Mike loves a 32-inch 20-bore... and a Silver Pigeon. So this gun should be perfect for him... shouldn’t it?

credit: Archant

I have always been a great fan of the Beretta Silver Pigeon range of guns. It is no accident that they sell so well, or that they are the choice of many shooting schools and shooting professionals. They offer value and integrity of manufacture as well as great engineering and design. This month, the test gun is a deluxe 32”, 20-bore, field version of the Silver Pigeon 1. It has been taken from the shelves of the West London Shooting Ground shop (to whom I extend my thanks) and has an RRP of £2,575. First impressions are good, the barrel length sets it apart and the game scene engraved action is particularly smart. One might add, however, that first impressions of Silver Pigeons are usually good. It is such a consistent product and one which has been subtly improved over the years.

What about the barrel specification? There had been demand for a longer barrelled Silver Pigeon 20 for some time. Robert Frampton of GMK explains frankly: “Our field sales team had noted a small but significant niche for field guns with 32” barrels... Some of our competitors had been quick to react to this and exploit the opportunity, whereas Beretta were slow off the mark... the factory has had no spare production capacity and in this situation non-standard production runs inevitably get left on the drawing board... The first production run of guns was completely pre-sold before arriving in the UK... Late last year Beretta were persuaded to repeat the exercise one final time for 2015. Again many of these guns have been snapped up by dealers prior to delivery, conscious of the fact that these guns will be the last of their type.”

Apart from the Long Tom barrels, the gun does not mess much with success as far as its specification is concerned. The 32” barrels are equipped with Mobil chokes rather than the longer, newer Optima HPs (I actually prefer Mobils for game shooting because they are compact and quick to change). Five tubes are supplied. Like the action, top lever, trigger guard and fore-end irons are nickel-plated giving the gun a smart, classic, but modern, look. This Silver Pigeon also has a traditional schnabel fore-end (my preference would have been for a rounded style). The stock has the usual open radius pistol grip – somewhat Prince of Wales-like – and is finished with a Micro-Core recoil pad.

The 3” chambered barrels are, of course, monobloc – Beretta perfected the now much copied system a 100 plus years ago – and boast a ventilated 6mm sighting rib which is well laid and neatly machined. I tend to prefer a solid design on a game gun, but with 32” tubes it can create too much frontal weight. There is a traditional metal bead front sight. Joining ribs are solid and extend all the way to the monobloc. The nicely finished barrels bear Italian fleur-de-lys, steel shot-friendly proof marks for 3” (76mm) shells. The fairly wide 16mm bores are hard-chromed and impeccably finished as one expects from the marque. The barrel tubes themselves are hammer forged from chrome moly steel. Blueing is good, if not quite as shiny as it once was. Monobloc sides are engine-turned, and the fit and finish of the ejector work is neat. Thumbs up in all departments.

credit: Archant

The action of the Silver Pigeon is classic Beretta 600 series – the usual low-profile Beretta type with split stud-style hinge pins engaging recesses on the bifurcated lumps on the sides of the monobloc. Lock up is achieved by conical locking lugs engaging circular bites positioned just below the centre line of the top barrel. The single trigger is selective and is recoil-activated. It is one of the most reliable designs yet conceived in my experience. There is the usual safety mounted selector.

As for action decoration, aesthetically, Beretta have changed the style of engraving slightly. There are game scenes, as noted, and, generally, there appears more engraving on the action body than there once was. I would say it works well. Moving to the wood, the stock has a matt oil finish, which will be what most people want. The finish can be brought-on for those that wish to expend a little elbow grease by the application of conditioning oil. The chequering is well done and cut by laser. The measurements will suit most – 35 and 55m for drop (13/8” and 2¹/8”) and 14¾” for length. No complaints here, either.

My thanks to Lyalvale (Express) for supplying the cartridges used in this test.