I have the possibility of acquiring a new Beretta ASE 90 at a favorable price (a tad more than $4000). At the same time I can get my hands on a good used Browning B-25 for less than half of the price of the Beretta. After the barrel cracked on my Krieghoff K-80, I’ve become reluctant to pay a lot of money for a gun. Thus, I would like to ask you a couple of questions regarding the Beretta versus the Browning.
Does the Beretta hold up as well as the B-25? Is it as easy to re-tighten the Beretta as a B-25 (new hinge pins etc.)? Do you know if there is enough material in the barrels on a Broadway Lightning trap to install Briley chokes (steel shot chokes)? What about in a Broadway trap? How do you evaluate the quality of the two guns? Is the B-25 you can get in the US the same gun as the ones we get here in Europe (except for the engravings, which are different)?
The Beretta ASE 90 has not been a sales success in America. It is priced equal to the Perazzi and Krieghoff, both of which are far more popular among target shooters. I have not owned an ASE 90 (though I have shot and handled them), but I have had Perazzis, Krieghoffs and many B-25s.
Since I have no in depth personal experience with the ASE 90, I really can’t say what the gun will be like as to reliability. I have heard nothing bad about it, nor have I heard anything really good. My impression of the gun at first glance was that it was just an upgraded 682 and cost too much. At second glance, it was obviously a lot more than that. At third glance, I was very impressed with the gun. The workmanship was very good and the design seemed to combine some of the best features of the 682 and SO4. The gun sort of grew on me. I think that the drop out trigger is a gimmick, but it is nicely done. Beretta makes excellent use of metal coatings and the guns are very resistant to rust (I have had a 680 and a few 686s). That said, I don’t know what goes wrong with the ASE 90s when you shoot them a bunch.
As to the B-25, I do have some experience. I have had American market and also FN B-25s screw choked by Briley and have never had a problem. It costs $350 US for the threading with 5 chokes of your choice. The quality of the work is excellent.
The longevity of the B-25 is legendary. They do shoot loose, but are very easy to tighten up. I have had B-25s loosen up as early as 50,000 and as late as 100,000. Tightening them back up was fast and inexpensive- usually just the locking tongue, though sometimes the pin is “rolled” or replaced also. The Mark 5 mechanical triggers on the later versions (on the FNs since the early ’70s) are quite nice, though not as crisp as those on Perazzi or Krieghoff. They are more reliable though. Unlike the Berettas, the B-25s will rust while you watch. You have to be very careful of this. B-25s with the narrow “Lightning” ribs will often shoot them loose and require resoldering after a time. I have never shot a “Broadway” rib or a 12 mm FN rib loose.
Are the American market B-25s identical to the European market ones? That may depend on when they were made. The FNs (European market guns) that I have owned (’60s and ’70s guns) have different engraving patterns, often different ribs (a mid range 12 mm rib on some Super Trap #6 models that was not available in the US), and a different anatomical trigger configuration. The FNs also seemed to get the Excellent Mark 5 trigger a bit sooner.
I have had the forcing cones lengthened on several FNs and my gunsmith tells me that the FN grade ones use a harder steel than the grade one US market guns. It is the same steel that is used in the higher grades of both guns. I can’t confirm this as I never cut the cones myself on an FN. I have done it on an American B-25 and the steel cut like butter.
As between the ASE 90 and the B-25, I would personally pick the B-25 because I like the feel of the gun better and I know what I am getting. The ASE 90 may well be an excellent gun. It certainly appears to be well made. I really wouldn’t let the deciding factor be which gun is longest lived. I am sure that they will both last a very long time. I would pick the gun which feels and moves best for you. Personally, I have tried many of the better target shotguns available and keep coming back to the B-25s as the best combination of balance, fit and reliability. For some reason, Italian pistol grips have never suited me (Krieghoff’s neither). Browning, Winchester and Remington pistol grips are all fine with me. The rest of the stock can be adjusted, but the pistol grip is sort of built in and you are stuck with it.
You mention troubles with your Krieghoff. Here in the US, Krieghoff service is very good, but the guns are absurdly expensive at $12000. They are good business men over here and the K-80 has a good following in trap and skeet, though not as much in sporting clays. One of the big advantages of the Krieghoffs is their complete modularity- the ability to swap barrels and stocks from one gun to another. This can be important in trap and skeet, though not in sporting. Neither the ASE 90 nor the B-25 will be as soft shooting as your K-80 was, but both will be considerably more responsive.
Shotgun Report’s Technoid
(Often in error, never in doubt.)