Beretta’s over/under shotguns are among the best available. However, their price tags reflect this fact, with some of the higher grades costing more than many new cars. Beretta’s new S686 Essential model in 12 gauge is designed, in the words of the Beretta catalog, to offer “all of the operating systems, safety features, durability and performance for which Beretta over-and-under are known,” at a suggested retail price of $1,215. Some may say that’s still a bit pricey for a shotgun, but it’s the most budget-priced O/U in Beretta’s line.
Our sample Essential was tight and well-made. The metal was matte-finished with no fancy engraving. There is a ventilated sighting rib on the top barrel with a single silver bead at the muzzle, but there are no side ribs connecting the barrels between their breeches and muzzles. The grain in the checkered walnut stock and fore-end was attractive if not fancy. The butt plate was hard black plastic, and there is not a pistol-grip cap.
The single-trigger Beretta Essential features selective automatic ejectors and a tang safety with a button to allow the shooter to choose which barrel to discharge.
The tang-mounted safety is applied by pushing it to the rear; in its forward position, the gun is ready to fire. A separate, laterally movable button on the safety controls the sequence in which the barrels are fired. When this button is moved to the right, two red dots are exposed. In this position, the top barrel fires with the first pull of the single trigger, and a second pull fires the lower barrel. When the button is in the left-hand position, a single red dot is visible. In this position, the first pull of the trigger fires the bottom barrel.
If you wish to fire the top barrel then, the button must be moved back to the right-hand position before pulling the trigger a second time. The trigger broke at 41/2 pounds with a bit of creep.The Beretta S686 Essential is fitted with interchangeable Mobilchoke screw-in choke tubes. Our example was fitted with full and modified tubes, and results at the patterning board were consistent with these constrictions.
In the field, this shotgun was well-balanced and came to the shoulder quickly, as a Beretta should. No functioning problems were encountered, and the selective automatic ejectors kicked empties out smartly. If you have always coveted a Beretta over/under shotgun but have been reluctant to part with several thousands of dollars, the Essential may be your answer.