Beretta 486 Parallelo
Vic Harker puts the Beretta 486 Parallelo through its paces and argues that, despite the rise and rise of the over-under, there is still a place for the side-by-side in the game shooting field.
In a period well within living memory – so far as the British were concerned – the side-by-side was the only gun for game shooting. An over-under had been patented by James Woodward in 1913 and later made by Purdey, but produced in small numbers and being very expensive, it found little favour in its home market. The ubiquitous Browning which first appeared in the 1930s was far less expensive, but again found only minimal acceptance in the UK.
Everything changed, however, with the rise in the popularity of clay target shooting in the 1960s, and there can be no doubt the over-under is the gun for this game. Its capacity to absorb recoil more comfortably, and the better view of the clay target it provides are all in its favour. As to its success at the very pinnacle of competition shooting, this represents overwhelming evidence of its fitness for purpose so far as the competitive shooter is concerned.
Nevertheless the side-by-side possesses virtues that, for the game shooter, cannot be ignored and I was reminded of these when I recently spent some time evaluating the new Beretta 486 Parallelo. The name simply means parallel, and it is a very modern gun, but at the same time with characteristics that will not disappoint those who favour the side-by-side.
As well as the many qualities the side-by-side may have as a game gun, part of its appeal is the artisan gunmaking skills that are evident in most of them. This has always represented a problem for modern volume production makers who have attempted to replicate these qualities and so, for the most part, results have at best been rather crude. In this respect, it must be said the Parallelo could not be described in these terms, and in contrast both in line and proportions, it is as sleek a looking gun as you could wish for. The sculptured round-bodied action makes an important contribution to this and, combined with the near perfect wood to metal fit achieved in the heading of the stock, Beretta have skilfully achieved the look and appearance essential to this type of gun.
As to the internal lock-work, this incorporates a single trigger-plate design with vee mainsprings located behind the hammers and sears that connect to an inertia block with a lever each side. Barrel selection is by way of a sear lifter that switches right or left and employs a button incorporated into the safety catch on the top strap. The fitting of the stock, using the traditional method of one long screw connecting both top and bottom straps on a gun of this design – which requires careful regulation – has been replaced with a form of stock bolt similar in principle to that of an over-under.
Other additional features not found on traditional guns is a switch on the fore-end iron that can deactivate the ejector work. This is an environmentally friendly modification and of particular use to the rough shooter.
Safety in the field is another aspect of this Beretta which features a gravitational lock which prevents the gun from being fired when it is in an upside down horizontal position. Hopefully no British game shooter carries a gun in this way, but I cannot speak for others.
The barrels are built on what Beretta describe as their Triblock system in which the monobloc and tubes are welded together and then struck off to provide an invisible joint. The lumps – a gunmaking term that describes the material employed to provide the jointing of the gun and which are usually integral to the tubes – are, in the Beretta’s case, welded separately. Bored at 18.4mm and choked ¼ and ¾, the barrel assembly is beautifully engineered and one the user can depend upon for both its strength and safety. On the pattern plate, my test gun delivered even, well-distributed patterns with a selection of high quality game loads from three makers.
For game shooting I have to confess to employing an over-under on most occasions, however, like many shooters of my generation, I retain an affection for the side-by-side which was the first gun I owned and learned to shoot with. For pigeon shooting of any kind, and as a solitary rough shooter, I still always take a traditional double gun, and nothing is more companionable or handy in these circumstances.
Tipping the scales at 7lb 3oz, the 30" barrelled Beretta provided the kind of balance and handling characteristics I would be happy with. On clay targets at North Oxfordshire Shooting School, the Parallelo and I dealt successfully with a variety of targets from the high tower to those simulating bolting rabbits. The single trigger had particularly crisp pulls and it occurred to me how very useful this, Beretta’s unusual feature of instant barrel selection under your thumb on the top strap, would be in the field.
From the testimony of successful long-range big-hitters, and from my own experience, there can be little doubt as to the efficacy of the long-barrelled over-under when birds are high and wide. I would suggest, however, that when they are at moderate range and coming thick and fast – where both fast handling characteristics and speed of loading are important factors – the lighter-built and, I believe, more manoeuvrable side-by-side still has an important role to play, and one the Beretta Parallelo could successfully fulfil.
Model: 486 Parallelo side-by-side
Bore size: 12
Barrels length: 30"
Action: Non detachable trigger-plate
Chokes: ¼ & ¾
Rib: Plain hollow
Stock: Straight-hand or semi-pistol grip
Weight: 7lb 3oz
Price: £3,875 inc VAT