Weve noticed a distinct improvement in the fit and finish of Berettas guns lately, and the 471 Silver Hawk was no exception. Our sample sported a well-figured piece of wood, dark chocolate in color. The buttstock sported a classic orange butt pad mated to a black spacer that marked a smart-looking transition from wood to pad. We liked having this pad as a feature on this gun. Too many times, makers seeking to keep a classic design classic achieve such looks by denying modern improvements.
We would not have been surprised to have received this gun with a finished, checkered wood end to the buttstock. But such aesthetics, while handsome, arent terribly practical. With the many technical fabrics that we have available these days to keep us warm and dry while hunting, a buttstock minus some sort of tacky (as in gripping, not cheap) butt pad has a tendency to slip from the shoulder during firing. A rubber butt pad, of course, eliminates such a problem. That Beretta put an orange one on this stockand fitted it perfectlywas the touch we feel was needed to combine the practical with the classic. However, the Beretta website indicates that this gun can also be ordered with a black-rubber butt pad, as well as a hard-plastic butt plate.
The wrist of this English-stocked gun was trim and provided ample room for a variety of hand sizes. It was also beautifully checkered on both sides in a tight, fine pattern that extended from just below the safety past the point of the elongated trigger tang. There also appeared a small diamond inset of checkering at the top of the wrist just to the front of the comb drop-off.
The buttstock was fitted nicely to the receiver. We found the inletting to be identical on both sides of the boxlock receiver and around the trigger guard inset. It was wonderfully finished around the extended trigger guard tang, with an almost seamless flush mount that nearly defies a fingertip run down it to define where the metal ends and the wood begins. This fine wood-to-metal fit was echoed on the splinter forend with its Anson push-type release, and the forends wood itself was a beautiful match to the buttstock both in figuring and color. (By the way, Berettas website notes this gun can also be ordered with a beavertail fore-end if you order the gun with a pistol grip, and if the websites pictures are indication, its nearly as graceful in appearance as the splinter on our sample.) The forend also sports wrap-around checkering, as well executed as it was on the buttstock, and a small metal, diamond-shaped insert that conceals the set screw of the forends guts was a nice visual addition.
We were impressed with the receiver detail. Forgoing false sideplates, Beretta instead scalloped/beveled the receiver sides for a bit of added texture, then provided nearly full coverage of an oak leaf pattern on the sides and bottom. The fences, too, sport the oak leaf pattern, but get further enhancement with a floral motif at their insides, which transition nicely to the flower centering the top lever swivel point.
The top lever itself had a small gold inlay of a hawks head, and the top tang had a bit of stitching-like engraving running down its sides from the fence rears to the safety top edge. The only real flaws we spotted were the slightly off-center alignment of two of the three screws holding the trigger assembly into place. We found no flaws in the finish of the barrels, which are of a monoblock design and with laser-fused lumps.
Mechanically, the safety was typical of Beretta, being of a forward/back engagement, with a side-to-side barrel selector integrated in the middle. We like very much that Beretta added an extra bump to the barrel selector of this single-selective-trigger gun, making for easy thumb identification and activation.
The top lever, on the other hand, we wish had been of a stay-open design. That its not adds frustration to the gun assembly process because it forces the user to keep the lever shoved hard to the right while engaging the lugs over the hinge pins and then swinging the barrels up to lock them into the block.
The assembly may very well have been the only awkward feature of this gun, for the Beretta 471 Silver Hawk was a delight to shoot. Its weight was squarely between the hands. It was fast on zippy targets, and yet controllable on long crossing presentations. In all, the gun equipped with its 28-inch barrels swung beautifully. The small, single silver front sight bead was just enough to provide some guidance in acquisition. We actually wouldnt have minded a slightly larger-diameter bead because the non-serrated rib on this gun was very low in profile. Recoil was certainly manageablewe had no issues with shot-to-shot recovery, even with the heavy target loads from Remington that we employed for the test.
We initially thought this gun shot a bit high, but after our testers fished around with their fore hand placements and brought them back a bit (hand cupped under the barrels with the pointer finger resting on the underside of the Anson release button for consistent placement), yet not enough to feel that the fore hand was unnaturally too far to the rear (i.e., it didnt cramp up the swing), the gun was spot on.
That brings us to believe that while nearly everyone will enjoy shooting this gun, taller shooters will probably want to have an additional spacer or so added at the back end to lengthen the stock and/or perhaps change the pitch a bit. Shooters of medium height, say in the 5.5- to 5.8-foot range, and women of average height and shorter in particular, we think will feel comfortable with the fit of this gun out of the box.
We experienced no mechanical failures to fire from barrel to barrel, regardless of the order in which they were fired. The ejectors worked without incident. A neat feature of this gun was the availability to change from ejector to extractor. A switch to the lower inside left of the forends inside was marked M for manual (extractors only) or E for ejectors. For those who dont like their shells flying all over Gods creation while theyre hunting, we think theyll appreciate this feature on the Silver Hawk.
The Silver Hawk also employs an auto-safety feature upon breaking the gun, a feature we appreciate having on a shotgun intended for shooting live birds. (A manual safety is available for order.) Further safety was incorporated via the guns hammer blocks, which prevent discharge if the firearm is dropped.
We were also impressed with the quality of the breaks from this gun, even at significant distance using the modified and full-choke tubes. Beretta includes five Mobil chokes with this gun. In addition to the two we used on shooting courses, we were also supplied with cylinder, improved, and improved modified choke tubes. Just like with the rubber butt pad, we give points to Beretta for recognizing the modern benefits of removable choke tubes.