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Vic Harker takes a look at the Trap version of 2019’s hottest new launch - the Beretta 694. He’s so impressed, he wants to keep it!
As you may surmise, the Beretta 680 over-and-under shotgun was first introduced in the year 1980. This gun was very clearly created to provide Beretta with a well-specified clay target gun at a competitive price. Previous efforts on Beretta’s part to achieve this had not been very successful. The model S57, as it was designated, was nothing more than a set of barrels on a light action, and a stock with a slightly straighter and higher comb which weighed around 7½lb. If you required something superior to this from Beretta, the only option was an SO4 sidelock, more than good enough but very expensive. While working for Gunmark in this period, I recruited my friend Peter Boden to use one. A trip to the Beretta factory secured Pete with a custom-stocked SO4 which he used very effectively for some years. This, however, did not persuade other shooters, who could not afford to go the Beretta route in any significant numbers.
All this changed with the launch of the 680, quickly followed by the 682 which has now been sold successfully in significant numbers for many years.
The new 694 is, however, far more than another revamp of what has gone before. In my view, while the 692 is good enough in terms of weight, balance and stock configuration, the 694 is significantly superior in every aspect. An example of this is the fore-end iron and the catch, which are now machined from steel, as is the safety catch and the top lever. This may be a relatively small detail, but it contributes to the 694’s credibility as a first-rate clay target gun.
It should be mentioned that its deeply etched angular side panels add further to this gun’s striking appearance, not to mention providing some useful extra weight. In this respect, the 694’s predecessors in the form of the 680 series always tended to be rather light. In contrast, the 694, with 30” barrels, tips the scales at a substantial 8lb 10oz, and is all the better for it in terms of handling characteristics.
Another subtle change to the action body is a reduction in the size of the fences. If you are not familiar with this term, it describes the rear of the action body which locates with the barrels’ breech ends when the gun is closed. In the case of the new 694, the fences are reduced in size, while the head of the stock each side of the action’s top strap has been relieved. The purpose for this, Beretta explains, is to reduce the amount of wood and steel to be seen by the shooter’s aiming eye. The work is neatly done, but the explanation for it is frankly dubious because the aiming eye must always be above the line of sight, and if it isn’t then your gun’s stock is too low at the comb. Apart from this little bit of nonsense, the 694’s stock configuration is excellent. The grip is particularly satisfactory – it is not too thick, providing a comfortable hold reinforced with a suitably slim palm swell, and, most importantly, is supported by a trigger blade adjustable for length of pull.
The fore-end wood has an elegant configuration which I found comfortable, but many shooters prefer a full beavertail shape with finger grooves for a Trap gun. The reason for this is that the barrels’ weight is taken across the palm of the hand, discouraging too firm a grip with the leading hand, which can check your swing. In contrast, a slim fore-end wood encourages a firmer hold that complements manual pointability, which is desirable when the gun is brought to the shoulder from the gun down position and so is more suitable for a sporter gun.
Most importantly for an off-the-rack gun, the 694’s stock is adjustable for both height and cast. I cannot overstate the benefit this provides the shooter, for without this device, unless he is very lucky, some kind of alteration will be required. Thankfully, the adjustable stock is more available than it was.
The 30” (76cm) barrels are both tight choked, as they should be for a Trap gun, and with a weight of 1.567kg, this Beretta is suitably fast-handling with point of balance right on the barrel hinge pins. The 10cm rib runs parallel from the breech face to the barrel muzzle ends, and ensures this Beretta is visually pointable without representing a distraction.
Tipping the scales at a fraction over 8lb 10oz, the Beretta 694 is no lightweight, but I have shot few Trap guns that have handled better. The barrels weigh 3lb 7.6oz (l.578kg), and the 694’s point of balance is right on the trunnions. On my first round of DTL, I dropped a single target. My second attempt produced a straight with one second barrel. On some testing Ball Trap the following day, my scores were more than satisfactory by my usual standard. As I write this piece, I’ve yet to return this Beretta and so I will have to buy the 694 or reluctantly return it. The 694’s heavier action is, I believe, at the heart of its outstanding handling characteristics, and I can foresee a whole new line of 694 Berettas incorporating this development in the near future. (View our review of the 694 Sport here!)
Make/model: Beretta 694 Trap
Bore: 12ga (18.4cm)
Barrel Length: 30” (76cm)
Rib: 10mm parallel
Stock: Pistol grip, adjustable comb
Weight: 3.984kg (8lbs 10oz)
SRP: £3,645 incl. VAT
UK Distributor: GMK (01489 579 999)
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