance the ES100’s chances.
On the downside, there’s little to commend the ES100 visually, a problem when most shooters purchase by sight, the attraction and ‘must buy’ factor taking place within the first twenty seconds of seeing any gun. Likewise, if the price structure remains as it is, a couple of extra choke tubes wouldn’t go a miss even though you can buy them as an extra or even go as far as to highlight the Beretta or ES100 name in white.
Right… now the upside, and yes the ES100 actually has quite a lot going for it. Once you’ve actually shot an ES100 you start to change your mind about this robust utilitarian 12 bore, the gun’s ability to discharge even the most savage 3” magnum rounds without much physical recourse to the shooter more than commends the gun’s design and dynamics. Equally, ease of maintenance allied to the levels of neglect and abuse the ES100 is obviously capable of withstanding are apparent from the start, this semi-auto almost defying you to try and break it, the master of any task asked of it.
For the ardent wildfowler, knee deep in foreshore mud and saltwater, or the dedicated duck blind shooter, or a keeper who’s less than kind to his working gun or for someone who places pure functionality over form, the ES100 is in all probability the right choice for you. And above all else, although first impressions indicate it won’t be the most malleable semi-auto to use, the ES100 shoots extremely well.
But whilst it’ll never be the most polished single-barrel you’ll ever pick up, its results that count and in the case of the Beretta ES100 I think you’ll end up as surprised and impressed as I was. Don’t believe me then - take a good hard look at my Yorkgate GC scorecard. I might not have claimed first place but I was only a fraction behind the winner and his multi-thousand pound customised 12-bore. That said, unlike the ES100, I bet his won’t come out in bad weather.
|Calibre||12 – bore|
|Action||Inertia operated semi – auto|
|Chokes||Flush fit multi - ½ only supplied|
All Prices Are Guides Due to the Changes in US & European Exchange Rates