Beretta 486 Parallelo 20 Gauge Shotgun
By Chuck Hawks and the Guns and Shooting Online Staff
Pietro Beretta is the oldest gun manufacturer in the world, tracing their ancestry back about 500 years. Today, Pietro Beretta is the foundation of Beretta Holding, an international holding conglomerate involved in some 26 companies, including (in addition to Beretta itself) gun brands Benelli, Uberti, Franchi, Sako, Tikka and Stoeger, as well as sports optics companies Burris and Steiner.
It is hard to say whether Beretta is better known among recreational shooters for its handguns or its shotguns. (They also make some rifles.) I have always associated Beretta primarily with shotguns and during my lifetime they have offered everything from simple break-open single shot models to popular autoloaders, production over/under (O/U) and side-by-side (SxS) guns and, at the top of their line, hand built premium sidelock guns of great beauty. Today, Beretta is the largest manufacturer of O/U shotguns in Italy (and probably the world).
For a number of years Beretta has neglected the side-by-side shotgun, producing no guns of the type. The 486 Parallelo that is the subject of this review marks Beretta's re-entry into the double gun marketplace. It is a round body, trigger plate action gun in the Scottish tradition. It was introduced in 2012 in 12 gauge, with 20 gauge being added in 2015.
Beretta USA now offers the Parallelo in 12, 20 and 28 gauges. 12 and 20 gauge guns are available with a straight hand (English) stock and splinter fore end, or a pistol grip stock and beavertail fore end. 28 gauge guns are stocked only in the English style. Pricing is the same, regardless of gauge or stock style.
The 486 Parallelo is neither a basic, entry level field gun, nor a top of the line bespoke gun. Rather, it is produced on the most advanced CNC robotic machinery, incorporating most of the features of a fine double gun. It could be considered a competitor of the previously reviewed F.A.I.R. Iside Prestige, or the Merkel 47E double guns.
Surprisingly, the barrels are not made with the monoblock construction used in most previous double barreled Beretta shotguns, whether O/U or SxS. The Triblock technology barrels are cold hammer forged of special alloy steel and struck full length, including the chambers. The lumps are joined to the barrels at the breech end by what appears to be a short, thin, through lump that includes about half of the width of the barrel flats. The remaining length of the barrels is joined by the top and bottom ribs. This system eliminates the welding lines typical of Beretta's normal monoblock barrels and, according to Beretta, also makes the barrel unit stronger.
The Guns and Shooting Online staff have been looking forward to reviewing a 486 Parallelo. Being big fans of traditional SxS upland guns, we requested our test gun in 20 gauge with an English style stock.
The mechanical features of our Model #J486S28 20 gauge test gun include a sculpted frame, 28 inch barrels, three inch chambers, interchangeable choke tubes, single selective trigger (SST), selective ejectors (SE), automatic tang safety, gravitational drop safety, Turkish walnut straight hand stock and splinter fore end with an Anson push button fore end latch. The checkered walnut butt plate is an attractive touch.
Here is what the Beretta marketing people say about their new double gun:
"With the 486 Parallelo, Beretta has reintroduced the side by side shotgun in their lineup. Rather than giving an older model a face-lift, we have redesigned the action, springs and trigger-group, as well as the outward appearance of the shotgun. This is a shotgun designed to be as classic as possible to the outside, while incorporating materials and engineering features that make it orders of magnitude more durable than anything made 100 years ago. A true statement of classic taste, the 486 Parallelo is the perfect shotgun for the gentleman (or lady) hunter."
"Hunters truly knowledgeable in classic shotguns immediately associate a round action with hunts in the Scottish highlands at a time when group hunts of this kind were important social occasions, as well as sporting outings. Holding the 486 Parallelo and seeing its action will also evoke this association. Its round action contains only very few straight lines, and looks like it has grown organically together with the stock into something harmonious and beautiful. To the outside, the lines of the action are also complemented by English-style scroll engraving, which also extends to the top lever and trigger-guard."
Opening the outer box of our newly arrived Parallelo test gun revealed a dark brown, hard plastic, take-down gun case embossed with the Beretta trident logo. While not as elegant as an oak and leather case, it has a padded red interior and is adequately functional for transporting the shotgun in a passenger vehicle, although not by commercial carrier. Cloth socks for the barrels and butt stock are included to help prevent scratching. Inside the case there is room for accessories, including choke tubes, the supplied choke wrench, two snap caps, a tube of Gunslick, oil bottle, etc.
Four separate plastic latches keep the case closed and they are difficult to operate, as you need to push in the middle and pull at the top to open each latch. However, it seems unreasonable to complain too much about a free hard case.
The supplied Instruction Manual contains Italian, English and French sections and applies to both O/U and SxS models, so there is a lot of extraneous material. Like most firearm manuals these days it is so heavily larded with cautions and safety warnings that it is difficult to read. The manual does not include an exploded diagram or a parts list, which would be useful.
