Traditionally fancied mostly by shooters of high-end side-by-sides and over-unders, the often underestimated 28 gauge is currently experiencing an uptick in popularity.One of Beretta’s most recent offerings, the semi-automatic A400 Xplor Action, is likely to further interest in the “lowly” 28.
Once assembled, the 28-ga. A400 Xplor Action’s paltry 5-lb., 9-oz. weight is immediately noticeable. Much of the savings can be attributed to the bronze-color-anodized aluminum-alloy receiver, which measures a scant 1.420" at its widest. Below the ejection port is the bolt-release button, while on the left, front side of the receiver is an inward-tilting magazine cutoff. The bolt latch is located at the rear of the magazine loading port, immediately forward of the front of the trigger guard. With the hammer cocked, the bolt will not remain locked to the rear unless the bolt latch is activated.
As with the other A400-series shotguns, the Xplor Action features the company’s “Blink” gas-operation system. The system includes: a newly designed gas piston for improved metering and enhanced cleanliness; dual action arms with the bolt body welded in place; a Benelli-style rotating bolt head with dual lugs and a large, spring-tensioned extractor; and an action-return spring surrounding the magazine tube yet contained within a polymer sleeve. Purportedly, the system enables the user to fire four shots in less than one second. We didn’t challenge this proclamation by measuring its speed; really, we didn’t need to. At no point during testing was a subsequent shell not in place for the successive trigger pull. Suffice it to say, it’s fast enough to not leave shooters desiring an increase in speed.
The Xplor Action’s trigger group is contained within a polymer housing. The chrome-plated trigger on the test gun was surprisingly consistent, with an average pull weight of 4 lbs., 11 ozs., and it exhibited minimal creep and only a modest amount of overtravel. At the front of the trigger guard is the polymer cross-bolt safety with a triangular button that has molded-in checkering for increased purchase. When in the “fire” position, a sliver of red is apparent. As for the trigger guard, we were surprised to find that it is insufficiently sized for access to the trigger with anything thicker than lightweight gloves. Removing the trigger group for cleaning and maintenance requires only a single pin to be driven out; it’s as user-friendly as any system we’ve encountered.
Available in 26" and 28" lengths, the 28-ga. Xplor Action’s barrel is made from a proprietary alloy of chromium-molybdenum steel that Beretta refers to as Steelium. The blued barrel is created by deep-drilling a billet then cold hammer-forging it and, finally, subjecting it to vacuum extension, which is touted as reorienting the steel’s molecular structure. The result is said to be more consistent patterning. The barrel is topped with a checkered, 0.195"-wide ventilated rib with a single, 0.120"-diameter red fiber-optic sight near the muzzle, and is threaded for the Optima-Bore HP screw-in choke tubes.
The gun comes with full, modified and cylinder tubes. The Xplor Action is capped with a plush, 3/4"-thick Micro Core recoil pad, which is contoured to facilitate quick mounting. Despite exhibiting no tackiness, texturing on its face is sufficient to keep the gun in place.
The Xplor Action’s stock is made from walnut featuring the company’s X-Tra Grain technology. Essentially, Beretta enhances the wood’s natural appearance through the application of an oil finish. The Grade-2 walnut on the evaluation sample exhibited noteworthy grain; however, the finish wasn’t consistent, leaving many areas that appeared to be comparitively dry. Despite that, the Xplor Action’s wood contributed to the gun’s overall aesthetically pleasing appearance.
To enhance purchase, the pistol grip has three sections of well-executed checkering per side and, on the fore-end, there’s a large section of checkering, too. A Beretta logo is in the center of the latter. Above the checkering on the fore-end are sections in which its width is reduced, and at the front is a polymer portion against which the deeply grooved magazine tube cap rests. Indicative of its intended use as a field gun, the A400 Xplor Action features sling swivel studs; one is on the butt while the other is on the aforementioned magazine tube cap.
Lastly, to better fit a variety of shooters, the Xplor Action comes with extra shims to adjust the length of pull. For evaluation purposes, however, we found changing the original configuration to be unnecessary.
We tested the 28"-barreled, 28-ga. model in two phases. First, with multiple boxes of Winchester AA Target 2¾", 3/4-oz. No. 8 shells in the range bag, we headed to a local sporting clays range. For several hours straight, we engaged targets mimicking a variety of upland game and waterfowl, and in each situation the gun excelled. We noted that it was especially quick to the shoulder and effortless to swing, making it easy to break fast crossers and springing targets alike. The gun cycled flawlessly, and ejection was brisk, sending hulls 10 or more feet to the right in a relatively tight dispersion.
Next, we spent time at the patterning board. Using Winchester’s Xpert Game/Target Steel Shot 2¾", 5/8-oz. No. 7 loads and the factory modified choke, we patterned the Xplor Action at 40 yds. We were thoroughly impressed with the consistency of the patterns; seldom do patterns show such uniformity with regard to pellet distribution. That being said, the center of the shot pattern was noticeably low and right of the point of aim.
Will the 28 gauge ever be as popular as the 12 or 20 gauge? That’s not likely. But, in the right platform its beauty and ability are fully realized. The Beretta A400 Xplor Action is one such platform.
See the Beretta A400 28-gauge in action during SHOT Show 2015: