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by Michael G. Sabbeth
IT IS ONE MATTER TO UNDERSTAND THE HISTORY OF AN ART; TO GRASP ITS DETAILS, MASTER ITS THEMES AND APPRECIATE ITS WHIMSICAL RIVULETS. IT’S QUITE ANOTHER TO TIP TOE INTO ITS HISTORY AND WATCH IT BLOSSOM INTO THE FUTURE. I HAVE BEEN FAVORED WITH MANY VIBRANT EXPERIENCES BECAUSE OF MY RELATIONSHIP WITH SAFARI MAGAZINE AND A FEW OTHERS, BUT I SAY UNABASHEDLY THAT NO WRITING ASSIGNMENT HAS AFFORDED ME THE EXPERIENCE OF BEING PART OF HISTORY’S FLOW AS HAS WRITING ABOUT THE ENGRAVERS OF BERETTA’S HIGH GRADE GUNS.
"BELLE ARTI" and BERETTA
The history of Italian engraving is a subset of the develop- ment of structures to advance the Italian language and art. For example, Dante Alighieri (1300), considered the ‘father’ of the Italian language, was the dominant force to have books written in an Italian language rather than in Latin. The Italian ‘language,’ however, was actually an array of several dialects. Regarding the engraving art, from the 1200’s through the 1500’s, Italy could boast of notable artisans such as Giotto. These artists, however, were solitary craftsmen that worked alone and independently, just as writers wrote in different Italian dialects. They were often secretive about their tech- nique and tools.
Beginning in the 1500s, a new structure variously referred to as ‘scuolas’ (schools) or bottegas (small shops or studios) or
academies flourished that institutionalized the apprentice system. Prior to the bottega institution, no structure existed to identify, train and promote the practitioners of the arts or to establish quality standards.
The academy system that began to flourish in the early 1500’s specialized in painting, engraving and sculpture. Collectively, they were referred to as the “Belle Arti” or the ‘beautiful arts.’ Significantly, the bottega/academy system implementated the Italian cultural philosophy that methodi- cal disciplined teaching within a defined structure was vital for cultivating and sustaining the arts.
Illustrative of this unifying structure is the Italian linguistic academy “Accademia Della Crusca,” the most prominent academy in the field of language. Founded in 1583, it served to unify and protect the evolving coherent Italian language first conceived by Dante.
The bottega system germinated at the time that Beretta was established. Fabbrica d’Armi Pietro Beretta considers its ‘‘birth certificate’ to be a receipt dated October 3, 1526 from the Doge of Venice to master Bartolomeo Beretta of Gardone, Brescian territory, for 185 arquebus barrels.. Thus, Beretta’s ‘birth’ was contemporaneous with the institutionalization of promoting the fine arts. These two phenomena, one artistic, the other corporate, have sup- ported and elevated each other for a half millennia up to this moment when the engrav- ing art is at its zenith and Beretta has become the art’s dominant patron.
The Art is in the Blood
“Un artista ce l’ha nel sangre,” Giulio Timpini told me. My skillful interpreter, Chiara Pivato, from Beretta’s marketing department, translated: “The art is in the blood.” Giulio Timpini knows whereof he speaks. Past director of the Beretta engraving bottega, he and his family have been engravers for Beretta for two hundred and fifty years.
During our interview Giulio referred to the concept “sensi- bilita,” by which he means the spiritual dimension of the engraving art, that which resides in the heart, the blood and in the soul of the artisan.
The rigorous training of elite engravers encompasses three foundational techniques, which Giulio poetically analogizes to the three classical art forms. The first and most fundamen- tal engraving technique is the use of the hammer. It is com- parable to the basic sculptor’s technique applied to stone. Both employ the same strength, motion and body position.
Bulino is the second technique taught. The engraver uses the fine burin or graver (actually, dozens of different ones) and the loop, a magnifying lens, to remove steel millimeter by millimeter from the object’s surface. Pressure from the hand rather than from a hammer strike guides the graver and makes the cuts.
The bulino technique yields those soul-stirring scenes of ani- mals that have the spark of life and landscapes so vivid you sense the whisper of the wind. Giulio compares the bulino technique with painting and the graver to the painter’s brush.
The engraver employing the bulino technique will usually be seated while the engraver applying the hammer technique will almost always be standing, and will usually walk around the vise with the precision of a ballet dancer to make the cuts.
One of the most daunting bulino applications is the techni- ca chiaroscuro, the darkening and lightening of the steel’s sur- face. The luminescence of oil paint seen in the works of the finest painters such as Caravaggio and Titian is replicated tri- umphantly by the engraver by minutely altering the depth and angle of the removed steel.
