Vic Harker takes the new Beretta 690 Sport Black Adjustable for a spin to see if it measures up
Model: 690 Sport Black Adjustable
Bore size: 18.6mm
Barrel length: 81cm
Action: Trigger plate
Chamber length: 76mm (3in)
Chokes: 5 Optima hand-detachable
Rib: 10mm x 8mm
Stock: Pistol grip, adjustable comb
Weight: 8lb 5.6oz
Suggested Retail: £2,925 inc. VAT
UK Distributor: GMK 01489 579999
Clay target guns – especially those in the mid-price range – have come a long way in the last 30 years. The Sporter in particular, which then barely existed, now stands alongside Trap and Skeet models with a choice of dedicated specifications that were simply not available until recently. This month, I’ve been looking at a relative newcomer to the marketplace from Beretta.
Designated as the 690 Sport Black, the firearm includes the now time-proven features that were incorporated into its ancestor, the 680. A low-profile action with all the requirements of elegance, strength and reliability at a relatively modest price is a difficult task for any manufacturer, but Beretta has decided to rise
to the challenge.
As with most expensive over-and-unders, the 690 foregoes under-bolting, which creates an inherently deep action and locates the gun’s security above the bottom barrel. All the best London makers – Purdey, Woodward and Boss – came to the same conclusion many decades ago, but in their case it involved a considerable amount of costly handwork. It could be said that Beretta has created a shorthand version of the principle, but it is no less strong and has a similar elegant low profile.
In the case of the 690 and Beretta’s other over-and-unders, a bifurcated or split bolt, similar in principle to those London guns, is located in recesses above the bottom barrel. This, as Beretta’s great gun designer Tullio Marengoni concluded after many experiments in the 1930s, works with the forces generated by the explosion of the cartridge that naturally flex the barrels and the action together.
That would have been enough for many gunmakers but Beretta reinforces this arrangement with trapezoidal shoulders integral to the barrels monobloc, which locate with reciprocating bearing surfaces provided each side of the actions breech face.
A coil spring trigger mechanism is incorporated into a trigger plate action, the hammers being cocked off rods running through the action body by way of the forend iron with the opening of the gun. Having been constantly revised and improved over the years, the Beretta 690, as with its stablemates, provides class-leading trigger pulls for both function and reliability.
The most individual and perhaps important aspect of any shotgun is the stock and how well its configuration and dimensions assist the shooter to point the firearm accurately. Of course, Beretta is aware of this and the adjustable stock goes a considerable way to achieving this for most shooters.
The amount of drop at comb, which determines the elevation of the shooter’s eye above the rib, is a crucial dimension that determines the placement of the shot charge above and below the shooter’s point of aim. The 690’s adjustable comb mounted on two steel pillars can be moved up and down and adjusted to ensure the shooter’s eye has the correct elevation above the rib.
This, together with a pattern plate set at a suitable distance, usually 30-40 yards, can determine where the gun is printing its pattern with a few shots and this can be altered with the help of the adjustable comb. Likewise, the comb can be set for cast left or right to achieve lateral accuracy.
If correctly used, the adjustable comb is the quickest and easiest way of ensuring accurate shooting and a far less expensive proposition than having a stock made. The 690’s stock has a slim pistol grip with a fairly open radius that will enable the shooter to establish coordinated hands in line hold.
This Beretta’s 81-centimetre barrels are bored at 18.6 millimetres with 76-millimetre-long chambers and are supplied with a set of five hand-detachable Optima chokes. The flat, tapered rib is suitably machined to provide a non-glare finish that contributes to a clear and unobtrusive line of sight. We tend to take the excellent quality of Beretta’s barrels for granted, but the impeccably struck-off weight of 1.585 kilograms and the in situ chokes make both an important contribution to the firearm’s excellent balance and help to deliver consistent, well-distributed shot patterns.
With an all-up weight of 8lb 5.6oz, this Beretta 690, balanced right on its barrel trunnions, provides a combination of sufficient liveliness and just the right amount of forward control. I achieved a particularly good fit with the adjustable stock and cannot emphasise enough the difference this makes in terms of comfort and accuracy.
On a very cold day at the North Oxfordshire Shooting School, the Beretta’s barrels and I soon warmed up and I was breaking clays consistently. The 690’s trigger pulls were particularly crisp to the extent I wasn’t conscious of them, which is how it should be. As the no-frills Sporter in the Beretta line, it still incorporates all the essentials of the fancy models, which includes excellent mechanical function in all departments.
In addition to this – and definitely just as important – is the feel and balance, which are perhaps the most crucial considerations of any shotgun. The adjustable stock is another key factor of excellent design and with which I achieved a good fit, a quality intrinsic to accurate and enjoyable shotgun shooting.
While this may be the least expensive model in the range, it certainly ticks all of the most important boxes. With its relatively sombre appearance, the 690 may not be as eye-catching as some of the others, but you would be hard-pressed to find few guns so fit for purpose in its price bracket.