A weekend at Highland Hills Ranch shows why the little-known Beretta Premium Division conducted a briefing in mid-September 2013 at this Beretta Trident destination to share a compelling vision for 2014 and beyond that combines shotguns we lust after with Italian sporting fashion and breathtaking journeys into a fabulous hunting lifestyle for new and experienced shooters.
The sessions proved much more than Powerpoint show-and-tells. In the large mudroom at Highland Hills Ranch stood a rack of more than 20 Beretta luxury shotguns for our upland hunts and an afternoon of clays that launched targets from the ravine and hilltop bird habitats.
The collection was a candy store of shotgunning extravagance that displayed the multi-Olympic-winner SO5 Sporting sidelock ($27,500), the gorgeous sidelock SO10 ($90,000), the legendary Giubileo ($13,150), the heavy-artillery clays crusher DT11 ($9,000), the SO6EELL sidelock ($50,000), the SO6EELL-derived Sparviere with it’s amazing “gullwing” side plates ($90,000) in addition to the forthcoming 20-Gauge Beretta 486 Side by Side among others built by the Beretta Premium Division in Brescia, Italy.
Beretta’s executive clout in attendance at Highland Hills Ranch substantiated an impending Renaissance in the American shotgun market — an opportunity Beretta identified by field and competition models that essentially start at $10,000 and escalate to $100,000 and more.
The baseline segmentation evolved from a reorganization that spanned Beretta Italy and Beretta USA. The new corporate offspring is called the Beretta Premium Division. It’s an amalgamation of the Premium Shotgun Group, the Gallery Stores, the Clothing & Accessories Group and the Beretta Trident Program. The consolidation of resources under the Beretta Premium Division forms a sporting lifestyle marketing powerhouse directed at the affluent.
Antonio Pavan, a relatively new appointment to Vice President of Beretta’s Premium Division, explained that the group’s emphasis is on the cream of the consumer market.
Well-heeled connoisseurs will be immersed in a veritable boutique of exceptional Beretta shotguns, adventure-inspired fashions and bravura hunting holidays. The Beretta Premium Division will provide exclusive membership incentives and so-called value-added experiences at super-luxe places like Blackberry Farm, such as the one held November 9-10, 2013 in the eastern Tennessee foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains.
At Blackberry Farm, for $5,000 to $15,000 per night depending on accommodations, 30 guests participated in a lavish Beretta junket that included culinary presentations, clays shooting instructions by two-time Olympic skeet gold medalist Vincent Hancock, a discussion by Ed Anderson who is the gunsmith at the Beretta Gallery in New York City, demonstrations by Beretta’s Master Engraver Luca Casari and a finale dinner hosted by Franco Beretta who serves as the company’s Vice President and Managing Director in Italy as well as Executive Vice President of Beretta USA. He gave away a new 486 Parallelo 12-gauge side by side.
Ian Harrison, who recently assumed management of the Beretta Trident Program from his role as Manager of the Beretta Dallas Gallery, explained that the purpose of partnering with resorts like Blackberry Farm, Sea Island, the 14 Beretta Trident affiliates and other elegant venues worldwide is to evangelize the Beretta lifestyle.
Bottom line: at the Blackberry Farm weekend Beretta sold “a couple of premium shotguns valued at a couple of hundred thousand dollars,” he said — fulfilling a primary objective of Beretta Premium. Likewise, the division is looking into organizing ventures with other high-net-worth institutions including Brooks Brothers, Goldman Sachs and a marketing partner of Bugatti whose 1,100- horsepower, V-16 sports cars start at $1.2 million.
To be abundantly clear, the heartbeat of the Beretta Premium Division is Beretta Premium shotguns.
What constitutes a premium shotgun at Beretta? Niccolò d’Amico, who oversees Beretta Premium Guns in Italy and Clemente Scribani Rossi, Premium Gun Sales Manager with Beretta USA offered at explanation at the Highland Hills Ranch retreat.
Like other shotgun manufacturers, engraving, barrel technology, wood, finishing, trigger groups and packaging serve as benchmarks.
When it comes to engraving, Beretta divides its shotguns into three production clusters: Industrial Engraving, Hybrid Engraving and Hand Engraving.
Industrial Engraving is comprised of laser, rollmark, EDM (Electro Discharge Machine) and photo printing industrial technologies. It’s largely assigned to Beretta’s standard shotguns. The Premium Gun distinction is drawn at Hybrid and Hand Engraving.
Hybrid Engraving blends multiple industrial techniques with hand engraving. This allows Beretta to achieve eye-catching results at lower prices. Case in point, the MSRP of the current Giubileo with game scene Hybrid Engraving is $16,875. A hand engraved one with the same game-scene pattern would retail for $39,900.
For 100-percent hand-engraved shotguns, Beretta’s Premium Division has absorbed the 12 engravers under the supervision of Mr. Casari. The craftsmen chisel from sketches and can collaborate with clients on personalized designs — devoting upwards of 800 hours on the most intricate.
