I run hot and cold when it comes to shotguns. I’m gratified during the hot streaks and, of course, frustrated during the cold ones—to the point of wishing I could just be consistently lukewarm, just so there’d be no surprises, no drama.

World-class competitive shooters—if they want to stay world-class—operate on a totally different level. They’ve got to be hot from the get-go to the last clay bird. Every time, all the time.

Those are the shooters Beretta designed the DT-11 (heir apparent to the DT-10) for. But a lot of good club shooters—and maybe a few knockaround, once-a-weekers like me—are going to have their eyes on it.

During a two-day sporting clays shoot at Beretta’s Dover Furnace facility—about 70 miles north of New York City—a bunch of assorted writers and editors had a chance to try the gun under the eyes of Beretta engineers and designers. We also had coaching from two pros—Dan Carlisle and Will Fennell—both top shooters and (much rarer) world-class instructors.

The DT-11 is available in three styles: Sporting Clays, Skeet and Trap. I shot the Sporting Clays Model, featuring a Schnabel fore-end, single selective trigger, five extended choke tubes and 32-inch barrels. The weight? A hair over nine pounds (wood density will slightly affect that figure). Most of my prior shooting had been done with a proletarian assortment of field-grade autos and pumps, all featuring barrels in the 26-inch (and shorter) range. So the DT-11 seemed—at first—to be a lot of gun to push around. But after the first 100-bird clays course, I’d changed my mind. The DT-11 is extremely well balanced. The literature says “the center of mass is evenly distributed to allow the shotgun to have a center of mass coaxial with the bottom barrel.”

I’m not altogether sure what that means, but one thing is certain. Muzzle rise, even with heavy loads, is minimalized, which eliminates fighting the barrels down for the second shot on doubles. And after trying to nail crossing shots at long yardage—something that would have been very tough with my lightweight, short-barreled “skeet-centric” gun back home—I began to realize why dedicated clays guns are the way they are. Up to then, what relatively few clays courses I’d been on were, in retrospect, considerably more forgiving than what I found myself on.

Despite its length and weight, the DT-11 is nimble. I was shooting low gun as opposed to “pre-mounted” (primarily because the less time I have to think about what I’m doing, the better off I am). On shot presentations where my window of opportunity was very brief, this proved to be a blessing. In other situations, not so much…

The weight, full-length forcing cones and Micro-Core recoil pad make the DT-11 pretty soft-shooting. Altogether, I probably shot close to 500 rounds with it and experienced no recoil soreness. The receiver walls are slightly thicker than those on the DT-10, and the side ribs have been internally hollowed to help dissipate heat. The rib is tapered (8mm to 10mm) and features, naturally, a mid-bead. The safety/selector switch has been redesigned as well. It’s beefy and easy to access—as is the top lever. Aesthetics aside, ergonomics and strength are the critical factors when designing a gun that’s expected to wade through astronomical amounts of shells.

The trigger on the DT-11, incidentally, would easily pass muster on a bolt-action deer rifle—3½ pounds and crisp. It’s adjustable, and the entire trigger group can be quickly replaced (“DT” indicates “Detachable Trigger”) in a “competitive emergency” situation.

It’s not likely I’ll ever shoot up to the level the DT-11 was created to handle. But, as with any other highly specialized competition firearm, that’s really not a serious barrier to me wanting one. After all, that’s a lot of the appeal of any kind of shooting sport.


The cold-hammer-forged "Steelium" barrels on the DT-11 can be had in 30- or 32-inch lengths.

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