BERETTA 694 SPORTING - TEST & REVIEW
- Credit: Archant
The Beretta 694 Sporting launched with great fanfare back in 2019; here, we review the exciting new offering from Beretta with help from Mike Yardley
Designed in collaboration with its team of top competitive shooters, the new Beretta 694 (available in Trap and Sporting) represents an interesting and exciting addition to the market. In keeping with the company's reputation for technical innovation, it was unveiled for the first time to a gathering of 40 international journalists in September via a remarkable VR experience - after being flown over a virtual lake and introduced to the various components of the new gun, it was there waiting in the flesh upon removal of the headsets, proudly illuminated on its glass stand with blue LED lighting. Impressive.
Here, we will focus on the Sporting version of the 694. So, virtual worlds aside, what's new about this much-anticipated addition to the famous 69 family?
The heads of the stock and action fences have been modified with grooves to increase peripheral vision, and to improve aesthetics, while the stock is presented with a new grip and comb. The two options available for drop at comb/heel are 35/50mm and 35/55mm, and there is also the option of an adjustable comb for a little extra cash. The stock has a length of pull of 375mm, with an 18mm MicroCore recoil pad. There is also the option of purchasing additional 20 and 40g weights, which can be added within the stock to personalise the balance, although this gun seemed nicely balanced straight out of the box.
The new pistol grip design features a lengthened grip with a slight palm swell, helping to create a natural and stable hand position that is easily repeatable, thus aiding consistency in the mount and comfort when handling the gun. There is also an increased area of chequering on the fore-end (thanks to the halving in size of the fore-end catch button), again helping to provide a more secure grip.
The comb has been widened slightly to aid facial comfort and stability, and thus avoid head rolling.
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Also new for the 694 is the steel fore-end iron system, replacing the alloy component used on previous 69 series guns. The new way of attaching the fore-end to the barrel and action allows for easy adjustment in the future without serious gunsmithing.
The new improved fore-end latch, spring loaded, guarantees stability of the fore-end throughout the life of the gun, regardless of use. As noted, the surface area of the external catch on the underside of the fore-end has been reduced, so if it overheats with heavy use - as sometimes happened with Beretta 600 series guns - there is a much smaller area in contact with the shooter's hand.
Beretta's design team have put great effort into the mechanics and aesthetics of this gun. It has an attractive silver Nistan-finished action, and the action body has been resculpted, both to improve peripheral vision (as noted), and to allow for 25g of additional weight, improving stability and balance. The action features raised side panels with a sporty blue line curving upwards from the 694 logo engraving. The result? This gun is unmistakeably destined for sport shooting. It is clean, modern, and fuss-free - a tool designed to perform in the heat of competition. The launch video centres around the tagline: 'Allow yourself to be more human, and let your machine be infallible for you'. The idea is that athletes are often expected to perform like machines nowadays, but it is their human emotions that make them extraordinary, individual, passionate sportsmen and women.
What of the rest of the 694? It features a three-position adjustable trigger, and there is a barrel selector located in typical Beretta fashion on the safety, which itself features enhanced chequering and ergonomics. The steel top lever has a low profile with the same anti-glare finish as is found on the top of the receiver - again, this design element helps you avoid all distractions, even that little ray of sunlight glinting off your top lever! It is also carefully formed to allow easy use for both left- and right-handed shooters.
The newly designed ejectors are fitted with more powerful springs. The 10x8mm top rib on the Sporter is ventilated, and there are also ventilated side ribs, helping keep the gun cool when putting high volumes of shots through the barrels. These barrels are also designed to accommodate the optional B-Fast balancing system - a set of 5, 10 and 15g weights that can be purchased separately and slotted into openings in the muzzle and under the fore-end. The added weight is distributed along the whole length of the barrel to improve handling and reduce muzzle flip. As noted earlier, you can also add weights into the stock, thus offering total customisation of balance.
BERETTA STEELIUM PLUS BARRELS
The Steelium Plus barrels, as featured on this 694, boast elongated forcing cones, and an unusual taper bore in three sections. The advantages of this, according to Beretta, are:
- denser, more uniform patterns (thanks to less pellet deformation) with high penetration and target hitting performance
- quicker and more accurate second shot
- smooth transfer of the shot down the barrel and a reduction in perceived muzzle jump
The barrels are assembled on the monoblock system, as with all Berettas, with internal hard chrome plating.
The 694 Sporting model's barrels are 76mm/3' chambered and are available in lengths of 71, 76 and 81cm (28, 30 and 23'). It is equipped with a set of five High Performance Optima Chokes.
THE SHOOTER'S PERSPECTIVE
We asked Mike Yardley, described by one senior member of the UK gun trade as Dr Shotgun, and a technical expert who has tested every new Beretta that has appeared in the last 30 years, for his opinion on the 694, including how it felt to shoot.
Here's what he had to say: 'I was much looking forward to shooting this new gun from the great Gardonne stable. Visually, at first glance at least, it is quite similar to other mid-range members of the Beretta 69 series but with an added touch of DT11. The 694's nickel-plated action is, however, substantially re-sculptured compared to a 690 or 692 with weight added to improve central mass and overall balance. When you looked at the engineering of the 694, you discovered much more than a cosmetically enhanced 692. I shot both Sporting and Trap versions in 30 and 32'' guizes - all performed well. It would be a tight call between the 30 and 32' Sporter.
Some very sensible changes have been made. Gunsmiths will like the steel forend 'iron' and angled all steel top lever. The forend itself is of a pleasant new shape with more checkering and its latch is redesigned to reduce heat transmitted to the hand - all good. As far as stock dimensions were concerned, the slightly higher new Sporting stock dimension was excellent. There are options of 50, 35 and 55, 35. (The Sporting adjustable comb version will also be higher - 35/55 when set in the lowest position, instead of the 692 Sport now at 38/60. There is a hand-filling DT11 style pistol grip on the 694 with modest palm swell.
The action mechanics of the 694 remain 690/692 with what looks like the same trigger plate used in the gun. The action and head of the stock have, however, been cleverly and attractively reshaped at the fences to enhance peripheral target visibility forward as well as improve aesthetics. The bores of the Steelium Plus barrels are marked at 18.6 and have a taper for about half their length (but this is not as exaggerated as in the DT11). Full length joining ribs - which have the provision for balance weights to be attached - add to central mass like the new action. Chokes are extended Optima HPs.
Overall I did not notice a vast difference in shooting qualities compared to the 692, save that the new gun is a fraction heavier and probably better for it. All the guns tested shot well. The technical changes are positive and useful, the R&D and engineering effort put into the gun truly impressed. I would pay the 10% extra for the improved gun as they not only make sense but should improve longevity.'
SRPs AND CONTACT
694 Sporting: £3,645; £3,975 (adjustable)
694 Trap (fixed choke): £3,325; £3,645 (adjustable).
694 Trap (Optichoke): £3,645 £3,975 (adjustable)