Beretta’s competition shotgun story is gilded with success throughout its long history. At the time Luciano Giovannetti was at the top of the Olympic Trap game with his Beretta SO sidelock, Beretta’s 680 was the mid-range competition gun of choice, lasting until Giovannetti defended his Olympic gold medal at Los Angeles in 1984 when the Beretta 682 appeared on the scene.
Though today, Beretta accounts for around 40 per cent of new competition gun sales in the UK, at the time the 682 appeared some 28 years ago, Beretta was substantially less prominent in the clay competition scene. Brands such as Nikko, Winchester, Miroku and Browning dominated the Trap scene, with aficionados choosing Perazzi or a high-grade Beretta sidelock like the SO3 or later the SO4. There wouldn’t have been a Krieghoff in sight – a far cry from today’s competition-gun landscape. Arguably, it was the introduction of the 682 – a dedicated clay breaker – and its later extensions, the 686 and 687, which came in clay and game, that heralded the inexorable growth of Beretta as the No.1 competition shotgun brand in the United Kingdom.
The Beretta 682 owed much of its ancestry to the 680, closely following its lines and heft, and its action was hand-finished, both in terms of finalising engraving and a mirror-polish. But its weight was its most noticeable quality, brought about by a thick action sidewall, which gave it a sturdy, pointable feel, much loved by Sporting aficionados. The Beretta 682 perhaps had the most success in the hands of sporting legend George Digweed. Though George later moved on to Kemen in the mid-1990s, and subsequently Perazzi, history is immutable – much of George’s early success was with a pair of Beretta 682s.
In the last decade alone, Beretta claimed to have sold 50,000 units of its 682. And it’s not hard to see why – combine a technically excellent product with a world-beating Sporting champion to underpin its marketing effort and there’s a recipe for success. The 682 also found favour in other clay markets, such as Trap and Skeet, and its dominance over the last 28 years is a real achievement.
All good things must end. Though Beretta could hardly have been blamed for extending the 682 brand by wracking their brains for cool-sounding epithets, after nearly 30 years a new brand does make sense. Product types evolve over time – and when there is a fundamental change to a product type, the time comes to retire the old before decline sets in, and innovate so as to replace it. And indeed, innovation is at the heart of the 692. Three core areas differentiate it from its predecessors: action, barrel, and adjustability.
Starting with the action, though the gun is clearly in the Beretta family, it owes as much to the SV10 as it does to the 682 in its structure. The receiver design is elegant, with a highly-polished profile on the side plates and underside, with the distinctive laurel wreath picked out in black-gold finish. Aesthetics aside, Beretta holds the theory that a competition gun should have as much weight as possible in the receiver area, between the hands, to maximize stability during the shot. The 682 and DT10 both measured 40.3mm across, while the DT11 – a substantially more expensive product – comes in at 43mm. The 692 measures 41.6mm across, and this wide receiver is believed to improve balance and stability, promoting faster second-target acquisition after the first shot. In addition, the top-lever is of a composite, soft-touch material – and being something of a traditionalist, my attitude towards it softened when I remember the marks on my thumbs from a new DT10 and found a new gun a pleasure to open. The subtleties of another 1.3mm in action-width are going to be imperceptible for mere mortals, but performance and handling on the range is where it counts. More of that later.
The second area of particular significance is the barrels – made on the Steelium Plus principle. Every Beretta barrel has three parts to its internal geometry: the chamber, the forcing cone and the final cylinder. It’s long been known by gunmakers that longer forcing cones deliver better performance, and on the 682, 686, 687 and DT10, Beretta included a forcing cone of around 65mm (2.5”) on 30” barrels. When the DT11 was developed, Beretta sought to extend the forcing cones – and a whopping 480mm forcing cone is found on the DT11. The 692 has a substantially longer taper than the 682, at 360mm. This gives better weight distribution along the barrel, makes the pressure curve in the barrel less spiky, and gives rise to improved ballistics. Essentially, this reduces perceived recoil and muzzle flip – good things in themselves for the competition clay shot. In addition, shot travelling down a long forcing cone is more likely to maintain its shape, giving more evenly distributed patterns. A continuous taper from chamber to muzzle might be argued as the holy grail of barrel design, but the cost, given current technology, makes this theory just that: a theory. But, a forcing cone of over 14” is a serious technological advancement on the 692, and in a situation where every clay counts, it should not be underestimated.
