Under brilliant skies that warmed the rolling hills of bunch grass, our hunting party, equipped with shotguns from the Beretta Premium Division, followed the dogs in pursuit of chukar. During breaks in the action, we rotated through a dreamy assortment of Beretta shotguns in all gauges including the Giubileo, SO10, 687EELL, SO 5, SO6EELL, SO Sparviere (Gullwing) and prototypes of the 486 Parallelo side by side in 20 gauge that we can expect to see next year on the gun racks of authorized U.S. dealers.
During the 2½-day get-together at Highland Hills Ranch, American and Italian representatives from the Beretta Premium Division laid out their vision for the group whose mission is to focus on affluent enthusiasts by immersing them in luxury experiences that encompass Beretta’s rich portfolio of firearms, apparel, destinations, and food and wine.
A cornerstone of the Beretta Premium Division is the Beretta Trident Program, which recognizes excellence in hunting, hospitality and cuisine in select destinations worldwide. The acclaimed Highland Hills Ranch is a charter member of the Beretta Trident Program. Highland Hills Ranch has also been awarded the Orvis “Lodge of the Year” award two times, most recently for 2012-2013 season. Of the 24 Orvis-endorsed Wingshooting Lodges, only two have received the honor twice.
In our previous visit to Highland Hills Ranch, we attended their hallmark event of driven pheasants led by Chris Batha. Highland Hills Ranch is comprised of 3,000 acres of rolling hills, rim rock canyons, creek-fed bottomland, grasslands, planted fields and open range that was explored during the Beretta Premium Division’s outings in pursuit of the “Grand Slam of Wingshooting” that involves pheasant, chukar, valley quail and Hungarian partridge all in the same day, in their native habitat.
Highland Hills Ranch is a bucket-list must for upland aficionados. At an elevation of nearly 3,000 feet in northeast Oregon, the 5-Star lodge has become a monument to rustic luxury under the ownership of Dennis and Mindi Macnab. Chef Keith Potter and his staff have been orchestrating glorious meals for guests since 2004. Ultimately, the Beretta Premium Division selected Highland Hills Ranch for this event to showcase the sweeping magnitude of their dominance in the resplendent sporting life amplified for 2014 and beyond.
At Highland Hills Ranch, the Beretta Premium Division tendered an armada of dazzling shotguns including a 20-gauge 486 Parallelo — one of three currently in existence.
Beretta had introduced the boxlock 12-gauge model earlier this year (see Shotgun Life review). With the 486 Parallelo, Beretta had essentially scrapped its reliable 471 Silver Hawk side by side whose origins date back to Model 409 from the mid-1930s. The inevitable comparison between the Beretta 486 Parallelo and the 471 Silver Hawk will naturally ensue, but we discovered that the 486 Parallelo incorporated advances measured in quantum leaps despite the vestigial styling cue of the silver receiver.
The Beretta 486 Parallelo 20-gauge bears the same improvements as the 12 gauge. For the price of the 12 gauge (approximately $5,350) you will see the fresh rounded action, premium hand-rubbed oil Turkish walnut with checkered butt, choice of pistol or straight English grip with commensurate forends, new Beretta Triblock Technology that eliminates the welding line between the monoblock and tubes, single or double triggers with newfound leaf-spring crispness, corrosion-resistant Beretta Optimachoke® HP (High Performance) choke tubes, lengthened forcing cones, steel-shot-rated barrels, environmentally friendly ejection/extraction selector and class-leading safety and ergonomic features. Beretta says the 486 Parallelo is balanced on the hinge pin +/- 2mm.
The 20-gauge Beretta 486 Parallelo I shot was fitted with 28-inch barrels, although 26-inch barrels can be ordered. Regardless, you get 3-inch chambers. Weighing about 6.2 pounds (or nearly 1 pound less than the 12 gauge with 28-inch barrels), it also featured a single selective trigger, automatic safety, improved cylinder/modified chokes and straight grip. For the 20-gauge 486 Parallelo, Beretta is providing a scaled frame that accentuates the elegant game-gun lines of the rounded action.
On that balmy afternoon at Highland Hills Ranch, the 20-gauge Beretta 486 Parallelo proved easy to carry across the rolling terrain. Beretta delivered on its design goals of balancing the 486 Parallelo on the hinge pins. The 20 gauge came around with a fluid ease that could definitely spoil you to other field guns irrespective of barrel configuration.
I had owned a Beretta 471 Silver Hawk for many years. The 12-gauge field gun with 28-inch barrels was remarkably accurate on long shots with its fixed chokes of improved cylinder/modified. The 20-gauge 486 Parallelo was more lithe and nimble — not only as a smaller shotgun but ergonomically you could feel the integrated grace of the rounded receiver, responsive trigger and enhanced balance.
Traditionalists will bristle as I confess my growing bias toward over/unders in the field. That said, the 20-gauge Beretta 486 Parallelo felt closer to an over/under than a side by side. In part that was attributed to the kinetic interfaces and easygoing swing. Berretta has employed its immeasurable resources of digital design to weed out any of the quirkiness or concessions we tend to associate with side by sides. Whether or not that 21st century breed of field-gun dynamic appeals to you is certainly a personal choice, but I would argue it’s a defining characteristic of side by sides from best-gun makers the likes of Holland & Holland and Purdey who charge upwards of $100,000 and more for their bespoke masterpieces.
Of course I’m not saying that the 20-gauge Beretta 486 Parallelo is in the same league as those paradigms of English best. However, the side by side is a thoroughly modern rendition of a field gun that embodies the quality and performance of a $5,300 premium Beretta.
Next up is a 28-gauge 486 Parallelo that is currently in development.
Beretta 486 Parallelo web site page
The Highland Hills Ranch web site
The Beretta Trident Program web site