Beretta's A400s (page 2)
Beretta’s first soft-shooting, 3 1/2-inch shotgun, the A400, has been joined by Light, Xcel and Xtreme versions.
By John M. Taylor
One of the departures Beretta made with the A400 series is a redesigned choke system called the Optima Bore HP. When it came along, I asked Randy Bimson, then technical director at Beretta, what the reason was for the change. He said that they moved the threads farther toward the muzzle because many shooters thread in one tube and leave it. Because the stresses from the shot column are less far forward, they felt that would partially alleviate stuck choke tubes. Lest anyone believe that a tube marked for steel shot cannot expand under repeated firing, they are wrong. I have tubes from well-known after-market makers that have expanded under repeated use with steel shot, and that is why Beretta changed to the HP tube design.
One feature that has stayed is the magazine cutoff. Located on the left side of the receiver, it can be used to shuffle rounds in the chamber, or hold them in the magazine with the chamber cleared.
So far as the stocks go, the Unico, Xcel and Light have select walnut stocks enhanced by Beretta’s X-Tra Grain Technology, a proprietary process that applies a coating that emphasizes the grain of the wood. Early guns have a fairly well-filled oil finish, but later Unicos I have observed in gun shops have a much dryer look to the wood. Still, the wood with the X-Tra Grain Technology is quite attractive. The action of the Unico’s aluminum receiver—all of the A400-series shotguns use aluminum receivers—is anodized a subtle dark green. The Light is silver in color, the Xcel has a bright blue receiver and the Xtreme is black or camouflaged in Realtree Max 4 D or Mossy Oak Duck Blind dipped camouflage. The barrels of the Unico, Xcel and Light are a deep highly polished blue; the Xtreme is matte black or camouflaged.
The original Unico A400 was made as a jack of all trades. With the adjustable stock, screw-in chokes, superb recoil reduction, it is truly a shotgun for all seasons. At the rollout, I had the pleasure of having Julio Timpini, Beretta’s master engraver and an excellent shot in his own right, load for me. He loaded, in no particular order, different-size shells from 24 grams up to the big 3½-inch Roman candles, and although shooting some really sporty clays on the Lonato shooting range near Brescia, Italy, recoil was extremely light regardless of what shell was chambered.
Even though the Unico with its walnut stock and fore-end tips the scales at a lean 7 pounds, Beretta brought out the Light A400 that runs a little more than 6 pounds. Intended for the upland hunter to whom weight is important, they are chambered for 2¾- and 3-inch shells, and the magazine is limited to two shells. The Xtreme is chambered for 3½-inch shells although one can elect to shoot much lighter shells with equally positive functioning.
Included with the new Xtreme are sling swivels, handy for any waterfowling or turkey hunting when having free hands is important. Also the Xtreme’s stock is adjustable for length of pull. Included are a 1/2- and a 1½-inch spacer that can be used individually or in combination to adjust the length of pull. Without the installed 1/2-inch spacer the pull length is 14 inches, so the stock can be lengthened to a full 15½ inches for those whose physique requires that length.
Although I have no concrete evidence, it seems to me that as Beretta moves forward, it will consolidate its premium semi-automatic shotgun line into the A400 platform. It has all the qualities needed; versatility, light recoil, excellent reliability and attractive lines. In my experience with the Unico, Xcel and Xtreme, all have performed very well in the field and at clays. Even when not cleaned, literally dragged through the mud and otherwise used and abused, I have not encountered a single malfunction, and like the test in Italy, when fed an indiscriminate mix of very light to very heavy ammunition, recoil was almost negligible and function reliable. Today’s field of semi-automatic shotguns is deep with many from which to choose. Nonetheless, the A400 series offers both versatility and specificity depending on what any particular hunter or shooter desires, and to that end it serves all very well.
Manufacturer: Fabbrica d’Armi Pietro Beretta S.p.A,
Importer: Beretta USA; (301) 283-2191; www.berettausa.com
Action type: gas-operated, semi-automatic shotgun
Gauge: 12, at present all models are 12-ga. only
Magazine: four shells; two only in the Light; plug furnished to reduce capacity to two shells
Barrel: Unico and Xtreme chambered for 2¾", 3" or 3½", 26" and 28" barrels; Light chambered 2¾" or 3" shells, 26" and 28" barrels; Xcel chambered for 2¾" or 3" shells, 28", 30" and 32" barrels
Sights: ventilated rib with various beads depending on model.
Stock: Unico, Light and Xcel have walnut stocks; the Xtreme has a synthetic stock; all are adjustable for drop and cast with supplied shims and spacers
Overall Length: 47" to 51", depending on barrel length
Weight: Light, 6 lbs. 9 ozs.;
Unico, 7 lbs.; Xcel, 7 lbs., 11 ozs.; Xtreme, 7 lbs.
Metal Finish: Unico, dark-green anodized receiver, blued barrel; Light, silver anodized receiver, blued barrel; Xcel, blue anodized receiver, blued barrel; Xtreme, black anodized or dipped camouflage receiver, blued or dipped barrel
Accessories: owner’s manual, choke tubes, choke-tube wrench, hard plastic case, shim and spacer kit to adjust stock, Xtreme includes sling swivels
Suggested retail price: Unico, $1,725; Light, $1,500; Xcel, $1,725; Xtreme, $1,600 (black), $1,700 (camouflage)