The third area Beretta has given real consideration to is the adjustability of the 692, with the introduction of the B-FAST system (that’s Beretta-Fast-Adjustment-System-Technology rather than a shortened early-morning meal). Beretta have been smart here; they know that there is demand for tailoring a gun for individual needs in the mid-market, and they have come up with a system to enable every shooter to customize the balance of the gun without needing to go to a gunsmith.
Though every 692 is factory-balanced, each is adjustable for personal choice via a series of steel ‘wads’ in the stock. At 20 grams each, they fit in the stock cavity on a screw, and up to 100 grams of extra weight can be added. These weight wads are placed as far back as possible from the hinge pin, to create a substantial difference in handling given the confines of the stock length. This system is handy for those who want to shorten the standard stock – the system is so designed as to be flexible enough to continue to work even if wood is removed from the butt end.
The second aspect of the B-FAST system is the comb – a strong, adjustable device to customize comb positioning. The internal workings are fashioned from steel and aluminium for lightness and strength. It is simple to adjust, stays put once the settings are satisfactory, and provides more flexibility than its predecessors. It doesn’t come as standard, but for those who want an adjustable stock without the expense of a Precision Fit Stock or similar, it’s pretty good. Coming soon is an adjustable rib – it’s not ready yet, but Beretta plan to release it with the 692 X-Trap model scheduled for launch in Autumn 2013.
Sporting and Trap models are to ship in early Spring 2013 with Skeet available for next summer. Beretta’s initial production volumes are around 1,250 units for the Sporter, and 800 for the Trap model, though it is the Sporting market that will be likely to prove of most interest in the UK. There will be sample 692s on the GMK stand at the British Shooting Show at Stoneleigh (9/10 February 2013) – so make a date for the diary to check them out.
How did it shoot?
Gestaltist theory says we perceive an object as a whole thing first, then break it down into its component parts. And it’s all very well saying that it’s got a new action, barrel and balance-adjustment system, but how did it actually perform on the range? Exceptionally is the only answer I can give. I shot a 30” Sporter at Compak Sporting at the 692 launch at La Almenara, near Seville, in the esteemed company of Olympic gold medallist Vincent Hancock and the great and the good of the world’s shooting journalists.
I’m admitting here that I have been a Browning aficionado for years, and I’ve struggled to shoot to my usual standard with Berettas. The idea of picking up a Beretta and shooting well with it is new to me. But what a joy this gun was to shoot! The 30” Sporter was particularly fast-handling, smooth, and made effortless work of most of the awkward angled long crossers; it simply seemed to end up in the right place despite my best intentions. Indeed, when the referee accidentally announced a pair of targets to be shot the wrong way round, I was amazed to find that I broke the hard target and the even harder target simply by looking in the right place. The only target I missed was a narrow angled away bird – which I raced in front of. The gun handles very fast, and handles recoil beautifully.
Onto the Universal Trench range to test the Trap version, and after my initial shock that we were to shoot 100 targets without stopping and a few misses, I noticed that the Trap gun in 30” was unusually lively. I accommodated for this by pushing my front hand a little further along the forend than I would usually like, but then began to connect with the majority of targets as puffs of black dust. I’d not shot a UT target for, ahem, 10 years, but a score of 88 ex-100 pleased me enormously, and I felt so much at home with the Beretta that I very nearly missed the rather entertaining bull fight involving a matador and a fellow contributor to Clay Shooting magazine, who, very sadly, survived unscathed.
Price-wise, there has been no formal announcement, but it’s likely to be a few quid – and only a few quid – more than the 682. Though Beretta have been seeking a slight price rise, citing that the choke system alone eats up the price differential, I sense an aggressive approach from the gunmaker. The 682 Sporter retails around £2,950 (£3,250 for the adjustable stock model) and the 692, expected to be a little more, has technical features that make for a superior clay-breaking product. 2012 has been an excellent year for the Beretta group, and its projections look good for 2013. It will doubtless increase its penetration into the shotgun market with the 692. Essentially it’s an improvement on the 682 in design and technical performance, and for the price, competition shooters will win – and so will Beretta.