By Douglas Tate
Think of industrial northern Italy, and fast cars and fine guns naturally spring to mind. With proximity comes cross-fertilization, and shortly after the Second World War Beretta engineered a car with innovative forward hinged doors named the BBC. More recently Bertuzzi—called “the Ferrari of Italian guns” by Steve Smith and Laurie Morrow in their book The Italian Gun—became synonymous with the gullwing concept in which sideplates spring open to reveal the gun’s firing mechanism, like the doors on the engine compartment of the De Tomaso Mangusta sports car of the late ’60s.
Bertuzzi rolled to a halt recently when brothers Elio and Remegio retired, but Beretta has gotten into the driver’s seat with a gullwing gun of its own. Known as the SO Sparviere (Sparrowhawk), it is an over/under like the Bertuzzi, but it differs in one significant way: With the Bertuzzi, the firing mechanism was mounted on a plate secured within the action body; break open a Sparviere, push forward the safety, and the lockplates spring outward on hinges mounted in the bar of the gun like a pair of switchblade knives. There’s a lot under the hood here, with traditional Beretta lockwork clearly visible on the inside of engine-turned lockplates. The Sparviere is a true pinless sidelock and is currently available in 12 gauge only.
The technical specifications are as follows: 28” or 30” barrels; 2¾” or 3” chambers; Mobil, Optima HP or fixed chokes on request; leaf-spring trigger on sidelock assembly (identical to the SO5 and SO6 trigger); straight-hand, POW or pistol-grip stock with custom dimensions upon request; classic field, Schnabel, round or custom forend on request, overall weight 8 pounds (with 30″ barrels in a field configuration). The Sparviere’s leather case opens in a similar fashion to the sidelocks: The top is split in the middle, and the two ends open outward.
I asked Clemente Rossi, head of the Beretta Premium Gun Department, about engraving options. “Beretta has its own engraving department consisting of 12 engravers under the supervision of Master Engraver Luca Casari,” he said. “We have a unique ability to be able to offer a fully customized gun from the ground up, including engraving. We would be happy to discuss engraving design with any prospective customer to ensure it is a truly ‘personalized’ gun.”
As for the gun itself, Rossi said, “The major feature of the SO Sparviere and a testament to our engineering innovation and appealing design is that the sideplates actually spring open by pushing forward on the safety. The sideplates are hinged to the receiver with such tight tolerances that you would never know it is two pieces until you see it open. The gun has been extensively tested, and there is no wear to the wood or metal parts when performing this action, so there is no risk of reliability issues with repeated opening/closing of the sideplates. Of course, this feature has a functional aspect whereby it makes cleaning and maintaining the gun a breeze, but in less-practical terms the gun is absolutely ‘cool’ and stunning to see. It is sure to get the ‘oohs’ and ‘ahs’ from the crowd you are showing it off to, as well as look very appropriate in any high-end gun collector’s display.”
The novel lock feature ostensibly is about “quick and easy maintenance,” according to Cory Mays, firearms department manager at Beretta Gallery in Dallas. It is actually a bravura experiment in which Beretta has kicked up gunmaking several gears.
The “lines on the bottom of the receiver appear like a sparrowhawk when it’s perched” said Mays in an interview at this year’s SCI Convention. “We call it Sparrowhawk because we gave it wings.” Asked if anyone actually would shoot an $85,000 gun, Mays said, “You don’t buy a Ferrari and leave it in the garage.”
With its new Sparviere, Beretta has left Bertuzzi in the rearview mirror.