Beretta Silver Pigeon 1 20 bore
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- Last updated: 05/10/2020
Last year, the Silver Pigeon 1 (SPG1) in 12-bore proved that Beretta’s SPG range is one of the top-performing and most popular, go to, over and under shotguns in the market place. You can’t keep a good thing down. It takes its design from the 686 model, which has been successful in all its various guises, calibres and specifications. It has been very popular for shooters learning the art of shotgun shooting or some of the more experienced shooters who just want a decent 20-bore. It uses Beretta’s solid locking system, a calibre proportioned action size, good choice of barrel lengths and a multi-choke system, all for £1,815.
Nothing fancy wood wise on this model, it does not need it, but actually, for a grade one walnut, it’s not bad at all. You still have enough grain, colour and figuring to catch the eye and the overall finish is a semi-oiled look, which is appropriate for this type of gun. It gets better with use and the forend is well matched to the rear furniture.
The checkering is quite shallow but well defined and adorns the forend and pistol grip with with plenty of coverage. The grip itself is long and lean to accommodate a variety of hand sizes, is nicely raked and slender with no palm swells. The forend has the typical Schnabel tip with a nice lip to hold the fingers on, and its 9.75” length gives plenty of options for grip type and styles of hold/shooting technique.
At the rear, the stock includes a solid black rubber recoil pad that mounts well without catching on your jacket. It finishes off with a length of pull (LOP) of 14.5” and a drop at the comb of just over 2” (same depth of the action profile). This makes it quite low but gets your eye aligned right down the rib.
The action size is directly proportional to the cartridge size and thus the lines, handling and balance of the SPG1 are excellent. Top to bottom it is just over 2” deep and has a coin finished type look that contrasts well to the engraved details that can be found on this Silver Pigeon. I have found that some shotguns have a finish that is too bright, which looks cheap, not this one, which has just the right amount of adornments and classic finish to ensure it is non-reflective for field use.
The engraved design is new on these models, with a finer floral and grape motif that is very traditional. It is machine/ laser cut onto the action surfaces and underneath the Silver Pigeon 1 logo. It is quite shallow but tastefully done for a shotgun of this price. It decorates the sides, bottom, top, tang and trigger guard, as well as the forend release catch.
The Beretta’s lock-up is via two pins from the action face engaging the abutments machined into the monobloc lumps. The action is manufactured from a single block of steel and this design of tapered pins allows the shotgun to maintain a secure and solid lock-up over many thousands of rounds, as it keeps everything good and tight. It still opens and closes very easily though and the ejectors are positive, even with some tight shells and small rimmed cartridges. The top lever cocks the safety on opening and shows a small amount of scroll engraving. It is silent and smooth to operate with a lot of bite built into the system to compensate for eventual wear.
Barrel wise you can have 26, 28 or 30” tubes and this 20-bore came with the long ones. This choice offers up a good balance and natural swing to the SPG1. They are also multi-choked with a full complement of five chokes for any eventuality. The bottom barrel came fitted with 1/2 and the top barrel full, so good for close and distant shots.
They come with 3” chambers for those of you wanting to use cartridges with a bit more punch and the two barrels show a solid mid-rib between them. Running along the top of the tubes is a nice field-type 6mm knurled and ventilated rib. There is a single silver bead at the muzzle for sighting, with the centre of the pellet pattern emanating from this aim point.
The barrels are manufactured from Steelium alloy steel and are cold hammer forged.
They are then chrome lined which gives very good longevity, makes cleaning easy and improves barrel concentricity, helping to form superior patterns down range. Overall finish has the Beretta smart deep lustre bluing, the barrel or mono-bloc sides are jewelled for a classy finish.
The gold washed trigger is both slimline and smooth with a slender curve that allows a good space in front of it, so the guard void is not too cramped. Beretta’s have a fast lock time and minimal trigger movement from their system and thus first or second barrel firings are instantaneous.
This inertia-type mechanism cocks the second hammer when the first barrel is fired, which is typical for this marque and works well. Barrel selection for top or bottom tube is controlled via a large lozenge shaped safety button located on the rear tang. As the locking lever is opened the safety is automatically engaged to the rearward position, I personally like a manual safety though. When the selector is positioned to the left is shows a single red dot for the bottom barrel and when to the right displays twin red dots for the top barrel.
I tried some 20-bore ammo on the pattern boards at 30 yards using the bottom barrel and the ½ choke fitted. I have mentioned before that the SPG1 does handle exceedingly well, as it seems to sit lower in the aim/ shoulder so body movement is translated to instant aim on a moving target.
First up was the Gamebore Traditional Game, a 28-gram loading of No 6 shot with a fibre wad and 65mm case length, making them suitable for older type guns too. This gave the highest pellet count with a total of 222 No 6 shot hits with the ½ choke fitted. We had a lovely even and distributed pattern with 66 inner strikes and 156 outer hits. This cartridge performed well while being smooth and light recoiling.
The Eley Zenith copper plated shot cartridges were next and this load comprises of a 70mm case, fibre wad, high brass rim and a load of 28-grams of No 6 CU shot. It performed the best of the bunch with excellent even patterns of a good density. Just shows those copper plated pellets fly true. We had a total of 205 No 6 CU shots hit the boards with 124 within the outer 30” and a good 81 inner hits. A superb choice for all game and pigeon shooting.
Finally, a hard-hitting game load in the form of the Hull High Pheasant Extreme. This has a 28-gram loading of No 5 XTRM hardened shot in a 70mm case that included a fibre wad. It definitely had a right-hand pattern bias, with 155 No 5 shot hitting the target. The pellets were distributed with 94 outer and 61 inner hits albeit evenly placed. Usually an excellent choice, this shotgun preferred different ammo.
Regardless of the calibre, Beretta’s Silver Pigeon 1 is as popular as ever and provides a solid, robust and great handling shotgun, especially in 20-bore. It will appeal to the younger or lighter framed shooter the same way that it would to someone just wanting smaller calibre shotgun. It’s built to be shot many thousands of times and its light frame makes it ultrafast, yet it still absorbs recoil very well. In the end, I prefer this model in 20-bore as it seems to all come together. The size is just right for this gun and the patterns show how good those Beretta multichoke barrels truly are.