Beretta 868E Evo - detailed test and review
- Credit: Archant
Mike Yardley looks at a ‘nearly new’ Beretta 686E Evo Sport 12-bore – a reliable, proven gun that offers a lot of bang for your buck to clay and game shooters alike!
BERETTA 868E EVO - BRIEF OVERVIEW
WE LIKE: The value; The barrel and choke specification; The grip
WE DON'T LIKE: Very little at this price; Perhaps the stock could be a bit higher
Make/model: Beretta 686E EVO
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- 8 2021 shooting events: the best clay competition, fairs & shows in 2021
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- 10 Insight into: gunmaking apprenticeships
Barrels: 30" (28 and 32" options)
Chamber 3" (76mm)
Action type: Trigger Plate with split hinge-pins and conical bolts
Chokes: multi-'Optichoke' system
Weight: 7lbs 10oz.
RRP: £1,495 used
BERETTA 868E EVO - IN DEPTH TEST AND REVIEW
This month's test gun is a 686E Evo Sport Optichoke 30" Sporter. It is not new - I thought it would be interesting for a change to look at something that was nearly new. It is an almost mint condition gun, and sits on the shelves of Ladds in Crediton - one of the busiest and best gun shops in the country. Mike Ladd is offering it at the excellent price of £1,495.
It looks virtually new and is just the sort of gun that I often advise friends to buy. The model is being phased out, but it ticks all the boxes - one of the big brands, a proven design, 30", multi-choked, in perfect condition and the right price. It's a do-anything gun that will always hold its money.
Berettas, as a rule, just go on and on and on. If they break - which is rare - or if they wear, they are easy to fix. Just to give an example, if hinge-pins need changing, they are available in no less than three oversizes above the standard 9mm (9.15mm, the first oversize, then 9.3 and 9.45). I think the support available is a big reason for buying Beretta.
OK, let's get the test gun out. It's a smart, quite modernistic looking model with a silver-finished, slightly restyled action. Weighing in at 7lb 10oz (a great weight for a sporter), it's bright and attractive without being too blingy. It's got 30" multi-choked barrels as noted and the usual Beretta single selective trigger (good but for a slightly fiddly selector). The ventilated sighting rib is a nice 10-8mm taper (one of my favourites). The joining ribs are solid but don't extend under the fore-end area - a weight-saving measure seen on many Beretta guns.
The barrels are a monobloc system and made from chrome-moly steel to the Opti-bore plan with 18.6-bores with extended Optima chokes (five supplied). The 3" (76mm) chambers bear Italian proof marks (Beretta has a branch of the Italian Proof House in the factory). Workmanship is solid. Beretta barrels are legendarily tough, and those on the test gun have modern choking and modest back-boring too, giving it a do-it-all prescription for pigeons or clays.
The action is smart, as noted, and has a matt silver finish. The design has evolved over 50 years since the Model 55 was first introduced after WWII. It is one of the best shotgun mechanisms yet conceived, which is why the only significant things that have changed in the last half century are the coil springs, which have replaced the leaf springs to power the hammers, and gas vents have disappeared from the action face. This gun also has the newer 39mm action (some 600 series guns are slightly wider).
The stock on this EVO is made from a very smart bit of walnut with a matt oil-like finish. This model benefits from upgraded wood. The shapes and dimensions of the stock are good too. Length is about 14¾" with a standard 18mm solid rubber pad fitted (there are 11mm, 23mm and 28mm options). The stock has no palm swell, which is my preference, and fills the hand well without being too big or too tightly radiused. Drop (the height of the comb) is 13/8" at the nose of the comb and 2¼" at heel - perhaps a little low for the average punter but easily modified. There was a bit of cast for a right-hander. Generally, all good, and I especially liked the grip, which was much better than some.
Why do I like Berettas? Well, I have shot them for decades with very few problems. Berettas sold in the UK, moreover, are backed up by one of the most modern and efficient workshop facilities in the business. Chief gunsmith, Malcolm Grendon, and his team of factory-trained craftsmen are extraordinarily skilled in sorting any problem that might develop. The happy irony is that Beretta guns are so reliable in the first place. Is this the most reliable brand of over-and-under shotgun? In my opinion - and I know that many gunsmiths would agree with me - yes, it is, probably tied with the other big B.
The EVO, like all 600 series Berettas, is notable for its low-action profile. This is made possible, of course, by using trunnion-type hinging and bifurcated barrel lumps. Conical bolts lock everything down and emerge from the action face to meet socket bites in the barrels.
The Beretta action cannot properly be called a boxlock as all the key parts of the mechanism are attached to a trigger-plate that may be removed from the action body for servicing or repair. So, this type of gun should be described as a 'trigger-plate' over-and-under.
Berettas do not go wrong very frequently, but when they do, or when they simply wear, they are easily restored. All the main components are easily exchanged; the hinge pins and the conical locking bolts are all available in a variety of over-sizes (as used to be the case with Beretta barrel shoulders until they stopped making them as a separate part). The guns are all made from excellent materials, even in the basic grades. And they shoot! And continue to do so for decades even if moderately abused - hence you see them in so many shooting schools.
Well, a 30" Beretta is rarely wrong. It is difficult to mess up with such a gun whether you are intending to shoot clays or occasional game with it. Most 686s shoot well and this one was no exception. I like these guns in both 28 and 30" form, I am not especially fond of 32" versions because they tend to be a bit too front heavy for me (I am fond of longer barrels in other guns). The 30'' barrels here aren't too heavy, though. Indeed, the whole package feels particularly well balanced (the point of balance is about 1/4" forward of the hinge pin - perfect for the 30" tubes). Recoil with Lyalvale Express 24 gram Super Lights was low as well. The single trigger worked faultlessly. All function was good. Would I buy one? Yes. Would I advise someone else to buy one? Yes. Would I advise you to buy one? I wouldn't be so bold. But, this one is a great deal. Buying a gun like this in almost new condition - a well proven model from a Big Brand - makes a lot of sense for the cost conscious shooter.