Review: Beretta 686 Silver Pigeon I Sporting shotgun

Beretta's entry-level shotgun is also its best value

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Beretta 686 Silver Pigeon review

The main attractions of the Beretta 686 Silver Pigeon I are that it’s extremely well made and long-lasting, as well as light and easy to handle. Beretta doesn’t tend to do things by halves, so even this, their entry-level shotgun, is a pretty high-spec gun.

Entry level for Beretta means a price tag of $2859 or more (in 2021), depending on the options, which is not cheap unless you’re right into your shotguns and consider 10 grand a reasonable proposition. 

But look at it this way: from less than $3000, the next step up the Italian maker’s ladder takes you to over $4000. In that context, the Silver Pigeon I is very, very good value because you’re getting same the quality, engineering and technology that forms the platform for higher-specs Berettas. 

I would’t be the first to say the Silver Pigeon represents Beretta’s best value. After this, the law of deminishing returns comes into play. 

What do you get? Before we answer that, let’s look at what we’ve got, because there are a number of variations on the Silver Pigeon I theme. 

This is the Sporting model is an all-rounder, ostensibly for use at the range first and hunting second, while the Field model is all about hunting. The differences are numerous but they’re all details.

The Sporting model it has ejectors — handy for quick reloading, painful if you don’t want to leave rubbish strewn all over the bush. 

The sporting model also has a manual safety as opposed to the Field model’s automatically engaged one. In both, the switch for the select trigger is incorporated into the safety so you can set which barrel fires first.

Beretta 686 Silver Pigeon review
The Silver Pigeon comes in a solid case with its accessories

It has a wider fore-end than the Field model. In this case, the gun has a schnabel tip, but you can choose a flush-finished fore-end.

We’ve got 30-inch barrels, while 32 inches are also available for both models but you can only get 28s in the Field model. The ribs are vented here. 

An adjustable comb is available for the Sporting at extra cost. It’d probably be nice to have it, too.

Beretta 686 Silver Pigeon review
The Sporting model comes with a full set of Optima HP screw-in flush chokes

Now, back to the basics. As of the 686’s updates a couple of years ago, you get a very light, strong set of barrels. In this 30” gun, the bare barrels including chokes weigh just 1426 grams. 

Beretta uses a tri-alloy steel in its barrels, which are drilled, cold hammer forged, then vacuum relieved. They call this alloy Steelium and claim superior ballistic performance, though whether it’s true or not is impossible to quantify. What it does seem to do is ensure Beretta’s barrels are light — probably the lightest in their class. And still more than strong enough to pass proofing tests. 

These light barrels create a gun that’s easy to swing.

Beretta 686 Silver Pigeon review
The floral engraving pattern with Beretta trident is very attractive and accurately cut by laser, but the finish isn’t as refined as the more expensive guns

This goes well with the Beretta’s slim and sexy profile. It’s compact, especially with the low-profile action that Beretta created by putting the locking mechanism between the two barrels rather than on top in the traditional fashion. 

Beside the 686, most guns look and feel chunky.

Does this make the Beretta better? No, not unless it fits you better. The real judge of a shotgun is fit, and fit is different for everyone. 

Beretta 686 Silver Pigeon review
The Sporting’s vented ribs help keep it cooler on the range

With about 32mm drop at the stock’s comb and 50mm at the heel, many people have complained their eye sits relatively low behind the sighting rib, despite the low-profile action. I’m a bit taller, though, and I’d prefer it a little lower again. Horses for courses, eh? For people without the stretched dimensions of my bonce, the adjustable comb would make all the difference in the world; for people like me, the Silver Pigeon is a better fit than many guns.  

That low stock is one thing that differentiates the Silver Pigeon from many of its competitors. 

Some people find they point better with heavier barrels, too, another point of difference with this gun. 

Beretta 686 Silver Pigeon review
Under its comparatively plain skin, the Silver Pigeon has plenty of the same features, quality and technology of Beretta’s higher-spec shotguns

But either way, the 686 has really, really nice balance. Literally, the point of balance is right under the hinge of this gun. Tangibly, it just seems to go with you in a natural way when you shoot.

Despite being a little lighter than most guns, the Beretta doesn’t punish you for a long day on the clays. The recoil pad is wonderfully pliant, and with the way it fits me I didn’t feel too much recoil. I wouldn’t say it was brilliant at hiding recoil, but it’s quite acceptable. And at just over 3.5kg all up, this gun isn’t really super-light, so I’d say fit plays a much greater role in the effect of its recoil. 

And of course, everything worked just beautifully, which is exactly how it should be with a Beretta. Almost 500 years of gun-making history has to count for something! 

The conical locking lugs are one of the ways in which Beretta ensures long life for the Silver Pigeon. If you do wear them out, they’re replaceable, as are the pivot points for the barrels. Somewhere in its literature, Beretta coyly mentions the Silver Pigeon shooting more than 10,000 rounds without any sign of wear, but it’s safe to say you can expect a hell of a lot more than that. 

For all that, we’re still talking entry-level. The metal-to-metal fit and timber-to-metal fit are both very good but not outstanding. Sure, the lock-up is tight and all that, it’s just the aesthetic details are better on more expensive guns. The engraving is pretty but it’s laser cut, not hand etched. The walnut is nice but it’s not special. The questions is, are you the sort of person who’d pay twice as much for a better finish? 

Inevitably, we come back to the fact that the 686 Silver Pigeon I is excellent value. It works precise the way it should, it feels light and obedient, and it is going to last a very, very long time. It’s good looking, too. 

You can buy it as your only gun and depend on it. Or if you trade it, you can count on it retaining a fair bit of its value, making the replacement more affordable. 

It’d take a lot to tempt me to trade it, though. 

See the Beretta Australia website for details of specifications, other models, options, etc. Once again, thanks go to Mudgee Firearms where we bought this gun and the ammo and accessories we needed to review it.

Beretta 686 Silver Pigeon review
The low profile of the 686 action is a result of the centrally located locking mechanism

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