Building on more than 400 years as a firearms manufacturer and industry leader, Beretta has consulted with their sponsored team of shooters to build the latest shotgun offering, the fully redesigned Beretta 694 Sporter. With several new features such as a completely remade action, steel fore-end iron along with a press release fore-end catch and many more, let’s see how the latest offering stacks up. Their dedication to quality is a long appreciated trait by a gun reviewer of more than 40 years, so has consultation with some of the finest shooters in the Beretta stable borne fruit?
Finished in a magnificent blued colour and polished to perfection, the 70mm barrels are typically up to Beretta’s high standards. Topped with a tapered ventilated rib running from 10mm at the chamber to 7mm at the muzzle, the rib is fitted with a white barrel-type, trap front bead and I was amazed to find a mid-bead wasn’t included to avoid canting. Maybe somewhat of an oversight by the designers?
Otherwise the barrel set is perfect. At the muzzle the Optima Choke High Performance (OCHP) chokes are installed with a 20mm collar protruding from the muzzle. The collar is great for hand-fitting the choke tubes before tightening with the spanner provided. Beretta has seen fit to label the chokes with a colour coding band and written constrictions on the outside for immediate identification - an excellent idea. There are five chokes supplied with spanner and a bottle of Beretta lubricating oil, so all good for maintenance.
At the chamber end the gun is suited to 12-gauge, 76mm cartridges (3” shells) and proofed for High Performance steel shot, 1320 bar. The barrels are stamped with the CIP Fleur de Lys to show they’re suited to High Performance steel shot loads, remembering that no tighter than Modified choke should be used with these loads should you intend to go waterfowling.
The ejectors have jewel polishing about the monobloc and typical Beretta locking mechanism via conical extensions protruding from the receiver face locking into recesses either side of the barrel set. The gun’s tolerances are extremely fine when the monobloc is joined to the barrel set, testament to the excellent fit achievable when using CNC milling machinery.
To accommodate the competition shooter there are five recesses on the barrel side rib separating the barrels and covered by the fore-end, enabling weights to be added to the barrel to obtain the utmost in balance. These are evenly spaced with added weights altering both the balance and swing of the gun should the shooter desire. The remaining rib not covered by the fore-end wood is ventilated and matches the aeriation of the top rib well.
Design of the receiver is quite innovative. Completed in a satin silver Nistan finish with the model name tastefully engraved and coloured about the receiver side and with the replaceable pivot pins still obvious, the Beretta 694 receiver is unlike any other preceding model. Engraving about the receiver is minimal and the receiver, while looking futuristic, is largely plain in its presentation. The revamped and ergonomically comfortable top lever is a bonus along with the stock fitting to the receiver which gives the shooter better peripheral vision with its thinner profile.
I found the lower top lever interfered with my thumb and safety catch-cum-barrel selector but this is obviously a compromise Beretta are prepared to accept with the new look. The pressure required to open the gun is minimal but the close proximity of the barrel selector-cum-safety catch is distracting.
Beretta has continued to use their time-proven jointing system for the 694 Boxlock Sporter shotgun. The two hinge lugs in the receiver walls mate with recesses cut from the barrel monobloc and deliver that wonderful balance and feel Beretta guns have had for years as a result of their lower profile. This is the top bracket of Boxlock models before going to the triggerlock varieties in the Beretta collection with their detachable triggerplates. The lugs, or trunnions, in the receiver wall are replaceable along with the conical lugs protruding from the standing breech face to lock the barrels which makes the gun highly serviceable for years. In fact Beretta has a ‘forever servicing’ program with their guns along with the chance to have your new purchase custom fitted.
The shape of the triggerguard is generous and enables the shooter to wear a thin set of leather gloves should conditions demand. The three-position triggerfoot is appreciated for correct adjustment for comfort, especially for those with shorter fingers (the triggerfoot can conveniently be moved rearward to accommodate), trigger pulls measuring around 4lb 4oz for both barrels and are comfortable. I enjoyed the crispness of the trigger releases, the mechanism inertia operated as opposed to mechanically. The first barrel must be fired before the second can be activated unless the barrel selector is quickly managed.
Stock and fore-end
There are certainly some innovative changes in this area to assist the shooter achieve peak performance. A thinner stock where it joins the receiver to increase peripheral view is one modification and provision of a comfortable palmswell another for increased gun control and positive grip. The fore-end has been completely redesigned and looks fabulous with an excellent coverage of chequering, completed at around 20 lines per inch on both pistol grip and fore-end woodwork. I enjoyed the fore-end release catch being a button that’s depressed rather than a lever, so simple and a pleasure to operate.
Use of grade 2.5-plus walnut on the 694 is indeed well chosen and really makes the gun stand out. The colour, character and grain is excellent and befitting a gun priced around $6799. I like the option of the adjustable comb piece on the stock for a more precise fit, the gun on review having the standard stock configuration. The Beretta 694 Sporter comes to my shoulder well, straight out the box, though I’m sure there would be many shooters who’d need minor adjustments.
As well as the barrel weighting system to precisely tweak the gun to exact requirements, there is additionally a weight system which can be added to the stock for finer balance adjustment, the kind of refinements you’d expect from a top of the line offering in a Boxlock shotgun, especially from Beretta. The provision of two Micro-Core recoil pads is another nice addition to the assortment of accessories provided to achieve correct length of pull.
In the field
I tested the Beretta 694 at my local club on Phillip Island and it was a pleasure to shoot over a small ground I’d set up with some challenging targets, the gun performing beyond expectation and completely blitzing targets. The Steelium Plus barrels with their over-boring to 0.740” coupled with the OCHP choke system was a real winner as target after target was reduced to a puff of smoke.
I used a variety of ammunition with velocities from 1235 to 1290fps and some in excess of 1300 and found the gun to be not as comfortable as I’d have liked with recoil using faster ammunition, despite it weighing 3.77kg. This could also have been attributable to the ammunition used and its ensuing recoil.
Overall the Beretta 694 Sporter is a delight and I can see how input from the Beretta shooting team has influenced the design of this top of the Boxlock models. I found the gun to balance beautifully, swing smoothly and, as mentioned, the combination of Steelium Plus barrels and OCHP chokes reduced targets to dust.
The price at $6799 is obviously affected by exchange rates but given Beretta supply a three-year warranty and ‘forever service’ option along with personal fitting, if you’re in the market for a top of the line competition gun the 694 would be a superb option. And with regard to the Beretta shooting team’s input, if this is their design they’ve done well.
Maker: Beretta, Brescia, Italy
Distributor: Beretta Australia
Make and model: Beretta 694 Sporter
Overall length: 1220mm/48”
Overall weight: 3.77kg/8lb 3oz
Barrel length: 70mm/2.7”
Barrel weight: 1.62kg/3lb 6oz
Trigger pulls: Under 4lb 4oz, over 4lb 4oz
Bore: Steelium Plus barrels, 0.740”, 12-gauge, 76mm/3” chambered
Chokes: OCHP choke tubes, 82mm long, external collar. Skeet 0.744”, Cylinder 0.730”, Improved Cylinder 0.720”, Modified 0.712”, Improved Modified 0.705”
Drop at comb: 35mm/1⅜”
Drop at heel: 50mm/2”
Length of pull: 375mm/14¾” (triggerfoot in central position)
Warranty: Three years
RRP: $6799 with Beretta hard case, all accessories, stock spanner, spare ejector parts and stock weights (Beretta ‘forever servicing’ and free gun fitting included)