The 20 gauge 486 Parallelo is a classically styled, handsome, SxS double gun. It is built on a 20 gauge frame that measures 2.05 inches wide across the fences, which is about average.
First impressions are important and this Beretta makes a good first impression. The engraved, coin finished action body, gracefully curved trigger guard with a long bottom tang, polished and deeply blued barrels, English style (straight grip) walnut stock with a fluted comb and petite splinter fore end make this a shotgun anyone can be proud to own. Open the action and engine-turned action bars are revealed. The differences between the tasteful Parallelo and the tacky, Euro-trash styled O/U and repeating guns promoted today by so many manufacturers is very apparent.
The rather shallow engraving is cut by laser. Not only is the action body covered by fine English rose and scroll, the top tang, top lever, fences, trigger guard, bottom tang and all screw heads are also engraved. The latter are properly timed.
The test gun's Turkish walnut stock shows an attractive grain pattern. The wood in the butt stock and fore end are well matched. I estimate the wood grade to be "moderately fancy," which is better than the "select" grade claimed by Beretta. (For more on this subject, see Grading Gun Stock Walnut.)
The wood to metal fit is tight, with the wood left slightly proud to accommodate shrinkage and future refinishing. The hand rubbed oil finish could use a couple more coats of oil to completely fill all the wood pores and better show off the wood, but this can be easily accomplished, if desired, by the gun's owner.
Turkish walnut is Circassian or European thin shell walnut (Juglans Regia). It is the same species of tree, whether cut in the UK, France, Spain, Italy, Iran, Turkey, or elsewhere in its range. The soil in which it is grown has a pronounced affect on the color of the wood and trees from Britain, France and Spain are sometimes regarded as especially desirable.
Turkish walnut tends to be lighter in color than Western European walnut, especially when viewed in bright sunlight. (Some would say less rich in color.) It tends more toward light brown or honey tones with lighter dark streaks. This accurately describes the walnut in our test gun. Of course, these are generalizations and every walnut blank is unique.
The butt stock is attached to the receiver by means of a through-bolt, which is stronger than the traditional screw(s) between the top and bottom tangs. The butt stock has a bit of cast for a right hand shooter and a slight twist to make mounting the gun a bit easier. The fine line, three panel, point pattern, single border, laser cut checkering is attractive and helps to provide a secure grip.
Opening the action is accomplished by means of a top lever and Scott spindle. The barrels are secured to the action body by a typical hook in the front lump and a permanent hinge pin machined into the action body.
The barrel to frame fit is perfect. Double under-bolts lock the barrels closed for firing, leaving a clean breech face (no projections) when the barrels are opened. A clean breech face makes reloading faster and easier.
The top tang safety incorporates a laterally sliding button that selects which barrel the SST fires first. Sliding the button to the right reveals two red dots to the left and fires the left barrel first. Sliding the button to the left reveals a single red dot to the right and fires the right barrel first.
This seems counter-intuitive to me, as well as to the other G&S Online staff members. If it were up to me, I would eliminate the red dots and let the position of the button itself indicate the barrel to be fired first. (Button to right fires the right barrel, button to left fires the left barrel.)
This safety mounted barrel selector is a convenient design, which we have appreciated in other guns. Unfortunately, in the case of our test Beretta it was extraordinarily difficult to manipulate, requiring far more force to operate than should be necessary.
The test gun's trigger released cleanly and without creep at five pounds per my RCBS pull gauge. Although this trigger would be considered excellent in a repeating shotgun, a double gun in this price class should come with about three pound trigger pulls.
The trigger itself has a shallow, comfortable curve. The trigger guard easily accommodates a gloved trigger finger.
Earlier Beretta double gun designs used coil hammer springs, but the new Parallelo action uses V-leaf springs for a faster lock time, improved sear angles and improved trigger pull. All of the moving parts are mounted on the trigger plate.
Set for automatic ejection, the positive Southgate (tumbler type) ejectors kicked fired cases several feet behind the gun when the action is opened, while the extractor raises unfired shells for easy removal. The extractor/ejectors grip approximately 40% of the case rim for positive and reliable operation. The ejectors worked flawlessly during our test shooting.
The Parallelo has a couple of unique features. One is an automatic gravitational safety that prevents inadvertent discharge if the gun is dropped or held upside down.
Perhaps more useful is the provision for the user to easily switch from automatic ejection of fired cases to manual extraction, a feature that will be appreciated by reloaders. The selection is made by removing the fore end and using a small rod to move the selector switch, which is located in the fore end iron ahead of the hinge.
The gun comes with five flush mount OptimaChoke High Performance choke tubes, packaged in individual plastic tubes. Their constrictions are: Full (F), Improved Modified (IM), Modified (M), Improved Cylinder (IC) and Cylinder (C). These tubes are said to be proofed for steel shot, although the Full and IM tubes are not recommended for use with steel shot. Personally, I would never shoot steel in any fine double gun.
