Is Optima Bore Optimal?

Dear Bruce,

Have you had a chance to review the new optima barrel and its chokes for performance. We your loyal subjects want to KNOW. Do we throw down our old 391’s and walk toward the Optima Light? I wait kneeling with anticipation. Hurry though, because my knees are killing me.

Denton, Texas

Dear Kevin,

I’ve reviewed a couple of Berettas with Optima Bore barrels for my column in “Clay Pigeon Magazine”. Normally, I don’t pattern guns for any of my gun reviews, including “Shooting Sportsman”, because patterns vary with shells and everyone has their own ideas about what they want to shoot. Besides, I have no method of determining shot string. I’m not going to have my wife tow around a boat trailer with a slab of plywood on it while I plonk away at it. Bless Mr. Brister, but I’m not that anxious to tell the world. Fact is, even if I did pattern the guns, I’ll bet you a cold beer on a hot day that the average reader doesn’t pattern his gun and would have nothing to compare it to.

And further more, I’m a firm believer in the Gaussian nature of patterns. Since they all obey the immutable laws of the bell curve, I can’t see eye to eye with those who feel that one two dimensional 80% pattern can be better than another over time. I don’t believe in counting pattern holes. You can do it all on the computer while sitting at your throne eating peeled grapes and quaffing nectar.

What you can do is measure whether one particular barrel/choke combination is more consistent than another. A barrel/choke combo that produced an average 60% pattern with a certain shell with a high of 65% and a low of 55% would be more desirable than one that also averaged 60%, but had a 70% high and a 50% low.

But I’m not going to deprive my loyal readers of the pleasure of scientific discovery by hogging that work to myself. That would be too cruel. Besides, if I get too enmeshed in facts, I’ll lose my charter membership in the Sodden Outdoor Writers chapter of the Maggots of the Media. Something I would be loathe to do in abandoning my brethren.

But I do have some opinions based on hearsay, innuendo and pure guessing. In the Beretta O/Us, the OB (Optima Bore) barrels are generally lighter than the MobilChoke (MC) bbls of the same length. In the autos, the OB bbls are averaging one ounce heavier than the MC bbls. Go figure. In the O/U 682 and DT10 sporters, the 30″ OB bbls actually almost feel too light. The 32″s feel just right. A 32″ 682 with MC bbls was a real hog of a log. In the gas pipes, the extra ounce of the OB bbls is noticeable, but it’s purely personal taste as to whether you like it or not.

I do prefer the new OB chokes. They are well made and the ones I looked at had few surface blemishes. Some of the factory MC chokes have been a little rough, to say the least. The OB chokes are considerably longer than the old MC chokes. This length alone gives the choke designers more latitude in the design of the cones and parallel sections. If (big “if”) they took advantage of the length, the OB chokes could/should pattern more consistently then the old MC chokes.

The old MC bbls were around .722″, while the new OB bbls are around .732″. That’s not much of a difference. Also consider that .729″ is nominal for the gauge. I don’t think that the extra .010″ makes a whit of difference other than making it impossible to put the new chokes in old bbls (a smart marketing move). The OB bbls also have long forcing cones. I measured one on a Teknys at 3-1/2″ compared to 1-1/2″ on a MC 391. Tom Roster’s excellent pamphlet on cone lengths states that 1-1/2″ to 2″ is about ideal, even for big shot sizes which respond best to cone length. If so, the longer cones of the OC bbls are superfluous to all but the ad department flaks. Then again, for the “too much is not enough” crowd, too much probably isn’t enough.

Bottom line: Should you trade in your Beretta MC gun just to get the OB bbls? Yes- if you really want the weight change in the barrels. No- if you like the way your MC gun feels.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
The Technoid writing for Shotgun Report, LLC
(Often in error. Never in doubt.)

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