A small, single star is the icon of Castel Monastero. The ancient 1,000-year-old buildings of the village-turned-hotel take a commanding view of the olive groves and vineyards on the rolling hills of Tuscany that surround it. The small, eight-pointed star is understated, never prominently displayed, but always within sight, on towels, china, or even the Italian leather “Do Not Disturb” hanger on the inside of the door of each room. It is a graceful reminder of the excellence of service the hotel offers.
Since the mid-70s, Beretta’s 686/687 line has been the star in a series of excellent over under shotguns from the oldest continuous gun maker in the world. The 686 and its variants have been reliable, quality guns offered in a variety of grades from museum-quality pieces with beautiful engraving and excellent wood to base-model shotguns at prices almost anyone can afford. The 686 has been a mainstay gun in a company with a diverse line, but a strong focus on quality shotguns for hunting and sporting competition.
When I heard Beretta had a new shotgun to introduce, I feared the new gun might be the replacement for the 686 and that it couldn’t possibly be an improvement on what’s been a truly great design. The compact receiver on the 686 line has made for an easy to carry and graceful gun that proven as reliable as a rock. The new 690 Field III that Beretta recently revealed to the public on a writer’s retreat in central Italy is a functional improvement of the 686 rather than a completely new design with improvements in weight and function. The forearm hardware on the 690 is aluminum, and the locking system is improved for better wear resistance. The locking lugs are now curved and with a larger contact area for extra strength. The hinge pin is larger for longer wear and there’s a new ejector system that uses something called the Eco Ejectors that can be converted to work as extractors. These changes have been made without increasing the depth of the action, though it is slightly wider.
The 690 Field III is a merging of the 686 and the recently introduced 692 and will be priced under the Silver Pigeon II series. It features upgraded wood and comes with two comb and heel height specifications and with stocks that are both cast-on and cast-off to offer a better fit to a wide range of shooters.
Early on, it looks like Beretta has another winner, but I’ll know more once I’ve had a chance to spend some time with it on the clays range.
Image by Dick Jones