At the World Skeet Shooting Championships in 1983 or 1984, I shot a 100 straight in the 28-gauge event using Briley 28-gauge skeet choke tube inserts in Beretta’s model 682 over/under. Various models of the 682 are still in production, but my point is that this action is built to take the pounding of hundreds of thousands of rounds. Further, this is the action/lock-up of the 686 Silver Pigeon I. Both actions are the same—super strong.
Before getting into more specifics about the 686 Silver Pigeon I, let me talk about the lock-up, which Beretta says makes this action “legendary!” The lock-up is considerably different than most of today’s over/unders. Two conical bolts in the face of the receiver move forward upon closing to enter and engage two matching machined cutouts in the monobloc—cutouts that are between the O/U barrels, which pivot on trunnions.
In the receiver, the shoulders nestle behind the blued portion of the monobloc. This is another aspect of the gun’s locking system. The beauty of this action is that there are no underlocking bolts or lugs, resulting in a very low-profile receiver. With that low profile the hands are in closer relationship with the barrels. Theoretically, such a receiver enhances a gun’s natural pointing qualities. That 682-tubed skeet gun mentioned above is long gone, but I doubt I ever shot a gun better.
The 686 Silver Pigeon I 20-gauge is not a competition skeet gun. It was built for hunting. It is light and lively, easy carrying, a joy to shoot, and has especially good looks. Beretta makes a whole fleet of over/under models, but the Silver Pigeon I is one of their least expensive, despite all of its qualities.
Cosmetically, this model shines with its Nistan bright receiver, fore-end iron, trigger guard, opening lever, top tang, and fences—the perfect background for extensive engraving, all with detail, depth, and class. Nistan is a type of nitride coating that fights corrosion very well—better than traditional bluing. Plus, the trigger is gold-plated, adding to the overall good looks.
The stock on my test gun had some figure but looked like all straight grain, which bodes well against stock cracking. All the wood wears a traditional oil finish. The cut checkering, done by expensive and sophisticated machinery, is beautiful, with no over-runs, tight at 20-25 lines per inch, and the feel is not so sharp that you need gloves to shoot this 686. The fore-end is Schnabel in style.
While my test gun was a 20-gauge, there is a 12-gauge in this line, built on its own size receiver. Further, 28 and .410 686 Silver Pigeon I models are both available; the latter two are built on a receiver that’s even smaller than the 20-gauge. Naturally, a bit of weight is saved with these two tiny gauges, but my 20-gauge hefted only 6 pounds, 4 ounces. That’s plenty light enough for easy carrying in a ready position for hours on end.
While my test gun wore 30-inch barrels, this model can also be had with 28- and 26-inchers. Some years back traditional inner barrel 20-gauge dimensions were .615. The barrels on this 20-gauge measured .626 with my Baker Barrel Reader—so overbored some .011-inches, not unusual by today’s standards. Some say such overboring reduces recoil a tad. More importantly, overboring can mean less pellet deformation, and that results in fewer pellets quickly flying out of the effective pattern.
Five flush-mounted screw-in chokes were included in the package; these measured .626 for the Cylinder, .619 for the Improved Cylinder, .612 for the Modified, .605 for the Improved Modified and .597 (.029 constriction) for the Full. I did not pattern these chokes, but I shot mainly the Cylinder and Improved. Both exploded targets on the skeet and sporting clays ranges.
The trigger cannot be adjusted back and forth and the safety is automatic (so you must push the safety off when banging away at clay targets). The trigger goes off at four pounds using my Lyman Digital Trigger-Pull Scale, which is excellent. Stock dimensions are 143/4 for length of pull, 13/8 drop at comb, 21/4 drop at heel. This one comes in a hard impact-resistant plastic case.
In my view, this is primarily an upland gun, ideal for grouse, woodcock, pheasants, quail, Huns and sharptails. But this Silver Pigeon I will also fare well on doves, incoming or crossing. For incoming dove practice on a skeet field, try the low birds from stations 1 and 2 and the high house birds from stations 6 and 7. For crossing-shot practice the middle stations on a skeet field are perfect. Further, similar incoming and crossing shots can be practiced on most any sporting clays course.
This 686 is also a great gun to practice with in the comfort of your own home, obviously always double-checking that the gun is empty. It is light enough that you can easily practice a dozen or more gun mounts and swings without fatigue.
When you read a gun review like this the writer is usually talking about a new model. The 686 is anything but new. It has withstood the test of time. The Silver Pigeon I will last and last. And just think about how good you’ll feel carrying it in the field, where your partners will no doubt be envious.