The choke tubes are mirror polished and marked for constriction by small notches that are visible from the muzzle. The Beretta code for the identification notches in the choke tubes is: one notch = Full choke, two notches = Improved Modified, three notches = Modified, four notches = Improved Cylinder and five notches = Cylinder.
Shooting the 486 Parallelo
Guns and Shooting Online staff members Rocky Hays, Jim Fleck and I took the 486 Parallelo to the Creswell Clay Target Sports shotgun range in Walker Oregon to do some patterning and informal skeet shooting. This facility offers multiple trap ranges, two skeet fields, a five stand sporting clays layout and a patterning range with a steel board and magnets to hold the paper. We did our test shooting with Remington 2-1/2 dr. eq. - 7/8 oz. - #8 lead target loads (MV 1200 fps).
We patterned all five choke tubes at 30 yards, which is about the distance at which we break 16 yard rise trap targets and is also more indicative of what the gun should do when shooting skeet than standard 40 yard patterns. Since 30 yards is more representative of the shooting we normally do, we feel it is a reasonable distance for evaluating shot patterns.
Beretta claims the barrel's extended forcing cones and their longer OptimaChoke High Performance flush mount tubes result in superior patterns, compared to their previous generation of interchangeable choke tube barrels. We will take their word for it, as we had no older gun with which to compare the Parallelo.
The Parallelo shot to point of aim when we saw a little more rib than we consider normal when shooting a double gun. (You don't shoot a SxS gun like a rifle, you should normally see some rib.) Based on our recent review of the F.A.I.R. Iside Prestige Gold and this Beretta, Italian field guns apparently shoot a little higher than the American doubles to which we are accustomed.
The patterns got tighter and denser as the tubes increased in constriction, as they should, and the 30 yard pattern sizes were about what we expected from the various choke tubes. After patterning, we shot about 50 low house skeet targets from station 7. This is a relatively easy, gently rising, straight away shot that is good for analyzing choke performance. By intentionally shooting faster or slower, we broke birds at ranges from about 20 to 30 yards.
The top tang mounted safety automatically goes on safe (to its rearward position) when the action is opened. This is usually a pious idea in the field, but a hassle when shooting clay targets. Worse, sliding the safety forward to the "fire" position requires far more effort than should be necessary and could easily result in a missed opportunity in the field. None of us approved of this safety. If this were our gun, the first thing we would do is disconnect the automatic safety feature.
Hefting the gun reveals it balances right at the hinge pin and shoulders naturally. There is a slight amount of cast off for a right hand shooter. The trim, low profile, round body receiver contributes to its lively feel in the hands and helps make it comfortable to carry in the field. The walnut butt plate has a gentle, shoulder fitting curve, although Rocky commented that it was slightly slippery despite its checkering. Jim and I did not notice this.
The straight grip, a slightly flattened oval in cross-section, is comfortable in the hand. The stock shape handles recoil well and for most upland hunting or occasional clays shooting using 7/8 ounce lead loads the gun is fine as is. However, if one plans to shoot one ounce or heavier shells, or do considerable clays shooting, it would be wise to replace the wood butt plate with a recoil pad.
Beretta offers a MicroCore FIELD black rubber recoil pad (#E7300) designed to fit the end of the 486 Parallelo stock without modification. Just unscrew the wood butt plate and screw on the recoil pad. No fitting required. These pads are available in thicknesses of 1.0, .79, .59 and .39 inch.
Rocky said he would shorten the stock if this were his gun. I found the length of pull a tad long, but I think I could learn to shoot it as is. Jim, the tallest and rangiest of our three shooters, thought the stock fit him just fine.
A smooth concave rib guides the eye to the target. Some shooters prefer a higher or ventilated rib, but the classic concave style rib worked fine for us.
The front sight is an unobtrusive steel bead. This is much better than the fiber optic front sights supplied today on many shotguns. After all, you are supposed to focus on the target when shooting a shotgun, not the front sight.
The relatively heavy trigger pull (for a quality double) caused no problems on the skeet field. Unlike some SSTs, this inertia type Beretta SST worked perfectly, never doubling or balking.
The consensus is the Parallelo would be a good upland game gun (its intended purpose) and it is entirely adequate for casual clay target shooting. It looks good, handles well, does not kick excessively and, aside from the stiff automatic safety and even stiffer barrel selector switch, we had no serious complaints.
The Beretta 486 Parallelo is a classically styled, yet thoroughly modern, side-by-side shotgun. It is an attractive, as well as very functional, field gun that is made of top quality materials. With proper care, it should last for generations.
Due to its interchangeable choke tubes, it can handle practically any upland hunting situation, as well as (with the automatic safety feature disabled) shooting informal sporting clays, five stand, skeet and the occasional round of trap. The price is not inexpensive, but it is reasonable for a gun of this quality.
Note: This review is mirrored on the Product Reviews page.
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