Oreficeria, the inlaying of gold and other precious metals, is the third technique. The skills are derived from crafting gold jewelry, the art that led to the careers of many of Italy’s earli- est engravers. The multiple facets of the engraving art can thus be understood as the synthesis of the arts of the sculp- tor, the painter and the jewelry maker.
A minimum of five years is required to become reasonably skilled at these three techniques. Transforming technique into art, however, requires mastery of another artistic dimen- sion – the knowledge of the animals, their habitat and phys- iology and the knowledge of landscape, terrain and sky.
To realistically reproduce the charging lion, the mallards against a misty sky, or indeed, your spouse, your home, your dog or your jet, the engraver must become an artist. The artist must also master the classical styles; Baroque, Romanesque, English scroll and the deep chisel cut. Also to be mastered are what Plato referred to as balance and proportion, not only within the objects themselves but balance and proportion within the physical constraints imposed by the borders and shapes of the object.
The Beretta studio has about fifteen engravers. Their work day begins at about seven in the morning, when the natural light flooding into the studio is bright and direct. Employment openings are rare. A new engraver is hired onl
every five to ten years. Each artist has his or her own artistic strength – scroll, birds, animals, gold inlay. “I let them create,” Giulio says. “Each artist must follow his own path.” Giulio discerns each artist’s passions and strengths and assigns high grade gun projects based on those individual talents.
Beretta’s ‘Cathedral of the Mind’
The artist that works on a vast canvas can illustrate more of his skills than the one confined to working on a small surface. Giulio lyrically analogizes the opulent opportunities on the large canvas to a cathedral. “If you work within a cathedral, the artist can do many things.” The cathedral metaphor also applies to working for a large successful company such as Beretta, where more opportunities to express artistic talent are offered.
“Working for Beretta,” Giulio says, “is like having a cathedral. There are so many different guns and artists and subjects. The artist has the freedom to express what is inside him.”
Chiara helped Giulio refine and clar- ify his ideas and imagery as he strug- gled to express thoughts he said he had not previously expressed. Their faces were luminescent, as if transported to another world as they interacted as flu- idly as an elegant pair of ice skaters.
Making a premium gun is a great responsibility. On all aspects of the pre- mium guns, Giulio has always worked closely with Ugo Gussalli Beretta
(Beretta’s CEO), who he refers to as his mentor. Giulio explains that Beretta has given him the possibility to build a cathedral. With a flourish he adds, “It is the same as when the Pope asked Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Ceiling.”
Giulio shared that he could have earned more money leav- ing the valley and moving to Milan or Florence. He stayed at Beretta, however, because of family and history. “You don’t forget your origins,” he said. “Would I leave?” he asks rhetor- ically. He shakes his head. “No, I will miss my cathedral.”
In addition to its bottega engravers, Beretta contracts with the finest independent engravers. I visited several in Italy and had the serendipitous good fortune to meet with Ken Hunt this October at the third Grand Masters Engraving Program in Emporia, Kansas sponsored by the Glendo Corporation.
Bottega Giovanelli is located high in the mountains in Magno, about ten kilometers further up the valley from the Beretta facilities. The morning of my visit the air was clean and clear and as crisp as chilled apples. The building’s interi- or and exterior are adorned with murals, sculpture and pho-
tographs. The bottega employs about two dozen engravers, one third of which are women. Master engraver and Giovanelli manager Dario Cortini greeted me and Jarno Antonelli and gave us a leisurely tour of the spacious, multi-level offices and work areas.
Directing our attention to different gun actions as we walked through the studio, Dario explained the la tec- nica della linea, where very fine thin lines – molto fine – were used on the game scenes to control the light, a technique mastered by Durer.
Dario identified some advantages of the line technique. The engraver is less likely to make mistakes employ- ing it and the lines are less vulnerable to wear than are the fine points
employed in the tecnica puntino. “It is an honor to be selected by Beretta,” Dario said. It is
the most important firearms maker in the world, he added. No other maker has Beretta’s influence and prestige. But as an artist, more important to Dario than Beretta’s prestige is its philosophical relationship with the engravers.
Beretta doesn’t tell him what to do. No one tells him any- thing like, ‘I need two pheasant, a Labrador Retriever and an elephant to go!’ On behalf of all of its engravers, Dario told me how Beretta allows the engravers to engrave in their own style, asking their opinion about what they can do best. Dario then made arguably the most powerful statement an artist can make: “Beretta trusts me.”
Giacomo Fausti greeted me and Jarno Antonelli like old friends in the main salon of the Creative Art bottega. I had met Giacomo the previous year at the Grand Masters Engraving Program. Creative Art is the second most important bottega that does work for Beretta. Founded only eight years ago, Creative Art has catapulted to the highest world renown. Many of their best engravers started with Giovanelli and many had been students of Giulio Timpini.
