The evolution of an Italian design classic
Shooting Times & Country|September 23, 2020
The evolution of an Italian design classic
The Silver Pigeon is one of the best selling guns of all time. Simon Reinhold looks at its enduring appeal
Simon Reinhold

It’s one of the best-known, best-selling shotgun designs of all time, but does that make the Beretta Silver Pigeon or 68 series one of the best guns of all time?

Gunmaking is a little like the industrial version of Darwin’s theory of natural selection. The most adaptable survive. The best traits of those guns which have come before are used again and appear on the new models, while unsuccessful designs are dropped.

Looking at the Silver Pigeon in light of this gives us some clues as to why it was quite so popular with the gunbuying public. It might surprise you to learn that the inspiration and heritage of the gun’s design is deep-rooted in the British gun trade, though the rival that spurred the creative types in the northern Italy to produce the ancestors of the silver Pigeon came from John Moses Browing

Dominating the market

Though Beretta is one of the oldest gunmakers in existence, dating back to 1526, by 1860 it was only making around 300 guns a year. At the turn of the century, John Moses Browning brought his ‘superposed’ over-andunder shotgun to the market and began to dominate in all parts except the UK.

We maintained our game shooting tradition and the gun trade in London and Birmingham flourished, largely as a result of the economic engine that was the British Empire, where guns were used both in conquest and for sport hunting after the battle.

Because of the popularity of Browning’s newly designed over-and-under, in the early 1930s Pietro Beretta and his chief engineer and designer, Tullio Marengoni, set out to design a shotgun that could eclipse the Browning’s popularity.


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September 23, 2020