Beretta A300 Outlander
Mark Stone tries his hand with one of Beretta’s older semi-auto designs that’s now making a comeback as the budget conscious Outlander
When it comes to modern gas operated semi-autos you won’t come anywhere near Beretta’s 300 series, a style of single-barrel shotgun that’s sold in hundreds of thousands around the world. The original designs such the 303 and 391 models were robust and reliable, relatively simple, easy to service and maintain and most of all it’s a Beretta, a name and logo that ensures each and every one of them - irrespective of age or condition - is still desirable. But whilst developments in technology and materials have allowed Beretta to take great strides in what they can build into a semi -auto there is, for a variety of reasons, still a demand for a no frills, no nonsense gasser that bears the Italian maker’s name.
Open the Outlander’s blue case and you’re presented with a real working tool, a choke key along with stock and drop shims with serious visual references to the above mentioned 303. If you wonder where the rest of the flush-fit Mobilchokes are, they’re still back in the shop since apart from the supplied 1?2 choke it’s down to you to buy the rest as aftermarket items and yes, you will feel short changed after having spent not far off a grand.
Field Grade as you might prefer to call it, even before you’ve assembled it the Outlander comes across as a semi-auto that’s there to do a job, a pure out and out tool, frippery, needless ornamentation and toys the preserve of others. But before your enthusiasm gets the better of you, its worth taking a closer look where you’ll see that the new self-regulating, pressure reducing valve is of the self cleaning variety whilst Beretta have maintained their familiar chromed finish single bolt – not the rotating head type. Look closer and you’ll see the single runner action slide isn’t impeded by an exposed spring, the bolt leading into a hinged rat’s tail that sits inside a plain black light alloy receiver, detailing of which has been confined to the gun’s name and dovetailing on the top.
Staying with the combustion end of the Outlander a black button just below the ejection bolt releases the bolt whilst a short extension to the rear of the chrome shell lifter acts as the bolt lock actuator, pushing it rearwards dropping the lifter in the process. A larger polymer trigger guard with the easy to locate and activate oversized cross-bolt safety is situated to the front of the guard and falls instantly to the shooter’s trigger finger prior to hooking onto the chrome, non-adjustable blade whilst Beretta have now incorporated various A400 aspects into the general mechanism of the Outlander.
The 28” chrome lined barrel is manufactured from Beretta’s new Steelium, a lightweight alloy, and is steel shot proofed and has 3” chambered tube. Outwardly it features a protective anodised finish and a 7mm, smooth surface vented rib and small silvered bead. It’s the barrel’s weight saving that in part has allowed Beretta to overcome the original 303’s fractionally muzzle heavy attitude so, this change in mass allowing the Outlander to prove that with the advantages of modern materials just how poised this older design can be.
As subtle and understated as the moving parts, the oil finished woodwork is rich in colour with good, strong working grain, is neatly chequered, fits extremely well and enjoys good, well thought out dimensions and a soft rubber recoil pad. The comb is a nice width whilst the grip is nicely angled and radiused whilst the rear sling swivel comes ready fitted. Likewise, since the valve and cyclic system doesn’t require the action spring to be accommodated around the magazine tube, Beretta have been able to fit a far slimmer, longer, more elegant, malleable forend that allows the Outlander to sit more effectively in the leading hand’s palm, giving both the gun and shooter a far more effective degree of freedom. The new tapering magazine cap is held securely in place courtesy of a small ratchet whilst incorporating the front sling swivel.
Interestingly two large yellow stickers on the case state that for the ‘running in period’ 32gram or larger shells should be used to ensure the Outlander is able to fully cycle each and every round. As to the duration of the ‘running in’ period, it isn’t actually mentioned but just to make sure, a box of 36 gram Express Supreme Game plus a handful of 3” magnums were set aside as was a healthy dose of Ballistol oil.
Prior to this a few minutes with the Arrow Laser Shot confirmed that the Outlander had a flat attitude, the cast was right and that it looked exactly where I did. Likewise the measurements and balance, the overall length of 48” and 7lbs 2oz weight centred directly below the chamber whilst the 13/8” and 23/8” drops at comb and heel along with the 14 7/16” length of pull all suited my particular requirements as did the creep free, positive 6lbs average trigger weight.
Purposely loosing off all 36 gram and magnum loads prior to arrival at the ground, the intensity of thirty–five heavy loads seemed to be enough to free up the newly christened system and let the Outlander go on to score over forty out of fifty loaded up with 28 gram Express World Cup fibrewads. The gun was on target and user friendly from the off, the almost imperceptible weight forward attitude allowing the balance of what is a nicely weighted gun to react very quickly on opposing targets with just enough mass to promote a relaxed, easy, controlled swing.
The slim forend and slender grip allows the Outlander to remain purposeful yet fluid within the shooter’s hands, a trait I always look for in a shotgun that’ll be expected to serve a multitude of purposes. And whilst the Outlander’s design doesn’t dial out as much recoil as Beretta’s A400 series shotguns, even with the heavy loads the felt recoil is more than acceptable, the soft rubber butt pad being up to the task of keeping the gun firmly anchored to the shoulder pocket and maintaining the correct mount. The Outlander comes up extremely well and instantly locks onto the shooter’s line of sight making it a pleasure to use ‘gun down’, the smooth rib disappearing from sight as
if it wasn’t actually attached.
In my own personal opinion whilst the Outlander is a genuine straightforward semi–auto that encapsulates everything you could possibly want in an all-round single–barrelled 12–bore, the basic bundle needs tweaking. For instance a provision of a single 1?2 restriction Mobilchoke smacks of cost cutting in a most obvious form. Granted additional chokes won’t cost very much and are easy to acquire, but surely a couple more would have made the deal far more attractive even to the most ardent Beretta enthusiast, especially when the competition supply at least a set of three.
Don’t get me wrong, the Outlander is a great shotgun to shoot and did everything I asked of it with bags of capability still in hand. Similarly, the self-cleaning valve system works well whilst the integrated A400 upgrades along with modern materials have transformed the performance, balance and handling. As a clay breaker it’s as good and as capable as any 12 bore you’ll pick up whilst as a general crow, vermin, duck or even boar buster with sights fitted that’ll be able to withstand the rigors of general usage, it’s up there with the best of them. Alternatively, go for the short 26” and buy a 1?4 choke and you’ll have yourself a superb skeet or dare I say it a walked – up snipe gun.
The Outlander embodies the true values and virtues of the original Beretta 300’s even down to certain physical aspects when shooting it, the reaction of the gun confirmation that all’s well and that you’re up and running with an almost classic semi–auto. For those who buy one, this new gun will serve them well and reward them every time they pull the trigger.
A genuinely elegant ‘old – school’ style Beretta gasser with 21st Century advancements and one that in every way will allow a new generation of shooters to quickly appreciate the pleasures and enjoyment of a true almost renaissance design.
So come on Beretta throw in a couple more chokes - and if possible drop the price to below £900 and you’ll have a winning gun and total package semi-auto shooters will genuinely want to buy. GM
All Prices Are Guides Due to the Changes in US & European Exchange Rates