Mingling among the busy engravers, I noted several Giubileos, exquisite DT 10 sporting target guns, one 687 EELL covered with magnificent pheasant and yelping dogs and a pulse-raising SO 6 EELL titanium action boasting gold inlays that prompted thoughts of a second mortgage.
Allowed to take the action from the vise, I studied its sur- faces with the respect and care of an angler delicately hold- ing the soon-to-be released trout.
I inquired how the engraver achieved the striking dark shading of the head of a charging elephant engraved on a double rifle. Giacomo explained it is done with meticulously fine cross-hatched lines that capture the light. No ink is used.
My last visit in Italy was with Mauro Dassa of Incisioni Dassa. I have known Mauro for several years and consider him a friend. He is at the top of the craft and is imbued with -a contagious passion for the art. He has engraved many Beretta premium guns, including stunning new SO 10 mod- els, during a relationship that spans several years.
Mauro works with his uncle, brother and father at his airy, scrupulously neat bottega in Collebato, which means ‘beauti- ful small mountains,’ a mid-sized town about one-half hour’s drive from the Beretta offices. I chatted with Mauro amidst the background din of the staccato tapping of his brother’s and uncle’s hammers striking their chisels.
The studio’s several polished wood cabinets overflowed with books on art, engraving and travel. Photographs and small sculptures adorned the shelves like birds in a nest. Desks are covered with calendars and folios featuring its work.
One of the great joys and privileges of this assignment was interviewing Ken Hunt at this year’s Grand Masters Engraving Program. This article gave me the justifica- tion to ask specific detailed questions about the style and technique of this unsurpassed masteroftheart.
Beretta had asked Ken to engrave and adorn one of the surprise ‘birthday’ guns for Ugo Gussalii Beretta. “Of course, it is an honor,” Ken said, “to be selected to create this unique gun for Mr. Beretta.”
Since it was a dominant feature of the birthday gun, Ken patiently explained his unique methods for coloring the gold in exquisite hues and then applying it to the action and the barrels. He described the process as just like painting. The action must first be prepared to secure the gold so that it would withstand the contraction and expansion of the steel
from firing tens of thousands of cartridges. “No one else has used this technique,” Ken said.
Almost all buyers of Beretta high grade guns in the United States work with Peter Horn, the vice president of the company’s retail division. One of the reasons for Peter’s prominence is his close relationship with the elite engravers.
He knows their schedules, he knows their styles and he knows how to align their rep- resentations with the customers’ personal artistic preferences. Peter insightfully notes: “Working with the master engravers in and around Gardone is equivalent to
walking amongst the master painters of the Renaissance.” A unifying theme always effervesced to the surface in any conversation I had with these independent engravers: that Beretta is the dominant artistic force in the valley. Beretta sus- tains the engraving art. It has done so for five hundred years and I expect it will continue to do for so for as long as people value the art of the gun.
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by Michael G. Sabbeth
Tom Bryant exited the shooting cage and manipulated a small device hooked on his belt. “I was losing concentration,” he said. “My blood sugar was a little high.” He infused insulin from his pump into his tissue, then wished me well as I stepped into the cage. I’ve shot with Tom for years yet had not known he was a Type I Juvenile Diabetic.
Diabetes is a pernicious disease that requires constant vigilance. Because superb information is readily available on the Internet, I do not address the disease’s severe pathology. This article describes metabolic processes relevant to shooters and offers suggestions about how they can achieve peak performance through proper preparation and treatment during a shooting event.
Carbohydrates – sugars, starch and fiber – are our main source of energy. Digestion breaks them down into sugars called ‘glucose’ when in the blood stream. Insulin, a hormone, enables glucose to enter cells, primarily muscle cells, to be used for energy or to be stored as glycogen in the liver and kidneys for future energy use. Blood sugar is the sole energy source for the brain.
For most of us, insulin is produced in the pancreas and released into the blood as needed as the glucose level rises. However, the pancreas of a person with Type 1 diabetes cannot produce insulin and, thus, the diabetic cannot process glucose for energy. The Type 1 diabetic must inject insulin from an external source to prevent blood glucose from rising to levels that can be fatal and to process it for energy.
A person with Type 2 diabetes produces insufficient insulin or is resistant to insulin and, thus, does not process glucose efficiently. As opposed to the Type 1 diabetic, the Type 2 diabetic has available various and less drastic treatments –exercise, weight loss, medication, sometimes insulin injection –to more efficiently process glucose. Many people with Type 2 diabetes remain undiagnosed for years because the symptoms are common among non-diabetics.
