Shotgun Delight: Beretta’s 686 Silver Pigeon in .410
Beretta is well known for making excellent shotguns, many of which I’ve been lucky enough to play with on the range. The Beretta 686 Silver Pigeon is yet another fine example of Beretta’s prime production, but this one brought up some interesting reflection.
Almost anyone who owns a shotgun has a 12 gauge. It is the workhorse of American shotgunning. My first shotgun, like most people, was a 12 gauge as well. It just makes sense in so many ways. Ammo is typically inexpensive and readily available. There’s also a huge assortment of various cartridge types that are usually lining the shelves of any reputable sporting goods store. So why bother going with anything but a 12 gauge?
I gained most of my hunting and firearms knowledge as a child listening to the stories told by my father and other men in the family. A very often mentioned anecdote was that of my grandfather’s single-shot .410 shotgun. My dad and his brothers all learned to wing shoot with that old gun. I’d hardly had any interaction with .410s, mainly because I didn’t need to use one.
But I do remember hearing those old stories about the need for perfect leads and center hits. The .410 does not carry as much shot as its larger siblings. While this may seem like a disadvantage, I actually felt like it was a great reason to add another shotgun to my collection.
The .410 Silver Pigeon
Over/under shotguns enjoy a class all their own, and this Beretta is certainly no exception. I opened the box and quickly mounted the barrels and handguard. I immediately fell in love with the gun the second I shouldered it.
The 686 came with 28-inch barrels chambered in .410, a standard selection of chokes, and all the tools to change the chokes and maintain the firearm. As is typical with these guns, the Silver Pigeon has a perfect fit and finish, with detailed and handsome engraving throughout the receiver area.
After prepping the gun and familiarizing myself with its controls, we headed out to shoot it. While the current ammunition situation is a mess, I was lucky enough to find a few boxes of Federal .410 shotshells – 2 3/4 inches loaded with #7.5 shot. Just right for smashing a few clays in the sky. With the stories told by my father still in the back of my mind, I refined my focus knowing these loads were not the 1 1/4 ounces I was used to shooting from my other guns.
With several boxes of clays and shells, we were ready to make some noise. We loaded both chambers and started throwing doubles. I dusted both of the first clays. My immediate impression of the Beretta was that it was soft shooting. Follow-up shots were very quick because the gun hardly recoiled with such small and light loads. This was obviously a double-edged sword. If the clays managed to get very far, your shot had to be perfect or it would escape unscathed.
The lightweight of the Pigeon also made it very easy to move and quickly get on target. My young daughter took a few swings with it, and she found it to be a much better fit for her than the 12 gauges she had tried in the past. The quick handling of the shotgun made it an obvious candidate for the fast and small game birds that we frequently see in these mountains. I cannot wait to take it out on a grouse or Chukar hunt when the season arrives.
Not only was the recoil light, but the gun was surprisingly quiet. The wide-open country we were shooting in went on forever, and the sound waves seemed to dissipate very easily. The petite and lightweight Silver Pigeon was simply a pure joy to shoot.
The only problem or dislike I could find with this gun was a designed one. Every time the gun is unloaded and reset, the safety is automatically engaged, this may be a common design on some guns, but it’s one I personally don’t care for. While I’m sure it is easily remedied through training and practice, it did end up costing me a few misses when I failed to remove the safety prior to my swing.
There comes a time in life where you start buying guns based on desire instead of necessity. If I were only going to have one shotgun, it would certainly be a 12 gauge, probably in a pump or semi-auto configuration. But as tastes mature and shooters have more money to spend, adding something like a beautiful little .410 to your collection really is a gift to yourself.
The Beretta Silver Pigeon is an outstanding firearm. Regardless of caliber, it would make a fine addition to your collection. Starting out with a .410 might be a bit of a challenge, but it will teach you lessons that will only make you more effective regardless of the shotgun you shoot.