BERETTA 690 FIELD I

A 20-GAUGE VER­SION OF BERETTA’S STRONG OVER/UN­DER AC­TION,

Outdoor Life - - SHOOTING - BY JOHN B. SNOW

Just as sum­mer turns to fall, I knew the day would ar­rive for Beretta to roll out a scaled-down ver­sion of its 690 Field I se­ries of shot­guns. And as much as I en­joy sum­mer, and have en­joyed shoot­ing the 12-gauge 690, I’ve been look­ing for­ward to the 20-gauge ver­sion with the same sense of an­tic­i­pa­tion that any bird hunter has for the first crisp au­tumn morn­ings.

The Field des­ig­na­tion is no lie. This is a true up­land gun from butt to muz­zle—and one that will res­onate with Amer­i­can hun­ters.

It is an ex­cep­tion­ally easy gun to carry, a qual­ity that is nearly as im­por­tant as how a gun shoots for those who stalk ex­panses of wild grass in search of Huns, or who stomp through cat­tails for am­phibi­ous roost­ers. My sam­ple weighs 6 pounds 5 ounces and bal­ances just be­hind the hinge pin in the ac­tion. The rounded edges on the re­ceiver let it rest com­fort­ably in hand as your boots churn over the miles.

For now, it is only of­fered with 28-inch bar­rels, which is usu­ally a bet­ter choice than 26-inch tubes un­less you’re one of those de­mented souls who like to crawl through thick­ets in search of wood­cock.

Per­fect Metal

The bar­rels are joined by solid side ribs and come with a set of five flush-mounted choke tubes, which are rated for both steel and lead. The met­al­work on the bar­rels is pris­tine. There is not a hint of an er­rant rip­ple or ma­chine mark along their lengths. The blu­ing is even, dark, and lus­trous. The top rib has small vents along its length and is cross­hatched to elim­i­nate glare. A sim­ple sil­ver-color bead serves as the front sight.

The re­ceiver has that same sil­ver fin­ish and is adorned with pleas­ant flo­ral and scroll­work en­grav­ing. The deep dou­ble fences in the re­ceiver, and the strik­ing con­trast be­tween the sil­ver and the blued bar­rels, make the 690 Field I a head-turner.

The most at­trac­tive thing about the re­ceiver in my eyes, how­ever, is the strength of its engi­neer­ing. The dual lock­ing pins and the broad shoul­ders on the lock­ing lugs, along with the ro­bust di­am­e­ter of the hinge, make it as tough as a tank.

The over­all bal­ance and han­dling qual­i­ties of the 690 Field I dis­tin­guish it from other over/un­ders. The stock has a gen­tle pis­tol grip and a semi-beaver­tail forend. The di­men­sions on it fit me as well as a cus­tom-stocked gun.

Fast Han­dling

The gun comes up to the shoul­der as deftly as a leop­ard spring­ing into a tree. One rea­son for its speed when get­ting on tar­get is the Mi­cro­p­ore re­coil pad, which se­cures the gun firmly in the pocket of the shoul­der but doesn’t hang up on cloth­ing. It also cuts down on felt re­coil—it’s the best re­coil pad on the mar­ket.

The com­bi­na­tion safety and bar­rel se­lec­tor is an­other well-de­signed el­e­ment of the shot­gun. The tex­tured sur­face of the safety is large enough, and gives the thumb such pos­i­tive trac­tion, that a shooter would have to be re­ally rat­tled in or­der to fum­ble get­ting the

shot­gun off safe at the flush. As com­monly found on a tra­di­tional field gun, the shot­gun goes back to safe au­to­mat­i­cally when the ac­tion is bro­ken.

The bar­rel se­lec­tor switch tog­gles side-to-side at the top of the safety and is like­wise easy to ma­nip­u­late, even with gloves on, flick­ing back and forth in a pos­i­tive man­ner. Red and white dots on ei­ther side of the switch give a quick vis­ual in­di­ca­tion as to which bar­rel is go­ing to fire first.

Once I got a feel for how quick I could get the 690 in ac­tion, I took to shoot­ing rounds of skeet with it, start­ing the gun in a lazy low po­si­tion. Its speed is re­mark­able, and I can’t wait to test it out on wild birds this fall.

Break-in Pe­riod

As is com­mon with break-ac­tion Berettas, the gun was stiff out of the box, but that’s hardly a bad thing. Af­ter a few hun­dred rounds, I could feel it loos­en­ing up a bit. The only me­chan­i­cal glitch I ex­pe­ri­enced was with the ejec­tor on the bot­tom bar­rel, which got a bit sticky af­ter a pro­longed ses­sion of bust­ing clays. I gave it a cou­ple drops of oil, and it went back to work­ing as it should.

While the ge­om­e­try of the trig­ger is also out­stand­ing—it is curved so that the pad of the trig­ger fin­ger bears evenly across its sur­face dur­ing the trig­ger pull—the qual­ity and weight of the pull weren’t as pol­ished as I would ex­pect. It has a fair bit of creep, and at 5 pounds it is heav­ier than I’d pre­fer.

I re­ally like the qual­ity of the wood on the gun. The wal­nut has some nice fig­ure to it and a hand­some oil fin­ish. The check­er­ing is ser­vice­able, but the di­a­monds on the forend were not pointed up as nicely as they could have been. Laser check­er­ing—for­give the pun— just doesn’t al­ways cut it. These mis­cues, small though they might be, cost the gun some points in the value cat­e­gory. At nearly $3,000, a gun like this should be damn near per­fect.

Still, this is a won­der­ful lit­tle bird gun. I’d hap­pily prop it on my shoul­der as my poin­ter gets out of the truck and starts to cast about for scent in the dew-laden grass, know­ing that when that bird gets up, this high-per­for­mance shot­gun will tip the odds in my fa­vor.

The quick-han­dling 690 Field I is a good choice for ruffed grouse in alders.

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