Normal blood glucose levels range from 90 to 110 milligrams of glucose per deciliter of blood (90- 110 mg/dl). The challenge for the Type 1 diabetic is to infuse into the blood stream the amount of insulin appropriate for the blood glucose levels so that a normal blood glucose range can be maintained under an array of physical and mental conditions. Hypoglycemia occurs when excess insulin causes the blood glucose level to drop below the normal range. Hyperglycemia occurs when the glucose level rises above the normal range because insulin in the blood is inadequate. In either instance, significant consequences will occur that, in the extreme, can be life-threatening. Severe consequences of mismanaged diabetes – for example, foot numbness or ketoacidosis
(poisoning the blood when inadequate insulin causes fat to be burned for energy) – are beyond the scope of this article.
How I Feel and Why
Blood glucose levels affect every function of the body and mind. An array of symptoms become apparent when the glucose levels are out of metabolic alignment. I wrote previously that Br yant noticed he was losing his concentration. Loss of concentration and focus can result from one or more causes, and when causes compound, the consequences quickly become detrimental and substantial.
Low blood glucose levels prevent the cells, including the brain, from receiving adequate energy. The body thinks it is starving. The person will feel weak, lethargic and unfocused. High glucose levels, the result of inadequate insulin, indicate that glucose is not entering the cells and generating energy. Symptoms such a dizziness, compromised vision, thirst and excess urination result.
Relevant to shooters, high glucose levels affect the eyes and diminishes concentration. Dr. Boris Draznin, Director, Adult Diabetes Program at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, explains that elevated sugar impairs the small vessels in the eyes and gets into the lenses, drawing in fluid and swelling them. Light penetration and vascular oxygen levels are diminished, compromising their functions and causing inaccurate information to be sent to the brain. Mental stress caused by impaired eyesight, somewhat similar to that caused by chronic back pain, for example, compounds the physical causes of sub-optimal performance. Blood sugar levels play a key
role in shooting because focus and concentration are vital. Br yant told me his vision is best and, thus, he shoots best, when his glucose levels are between 110 and 120mg/dl. He begins to get shaky below 90 and loses focus, just as concentration is compromised at high glucose levels. Br yant said he can ‘shoot through’ when he is low on energy but he can’t fight through bad vision. He cannot see well when blood sugars are high and when low, vision is compromised because he sees spots and flashes.
Mark Haywood is a long distance cyclist, a superbly fit athlete and a Type 1 diabetic. He experiences excessive urination and thirst when glucose levels are high. These symptoms not only negatively affect performance but also affect preparation for performance.
Dr. Shari Fox, a Denver endocrinologist, explains that at
high glucose levels, excess glucose overwhelms the kidneys and enters the urine. Osmotic pressure in this abnormal metabolic state pulls water from cells into the urine, increasing the need for urination and creating dehydration. A person feels thirsty because the osmotic pressure from high sugar concentrations signals sensors in the brain that there is not enough available water in the blood.
Another deleterious consequence of dehydration is decreased blood volume makes blood thicker – a higher concentration of red blood cells – and more resistant to flow, leading to poor circulation. The thirst and urination that result from hyperglycemia the night before a shooting event will affect sleep and concentration and undermine shooting performance.
With an understanding of the endocrinology of the disease, the diabetic shooter can now better understand why trying to reduce thirst and, perhaps, fatigue, by drinking a sugary energy drink will exacerbate rather than reduce the diabetic symptoms. Thirst and fatigue will increase because the blood sugar will spike. More insulin will be required to counter the high sugar levels, which then risks low glucose levels from excess insulin, continuing the destructive cycle.
Mark Haywood emphasizes the need for ‘tight control,’ the ability of the diabetic to keep glucose at normal or near-normal levels at all times. Tight control enhances a person’s sensitivity to small changes in glucose levels, enabling the diabetic to take small actions to achieve normal glucose levels rather than dramatic ones, thereby reducing the risk of a trampoline effect of repeatedly bouncing from high to low.
Doing and Attitude
All calories are not equal. They have different effects on insulin production in the non-diabetic and different insulin process requirements for all persons. Thus,diabeticshootersshould become familiar with the Glycemic Index (GI), a sliding scale that ranks how different carbohydrates influence insulin production. Knowing the insulin response of a food helps predict blood sugar responses to insulin.
In the non-diabetic, foods and drinks with a high GI trigger a significant insulin response from the pancreas. In the diabetic, high GI carbohydrates require more insulin to be injected in order to process them.
In general, food with a low GI, and thus, a lower insulin response, are preferable for diabetics because they can be processed into energy with smaller amounts of insulin.
