Entry Level Beretta Over/Under 20-Gauge Tests Like a Bargain
by Phil W. Johnston
While meandering through the 2002 SHOT Show in Las Vegas, we couldn't make it through the Beretta booth without picking up a shotgun or two. Those who read these pages realize that we love a good shotgun and we spend most of the fall hunting pheasants and other upland game, or sitting 20-high in a bow stand. We hope that we'll never have to choose one pastime over the other, but walking through knee-high Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) land with our new four-footed partner is hard to beat. In fact, should we be able to pick heaven, we'll pick October 15 in western North Dakota, hunting over Max with our family close beside us. Typically the temperature will reach the middle 50s by noon and winds are often light. Throw in some sunshine and you're all set for a great day afield.
Just the same, as we get older we tend to appreciate a shotgun that swings fast and carries easily. Most of you know that we have a long-standing love affair with a Ruger Red Label 28-gauge over/under. Throwing up to one ounce of #6 shot, this little gem is lightning fast and deadly out to 30 yards, or slightly more. Throw in a good dog and you might stretch it to 40 yards, but the dog will likely earn his keep and your respect after each shot.
We love the Ruger because it is light and it swings fast with 26-inch barrels. However, this past winter we grabbed a new Beretta Whitewing that felt like a stable-mate of the Ruger 28, but this one was a 20-gauge. We thought that if it shot well it might be a great choice for late season pheasants or sharptail grouse. After working with it for the better part of a week, we can report that, indeed, this is one sweet 20-gauge.
Try as we might, we couldn't determine how old the 20-gauge is, but we do know that Beretta has been in the gun business since 1527 and they know how to build firearms. We have yet to wrap our hands around a Beretta that doesn't shoot.
Beretta introduced the Whitewing 12- and 20-gauge shotguns early in 2000 as an entry-level shotgun that offers Beretta quality at a bargain-basement price. We've long wanted a Beretta over/under, but the prices of their upscale models lend themselves well to sticker shock syndrome. The next model line up from the Whitewing/Blackwing line is the Ultralight line that carries an MSRP ranging from $1,931 to $2,323. The 686/687 Silver Pigeon over/under line carries an MSRP of $1,817 to $1,917, and adding an extra set of barrels ups the ante to $2,634. Next in the Beretta over/under line comes the EL Gold Pigeon and Gold Pigeon II ($4,099 and $4,513). The EELL Diamond Pigeon is Beretta's top of the line O/U scattergun and this rig runs from $5,630 to, gulp, $6,279!
The Beretta Whitewing carries a suggested retail price of $1,298
and, quite frankly, we wonder how another Beretta could be $5,000
better. In fact, after blasting merrily away in the backyard these
past few days, we wonder how any shotgun could be better, regardless
of the price.
The sample Whitewing is equipped with 26-inch barrels (28-inch tubes also are available) and was shipped with three basic chokes-Full, Modified, and Improved Cylinder. Beretta calls their interchangeable choke package the Mobilchoke system. We might add Cylinder to the line, but as equipped, the Whitewing will work for most games in town, nicely.
The Whitewing features a silver, polished steel receiver that
looks at home with the blued barrels and high gloss stock and
forearm. The metal-to-metal and metal-to-wood fit is good (not
classic) and the Whitewing doesn't look like an entry-level shotgun
to be sure. The shiny receiver is adorned with game scenes on
both sides-probably rolled into the steel-and the stock and forearm
feature impressed checkering as well. We'd prefer cut checkering
and matte finished stock, receiver and forearm, but this isn't
a bad looking rig as-is.
Measurements of the Whitewing look like this. From trigger to padded rubber butt plate is 14.5 inches with a drop at the comb of 1.38 inches and drop at the heel of 2.17 inches. Equipped with 26-inch barrels, the Whitewing measures just a hair over 44 inches front to back, and the 20-gauge weighs a pleasing 5.7 pounds, average. Balance of this little 20-gauge is nicely distributed between the hands, and the balance point is just forward of the trigger guard.
The Whitewing is equipped with automatic ejectors and they launch empties nicely into the wild blue yonder. The Whitewing is equipped with an automatic safety that is engaged each time the top lever is moved to the right to open the action. We don't like automatic safeties and would investigate deactivating this one if the arm was ours to keep. In fact we missed several shots at clay pigeons in the backyard because we forgot that the safety was engaged. While it's a matter of getting used to this system, old habits die hard.
