Barrel Selector

Dear Bruce:

Your advice in the past has been great. I had the stock completely customized on my “hard hitting” 686 trap gun as you suggested, and the recoil no longer bothers me at all.

But here’s a question my local Beretta dealer couldn’t answer. The gun is chambered imp-mod in the lower barrel and full in the upper. The safety has no selector feature; it seems the bottom barrel will always go off first. However, I occasionally shoot a trap-based game at our club that involves some very great shooting distances, and I’d love to shoot the full choke barrel. Is there a way to do it? I know I can load the top barrel, pull the trigger to “fire” the empty bottom barrel, then bang the stock on the ground to “cock” the inertia mechanism of the top barrel, but I doubt my compatriots are going to appreciate this practice.

Your help, as usual, very much appreciated.


Dear David,

This is a puzzler. I am not familiar with any Beretta 686 which does not have a barrel selector built into the safety button. Every 686 that I have ever seen had a small block built into the center of the safety button. It could be moved left or right to select the barrel. When it was moved, it revealed red dots. One dot meant that the lower barrel was selected, two meant the upper.

However, given the situation, on most inertial trigger guns that I have used, you can reset the other barrel by firing the first barrel (on a snap cap) and then flicking the safety on, then off. Usually, this will reset to the unfired barrel. It is a much less disconcerting method than banging the stock on the ground or with the flat of your hand.

A 686 without a barrel selector? I learn something new every day.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
Shotgun Report’s Technoid
(Often in error, never in doubt.)

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Beretta Barrels

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28 Gauge Barrel Length

Dear Technoid,

I know you are a big fan of the 28 gauge. I am about to give it a try myself. One question. What barrel length do you recommend? I plan on using the gun an equal amount on skeet and quail hunting.

What do you think of the Ruger Red Label in 28 gauge. I am either looking at that or a Remington 1100, 28 gauge sporting clays. I don’t have an auto in my collection at this point.


Dear Rob,

Many O/U and SxS 28s are light and whippy. They would benefit from 28″ barrels, especially if you are an average to large man. On the other hand, my wife preferes 26″ barrels on her Beretta 687 28 gauge because she is a small woman. The O/U 28s I would look at are the Beretta Silver Pigeon in 28″, anyone of the Citori models in 26″ or 28″ (probably 28″) and the Ruger O/U 28 in 28″. I have handled the Ruger, though not shot it. I thought it was the best feeling O/U that they make, but the model that I tried had an English grip and I prefer a pistol grip on O/Us. For what it is worth, I also don’t like the Ruger safety.

In the 28 gauge 1100 I don’t think that you have any choice in bbl length. It comes in 25″ and that is it. If you add on the extra 3-1/2″ of receiver that an auto has, it comes out to a bit over 28″.

One reason that most people don’t use 28 gauge autos is that the autos pitch out those solid gold hulls. Reloaders will be lined up behind you on their hands and knees to get them. New 28 gauge shells cost about $10-$12/box. 28 gauge reloads run closer to $4/box. There is a REAL financial incentive to reload 28 and 410. Even if you don’t reload, if you shoot Winchester AA factory 28s, you can always sell the hulls for 10¢ each. The new compression formed Remington hull is almost as good. Federal and the rest only last a couple of tries.

Personally, if you want to try an auto, I would do it in 12 gauge where the reduction in recoil (for clays) and increased capacity (for waterfowl) make it a better choice than O/U.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
Shotgun Report’s Technoid
(Often in error, never in doubt.)

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Forcing Cone Shine

Dear Readers,

Here is the “shiny” part of forcing cones explained in more detail than I did it.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
Shotgun Report’s Technoid
(Often in error, never in doubt.)


In your recent response to a query on forcing cone finish, I am of the opinion that you are on target in the next to last paragraph, i.e. the angle of the light determines virtually all of what we see as darkness in the cone area. I have lengthened several cones myself using the “typical” 1 1/2 inch length reamer. Aligning the stones to the proper angle for honing can be a problem, but not so much any more with the “bottle brush” style hones now available from MSC, Brownell, and others. They do a nice job.

The cones cut by a standard SAAMI chambering reamer look almost like a black step at the end of the chamber, but are actually about a half inch long. Such is the effect of the light angle. As the cone gets longer, the angle gets shallower and the cone looks lighter. By the time you reach 5 inches the cone angle is very shallow (almost parallel with the barrel wall) and it reflects very brightly. With the 1 1/2 inch cones I have used, they look somewhat dark; but if you hold the barrel off angle slightly and sight down it, you can see the cone wall looks as shiny as the barrel wall itself.

Bottom line…Can you do a poor job of cone polishing? Sure. Can you tell by the “dark” appearance of the cone area? I don’t think so. The only way to tell for sure would be to section a barrel and look at it. But since the shot deformation in a plastic cup wad results from abrupt angle changes, not surface smoothness, if it doesn’t build up plastic and crud be thankful and find something else to worry about.