This results in a more normal metabolic state, sustained energy and consistent mental alertness.
Here’s how to apply the GI to the diabetic shooter. As a snack, it is preferable to eat the same amount of carbohydrates in the form of a peach (GI 28) than jellybeans, (GI 80). Similarly, if thirsty, it is preferable to drink water than a sugary energy drink.
A consistent disciplined routine is key to the diabetic’s success in life generally and in shooting sports specifically. Preparation is important, as illustrated by the need to control glucose levels the night before a shooting event. Mark Haywood takes notes on his blood sugars before, during and after every athletic event and reviews them to replicate all the variables that were successful in controlling his glucose levels. He then can make adjustments for future treatment.
Tom Bryant’s food intake is routinized and consistent. In the morning he eats a peanut butter and honey sandwich and drinks coffee – always with the same amount of sugar. “If I take too much insulin in the morning,” Bryant said, “I tank bythetimeIgettotheshoot.”
Bryant integrates many variables into his pre-shooting and shooting routines – how many hours he must travel to the range, whether he will walk or use a cart, whether the shoot is half a day or a full day. He starts a shoot with his blood sugar a little high, knowing it will drop into normal range as he walks around.
He brings snacks of dried fruit, granola bars (low GI) and commercial low-carbohydrate drinks containing electrolytes. He checks his blood sugar level several times during the day and carries about fifteen grams of a high GI carbohydrate – glucose tablets, candy – just in case he miscalculates and goes low.
The insulin pump has been a blessing for Bryant because it keeps the glucose levels smooth and additional insulin is easy to infuse. He told me, “I am a master of no will power! Now I can eat whatever I want and just shoot up a little more.” He’s been a diabetic for more than half a century, but, he told me, “I’m better than I’ve ever been and having more fun. The pump has made it possible to compete at a higher level. I’m thankfulforwhatIhave.”
Colleague Steve Bieringer is a Type 1 diabetic, a cyclist and part of the legal staff of the American Diabetes Association. He emphasizes the importance of a positive attitude. He ignores the dismal advertisements of the dangers of diabetes. He’s motivated by positive reinforcement derived from the success of people despite their diabetes. He told me, “We’re ordinary people going through life having been dealt a bad hand. You work and take care of yourself and your responsibilities. That’s motivating. I won’t allow diabetes to undermine what I value.”
Diabetes, especially Type 1, is a difficult disease that demands near constant attention. However, with control and preparation, there’s no reason why diabetes should interfere with your fun or compromise your shooting performance. Type 1 diabetic Gary Hall Jr. won ten Olympic swimming medals. Type 1 diabetic Jay Cutler quarterbacks the Chicago Bears. Hundreds of Type 1 diabetics successfully compete in Iron Man Triathlons. Don’t let diabetes prevent you from getting your gold medal.
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Hunters are accused of lacking compassion, of being heartless uncaring murderers of beautiful animals. These accusations are among the most vicious in our hypersensitive culture, comparable to saying someone is a racist or doesn’t recycle. Hunters’ neck hair sticks up like striking cobras as they try to fend off the assaults. “My money preserves habitat; my money manages game animals! I care!” they soulfully cry out. Hunters are correct yet they lose.
I have seen pro-hunter / pro-firearms debaters, who have more brains in their urine samples than their opponents have brains, lose the debates. We have the facts, logic and morality on our side, yet we lose! Why? Because most hunter advocates have not learned this important skill: how to fight back by evaluating the consequences of anti-hunting policies using the language of the attackers. When we use this technique, we undermine the attacks and turn the tables on the attackers.
Do hunters lack compassion? An examination of three situations shows conclusively that hunters have compassion and anti-hunters do not.
1. The brutal winter of 2008 in Gunnison, Colorado risked the deaths of a majority of deer and elk. Government agencies, hunters and businesses contributed money to buy and distribute food. Appeals for assistance to so-called ‘animal rights’ groups, PETA, HSUS, among others, were rebuffed. The rationale of the refusing organizations: they would be saving the animals only so hunters could kill them later.
2. In 2014, under the auspices of The Dallas Safari Club, an auction was held to hunt one mature non-reproducing black rhinoceros in Namibia. The proceeds of the hunt would fund anti-poaching programs, clean water facilities, protect younger vulnerable rhinos and provide food for the villagers. This auction was viciously attacked by anti-hunters with tactics that included death threats to DSC staff and to hunters.
3. The demagoguery following the death of Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe created a “Cecil Effect” of losing hunters, revenue, food for orphanages and the need to cull two hundred lions which generated no revenue but which increased poaching.