Walnut is sourced from a sister company in Italy, Meccanica del Sarca, whose mission is to keep a full pipeline of high-grade material becoming increasingly scarce on world markets. Sidelock inletting on a stock requires two to three days of manual work. Most Premium Guns are hand-checkered. Afterwards, Premium Guns are oil finished over three to five weeks. Yes, Beretta babies the wood with hand-oiling three times a day.
The Beretta Premium Division also has dibs on the company’s best barrel technology. Beretta’s tri-alloy barrel steel goes by the name of Steelium. The mass produced 686/687 use Steelium. The newer mid-priced 692 employs improved Steelium Plus Barrels. Meanwhile, the tournament-level DT11 is equipped with the best-grade Steelium Pro.
Cold-hammer-forged Steelium barrels allow for elongated, tapered forcing cones. The payoff is minimal muzzle jump, reduced recoil, less pellet deformation and optimal patterning.
Having already shot the Beretta 692 and DT11, I opted for the SO-series for wing and clays at Highland Hills Ranch.
Although the flagship SO10, SO6EELL and SO Sparviere were splendid, I gravitated toward the 12-gauge SO5 Sporting. The sidelock was fitted with Class 4 Turkish walnut and Steelium Pro barrels. A hand-engraved light scroll adorned the coin-silver side plates while inside there’s a 24-carat fine gold inlay of the “P. Beretta” signature.
Also available in skeet and trap models, Beretta’s SO5 has racked up five different Olympic medals and other international wins. Reliabiltiy in marathon competition is ensured with a cross-bolt locking system that operates on Monobloc lugs positioned at the height of the upper tube axis.
As a purpose-driven competiton shotgun, the SO5’s low-profile action, superb balance and pistol grip with palm swell delivered a graceful, low-effort swing punctuated by a trigger smooth and intuitive. The Beretta SO5 proved itself an ergonomic pleasure to shoot.
Still, at some nine pounds you wouldn’t carry the SO5 Sporting for a morning of upland birds along the hills and ravines of Highland Hills Ranch. Shooting sporting clays on that terrain, though, exercised the SO5’s virtues to the hilt with convincing barrel regulation, consistent Optima choke patterns and a vivid sight picture.
A pair of events filled one afternoon of clays shooting with a Beretta SO5 Sporting.
In the first, teams of two were assigned for sporting clays. Trap machines throughout a hilly section of Highland Hills Ranch presented quartering and crossing targets that dropped into ravines or flew high directly at you against a brilliant, flawless sky.
Each station was taken by both shooters in a combined score. My partner shot first. When he missed, the target would already be angling into a rift, rapidly gaining gravitational speed from the higher elevations or simply flying away like a flushed grouse before a second shot — seconds ticking away in a narrowing window for meteoric droppers and long outgoers.
Even I was surprised by the targets pulverized with the Beretta SO5 Sporting. Clear sight pictures helped maintain my cool. The shot patterns delivered a strict degree of accuracy. Here it is: recognize the break point, pull the trigger.
The second event is a Highland Hills Ranch favorite called Star Wars. From a 40-foot hilltop, flurries are thrown non-stop toward the line of guns below. The Beretta SO5 enabled a slow, deliberate mount to pick your shot, break the target.
Recoil was near-zero. In part, the nine pounds of Beretta’s SO5 Sporting’s certainly helped absorb the reaction. While the heft contributed to recoil management, you never experienced a heavy gun or muzzle bias when shooting low-gun.
Most recently, Beretta has been touting central hinge-pin balance for the DT11 and 692 clays guns and the newer 486 Parallelos side-by-side field models. Beretta’s shotgun balance initiative has snowballed with the introduction of next-generation models. We’ve seen incrementally improved balance when the DT11 replaced the DT10, the 692 succeeded the 682 and the 486 Paralleo replaced the 471 Silver Hawk. We believe the progress is attributed to lessons-learned and Beretta’s treasury investments in computer systems for R&D and manufacturing.
Still, the Beretta Premium Division is high-touch. The shotguns and fashions are given context thorough luxury venues and personal service. As the Beretta Premium Division spreads its wings, expect the revitalized Beretta Trident Program of 14 affialiates on four continents to double over the next two years. Trips can be booked through the exclusive Beretta Trident travel concierge, John Burrell’s High Adventure Company.
In the mean time, nightfall at Highland Hills Ranch began with cocktails, moved to dinner and culminated on the terrace below at the crackling firepit whose embers swept upward toward the abundance of stars. Cigars and spirits enlivened our conversations. But if you turned back toward the lodge, glanced up at the expansive rear windows into the warm light of the great room, you could see a few Beretta Premium executives hard at work to fulfill our dreams of the sporting life.
Related Shotgun Life stories:
Driven Pheasants at Highland Hills Ranch With Chris Batha
Beretta Unleashes the New DT11 on America
New Beretta 692 Leapfrogs to the Top of Mid-Priced Clays Guns
Shooting the New Beretta 486 Side by Side in 12 Gauge
First Review of the New 20-Gauge Beretta 486 Side by Side