By Irwin Greenstein, Shotgun Life
When it comes to sporting guns, balance and performance have a price. The new 12-gauge Beretta SL3 over/under shoulders and swings with the grace of the more expensive Premium Beretta SO series yet at $19,999 delivers a fusion of mechanics and aesthetics in the upland realm so that you might consider it a “baby Beretta SO10,” which starts at nearly $90,000.
Although handmade by Beretta’s Premium Gun Atelier, the SL3 benefits from the company’s progress in precision automation to the extent that the Gardone Val Trompia factory can, in many respects, advance shotgun technology quicker than its competitors. So while the SL3 is a boxlock compared with the sidelock action of an SO10, and the SL3 has laser engraving that sets a high bar compared with the 200 hours of fine hand-engraving of an SO10, when you shoulder the Beretta SL3, as I did in an advance preview, its $19,999 price tag takes on a fresh perspective in terms of value.
The new Beretta SL3 with floral engraving and its premium oil-finished walnut.
At the 2018 Safari Club International Convention, held early 2018 in Las Vegas, I was invited into a small room behind the Beretta Booth. It was there that Ian Harrison, Director of Beretta’s Premium Gun Sales, uncased a Beretta SL3 for me to handle.
“We think we designed a perfectly balanced field gun,” he said while I swung it as though taking a quail, and realized that he was right.
Mr. Harrison said that, with the SL3, Beretta “took a lot of the technology ideas from the SO10, which is a sidelock.”
In particular, the Beretta SL3 action anchors the barrels at three separate points: hinge pins, lower hooks and locking pins. It’s similar to the Premium Group’s SO10 over/under that also uses a three-point locking system Beretta describes as “classic trapezoidal.” This locking system is designed for vault-like reliability and wiggle-free operation. For the SL3, Beretta says it shot more than 11,500 magnum cartridges with it and experienced “no issues.”
A traditional English scroll is available on the Beretta SL3.
Mr. Harrison further explained that the Beretta SL3 uses the SO10 ejection system. The SO10 ejectors are precision guided on the demibloc. The contact area between the ejectors and the shell rim has been increased to improve the efficiency of the cartridge catching. As another benefit, Beretta touted the SL3 ejection system as “even more reliable and easier to inspect and clean.”
The Beretta SL3 tapped other Premium Group siblings. The shotgun uses the leaf-spring of the DT11 on the SL3 inertia trigger and the Steelium barrels of the 687 Classic. Steelium is Beretta’s exclusive tri-alloy of nickel, chromium and molybdenum that uses deep drilling, cold hammering process and vacuum distension to make shotgun barrels of very low material stress. In turn, you get greater accuracy and durability for steel, lead and other alternative hunting loads. For the SL3, Beretta is including its OptimaBore HP choke system packaged with its tournament-grade clays guns. The Beretta SL3 is available with 28-inch or 30-inch barrels.
The Game Scene engraving on the Beretta SL3 sideplates.
The Beretta SL3 features pinless sideplates (like the SO10) with four different design motifs. A Renaissance inspired ornamental motif achieves a bas-relief effect thanks to Beretta’s five-axis laser that can engrave rounded surfaces with perfect continuity of the pattern. A game scene depicts pheasants on the left, ducks on the right and a partridge on the underside. The fine English scroll engraving aspires for a traditional style. And a mirror polished version that demands hours of hand polishing mimics the contemporary mirrored option of the SO10.
In the Premium vein, Beretta is using high-grade selected walnut finished with hand-rubbed oil and hand checkering.
The Beretta SL3 with leather-cased accessories in its custom premium-grade case.
Beretta has pulled out the stops when it comes to the SL3 case. The model has a dedicated case entirely handmade by their Custom Gun Case Atelier. Beretta says the case buckles reflect the SL3 receiver’s profile. The locks are designed and crafted with the Pietro Beretta logo shield in mind to celebrate Beretta’s heritage and the Beretta Premium philosophy. The Beretta Product Design team chose a blue cotton canvas for the external fabric, and an elegant but contrasting rich red lining. All the leather details are hand crafted from the finest Italian leather and hand-stitched to the case itself. As an added touch, all the cleaning accessories are at hand in a removable, leather pouch. Seen in person, the SL3 case is really impressive.
Mr. Harrison told me that a 20-gauge model is in the works. He described its handling as “unbelievable.” Based on what I experienced with the 12-gauge SL3, I think we can expect something phenomenal with the arrival of the 20-gauge SL3.
The SL3 is available from Beretta Galleries and Premium Dealers.
Irwin Greenstein is the publisher of Shotgun Life. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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