What can we learn? Increased animal deaths, poverty, poaching and revenue loss result from the anti-hunting policies. But more profound lessons can be learned. Compassion, born of Latin roots, has two components: a feeling of sympathy for another coupled with a desire to alleviate the suffering. Compassion, then, requires both empathy and a desire to act on that empathy.
You see the problem with compassion? Compassion, a noble concept in theory, is easily abused and manipulated because it doesn’t require anyone to do anything! You can be judged as compassionate based on feelings alone. Compassion can be morality on the cheap. As Aristotle wrote, “It is easy to be moral in your sleep.”My key point: hunters are accused of lacking compassion because they kill animals, yet the anti-hunter smugly views himself as compassionate without any regard to the destructive real-life consequences of his actions and beliefs. In the examples above, more animals died and more animals will die (and human suffering increases) as a direct consequence of the so-called compassion of these anti-hunting pressure groups. But the anti-hunter does not care! Reality and truth are irrelevant. Feeling good is more important than doing good. Keeping animals alive is the measure of compassion for animals. Hunters possess true compassion. But we need to make the best arguments to show why we deserve to win the debate.
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by Michael G. Sabbeth
I watched Teknys shotguns being made about a year ago during a tour of Beretta’s main production facility in Gardone, Val Trompia. Production of the receivers was most intriguing. Billets of nickel chromium steel were stacked in a rack about ten slots wide and twenty high – gleaming in the direct overhead sunlight like precious bullion bars.
The long extension arm of the massive bright yellow robot removed a billet from a slot, and, in spastic bursts, moved it at changing angles for the drills to cut, shape and polish the steel. Machined to tolerances of about 1/10,000 of an inch, the completed receiver was returned to rack and, with computerized precision, the robotic arm withdrew another raw billet.
I became a fan of the Teknys shotgun series several years ago when I bought a 20 gauge sporting clays model. I was thus enthused to test the Teknys Gold Target and to share my impressions and observations. I provide a brief
history of the Teknys to illustrate the upgrades in the Gold Target model and then describe the shooting regimen I used to test it. Comments about the gun from novice shooters to well-seasoned coaches, in addition to my own, add to the evaluation of this shotgun.
As always when writing about Beretta guns, I obtained background information on the Teknys Gold Target model from Jarno Antonelli, the brilliant marketing manager with the fifty gigabyte brain at Beretta’s main office in Gardone. The name ‘Teknys’ was coined by Beretta to capture overtones of technology, research and innovation combined with practical experiences from the field and clay target courses.
The origin of the Teknys is the AL391 Urika (AL stands for Automatico Leggero – Lightweight Automatic) designed in 2000 and which replaced the AL390 series that was manufactured commencing in 1994. The Beretta family, primarily President Ugo Gussalli Beretta and son Franco, wanted a semi-auto shotgun series more refined than the Urika. Their collaborative efforts with dozens of engineers and research managers and designers resulted in the Teknys series, introduced in 2002.
Design advances included a receiver with a highly scratch and corrosion resistant nickel- based finish, a new gas valve design to reduce maintenance, a new barrel profile (Optima Bore), new choke tubes (Optima Choke), new recoil pad (Gel tek) and a luminous front sight (Truglo type).
Other changes enhanced the gun’s elegance and aesthetics – such as an innovative wood finish for the standard version (X-Tra Wood), an up-graded oil-finished wood for the Gold models, a green enamel insert for the Teknys field version and a blue enamel insert for the competition configuration. A new checkering pattern was also introduced.
As with all Urika and Teknys model, the Gold Target employs a self-compensating gas operating system. Gas from the fired cartridge cycles the action by being vented through the spring-loaded valve in the cylinder. The system adjusts automatically to the pressures of each cartridge, thereby achieving flawless and reliable performance with an array of shot loads ranging from 24 to 57 grams of any factory cartridge or equivalent. This gas system offers exceptional recoil reduction.
The Gold Target features Optima Bore barrels and Optima Choke tubes. These 12 gauge barrels have internal profiles of 18.6 mm of diameter (0.732 in.) whereas conventional barrels normally have 18.3/18.4 mm (0.720/0.724 in) diameters. The Optima Bore profile has been specifically designed for competition purposes. Beretta claims that its design considerably improves shot pattern distribution, felt recoil reduction and shot velocity optimization.
The Optima Bore barrel only accepts Optima choke tubes. The five choke tubes included with the gun are longer and slimmer compared to the traditional Beretta Mobilchoke tubes. Their internal profile is designed to enhance the concentration and distribution of shot patterns. Barrels and chokes handle steel shot.
