UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL
Photos: Haris Gikas
The stock of the 486 was pulled to reveal a Blitz action.
Finally I got my hands on the new 486. After reading about the new side by side for months and being confused by the reviews, I got a chance to pull off the stock and see what is inside, and look at the barrels and figure out, as best as I could, the meaning of Triblock.
As a lifelong Round Action enthusiast and a self declared proponent of the 625/471 actions I had high expectations for the new side by side. The elegance of Round Actions is not an accident, owed exclusively to their «roundness». In addition to being round, or rounded in most cases, the action bar in Round Actions, but also in most elegant side by sides, is parallel. It has the same depth at the front near the cross pin as in the back, at the foot of the standing breech. Measure a Dickson Round Action and you will get 23 millimeters depth at both places give or take a few tenths of a millimeter. The parallel shape of the bar yields the elegance associated with Round Actions.
If the bar is deeper in the back, under the breech face, the action takes on a wedge shaped look. Now, if you extend this line from the underside of the wedge into the stock you end up with a Merkel shape. Not bad if you like Merkels, but here we are discussing another genre altogether. It was mildly disappointing that Beretta have opted for the wedge shape in the 486. The action bar is 23 millimeters at the cross pin and 25 under the breech face. It is a rounded bar but a «wedgy» one (American readers can have a laugh but it is an accurate description).
The ball fences, the satin finish on all parts (except the barrels naturally!), the restrained engraving are saving graces. They aesthetically balance the wedge, which most people probably would not notice, since they are not obsessive gun writers.
This company photo shows the wedge shaped profile and the line of the stock.
Obsessivenes has its saving virtues. As far as I can tell from hours of browsing the Net, no other reviewer bothered to pull the stock of the 486 and show its innards. Probably because to do so involves unscrewing two engraved screws on the stock tang. And after that you need a long allen head driver to undo the stock bolt. Risking marring two engraved screwheads is an understandable hurdle.
Anyway, the stock was pulled and the innards examined and it is obvious that this is a Blitz action and not as stated in an Italian site: «Beretta 486 rappresenta una nuova gamma di doppiette boxlock con bascula arrotondata e batterie Anson-Deeley.» No caro amico, this is definitely NOT a batteria Anson-Deeley.
The first impression is that the work is clean and crisp as one would expect from Beretta. What is surprising is the level of complexity for a Blitz action. Six axles hold an action that includes compound lever sears made of two limbs each. Presumably the compound lever is there to provide decent trigger pulls.
The cocking lever see saws inside the bar.
The sears engage bents at the top of the tumblers (hammers), while the V springs are housed behind the hammers. The cocking is done via two see-sawing cocking levers in the action bar, these turn on a transverse axle. This axle goes right through the bar, at the action bridge. The recesses for these cocking levers are deep to allow the wide arc movement needed at the hammer end to cock the action. This is the cause of the wedge shape. If the cocking levers were of the to-and-fro type, as in Beretta’s own OUs, the action bar depth could have been made parallel.
The 486 Blitz action. Note the six axles holding for the internals and the V springs. The pointer is on the inertia single trigger mechanism.
The single trigger is inertia operated and has the familiar Beretta selector on the safety button. The trigger mechanism incorporates the only passive safety feature of this action: a block on the trigger when the gun is not held vertical, with the trigger guard pointing to the earth. How this feature is superior to the 626/471 second safety bent on the hammers eludes me.
Front view of the bar shows the rounded shape and also the cocking lever recesses. Also note the metal in front of the cross pin.
The action bar has lost the strengthening chamfers of the 626/471 bar. The edges of the lump recesses are square just like in British classic guns. The bridge also follows tradition and is level with the bar. The firing pins are separate parts, not incorporated in the hammers, and are pinned in place with transverse axles.
Before getting hold of the 486 I read the following comments about the barrels:
A British review said
«These are built on what I call a modified monoblock whereby the tubes and monoblock are welded and struck off to give an invisible joint. »
And Beretta on their Website said
«Exclusive Triblock technology
The barrels are matched thanks to the new Beretta Triblock system in order to deliver superior aesthetic and elegance which reflect the style of the classic demibloc shotguns. The care taken in producing the tapered external profile of the tubes enhances the instictive aiming.»
