Gun re­view: Beretta SL3 over-and-un­der

This new, up­mar­ket model is cer­tain to at­tract pos­i­tive at­ten­tion, thinks Michael Yardley, who was im­pressed by its me­chan­i­cal de­sign and found it crisp in ac­tion and solid in build

The Field - - Country Estate -

This month’s test gun will arouse some spe­cial in­ter­est be­cause it is a new, up­mar­ket model from in­dus­try gi­ant Beretta. The gun in ques­tion is the sl3 over-and-un­der. Pro­to­types were built last year and the first guns ar­rived in this coun­try a few months ago. it is a so­phis­ti­cated, trig­ger-lock de­sign with side­plates. it be­gins a new gen­er­a­tion with con­cepts taken from both the so10, with which it shares a sim­i­lar bolt­ing sys­tem and V-springs, and the DT11, which has a sim­i­lar sear ar­range­ment in­ter­nally and a sim­i­lar safety-catch.

First im­pres­sions are good. The new gun has a qual­ity look and feel to it. The ac­tion pro­por­tions please. The qual­ity of fin­ish is im­pec­ca­ble and the en­gi­neer­ing ap­pears sound with pre­cise ma­chin­ing, as has be­come the mod­ern CNC norm. The trig­ger lock (which is not quick de­tach­able but looks as if it were orig­i­nally de­signed to be) is very neat. The deep scroll en­grav­ing, which is achieved by five-axis laser tech­nol­ogy, is es­pe­cially at­trac­tive (and there are tightscroll and game-scene op­tions avail­able, too). The wood­work also im­presses with good shapes and fig­ure (and guns may be or­dered with be­spoke stocks).

The sl3 con­tin­ues the mod­ern trend for heav­ier game guns, weigh­ing it at 7lb 14oz. it feels solid rather than heavy, though my pref­er­ence would be for an all-up weight a few ounces lighter (7½lb is about my ideal for a 30in, 12-bore game gun; a pound or so less for a 30in 20). The sl3 does have clean lines, how­ever, im­pres­sive me­chan­i­cal pre­sen­ta­tion and pleas­ing bal­ance a frac­tion back from the knuckle. The trig­ger-pulls are es­pe­cially crisp, both break­ing just over 4lb. The V-spring de­sign no doubt as­sists with this – with V-springs, guns have less com­pro­mise with re­gard to sear an­gles than when he­li­cal springs are em­ployed.

What does qual­ity cost? Beretta is clearly pitch­ing the sl3 to­wards the car­riage trade, but it has a price that is not too fright­en­ing: £18,725 as tested with fixed chokes (£18,875 mul­ti­choked). it is sig­nif­i­cantly more at­tain­able than the so6 side­lock, which be­gins from £41,525 these days, or the so10, which now starts at £72,625. By way of com­par­i­son, the new Purdey Trig­ger Plate gun be­gins at £55,000 plus VAT; a Purdey side­lock overand-un­der would leave no change from £150,000 once the Chan­cel­lor’s cut had been paid. Mean­while, gold num­bered and spe­cially cased pairs of sl3s are avail­able from £43,750 (the sup­ple­ment for a pair is about 15%).

Re­turn­ing to the spec­i­fi­ca­tion, the sl3 has 3in-cham­ber, “steel­ium” tri-al­loy bar­rels. They are deep drilled from cold-ham­mer forg­ings and vac­uum stress re­lieved. Made to the Beretta hp scheme, you would have to go a long way to find any­thing bet­ter (or tougher) re­gard­less of cost. The bar­rels have a spe­cial pro­file and are fleur-de-lys proofed and com­pat­i­ble with all types of shot, in­clud­ing steel. Forc­ing cones are con­ven­tional at about 50mm but it is no­table that the monobloc on the sl3 is longer than pre­vi­ous models from this sta­ble (the so10 dis­penses with a monobloc and has de­milump bar­rels).

The wood­work was un­con­ven­tional in one re­spect: the test gun was sup­plied unche­quered. This i be­lieve was a de­sign con­cept from italy to ac­cen­tu­ate the stream­lined looks. i think, how­ever, that you need che­quer­ing for full pur­chase at the grip. hap­pily, fu­ture guns for the Bri­tish will have con­ven­tional di­a­monds and bor­ders. An unche­quered grip is al­ways a test of its shape, though. This one passed well. it was a good size and not too acutely ra­diused. The stan­dard stock mea­sure­ments were on the money, too. The length of pull was 14¾in with 1⅜in and 2in of drop at the front of the comb and heel re­spec­tively. set by Beretta, this is in­creas­ingly the in­dus­try stan­dard for over-and-un­ders.

This gun has the po­ten­tial for great­ness… it might be used equally well for clays or game; it would ex­cel as a high-pheas­ant gun

This SL3 has 3in-cham­bered, fixed­choke, “Steel­ium” tri-al­loy bar­rels deep drilled from cold-ham­mer forg­ingsRight: the at­trac­tive, deep-scroll en­grav­ing is achieved by five-axislaser tech­nol­ogy

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