Gun test: Beretta 694 Sporting GMK 50th Anniversary 31
- Credit: Mike Yardley
This special edition Beretta may be rather more weighty than it’s ‘694’ siblings, says Mike Yardley, but it’s an attractive option for clay busting and high-bird days
I thought we would look at something that might bring with it a hint of sunshine this month – the Beretta 694 Limited. It was offered to celebrate GMK’s 50 years in business (40 plus as the UK importer for Beretta). They’ve been snapped up, apparently, even with a price tag of £4,000 (£200 more than the standard model). Special editions often do well with shooting punters. The gun itself is intended as a clay-buster, but with 31" barrels, might do occasional double service on high birds.
First impressions are of a modern, attractively styled, machine with a fulsome stock and a fairly plain, quite large, action reminiscent, in my mind at least, of the old silver 682 competition guns. It’s quite a big gun overall – hitting the scales at 8lb 6oz – which is heavier than the 694s I have tested previously (which typically weigh around 8lb with 30" tubes). The difference is explained because this one has had it’s ‘B-fast’ balance weights fitted at the factory (they may be easily removed) and has relatively heavy barrels.
The test 694 is well presented with uprated wood and the high standards of finish expected from Beretta. The plain nickel-plated action is attractive with blue line stripes as most other 694s (the DT11 has similar decoration which is not as bold). Wood apart, the only things that really set this anniversary model apart are its rarely seen 31" barrels, a small commemorative engraving to their monobloc, and a smart ABS case (which contains three more Optima HP extended chokes). Otherwise it is the 694 we already know.
The unusual 31" barrels seem to suit when you dry mount the gun. The old-style, 10-8mm ventilated rib is good with a shallow centre channel (and unique to this special edition in the current range). There are full length side ribs which would allow for the fitting of additional balance weights under the forend if required. Both barrels are marked 18.6mm for bore diameter and they weigh 1,530g. Barrels on 694s are usually in a tight range for weight (around 1,520g – even for 32" guns). This is on the upper end.
Our anniversary model is future proofed for steel shot, chambered for 3" (76mm) cartridges. I have shot very few 3" cartridges in anything but semi-automatics over the years (even wildfowling). I am not a great fan of long case ‘Roman Candle’ loads in double guns, but it is nice to know the gun can accommodate them when we don’t know precisely what the future holds with mandatory non-toxic loads a looming possibility.
Looking at the stock of the test 694, the wood has a new ‘shiny oil’ finish which looks smart and fills the grain well. The full grip is tightly radiused (more so than on the 692) and has a palm swell. The grip is quite short, and there was a tendency for my hand to slip forward on bringing the gun up. This could be easily remedied by bringing the nose of the comb back slightly. The comb is fairly wide, comfortable, and without much taper. The intention is to increase facial support (as some competition shooters prefer). I liked the rounded, but not bulbous, fore-end.
The dimensions were typical Beretta with 13/8" (35mm) drop forward and 21/8" (55mm approx) to the rear of the comb. Beretta noted that most guns in this edition would be 50mm to the rear (that is, a whisker under 2”), but this one seems to have slipped through at an atypically low 57mm (and 37mm to the front). GMK are trying to get everything through at 35/50mm for sporters now – a great standard dimension. The length of pull as tested is 375mm (14¾") including an 18mm Microcore pad. There is another 23mm pad in the box for a 380mm (15") length of pull.
The 694 was introduced in 2019, and is, in essence, an improved 692 – already a good gun. The 694 gained ‘Steelium Plus’ taper-bored barrels, and the stock was re-worked as noted (made a little fuller than the 692). A new shorter fore-end iron was also introduced. A sliding fore-end latch sits independently of the main iron, replacing the old lifting latch. There are, effectively, two loops on the barrel – one for the fore-end iron to attach to and another for the redesigned latch mechanism. There are also replaceable studs to the rear to allow for fore-end tightening.
Otherwise, the gun is familiar with bifurcated lumps, trunnion hinging, and conical bolting. The safety is slightly different to other 694s. In the forward position, you can’t change the barrel selector, you have to take the safety off first – useful on a competition gun, less so in the field. Save for this, it’s all identical to other 694s. Internally, many key parts are interchangeable with 69 and 68 Series guns.
This 694 showed few vices, but it needed driving to work well and overcome its mass. 31” is an interesting barrel length compromise. Competition guns need extra length for consistency and precision. I do most of my recreational clay shooting these days with a 7lb 30” 20-bore (though I used an 8 1/2 pound 32” Kemen 12 and a 32” Beretta semi when I was serious about winning). 12- or 20-bore 30” barrels are always right in my opinion, while 32s usually need more muscular effort. The same applies to 31” in this case.
- 1 Gun test: Caesar Guerini Summit Ascent Allsport
- 2 Watch: Targeted foxing with Deano
- 3 Andy Crow's guide to the pigeon's seasonal menu
- 4 Shooting shop profile: Rural Sports
- 5 Gundog training progression: Introducing another dummy
- 6 Gun test: Yildiz .410
- 7 Watch: Beretta A400 Xcel Sporting test & review
- 8 Gun test: new Beretta 687 Silver Pigeon III Sporting
- 9 Watch: Caesar Guerini Summit Ascent Allsport test
- 10 Gun test review: Yildiz Pro Black Grade 4 Adjustable
The barrels are well matched to the 10-8mm sighting rib and the rounded fore-end was excellent aiding control. The stock comb is comfortable if a little thick. The grip didn’t quite anchor my hand as noted. Recoil was modest.
The gun shot well and was forgiving of error. Overall, this is a solidly made and attractive clay crusher, it could do double service on high bird days and it is future proofed for steel. It benefits from a 10-year guarantee too.
My thanks to Lyalvale Express for supplying the cartridges used in this test.
- The 31” barrels
- The 10-8mm old-style rib
- The snazzy travel case
We Don’t Like
- The short grip and forward comb nose
- The gun is a little heavy, but that will suit serious competitors
Model: 694 Limited GMK 50th Anniversary
Action type: Beretta trigger plate with conical locking
Barrels: 31” (no options in this special commemorative model)
Chambers: 3”/76mm (accommodating shorter, 65, 67 and 70mm too)
Rib: 10-8mm with shallow channel
Proof: Italian Superior Steel
Weight: 8.4 pounds
RRP: from £4,000
Contact: GMK Ltd