Beretta Silver Pigeon 1
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- Last updated: 21/08/2019
Think of Beretta and you instantly think of two major models, the EELL and the more economical Silver Pigeon range that has taught and given faithful service to thousands of shooters over the years. With a good model, it is difficult to change it significantly and so Beretta has tweaked this success story as its lineage progresses.
The 686 model has a very diverse range of calibres and specifications and product range, to suit a beginner to the seasoned shooter. The Silver Pigeon (SPG) has always been a top seller, with many purchasers just sticking to that model for their entire shooter life.
Action and barrels The typical mono-bloc construction action is made from a single block of steel and Beretta’s design ensures that regardless of wear or excessive use, the lock-up is solid, as the barrels hinge on trunnions, where pins engage the abutments machined in the mono-bloc lumps. You also have the tapered locking pins that engage the face of the barrel block to keep those barrels locked up tight. It opens and closes very smoothly, and the ejectors are very positive with all the ammo tested.
External finish is your typical Beretta; an attractive, almost coin finish, without being too reflective, so a good blend of show and concealment. The new floral and grape theme is very traditional and is machine/ laser cut to the action surfaces and underneath is the SP1 logo. It is quite shallow but actually tastefully done for a shotgun of this price, all edges are sharp and definition is very good.
You have a plain action tang, top lever and trigger guard, with the top lever semi grooved to one side for grip and floral engraving. Escutcheons also have the floral and grape engraving and the right side has the same plus the Beretta logo and left and bottom the same.
This SPG1 wore the very good 30-inch barrels, offering a blend of ballistic advance down range, as well as a nice handling characteristics. With 3-inch chambers, you have a 6mm knurled rib, six even rib vents and then solid to rear 12-inches of barrel. There is a solid mid rib between the barrels, with a single silver bead at the muzzle for sighting and, as with most Berettas and my frame, positions the patterns very centrally placed around the bead.
Beretta use their Steelium alloy steel in the barrel’s manufacture and are cold hammer forged barrels and chrome lined; thus, giving a very good longevity, as well as easy cleaning with an excellent degree of barrel concentricity from chamber to muzzle for very good patterns. Five chokes and a choke key are included with the Silver Pigeon; this model came fitted with the bottom barrel in half choke and the top barrel in full. Overall finish is typical Beretta; deep lustrous bluing all over, very smart and hard wearing too and the barrel or monobloc sides are jewelled for a classy finish and it holds a bit of oil for lube too.
The single trigger blade is slim and smooth with a bright gold washed finish with a rifle-like, fast lock time too, with noticeably less trigger movement to shoot the second barrel; so, a follow up shot is there instantly at hand. The Sliver Pigeon has an inertia type mechanism; so, shoot the first barrel and the second is then cocked for the second barrel, pretty standard.
Barrel selection is easy, with the large, lozenge-shaped safety button sited on the rear tang. As the locking lever is opened, the safety is automatically engaged to the rearward position. I prefer a non-automatic safety, as I always forget to disengage it, as I did in the pattern board tests and it soon shows any flinch you might have! When the selector is left, showing a single red dot, the bottom barrel fires and, when right, with the twin red dot showing, it fires the top barrel. I do find, and I have said this before, that the button needs to be a bit higher for me to operate quickly.
Being the entry-level model, you have a grade one walnut stock and colour and figure to suit that price range. It is a bit plain to be honest but did have some fiddle back; however, good walnut costs and is for show only, as the SPG1`s performance downrange far exceeds expectations.
It has a semi oiled finish that becomes better with use and is my preferred practical finish anyway and a black, solid rubber recoil pad that mounts well without catching on your jacket.
Dimensionally, you have a length of pull of 14.5-inches and drop at the comb of 2.65-inches; so, quite low but gets your eye aligned right down the rib. The forend is 9.75-inches long and gone is the Schnabel tip and a more tapered affair, which is equally good. It is slim but has nicely cut chequering, whilst the pistol grip has no palm swell but does have a very natural hold and comfortable rake to it.
I tried some new NSI, Lyalvale and Gamebore ammo on the pattern boards at 30 yards using the bottom barrel and ½ choke fitted. The SPG1 does have a handling all its own; it seems to sit much lower in the shoulder and thus allows a very fast and natural hold and the view down the barrel ribs. It seems to go where the eye takes you, a very good thing in regard shotgun terms.
This is, as the name suggests, a classic game load with a brass 16mm head for smooth cartridge manipulation in a 65mm case. It has a red plastic outer shell and utilises a fibre wading and shot sizes in No. 5 or 6, with a charge weight of 30-grams and is loaded with 206 powder, to achieve a velocity of 1247fps.
This cartridge is designed for ultimate performance in a classic gun, yet still provide a smooth and low recoil sensation at the shoulder, for less fatigue in the field. Tested, were the No. 6 shot size and 30-gram loading. The patterns speak for themselves! Very easy on the shoulder but hard hitting on game. This 30- gram load distributed the total of 209 No. 6 pellets superbly.
Again, radiating out from the centre evenly with no gaps for game to get through, so a dependable, reliable load for game. I had 78 inner strikes and 131 outer strikes, for a superb all-round game load this one.
This cartridge needs little introduction, as it has been the darling of the pigeon shooters for some time. It is a 70mm case of clear plastic, as its name suggests and is available in plastic or fibre wading, with a choice of 30- or 32-gram loading but only No. 6 shot size, which is sensible.
Tested, were the fibre wadded 32-gram No. 6 shot loadings, these have proven over the years to be excellent and very consistent pigeon loads and these new loads were no exception.
A total of 286 No. 6 pellets were on the board, with a comprehensive 106 hits in the inner 15 inches and the remaining 180 pellets to the outer sectors. Hard-hitting with mild recoil and dependable patterns; that’s the Clear Pigeon load. These cartridges can make a good pigeon day a really good day and this Beretta shot them very well indeed.
Super Game from Lyalvale Express were next and this cartridge is designed to achieve good, even patterns and velocity, even at distance. It uses a single base, progressive powder, being low recoil yet still achieving high velocities. The lead shot hardness has been regulated for game shooting. It also has a huge range of weights available, from 32-, 36- to the mighty 40-gram loadings; so, no game is too large or far for this cartridge!
I tested the No. 6 shot size in 32-gram loading with fibre wad. Again, really good, even and dense patterns from the ½ choke, which is very impressive. A very good inner strike rate of 121 pellets and 146 outer hits for a total of 265 pellets, making the Super Game a great all-rounder.
This latest reincarnation of the SPG1 is every bit as good as the old models. You have a really solid dependable and highly manoeuvrable shotgun. Its built to be shot many thousands of times and the barrels are its best feature, as the patterns are always superb from Beretta, which, at the end of the day, is what it’s all about, that’s what hits the game!