I am looking to buy a very light 12 gauge o/u gun for grouse shooting (here in Virginia it’s many a steep mile between shots at grouse). The two which I’ve been considering are the Beretta 686 Ultralight, a sort of pared-down 686 weighing about 5.5 pounds. The other is an unusual French gun called a “Baby Bretton.” It is all aluminum–including the barrels–and scales in at about 4.5 pounds. The BB (which I’ve only seen in pictures) is ugly as home-made sin, and I can’t tell how the safety operates, but it certainly would be light.
I’d appreciate your thoughts on these two field guns (or any alternative suggestions).
“Ugly as home-made sin” describes the Baby Bretton perfectly. The gun is a caricature of a shotgun. Yes, they are light, but they are also close to unshootable for me. Perhaps you can hit something with a 4.8 gun, but I sure can’t. Six pounds is about the lightest gun that I can actually shoot.
Both the Bretton and Darne SxS use a sliding breech action. I don’t remember where the safety is on the Bretton, but it is inaccessible on the Darne. I wonder if you can put a tang safety on a sliding breech gun. If you are hunting quail over staunch pointers, then you might get away with a non-ergonomic safety, but grouse? Not a chance. It would force you to hunt with your safety off and it is hard to find repeat hunting partners when you do that. Remember also that the Bretton is a double trigger gun, if that matters. Mandell Shooting Supplies in Scottsdale, AZ carries the Baby Brettons for just under $1000.
The Beretta Ultralight is a real gun. It has all the right things in all the usual places. I recommend them highly as light weight hunters. To me, it is the clear choice between the two guns. The gun lists in the catalogue as 5.7#. The 28″ one that I put on the scale was 5lbs. 13oz- close enough. It felt and balanced like a real gun, though light. I didn’t campaign it on clay targets for 50,000 rounds, but it looked strong. It has a titanium strip down the breech face, probably to reinforce the firing pin holes. They are chambered for 2-3/4″ shells and seem strong enough to take any reasonable load if you can handle the inevitable recoil. It was a comfortable gun with 1 oz target loads. The earlier ones had modest dark anodized receivers, but the current models have gone to bright silver with particularly trashy “engraving”. Why do they do that to a perfectly nice gun? The Italians are supposed to be artistes.
The alternative would probably be a light 20. Beretta makes a nice 686 model out of steel that comes in at just about 6#. I find it far more attractive than the Ultralight, but I will always hunt with a 12 in preference to a 20 if weight is not a factor. To me the only reason to ever pick the 20 over the 12 is to obtain a lighter gun. I think that the Beretta Ultralight makes that point moot because it weighs less than the 20.
I also hunt grouse and woodcock in the hills of New England and Canada. Parts of it are just as steep as your beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. I carry an old English 6#4oz SxS. The gun has a good “carry” and I can manage the weight, but I wouldn’t want it any heavier. It is a let-out 2-1/2″ gun, so I limit myself to low pressure 1 oz loads. You wouldn’t have that restriction with the Beretta Ultralight. If I used O/Us more in the field, I would own one.
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