All photos by Peter Fountain.
A long time coming, Beretta’s new 694 Sporting over/under fills a gap in the company’s competition line between the 692 and the top-of-the-line DT11. Designed chiefly for sporting-clays shooters, the 694 takes Beretta’s 500 years of expertise, along with highly advanced technology for research and development to produce an upscale, clay-crushing machine that’s a delight to shoot.
When first handling the 694, you quickly notice how much the stock borrows from the DT line, namely the beefiness. The large stock and increased pistol-grip radius provide for quick, precise mounting, similar to that of a trap gun. The thick, DT-ish palm swell is a welcome refinement that fills the hand well, and paired with the slim neck, it’s a pleasure to shoot. While shooting the 694 for the first time at a sporting-clays event, several competitors (including myself) commented on how both right- and left-handed shooters could manipulate the break-action with ease and swing with confidence. Pointability is the name of the game here. With the 694, my hands would naturally place themselves in the ideal position, as if it was just meant to be.
Thanks to channel cuts on both sides of the top of the stock there is a wider field-of-view. At 30 yards, the increased visibility is comparable to the area of 10 to 12 targets. The 694 stock is available with drops of 35/50 mm and 35/55 mm. As an option, Beretta’s B-Fast adjustable heel (included with the 35/55 stock) will help competitive shooters find the perfect fit. The LOP is 14¾ inches with an 18 mm MicroCore recoil pad and a centrally positioned competition trigger. Additionally, the trigger is adjustable for LOP in three positions. Optional magnetic weights are also available for purchase.
As for the wood itself, it’s Grade 2.5+ oiled walnut. The wood is attractive, and Beretta was conservative in its self-grading; to me, the look is more along the lines of a nice Grade 3. At a press conference, company representatives alluded to custom-grade wood stocks being available in the future.
Moving forward on the gun, the front part of the action has the familiar Beretta hinging, with trunnions in the front, and to the rear, trapezoidal shoulders with two pins protruding from the breech face that fit into circular recesses on both sides. The 694’s hammers are driven by coil springs mounted on guides. A step back from the classical world, the entire receiver is designed specifically for modern clay shooting.
What’s more is the nickel-plated (Nistan) steel action looks downright elegant, sporting what Beretta has deemed “technical engraving,” with clean blue lines on a matte-grey finish that give the 694 a modern, race look. This gun is attention-grabbing in a good way. The bottom of the action is my favorite aspect, with the prominently displayed 694 logo and the three unmistakable Beretta arrows.
Aesthetics aside, it’s function that really makes the 694 shine as a high-end competition shotgun. Kudos to Beretta’s technicians for making improvements over the already-great 692. For example, the steel opening lever has a lower profile, which along with an anti-glare finish makes the steel less obtrusive in your sight picture. I learned firsthand how helpful this can be while busting clays on a bright, sunny day. And, the aforementioned channel cuts provide an extra degree or two for both sides of the peripheral field-of-view. With about 1 percent improvement in the field-of-view area, this doesn’t sound like a lot at first, but becomes apparent while shooting. It’s nice to have any edge in competition—within the rules.
A newly designed fore-end reduces the amount of steel by using aluminum for its front portion. The new, smaller fore-end latch system incorporates a pistol-operated stud. A smaller latch button reduces the surface area that may get overheated during intense sporting-clays sessions and minimizes movement of the fore-end over the lifetime of the gun. Another measure of durability is a hard steel dowel pin across the fore-end steel body. With wear and tear a concern to shooters that fire thousands of shells during a typical season, the new approach is welcome.
Cold-hammer forged Steelium Plus barrels (32-inch tested) have an elongated forcing cone that runs about half the length of the barrel. At about 14-inches long, the forcing cone’s length improves ballistics by keeping deformation of the shot column to a minimum as it travels down the barrel. Patterns are kept more uniform and perceived muzzle jump is decreased. As a system, it’s very comfortable to shoot.
Barrels are assembled as a monoblock and have an internal chrome plating. Tapering for the top rib is from 10 mm to 8 mm. There’s also a ventilated side rib. To help achieve proper balance, the same weights from the DT black series can be attached under the fore-end and also ones that clamp to the front of the barrels. The front sight is a white rod securely held in a steel carrier.
Although the 694 is a dedicated clays gun, it sports 3-inch chambers, which will please hunters. However, the choice of using the 3-inch isn’t meant to appease; rather Beretta says that there isn’t really any difference, performance-wise. This makes sense, because even the flagship DT11 model has 3-inch chambers. An upcoming trap version of the 694 will have 2¾-inch chambers.
Input from Beretta pro-team shooters is reflected in the design of the 694. However, the company didn’t only involve its professional team in the process, it also sifted through online data to gain valuable feedback from the competitive-shooting community. The influence of competitive clay shooters is apparent, with the focus on ergonomics and mechanical improvements. The result is a sporting-clays gun destined to dominate the booming mid-range competition market.
Beretta pours tons of money into research and development, and the application of advanced technology and science to production is where all that shooter data is implemented. Beretta’s R&D process includes full computer simulations—virtual models—and the 694 is the most sophisticated one yet. Much more than computer-aided design, the computer modeling can simulate a shooter, allowing engineers to examine the mechanical processes involved in successful shooting.
One of Beretta’s goals when developing the 694 Sporting was to “make a standard gun for people, who generally aren’t standard.” Blending in a few design details borrowed from the upscale DT line affirms this goal. Now, Beretta has a premium shotgun offering for every part of the sporting-clays spectrum.
“This is a gun that’s designed for shooters that probably can't afford a DT11, or they are not comfortable shooting a DT11,” said Beretta’s Competition Shotgun Product Manager, Ricardo Olivieri. “It comes down to personal choice, and we at Beretta have all of them. This is our answer to the medium segment.”
By recognizing the fact that shooters are more informed about guns than ever these days—Beretta is going to sell a lot of 694s.
Much more than an incremental improvement, the world’s oldest gunmaker has produced a technological marvel that merges DT11 design details into a more affordable gun. Although it’s in the premium category for this type of competition shotgun, Beretta has competitively priced the 694 Sporting at $4,500. This O/U is a head-turner for sure, and the substantial improvements over the 692 fully justify the higher cost. Online chatter from early purchasers give a street price in the upper $3,000s. And for that money, you are getting a lot of gun, with high-tech Beretta technology used in its manufacture. As for durability, I put about 200 rounds through the 694 with no malfunctions.
The 694 Sporting comes in three barrel lengths; 28-, 30- and 32-inches, available with or without the adjustable B-Fast stock. Included in the box are a cloth-lined ABS plastic case, five-piece Optima high-performance choke set, stock wrench, alternative 23 mm MicroCore recoil pad and of course—the all-important Beretta stickers. Learn more at Beretta.com.
- Beretta 694 Sporting O/U. $4,500. Beretta.com
- Federal Gold Medal Grand 12-gauge shotshells. $12.99 per 22-shell box. FederalPremium.com
- Off Shot Mini Earplugs. $50. BerettaUSA.com
- Performance Plastic Frame Shooting Shields. $22. BerettaUSA.com
- Beretta Cotton Vest. $79. BerettaUSA.com
- Albion England Full Zip Canvas Gun Slip. $215. Houndhare.com
- Albion England Classic Leather Cartridge Bag. $525. Houndhare.com