These descriptions were beyond me. It took a few seconds to remove the ejector retaining screw (pin in English gunsmith terminology) and I was stumped. A tiny roll pin holding the extractor actuator would not budge. So the examination of the barrels was limited to peering with a magnifying glass and flashlight under the ejectors.
This blown barrel on a 626 shows the advantages of the monobloc. The obstruction burst tore open the left barrel. The barrel was removed, replaced with a suitably profiled tube, the ribs relaid and the gun returned to service within a week.
I could not detect any sign of partial monobloc construction or welding tracks. What is plainly visible on the barrel flats are the tell tale lines of the dovetail lump. In Italian they call this method of barrel jointing Piani Fissi, roughly translated as undersoldered. Perhaps there are signs that were missed due to the ejectors being in the way. But so far these look like dovetail lump barrels to me. Exactly how Triblock differs from dovetailing I cannot tell.
Tribloc barrels, via the Beretta press release at IWA 2014. The slogan is explanatory: it costs the same as monobloc but it looks like a chopper lump from the outside. That is what the customer wants, that is what he gets.
Yes, the Triblock barrels do not have the visible monobloc line that annoys many American shotgunners. On the other hand, they are not as easily repairable as monobloc barrels. This is a theoretical advantage but once you have seen what can happen to barrels, you tend to give the situation some thought.
As for quality, the barrels I examined were straight, well struck up on the outside and faultless inside. The chambers are 3 inch, the forcing cones long, the bores chromed. The barrels are officially certified for steel shot by the Italian Proof House.
BALANCE AND HANDLING
The major parts of the 486 handle in the classic manner. This is a personal test on balance derived from empirical examination of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of shotguns.
Each major unit, ie barrels, stock and action, is held at the point where the hand would normally be when handling the assembled gun during active use. In a lively balanced gun the part weighs towards the center. So the barrels, held one third of the way up from the chambers, weigh back towards the chambers. The stock and action, held by the grip, weigh forward. The 486 parts handle just right . Seeing the extra holes in the stock to remove wood, it is evident that Beretta gave the balancing some thought and this resulted in the overall sense of the weight being in beween the hands.
Personally I would rate the 486 as better balanced than its predecessors.
There are also details that enhance the handling and usability of the 486. The trigger pulls are crisp, the safety and selector are easy to manipulate and positive, the concave rib and silver bead facilitate pointing.
The gun examined had a pistol grip and semi beavertail forend. Being a habitual barrel grabber I cannot get on with a beavertail. When extending the left hand and holding the barrels just ahead of the forend the 486 handles well for me. Since the 626s and the 471s I tried in the past were English stocked there can be no fair comparisons on that score. Overall the 486 feels like a lighter gun than its weight of 3,150 kg, about 6.9lbs.
As in the 471, there is a switch in the forend to select auto ejection or plain extraction.
It is hard to avoid comparisons. The preceding models featured Beretta’s own boxlock action which is an engineering marvel. Powered entirely by coil springs, the 626 action has only three axles, everything is robust and has proven to be a durable design. The six axles of the 486 contrast sharply with the simplicity of its forerunners.
But, the 626 and 471 have boxy shaped actions which also display a measure of «wedginess» in the bar. Arguably Beretta could have retained the innards of these tried and proven actions and rounded the bar. From a design point of view it was doable.
The choice to go to a new type of action, a Blitz rather than the proprietary boxlock, obviously has some internal company rationale. Looks wise the 486 with its rounded bar and fewer visible axles on the outside is obviously new and that counts a lot with marketing people. Whether it will prove as durable as its predecessors time will tell. The initial personal conclusion is that I liked it and enjoyed handling it. I am curious to see the 20 gauge version as well as the English stocked variants.
PS- Beretta released a PDF file with images of the Triblock barrel jointing system. It is slightly more analytical than the verbal descriptions, but only just. What I see is a through lump of sorts and the logical conclusion is that the system is similar to dovetail lumps.