Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Return of the Onyx?

I am an admitted Beretta O/U fanboy, and although I have a particularly soft spot (if not a particularly loaded wallet) for pre-680 series Beretta O/U's like my beloved BL-series, their S-series Euro counterparts, the various snipes and of course the outta-my-league high-end SOs, ASELs, etc, I believe the best (and not to mention certainly best for the money) modern mass-market O/U out there (Beretta or otherwise) remains the relatively venerable Beretta 686. 

And of all the various incarnations of the 686 guns throughout the years, my hands-down favorite has always been the long-discontinued onyx with the plain (save for the P. Beretta signature) blued receivers and subdued semi-matte finish on the wood. It was just a very classy, understated, aesthetically pleasing gun, unlike some of the other variants that Beretta has brought out over the years.

See? That's just nice. There seemed to be several different finishes on these older guns. I've seen some with a standard blue metal finish, while others had a more semi-matte blueing job. Regardless, all those old blued onyx models were just...elegant, especially when you found one with nice wood. My teeth still gnash at the memory of letting a gorgeously-stocked, stupid-cheap 20-gauge onyx sitting in the use rack at an OKC shop slip away from me about 12 years ago. Pain, thy name is poverty and indecision.

And I'm not the only one who likes the looks of the old oynx. Although used 686s are legion, the blued onyx guns tend to get bought fairly quickly by those with discerning taste. Many of them end up getting sent to places like Cole's for a restock because the finished product looks so nice. I'm not actively, money-in-hand (because I have none) searching for a used onyx, but I have been passively keeping my eyes peeled for a nice local specimen to show up, with the thought of doing some horse-trading toward an acquisition.

That hasn't happened yet, regrettably. However, in all the SHOT show coverage I've been perusing the past week or so in the hopes of finding some interesting - or even any - shotgun or wingshooting-related news, I did stumble upon the reason why I've been seeing so many new and unknown-to-me oynx models (oynx pro? WTF is that?) being advertised by Cabela's on the Guns International website the past month or so...

From Phil Bourjaily's Gun Nuts Blog

Beretta hasn't offered the Onyx model in years, but, now, Cabela's has resurrected it. The shotgun is offered in a sporting version, trap gun, and field gun. It has the standard features of any other Beretta over/under with a low profile and strong action. It's a handsome gun with a black anodized receiver and an upper mid-grade walnut stock. The gun sells for about $2,500.

All I will say is thank goodness for Phil Bourjaily...

As for the gun itself, it looks pretty much (the field model, anyway) like the onyx of old, and if I had the $2,500 asking price and were in the market for a new O/U, I'd be scuttling myself down to the nearest Cabela's and taking a long, hard look at it.

Alas, I don't and I'm not, so no new Cabela's-branded Onyx for me. To be honest if I actually had $2,500 cash to spend on a gun right now I'd be picking Steve Bodio's brain on what manner of vintage SxS I should be looking for. I do, however, commend Cabela's for bringing back such a nice and under-appreciated variant of the 686. With the upgraded wood and the proven action, I might even take this over a Caesar Guerini Woodlander.

Have no idea why Cabela's decided, in the curent tactical-crazed market, to offer a nice, classy gun like the onyx. The upland market these days certainly isn't what it used to be, and if I'm being honest here, much of the Cabela's-branded bird-hunting stuff I've tried has been a bit underwhelming (as opposed to their waterfowl gear, which isn't), but they always seem to do a really nice job with the special-run guns they bring out. And maybe, if I'm lucky, the introduction of this new/old model will help cool demand and asking prices for the old original onyx guns and I'll end up with one yet...


  1. I predict the age of plastic is nearly over (except in waterfowl). The age of classic will return. Before you scoff, consider that tons of people just bought AR's that might not have, and they're now hitting the used racks. That market is getting saturated, ubiquitous, and frankly annoying. Tactical has jumped the shark into the realm of plain silly. Nostalgia is running high right now, and nostalgia does not love black plastic. Nostalgia dreams of pheasants rising in front of a classic double.


    1. I certainly hope so. I've dumped all my plastic except for the A-5 magnum I use to duck hunt.

  2. Chad, for what it's worth (and that's not much), Cabelas is also bringing in a line of Turkish SxS guns under the Dickinson brand. The pretty little 20ga I handled at SHOT really got me thinking about putting aside a few bucks per month until I've saved enough to pick one up. It had all the stuff I like, including double triggers and a splinter fore-end (never cared for the beavertail, dunno why), and when I swung on clays it went right where I asked it.

    If I recall correctly, MSRP on these will be a shade more than half the cost of the Onyx. They don't carry the Beretta clout, but for an economy-class SxS, it would be hard to ask for more.

    You've also given me a thought... maybe I should write up a little about the scatterguns from SHOT. It's not really my field of expertise, but I probably spent more time shooting clays this year than I did on the rifle range.

  3. Phillip I've heard good things about the Dickinson. In fact, I think they're made in the same factory as the now-discontinued S&W Elite shotguns from a few years ago. I got to play around with them on a press hunt up here about (IIR) eight years or so ago when they first came out and they were very nice. Just didn't make it at the price point S&W was selling them

  4. They have them in stock with beautiful wood. What a welcome comeback!