by Karen Mehall - Friday, August 6, 2010
“Enter the Beretta Dimension.” The four-word invitation—alongside the image of a blue cube bearing the company logo—drew gunwriters by the dozens to Italy last week for Beretta’s International Press Day 2010. The simple teaser set the stage for unveiling new mid-year hunting guns and gear and an innovative Internet-based interactive communication system designed to better serve hunters’ needs.
Entering “the Dimension” meant being escorted to the shooting range in Lonato, Italy, where we were shown into a blue tent and handed a matching blue box that we were not to open until presentation’s end. Who doesn’t enjoy a little surprise? I wondered.
A Field Day with Field Guns
First up were two new shotguns: the A400 Xplor Light and the Perennia I, which we’d view and then “step outside the box” to shoot that afternoon.
Hunters will remember the all-purpose A400 Xplor Unico launched last fall—Beretta’s “green monster of technology.” Now enter the “monster of lightness and control”—the A400 Xplor Light designed for uplander. At 6.28 pounds, the 12-gauge semi-auto sports a shortened receiver and more compact dimensions so it can be mounted quickly and carried with ease. Like the original, this version handles any 3-inch load, sports a proprietary deep-drilled, vacuum-distended Steelium barrel of “trilegato” (three parts) steel that performs with both standard and steel shot, features a green-grey aluminium alloy receiver treated to prevent rust and scratches, and has a semi-squared trigger guard that makes finger positioning easy even with a gloved hand. The silver trigger is chrome-plated to prevent rust and stands out from the other gun parts. The slender fore-end has unique laser checkering and the fine walnut stock features a Microcore recoil pad and Beretta’s optional Kick-Off recoil reduction system. The fact it has only five main parts makes it easier to disassemble and to clean, and a long breech has two indexing lugs and a large support surface to help eliminate barrel movement when firing. The Xplor Light features the Unico’s gas system, “Blink.” Basically, an “elastic scraper” functions as a gasket and prevents gas from leaking out of the valve so once gas enters, pressure immediately increases, the piston moves and the shotgun fires “in the blink of an eye.” The field gun will be available in September. Watch for word on the MSRP.
In over/under news, the 12-gauge SV10 Perennia I is designed to offer beauty, technology and performance at an affordable price and sports classic yet modern looks for broad appeal. “We designed this field gun to be the highest expression of technological affordability to bring innovation to the vast majority of hunters, not just to an elite,” said Carlo Ferlito, General Manager of Beretta-Italy. This is good news for hunters in an era of challenging economic conditions.
The engraving immediately turns heads. New floral motifs on the silver receiver add distinction and a low profile helps direct recoil backward, not side-to-side. The barrels’ hammer-forging process makes them more concentric, reduces thickness and makes the gun easy to swing. As with the original SV10 Perennia unveiled in 2008, this one features Beretta’s “environmentally friendly” extraction system so hunters can select between automatic and mechanical extraction of fired shells and Beretta’s optional Kick Off recoil-reduction system. We await news on the MSRP for the U.S. market as this 500-year-old company works to reduce consumer costs without diminishing quality and, in turn, tap into a larger potential customer base.
Clothing and Accessories, Italian-Style
Beretta will offer no fewer than 470 garments and 460 accessory options for fall/winter 2010. Hunters will be interested in the new Gore Optifade Concealment line. Touted as first-of-its-kind camouflage, Optifade is designed to make hunters indistinguishable to prey even if detected. Rather than mimic objects in the environment, such as trees and brush, the pattern consists of geometric shapes that break up the body’s outline and disorientate a game animal’s vision so it cannot identify hunters as potential dangers. Optifade clothing will be available as follows:
-500 E.L.P. Optifade (Extremely Light Packable) storm protection for mild days;
-Windstopper Optifade for wind protection that keeps hunters comfortable with fewer layers and less bulk;
-D.W.S Optifade (Durable Waterproof Silent) for cold and wet weather, durability and silence.
-Beretta also will offer four lines of gun cases and bags at various price points.
The new handmade 1526 Leather Line is named for the year Beretta firearm production was first documented and showcases Italy’s reputation for stylish, elegant leather manufacturing. Sixteen items include gun cases for assembled or disassembled shotguns, bags, cartridge belts and a hard case for cleaning kits.
The B1 Line offers stylish and functional transport with products made of leather and a choice of green or beige canvas featuring waterproof and scratchproof treatment.
The durable Greenstone Line is light in both weight and price. Included are two game bags: one roomy and the other flat so it can be laid in the trunk for use in transporting the day’s harvest or dirty equipment.
The Retriever Line offers 19 products that are lightweight yet sturdy, featuring double padding, a thermo-shield protection for firearms with additional reinforcements for the stock and barrel. Items include cases for both assembled and disassembled long guns with optics.
Navigating the Beretta Dimension
Finally, it was time to learn what was inside our “Beretta Dimension” boxes. A Beretta staffer had said they contained T-shirts, but there had to be something more considering all the intrigue. Inside the small box was what Beretta called “cutting edge interaction technology.”
“We recognize that today’s customer is more cautious, selective and demanding,” said Ferlito. “In seeking the competitive advantage, we want to connect and motivate the technologically-savvy consumer by offering sophisticated methods of communicating and accessing our information through `Augmented Reality.’”
Claiming Beretta is the first company in the hunting world to develop this technology, Ferlito explained it consists of a QR-based computer code—the same visual QR-code used in today’s smart phones—to allow those with access to camera-equipped computers to instantly connect to its website, interact with two- and three-dimensional product videos and download information and images. The code, along with instructions for its use, was what was inside our boxes—and on our T-shirts. Not only had the company simplified the info-gathering process for consumers, but it had made the jobs of every writer in the room that much easier—and that much more interesting. Those who enter the Beretta Dimension may be surprised at just how much can fit into that one little box.
Fired Up At The Factory
Of course, no Beretta trip to Italy would be complete without visiting the factory to check out the production departments for the two new shotguns firsthand, which consist of fully automated work centers managed by craftsmen trained in precision mechanics. The factory produces 1,500 firearms per day, including over/under and side-by-side shotguns, semi-automatic rifles and carbines, double rifles and pistols with 90 percent consisting of sporting arms. More than 75 percent of these guns are exported to nearly 100 countries. Net sales in 2009 alone reached 144 million euros.
At tour’s end, I recalled what Beretta President Ugo Gussalli Beretta so often says about the importance of looking to the future. “We must recognize when it’s time to change and then apply the experience of the past to today to sustain our lifetime pursuit.”
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