By Ed Carroll
At July’s unveiling of Beretta’s new competition shotgun, the DT-11, I opened the afternoon round of sporting clays by running 12 birds at the first two stations and managing six of eight at the third. This followed a morning round in which I’d grown comfortable mounting and swinging the gun on the more challenging targets at New York’s Dover Furnace Shooting Grounds, and now I was shooting the DT-11 better than any target gun I’ve ever shot.
But I am not a competitive clays shooter, and as the afternoon wore on, my score trended toward that reality. The DT-11 was flawless when I did my part, but in the end it was like I’d traded my pickup for a day on the track with a race-tuned Porsche: fun, but it didn’t make me an expert.
Still, the DT-11 had a great feel in my hands. Whether from its ergonomics or substance (between 8H and 9 pounds) or the forcing-cone taper that runs nearly the full length of its barrels (see below), even shooting Fiocchi competition loads had little of the normal tiring effects of recoil on me.
Beretta USA had gathered together a dozen writers and editors at the Beretta Shooting Grounds at Dover Furnace and the adjoining Ten Mile River Preserve for an intensive two-day introduction to the gun, which replaces the DT-10, introduced in 2000. The DT-11 features a number of impressive improvements but, just as important, continues the heritage of its predecessor as a premium hand-finished gun—a hybrid of the best of Beretta’s state-of-the-art production processes and its tradition of custom-shop guns for top competitors.
“The amount of effort and attention to detail that go into the design and appearance of these guns is equal to the technical and engineering accomplishments of the gun,” said Rafe Bennett, vice president of product marketing for Beretta USA. “The DT-11 is absolutely a Beretta premium gun, and it is assembled that way—by hand, by craftsmen—so that each one is a unique work of art.”
Dr. Niccolò d’Amico—30-ish, well-spoken and a damn fine shot—led the designers and engineers in Italy through a process to build the DT-11 based on years of feedback from DT-10 shooters. “Nicco,” who grew up shooting competitively, also emphasized the attention to finishing: “Beretta makes 1,500 firearms a day, but we build just 15 DT-11s each day. This is a gun built from shooters, for shooters.” Nicco knew the technical features and functions with such precise, full detail—like the process for shaping the bore taper in cold hammer forging—that I assumed his education was in engineering. Economics, he told me, and I understood the DT-11 development process much more clearly.
There will be purpose-built guns for sporting, skeet and trap, all in 12 gauge with 3″ chambers and each available with a clever new adjustable-stock system. The DT-11 Sporting that I shot will be available with 30″ or 32″ barrels and comes with a lovely fixed stock of above-average walnut with a nice oil finish. At about $8,000, the Sporter stands well above a Beretta production clays gun, both visually and fiscally. Other aesthetic and ergonomic improvements include high-grade metal finishing throughout, with contrasting matte and gloss; a beefy new safety/barrel-selector button; and a canted toplever that really does work better with the human thumb.
In brief, the gun features the same Kersten crossbolt fastening system but with a receiver 3mm wider that’s extra beefy and adds weight between the hands; the detachable trigger group is largely unchanged, with a precise feel and crisp pulls; and the sublime mechanicals and robust leaf springs can be removed only with the gun open for safety.
It’s impossible to list here all of the improvements and new features of the DT-11, but more information will be forthcoming. As SSM Gun Review Editor Bruce Buck often writes, however, a true shooter cares about only two things—triggers and barrels—and Rafe Bennett was not shy in claiming that Beretta “makes the best barrels in the world.”
Beyond the tri-alloy Steelium barrels the firm has built this claim upon, the DT-11 has a new bore profile that is truly innovative, with a nearly full-length transitional taper instead of a forcing cone. Beretta claims this both reduces felt recoil and improves patterning with all shot types and sizes, and for this the barrels get the name Steelium Pro.
It may have been teaching and tips from Team Beretta shooters Dan Carlisle and Will Fennel or the full combined effect of the DT-11’s fit, balance and barrels, but the total package certainly worked well for me.