Beretta 694: A Gun Made for Clays

Beretta’s new 694 is a purpose-built shotgun for the sporting clays course.

Beretta 694: A Gun Made for Clays

If you could design a gun specifically for sporting clays, what features would you want it to have? Not just a general-purpose competition gun or a field gun that’s been modified for the clay target sports — a from-the-ground-up gun built for the specific needs of sporting clays shooters.

You’d want it to weigh 8 pounds or more, with long barrels, maybe up to 32 inches. It would have to be comfortable, of course, and if it offered some fit adjustments so you could tweak it to your ergonomic comfort, that would be sweet. It would have to pattern well, and you’d want reliable, consistent ejection. Most important, you’d want your ideal sporting clays gun to be strong and durable so it could handle hundreds or thousands of rounds a month for years. And of course, you’d want it to look good but not cost a fortune. Building such a gun would be a challenge, no?

Beretta recognized the need for a sporting clays-specific gun in a moderate price range and took up the challenge. They consulted with their championship-level sponsored shooters and ran extensive R&D to determine what a sporting clays gun should look and feel like, and the end result is the Beretta 694.

Beretta is calling this “the gun built for future champions.” At an MSRP of about $4,500, it’s less expensive than the company’s flagship DT-11, and it has some sporting clays-specific features the Beretta 692 lacked.

I toured the Beretta factory in Brescia, Italy, last September and got to shoot the 694 at its debut event. Then I put hundreds of rounds through it back home at my local sporting clays course. Here’s what your customers will want to know.

First Impressions

The first thing you’ll notice about the 694 is its sleek, modern styling. There’s no fancy scrollwork on the receiver — rather, it’s a simple matte finish with a distinctive engraved blue swoosh. The Beretta three-arrow logo appears on the bottom of the receiver, also in blue, and the wood is a lovely grade 2.5+ oiled walnut. The thick palm swell combined with a slim neck help place the hands exactly where they should be. All of this adds up to a chic, racy look and a naturally comfortable feel.

The gun comes in an attractive ABS plastic, locking, cloth-lined case. Five Optima Bore HP choke tubes are included: cylinder, skeet, improved cylinder, mod and improved mod. A choke tube wrench and a bottle of gun oil are also included.

Sporting Clays Specifics

At the launch event, Beretta representatives stressed two key takeaways: This gun is built to shoot thousands upon thousands of rounds, and it’s built specifically for sporting clays shooters. This is not a trap gun or a field gun that’s been modified with sporting clays shooters in mind.

The 694’s stock is designed for increased field of vision — about a 5-degree wider field of vision (downrange) than previous models, which gives the shooter an advantage on low targets and can help stop you from lifting your face off the stock to get a better view. This wider field of view is accomplished in part by channels cut into both sides of the top of the stock.

This is, of course, difficult to objectively quantify in the field when you’re actually shooting the gun, but it all adds up to better target vision — an undeniable advantage. A wider comb and blade help guide the gun to the proper place on the shooter’s face. The stock is available with drops of 35/50mm and 35/55mm — the 35/55mm version features Beretta’s B-Fast adjustability system.

Length of pull on the Beretta 694 is 375mm (14.75 inches) with an 18mm recoil pad and a centrally positioned trigger, but the trigger can be adjusted plus or minus a few millimeters for precise LOP adjustments. LOP extensions are available, and a 23mm recoil pad is included with the gun as well.

More weight is built into the receiver for a better balance in the hands. Each 694 is balanced before leaving the factory, but weights can be added to the forearm or the front of the barrels to suit your personal preference.

Mechanically, the Beretta 694 has a new steel opening lever with a lower profile and anti-glare finish. It’s designed to be less of a visual impediment to give you better sight of the target and reduce eye fatigue. To that end, the top of the receiver has an anti-glare finish as well. This made a noticeable difference on my sunniest day of shooting.

Mechanics and Durability 

As you would expect from the world’s oldest gun maker, massive amounts of R&D went into the development of this gun, as was demonstrated in a presentation during our factory tour. In addition, Beretta performed extensive testing before releasing the 694 to the market. The test launch included 25,000 rounds each through four test guns to ensure long-term durability.

One of the noticeable nods to durability is the redesigned steel forend. A new spring-loaded auget button or forend iron is self-adjustable and smaller than in previous Beretta models. Smaller size means less metal, which means less heat transferred to the shooter’s hand during long shooting sessions. This button is designed to be rock-solid, so the forend will not loosen as the gun heats up, and movement of the forend is reduced over the lifetime of the gun — another indication that this gun is built to last.

The Beretta 694 uses the company’s cold hammer-forged Steelium Plus barrels with a highly elongated forcing cone — it’s about half the length of the barrel. Such a long forcing cone improves ballistics by keeping the shot column from deforming as it travels the length of the barrel. This gives you denser, more uniform patterns and less perceived muzzle jump. The barrels are internally chrome-plated, with a tapered (10mm to 8mm) top rib, a ventilated side rib and a white front bead.

The barrel selector is integrated into the safety, which sports new checkering. Newly designed ejectors are fitted with powerful springs. The shorter forend iron and steel construction, along with reinforced ejector pin levers, improves the stability of ejection and offers improved durability. In 400 rounds of testing, I had zero problems with ejection.

Notably, this gun has 3-inch chambers, like the DT-11. Although it is built for sporting clays, the longer chamber makes it suitable as a field gun if you care to take it out for upland birds.

On the Course

The test gun I received had 30-inch barrels and weighed just shy of 8 pounds. I put 400 rounds through the 694 over the course of three separate shooting days. At 5 feet, 4 inches tall, I am certainly not the “average” size shooter that off-the-shelf guns are designed to fit, but I was able to shoot the 694 well enough to break plenty of targets without making any fit adjustments.

If I were to keep this gun longer, some LOP and comb height adjustments, at a minimum, would be required. Two fellow shooters, both men about 6 feet tall, shot the gun as well. One reported an excellent fit, while the other would definitely take advantage of some of the adjustments next time.

Although perhaps a bit on the light side for a sporting clays gun, the 694 didn’t feel a bit whippy. It pointed and swung naturally for me, and as mentioned, I had no trouble with extraction, nor did I experience any other problems with the gun. The opening lever was a bit stiff initially, as you’d expect with any brand-new gun. And Beretta is not playing around when they say the auget button and forend iron are solid — the forearm was noticeably difficult to remove the first few times I disassembled the gun, for both my husband and me. I quickly got the hang of it, and it became easy to remove after the first handful of uses.

All in all, I found the 694 effortless to shoot — the carefully thought-out ergonomics of the stock really do help the gun settle into the proper position on the face and in the hands. While the stock wasn’t a perfect fit for me, plenty of adjustability options are available, and Beretta will make you a custom stock if you’d like to go that route. If you anticipate needing a good bit of adjustment out of the box, you’ll want the model with the B-Fast adjustable comb.

You can get the Beretta 694 with 30- or 32-inch barrels in a right- or left-handed model. The standard models have an MSRP of $4,500, while the B-Fast models retail for $4,850.


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