The Whitewing also features a selector system that allows one to choose which barrel fires first. Designed to work with either a side-by-side or over/under, the selector displays one red dot when it's pushed to the left and two red dots when it's swung the other way. When one red dot is evident, the bottom barrel will go first. We'd rather see a "B" and "T" designation, but the three-dot system probably works well throughout the world.
The Whitewing is shipped with a good Owner's Manual printed in three languages (Spanish, Italian and English) along with the familiar Beretta choke wrench. It is shipped in a cardboard box. The Whitewing comes with a one-year warranty that is upgraded to a 3-year warranty when the original owner returns the Warranty Registration Card.
Out in the backyard (eat your heart out) we managed to bust a fair number of clay pigeons over the course of several days with the Whitewing 20-gauge. We often hand-toss two or three clay pigeons into the air and then blow 'em out of the sky with one of our shotguns, and two were duck soup with the Whitewing. Likewise, any bird launched with the Trius One Step launcher quickly turned to dust when we did our part.
We also took the time to check the Beretta chokes with a new Targomatic Buddy system available from Baker Engineering (Box 857, Dept. GWK, Fort Jones, CA, 96032; phone 1-800-516-8708; on-line: www.targomatic.com). Patterning a shotgun has never been easier.
The Targomatic system consists of a rectangular steel box (painted John Deere green) that contains and shields a roll of their paper. Each pattern target consists of an inner 21-inch and outer 30-inch circle with an easily seen black aiming point smack dab in the middle. Each target is also split up into quarters, making it easy to see if a load is uniform, as well. Each target also contains a data section making it possible to mark the place, shooter, load, arm, range, choke, etc. The Targomatic Buddy carries an MSRP of $99 and makes a vital tool for anyone interested in shotgun performance.
Beretta has this choke thing down pat. Over the course of two days we fired two loads through both barrels with all three chokes and found this rig to be spot-on. Both barrels are perfectly regulated-they shoot to exactly the same point of aim, and the chokes work as they should. We started with one of our favorite pheasant loads-Winchester's Supreme Magnum 2-1/2-inch load stuffed with 1-1/8 ounces of premium copper-plated #6 lead shot. This load averaged 77% out of the full choke, 56.5% out of the modified choke and 48.5% out of the IC choke. The patterns were uniform and void of any holes large enough for a rooster to slip through. We'd probably start the season with the bottom barrel going through the IC choke followed by the top barrel with a modified choke. Later on we might switch to a full choke under modified.
Switching to a lighter Federal Game Load of 7/8 ounce of #8 shot, the patterns opened up, as we'd expect. The full choke averaged 67.75% out of both barrels with the Modified coming in at 53.5%. The IC tube went 42%. We seldom use such small shot in the field, but it sure makes for a great clay pigeon load in the back yard.
As you'd expect, there were no surprises or malfunctions throughout the test period. There's little that can go wrong with an over/under to be sure and one would expect no problems with a Beretta, regardless of the model. We're going to hang onto this one long enough to do some pheasant hunting, if not this fall at least early this summer on one of the nearby pheasant preserves. Weighing in well under 6 pounds, this gem would be a pleasure to carry all day, and being chambered for 3-inch magnums as well, the rig is fully capable of launching some heavy 1-1/4-ounce loads if necessary.
We've had a long-standing love affair with one good over/under, and we've wanted a Beretta for a long time. The Whitewing may be their entry-level shotgun, but we'd be satisfied to use this rig for the rest of our lives.
For more information about the Whitewing or any of the other Beretta offerings, drop 'em a line at: Beretta USA Corporation, 17601 Beretta Drive, Dept. GWK, Accokeek, MD, 20607; phone: 301-283-2191, or you can look 'em up on the Internet at: www.berettausa.com.
|Full Choke||Modified Choke||Improved Cylinder Choke|
|Winchester Supreme Double X 2-3/4 inch Magnum1-1/8 ounces of copper-plated #6 lead shot (X20XC6)|
|Average of 2 Shots||77%||56.5%||48.5%|
|Federal High Base Game Load 7/8 ounce of #8 shot (F200)|
|Average of 2 Shots||58.5%||50.5%||35.5%|
|Average of both barrels||67.75%||53.5%||42%|
|*Patterning done at 40 yards. Percentage refers to number of pellets in the 30-inch circle of the Targomatic paper.|