Unlike previous Teknys models, the Gold Target has the same improved spinning and self- cleaning valve system as the Urika 2. As gas pressure is fed into the
gas cylinder, a series of expandable fingers on the piston expand outwardly to clean the gas cylinder as the action cycles. During cycling, the piston spins, causing the sharp ‘scraper teeth’ on its leading edge to cut into, dislodge and remove carbon deposits on the cylinder’s forward interior section. This improved cleaning action greatly contributes to enhanced reliability and longer functioning shooting periods between cleaning.
The four major enhancements of the Gold Target model elevate it to an out-of-the-box world-class target shotgun suitable for all clay target disciplines. The Gold Target has the Beretta Balance System to alter forward weight by adding an additional cap to the base forend cap. Three weights are provided, 10, 70 and 110 grams.
Beretta has added to the Gold Target an adjustable stock with a memory system. Comb height and cast-on and cast-off settings can be easily changed by using the patented locking design of the memory system. The device is made from a carbon reinforced technopolymer for durability.
Comb adjustments are made within seconds by inserting the supplied hexagonal key into slots in the device and loosening and tightening as desired. Cast- on and cast-off adjustments are equally easy but require the removal of the comb.
The shotgun is supplied with a second rib, 10 mm wide and slightly stepped to the rear. Whereas the rib mounted on the gun is designed to shoot a 50% pattern over the aiming point, the second rib is designed to shoot 70% above the point of aim. I confess I shot only a few rounds using the second rib. I did not count pellet holes on the pattern board but my observation led me to conclude that the percentage distribution as described was reasonably accurate.
The engineering design of this rib system is creative in its durability and simplicity. With the barrel removed from the receiver, only thirty seconds or so are needed to remove and replace the ribs. A disassembly punch tool is inserted in a slot on the rib located a few millimeters behind the front bead and used to slide the locking metal strip rearward. By special order, two other ribs are available, one yielding a pattern 60% over point of aim and another yielding an 80% pattern over point of aim. (Please note that the ribs are not interchangeable with the Teknys Gold Sporting or Trap ribs.)
The system I found most impressive is the Recoil Reduction System. It is a removable spring- mass recoil reduction device installed in the stock, just above and going rearward from the pistol grip. As I describe in detail later, it is stunningly effective. Combined with the inherent recoil absorbing qualities of the self-compensating gas system, it is difficult to imagine a softer shooting shotgun.
A few other features of the gun merit mention. The Gold Target, only available in 30" and retailing for $2100, boasts a select oil- finished walnut buttstock and forend, which is slimmer than standard Beretta Urika and Teknys forends. It has a 3 inch chamber, a
cross bolt reversible for left- handed shooters, a quick bolt release that can be easily installed, a white front bead and a steel mid bead and weighs, with the light forend cap, eight pounds. The gun also offers the shim buttstock adjustment system found in all Urkia and Teknys models. The gun is packed in a high-density plastic carrying case which includes a bottle of Beretta oil and an array of tools.
My plan for thoroughly testing the Gold Target had several components. I wanted to use a broad spectrum of factory and hand-loaded cartridges of dramatically different pressures, velocities and weights to experience their effects on recoil and the reliability of the gun cycling the different loads. I also intended to compare the recoil of the Gold Target with that of my own and older Urika model and with my eight-pound plus 12-gauge over/under target shotgun. Finally, in addition to my own testing, I wanted other shooters, from novice to experienced, to shoot the gun and give me their assessments.
To achieve the first requirement, I sought the support of colleagues from several ammunition manufacturers
with whom I’ve worked over the years – Jason Nash from Federal Ammunition, Patrick Thomas at Rio Ammunition, Jonathan Harling at Chevalier Advertising who represents Winchester Ammunition and Jackie Stenton at Fiocchi USA. Chris Hodgdon of Hodgdon Powder sent me supplies of several powders for crafting hand loads. About sixteen different factory and hand loads were used in testing.
To fulfill the third requirement, I visited three of the fine clay target ranges within an hour of my home that collectively offered trap and sporting and skeet formats – my thanks to Mark and Brenda Moore at Kiowa Creek Sporting Clays, Doug Kraft at Colorado
Clays and Jerry William at Quail Run.
To help me test the Gold Target, Doug at Colorado Clays hooked me up with several highly skilled competitive trap shooters. At Kiowa Creek I spent an hour shooting with renowned multi- discipline instructor Warren Watson and I took a bunch of friends who were beginner shooters to Quail Run to shoot skeet, trap and sporting clays.
It was a gorgeous Fall day when I visited Colorado Clays to shoot with Kim Butorac and Nick and Russ Digesualdo. After the initial few shots I tinkered with the adjustable comb for a few minutes
to eliminate recoil on my face. Thereafter recoil was a non-factor.
