Beretta 687 EELL
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- Last updated: 19/01/2017
The shotguns of Beretta are no strangers to these pages, indeed, they are familiar to all of us in the shooting world because the giant of Gardonne makes so many! Not only is it the oldest gunmaker in the world - the precise date of establishment seems subject to periodic revision, but for the sake of argument we will say there have been gunmaking Berettas for some 500 years and the industrial concern of Beretta has been in business for well over a century. But, they produce no less than 150,000 shotguns each year, 50,000 or so of them over and under guns like our test gun (and a very significant proportion of them are sold in the UK each year imported by GMK of Fareham).
The test gun, however, is not typical of the massive Beretta output in all respects. Although based on the phenomenally successful 60 series action, it is an upmarket, side-plated EELL model with an RRP near the 5K mark, and, it features a new style of scroll engraving. EELL guns - usually game scene engraved - have always been much fancied, and this one should prove no exception, although my own taste would have been for a slightly simpler scroll style without the extra floral embellishments that adorns this one.
This is a smart, well finished gun, and it comes up well with a good balance just forward of the hinge pins. It does not feel heavy, but it does feel steady and pointable. The oiled stock finish is pleasing and practical, the fixed chokes are my preference in most Beretta doubles as they help to reduce barrel weight, as, indeed, does the narrow, ventilated rib, which, it might also be added, presents a good picture to the eye (although my preference on any game gun is for a hollowed solid design - because it is less subject to denting).
Our EELL hits the scales at just over 7 pounds and does not feel heavy. This is a near perfect weight for a modern 30”, 12 bore game gun (and something just under 7 pounds would be my ideal for a 20 bore). It feels stable and comfortable when mounted. The stock comb has some taper and the grip is comfortable and well radiused. There is a classic Schnabel forend, it looks good, but my preference is for a rounded tip design (which is easily accomplished by removing the lip of the Schnabel - I have done it many times, and Beretta now do it and call it an American forend).
The 30” monobloc barrels are nicely put together on the test gun. Wood to metal fit, blacking, and the matt oil-like stock finish are all well executed, maintaining the high Beretta standard. My only gunmaking comment is that there were a couple of small flaws in the well figured wood of the stock which just might become an issue - but one in all probability that might easily be rectified. Great figure does not always equal great strength - if I remember correctly the famous Greener St. George exhibition gun had a great number of little pieces of wood glued into its fabulously figured stock. Generally, I like to see straight grain going through the grip, and some figure to the rear in a good, dense, piece of naturally dried wood - that’s my ideal.
I have, meantime, a prejudice in favour of Berettas generally, because they are such consistently made guns, and EELLs and old Beretta semi-autos in particular. Both, in their way, offer a lot of bang for the buck. My liking for Beretta 303s is well known, but I like the EELLs too (and own a 28 bore version). They look especially good and will not disgrace themselves in any company. I know a number of extremely well-heeled game shots who choose EELLs for their shooting, though they might use guns costing ten times more (which is not to say that EELLs are cheap). They choose the EELL because they can depend on them.
EELLs not only carry side plates but they also involve significantly more hand work and better wood than the average Silver Pigeon ‘boxlock’ (to be precise Beretta guns are not boxlocks - where the springs and tumblers are incorporated within the box of the action body - but trigger plate guns where springs etc. are carried on a plate that locates into the action body and, effectively, becomes the bottom tang of the action as well). I think in the case of the EELL, the side plates make it a significantly better gun, not just decoratively, but because a little more weight is placed between the hands - creating a subtle but noticeable difference in handling.
The 3” (76mm) chambered barrels of the EELL are monobloc as mentioned. 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 hand-work, monobloc manufacture is nonetheless extremely strong – arguably the strongest of all when well done. The medium weight (1400 gram) barrels suited the gun well. The bores, however, are fairly tight with regard to diameter, both are marked at 18.4mm (which is the current standard for Beretta live quarry guns).
The action of the EELL, plates apart, is the usual low-profile Beretta design with stud pins for hinging at the knuckle and conical locking bolts engaging circular recesses either side of the top chamber mouth. The main mechanism sits on a trigger-plate with hammers powered by coil springs. The trigger blade is plain in form and matt gold plated. The pulls were as good as one could expect from this design type, breaking at about 3 and 3 ½ pounds.
The stock shapes of the EELL were sensible as were the measurements. As noted, I liked the tapered comb - a subtly better shape than one gets on the standard gun - and I found the grip comfortable. With regard to dimensions, the test gun’s length of pull was 14 5/8” with an 1/8” extra at heel and 3/8” at toe - standard measurements that few will quibble with (though an 1/8 or a ¼” more wood might have increased options for the longer armed (though the gun is fitted with an interchangeable rubber pad of medium thickness). Drop was 1 3/8” at comb and 2 ¼” at heel - pretty good, though my preference would have been for 2 1/8” at heel as the ‘shelf’ measurement. The oil finish on the stock was what most of us would want, the timber colour was good (not too light), and the chequering was competent.
I shot the gun at the Braintree shooting ground and found it to be a well sorted piece of kit built to a good specification. At 7 poundish, with 30” 1400 gram barrels - what more could one ask for? Well, a little more length in the stock as noted, perhaps a standard bore diameter of 18.6 or 18.7mm, and barrels very slightly lighter and equipped with a ‘solid’ rib. But, the world’s not perfect and this is still a very good gun - not cheap, but not expensive for the quality either.
PRICE (RRP): £4,900 approx. (20 bore model is the same price - multichoke guns are £5,100 approx.)