Beretta Silver Pigeon 1
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- Last updated: 19/12/2016
Think of sporting shotguns and immediately the name Beretta comes to mind. This old company has come to the forefront of shotgun shooting by providing models for all tastes, quarry and competition, with constantly evolving design.
The Silver Pigeon is based on the older 686 model range and seems like an old friend, being available for what seems like ages. There’s a reason for that, as it still remains the ‘go to’ all-round practical shotgun, at a keen price and performance.
Undeniably, the Silver Pigeon 1 (SP1) has looks and performance, with its revamped Model 686 pedigree at a keen price, to offer a quality Beretta at a realistic price, for beginners or seasoned shooters alike. The 12 gauge models are usually fitted with 30 and 32 inch barrels and will suffice for all your needs, but the more-svelte 20 gauge takes the SP1 to another level. I had the 28 inch model, although the 30 inch is probably a better bet.
What you have is a very streamline, weight-appropriate for calibre, shotgun that handles like a Rapier and is neigh on impossible to break under normal use. The action is the typical mono-bloc construction, fashioned from a single block that has a brushed, smart, yet semi non-reflective surface. This is both practical and good looking, further enhanced by the engraving, laser etched to the surfaces. Underneath is the SP1 logo and even the inside has a jewelled finish.
Lock up is suitably tight, with the top lever smooth to operate. The barrels hinge on trunnions, where pins engage the abutments machined in the mono-bloc lumps. A positive lock-up is thus achieved, with the circular shaped bites mating to the conical shaped lugs. It opens freely and locks up snuggly in use, with a positive mechanical feel. What looks chunky on a 12 gauge looks flowing on this 20 gauge model.
Barrel selection is via the lozenge shaped safety button. As the locking lever is opened, the safety is automatically engaged in the rearward position. You can select barrels by an inset, grooved slide within this safety. Right for top barrel (two dots), left (one dot) for bottom barrel; for me though, it needs to sit a little higher, so that the thumb can grip better.
Trigger-wise, the SP1 has an inertia type mechanism, shoot the first barrel and the hammer is then cocked for the second barrel. The trigger is a slim, smooth, gold-washed single blade and unlike a rifle, weight is not that critical; although this Beretta broke instantly with a fast lock time as the sight picture emerged, providing a repeatable flow to your shot.
The 12 gauge can be bought with 26, 28 or 30 inch barrels, whilst the sporting model is available with 32 inch tubes. The 20 gauge model I had for review came with 28 inch barrels made using the cold hammer forged process. Three inch chambers are proofed for steel shot use, as you would expect, with a medium length forcing cone area forward of the chambers. The bores are hard chrome lined and proofed (as are the multi chokes) to shoot steel shot. Five chokes are included with the SP1. The ventilated rib is 6mm wide, with a single silver bead up front and pointed to the centre of the shot pattern with only a slight upward bias.
The nice feature on these Beretta models, is that parts likely to wear due to excessive use – like the hinge pins and conical locking lugs, can be replaced with oversized spares (like oversized pistons in a car engine) to keep your gun shooting sweetly.
This is the base model, so design and handling are more prevalent than walnut grade and figure; for that you can upgrade to SG1 Deluxe, which, as the name suggests, has upgraded walnut as well as engraving. Dimensionally, you have a length of pull of 14.75 inches and drop at the comb of 2.65 inches, so quite low. There is a small amount of cast to the stock and when mounted I sighted right down the ribstraight down, not on top.
The forend is slim, with a typical Schnabel tip, with checkering to both sides and also the pistol grip; even with my big hands, the little 20 gave a comfortable hold and trigger finger position. Overall finish is semi-oiled, that brings out what grain there is to the walnut and the recoil pad is solid black, with light textured rubber, so as not to snag too much when mounted.
I am not a clay shooter and sporting use on live quarry is my only use of shotguns.
As such, you soon realise the reason why the 20 gauge has become so popular as a sporting arm. Its lightweight and fast-handling are a double bonus and any slight recoil increase issues are negated by the better performance in my view.
Choice of cartridges is very good, so I selected a mixed bag to shoot on pattern boards at 30 yards, to assess some real- time performance, as you would in the field. I have shot over chronographs before, but due to the differing wadding used it causes inconsistencies in the fps, so they are not included here.
Eley VIP 28 gram, no 6 shot, 70 mm case. At 30 yards I had 201 pellets hit the board with 134 within the 29 inch outer circle margin and 65 within the inner 12 inch circle. Very even distribution too.
Fiocchi GFL 28gram, no 6 shot, 70 mm case, fibre wadded. At 30 yards I had 203 pellets hit the board with 144 within the 29 inch outer circle margin and 59 within the inner 12 inch circle. Again good distribution but more biased to the outer circles.
Hull Cartridge Subsonic 23grams, no 7.5 shot, 65 mm case. At 30 yards I had 178 pellets hit the board with 111 within the 29 inch outer circle margin and 67 within the inner 12 inch circle. A few voids but plenty in the, kill, inner circle from this lighter load.
Game Bore Traditional Game 28 grams, no 6 shot, 65 mm case, fibre wad. At 30 yards I had 208 pellets hit the board with 127 within the 29 inch outer circle margin and 81 within the inner 12 inch circle. Slight upward bias to the pattern but good dense inner circle pattern and few voids.
Lyalvale Express 25 grams, no 6 shot, 65mm case, fibre wad. At 30 yards I had 200 pellets hit the board with 124 within the 29 inch outer circle margin and 76 within the inner 12 inch circle. Best of the bunch in this Beretta, lovely and even, no voids and dense inner circle pattern form this 25 gram cartridge.
Controllability for the second shot was good, even for a lighter gun and the speed to mount and swing was impressive, probably even better with the 30 inch tubes. Recoil was not noticeable except when using the pattern boards, shotguns need to be swung, not static pointing at an aimpoint!
Having shot the little Beretta I grew to love the speed and grace of the 28 inch free-flowing, well-proportioned gun. But having spoken to 30 inch owners, I can see that these would be my option too. At the price, the Silver Pigeon 1, in any calibre, has to be regarded as excellent value for money; as you get a well-built, reliable and durable gun for all types of sporting uses.
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