Every shooter, irrespective of their skill level, used the word “smooth” to describe the experience of firing the Gold Target. Kim had her own highly tuned Beretta Urika Gold. Tr ying the Gold Target, she exclaimed, “Wow! Smooth. Really smooth!” Nick and Russ, both high level competition trap shooters, commented favorably on the smoothness of its swing and its outstanding balance.
One trap shooter, who returned his $80,000 matched pair of highly customized Krieghoffs to the rack to try the Gold Target, said, “This guncandoitall–itcangetyouto the top!” Although he did not offer to trade guns, using the Gold Target he consistently turned the clays into puffballs from the 16-yard line with a selection of my ammunition.
I wanted to give the Gold Target a legitimate and tough test. I’d shot thousands of rounds through a bunch of Urika and Teknys shotguns, but this one was supposed to be better. I wanted to determine if that were true.
I used an extensive array of ammunition. On the light end of the spectrum were the Winchester Xtra Lite 23/4 dram, 1 ounce 1150 fps loads and my custom hand loads used for my Damascus barrel vintage shotguns; 7/8 ounce, 1290 fps, 5500 psi, powered by 25.6 grains of IMR 7625.
On the heavy end, I loaded a few boxes of shells I deemed to be at the outer limits of sanity: 31.2 grains of Longshot that, according to the Hodgdon Manual, pushed the 1 1/8 ounces of shot at 1400 fps with 8,200 PSI. Other heavy loads included the Winchester Super Sport Sporting Clays, 11/8 ounce,
1300 fps, the Federal Handicap 1 1/8 ounce 3 dram load, the Rio high brass 1 1/4 Game load and the Fiocchi Crusher, three dram, 1300 fps, 1 ounce load.
Within these polarities I used hand loaded shells matching the 24 gram Winchester International Target loads and mid-range one- ounce loads at listed velocities of 1180 fps up to 1250 fps. I used
Hodgdon Clays, International, Longshot and IMR 7625 powders and Winchester Super Target powders.
Some additional factory loads included the Fiocchi Spreader, the Winchester Heavy Target load, the Winchester International Target load, the Fiocchi Target load and theRioTarget3dram11/8 ounce load.
Friends, Steve Griesen and Lucas Schiff, both beginner shooters, shot trap, skeet and sporting clays with me at Quail Run. Although each had their own shotguns, they did noticeably better with the Gold Target. “Really smooth,” Lucas enthused, echoing the assessments of the folks at Colorado Clays.
I and my friends fired almost one thousand rounds during the ten days we tested the gun. No matter the load or the sequence of the loads fired, not a single cycle failure occurred – even when shooting the low pressure IMR 7625 loadings. Most amazing, however, was the reduction in recoil. Using the Winchester Xtra Lite as the base for comparison of recoil, cartridges of considerably greater power yielded insignificant increases in felt recoil. For example, the 11/8 ounce 1400 fps Longshot load yielded recoil only minimally greater than the Xtra Lite load. The recoil of any load was greater with my Beretta Urika than with the Gold Target and the recoil for any load was greater yet with my over/under. It is unarguable that the Gold Target dramatically reduces felt recoil compared to my heavy over/under target gun and to my Urika, which in its own right is an inherently soft- shooting semi auto.
Not only did I feel less recoil with the Gold Target, but according to Warren’s
observations when shooting at Kiowa Creek, there was less recoil. He watched me shoot many loads, ranging from the Xra Lite on a springing teal target to the nutty 1400 fps Longshot recipe that crushed sixty-yard crossing targets. “There was no snapping back of your head,” he noted. “When shooting shotguns,” Warren said, “the first part of the body that goes is the head. That’s where the fatigue and pain and mental breakdown begin.”
This is an impressive shotgun. Peter Horn, Director of the Beretta Galler y in Manhattan, notes the success of the Gold Target is due to the high degree of personalization the user can impose without the need of a specialized gun fitter or gunsmith. It is easy to fine tune the sight picture and point of aim.
Warren Watson extolled the Gold Target’s mechanics. “The trigger is the heart and soul of the gun,” he emphasized. “The better the shooter you become, the more trigger sensitive you become. You can always depend on the quality of the Beretta semi auto trigger - they are consistently good. And Berettas are dependable. Period. They last.”
In conclusion, the Teknys Gold Target allows the shooter to transition fluidly from one target discipline to another. Offering the finest accolade for the Gold Target, Warren said, “With the adjustable comb, rib and shims, the Gold Target allows the everyday working man or woman to own a world class target breaker.” Fine praise, indeed, and well deserved in every regard. Beretta has struck gold.