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Beretta 20 Ga Auto

Dear Bruce,

Based somewhat on your recommendations I purchased an almost new Beretta A-303 in 20 gauge for my neophyte skeet/quail hunting habit (ok its not a 390, but it didn’t cost 650 skins either). At the range it wouldn’t cycle Rem Premier target loads worth a hoot. I’m using light amounts of CLP, as per SOP. Anything else I can do to loosen it up??? I Did get two quail with it first day out, and it cycled the Federal High Velocity shells without flaw.

Dear Dave,

If you paid the slightest attention to what I have written (no one else does either, so that takes the pressure off you), you would have noticed that I recommended the AL-390 in 20 gauge as opposed to the 303 in 20 gauge because the 390 finally got 20 gauge porting right and can handle all strengths of shells. I went on to say that the big problem with most of the 303 20s, especially those with the 3″ chambered barrels, was that the gas ports were too small to permit American 20 gauge target loads to function. This is the reason that so many of the 303 20s are for sale at bargain prices. This “too small gas ports” was also a problem in the earlier 12 gauge Beretta autos with 3″ barrels.

The solution is simple. Just enlarge the gas ports. I don’t know what the gas port dimensions on the 20 are as I have never had one, but Rich Cole Gunsmithing in Harpswell, ME at 207-833-5027 should know all about this and also be able to do the work for you. Please give him my best. On my older 3″ 12 gauge Beretta bbls, I would just get the proper size LONG shank drill bit from Brownell’s, keep the speed up as it cut through the chrome, and zip them out to the right size. The 12 gauge guns worked perfectly with light loads and heavy ones after that. It ought to be the same with the 20.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with the 303 20 that correcting the gas ports won’t cure. It’s a good gun. But that’s why you got such a good price on it.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
Shotgun Report’s Technoid
(Often in error, never in doubt.)

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TriStar TT-15 Field

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Getting A Stock Fit

Good afternoon Bruce:

I enjoy your electronic pub and it’s been a great resource, but you have left me hanging. I’ve gone your route of the Belgian Browning and Briley tubes, yet I need more. You have repeatedly mentioned that there are several excellent stock fitters in New England. Whom do you most highly regard?

I have heard rumors that there is a Purdey trained fitter in Maine, but I don’t know anyone with firsthand experience. Will you please recommend two or three craftsman of great skill and patience combined with reasonable billing and delivery time?

Also, I can no longer find the reference, but at some point in the past you mentioned a company with an extremely accurate pantograph that can inlet close enough to press fit side locks. Who are these people and how do I reach them?

I’m a righty with left eye dominance. After 35 years I’m trying to switch to port side and everything seems to be conspiring against me.

Thanks for the help.
Nashua, NH

Dear Kim,

The Purdey guy is probably David Trevallion. I think he is in ME, but am not sure exactly where he is now- perhaps still there. He is most definitely an excellent stock maker (I have seen his work) BUT as for fitting, I just don’t know. I don’t personally know any shooters who have used him, so I have nothing to base a proper opinion on.

Proper stock fitting is a dynamic process. You just can’t do it right staring at someone’s eyeball standing around inside a gun shop. You have to test fit by shooting with a try gun at a plate and then at moving targets. No matter who the stock maker is, unless he has preternatural powers and is extraordinarily lucky to boot, fitting in a shop is no where near as good as the real thing. If the stockmaker will take you out to the field in back and have you work on a pattern plate and thrown birds, that is something different. I have met very, very few stockmakers who were experienced shooting coaches. As a matter of fact, I have met very few gunsmiths or stock makers who could shoot worth a damn. They work 60 hour weeks and can’t afford the wastrel existence of a properly profligate clay target shooter.

There are two good fitters in the Millbrook, NY area, maybe three. First is Keith Lupton. Keith’s fitting is absolutely first rate. He uses a local gunsmith to do the bending. I have never sent someone to Keith who came back disappointed.

A second choice in Millbrook (a veritable hotbed of advanced sporting clays shooting, but not of skeet or trap) is Charles Schneible. Charles is also a Brit and has been captain of the US FITASC team. He has good fitting facilities and does the bending himself. I don’ t know if Charlie Conger (ex-coach of a number of US sporting teams) still does fittings, but he is extremely experienced in shooting and is an excellent instructor in Salt Point, NY.

I personally know all three of these men and feel that they are definitely worth talking to about a fitting. I don’t know how much experience they have in fitting specifically for skeet, but I would feel that they could all handle that as sporting includes that type of shot and now permits a mounted gun. You don’t mention whether your Browning tube set is for sporting, skeet or both. So I assume that it is a bit of both.

By the way, a superlative sports medicine eye doctor in the area is Donald Teig in Ridgefield, CT. He works with a lot of athletes from the NY pro ball and hockey teams and all the local shooter go to him. He understands the needs of the shooter and has all the latest space age sci-fi equipment.

A quick glance through Black’s “Wing & Clay” shows that the country is chock a block full of coaches and gun fitters. I am only familiar with the ones in my immediate area. I am sure that there are many other good ones spread throughout the country.

As to the pantograph, darned if I can remember. I mean, I remember that I used to know, but can’t remember now. I believe that stock maker Darcy Echols was associated with it. Maybe someone at Fajen’s knows. I am sure that it will come to me a moment after I Email this to you.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
Shotgun Report’s Technoid
(Often in error, never in doubt.)

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