Beretta A400 Xplor Unico
By: Michael Yardley
Mike Yardley tests the latest A400 Xplor Unico – a shotgun that continues the excellent record of Beretta semi-autos
I have been a Beretta semi-auto user for years. My old 303 has digested a vast number of cartridges and it is my bench mark for all Beretta semi-autos before and since. I think, for the record, that it is a better gun than the 301 and 302 when equipped with its unique 32” flat 10mm rib barrels, I also think it is a more shooter friendly guns than some more recent Berettas. That said, I rated the 390, 391 and especially, the Urika 1 and II very highly (the synthetic stocked plain black versions are excellent value too). When I go to shoot abroad and don’t want to take a gun, I often organise a 391 at the other end – I know exactly what I will get and know that I can shoot it with 30” barrels (there is no flat rib 32” option) at just about everything.
I reckon, meantime, that I have probably put as many rounds through Beretta semis as anyone.
The test gun
The A400 Xplor is the new generation of Beretta semi-autos. It is based on a new action which is gas-operated – as previous Beretta semis – but also has a rotary bolt as also seen on the Xtrema models. The barrels of the A400 are Opti-bored too (which I have found to be a very good thing). So they combine a modest back bore, with extended multi chokes and long forcing cones – all good. The barrel itself is made from a new material which Beretta call ‘Steelium’ (a very tough modern steel) and for which they claim all sorts of advantages. The feed system on the 400 has also been modified. The new gun has fleurs de lys proof and will digest High Performance steel shot as well as regular lead loads. This may not seem of so much importance now, but it could, sadly, become a much more significant issue in a few years.
This new Beretta is quite light, but it is designed to shoot a very wide range of loads from 24 to 64 grams – quite a capability. Not only will it handle 2 ¾” (70mm) cartridges but 3” and 3 ½” ‘roman candles’ too.
Now, most manufacturers seem to be making impressive claims for their latest semis – Beretta are no exception. According to the advertising, the A400 cycles 36% faster than previous models. Beretta also claim dramatic recoil reduction (but I can’t say as far as this test was concerned that I could confirm this – possibly because this was quite a light gun). We have tested the Kick-Off3 version previously – the one with the twin telescopic hydraulic recoil reducers system in the butt. All the A400s (save the lightweight model) have an extra hydraulic damper attached to the back of the receiver as well – to reduce felt recoil and relieve mechanical stress too whether or not fitted with Kick-Off.
The technical specification of the A400 is undoubtedly impressive. As with all Beretta products a lot of serious design and engineering expertise have gone into its creation. Aesthetically, it makes the grade too – first impressions are very good with an attractive and quite compact grey-green anodised receiver. It is understated and looks very smart. The plastic (well upmarket looks-like-metal-till-you-touch-it high tech polymer) is modern and well shaped. The stock was good too, nicely finished, with well cut laser chequering. I never know why Beretta don’t chequer the forward area of their pistol grip as it makes them even better, but, meantime, this is a good stock design, and impeccably finished. The slim forend, also gets my thumbs up and has a sculptured finger which is modernistic but quite ergonomic too.
Beretta are playing a high stakes game with any new gun. They note that the 400 has taken “three years of development, 8,000 hours of engineering, 2,000 hours of testing and more than 100,000 cartridges. The A400 Xplor Unico represents the Beretta revolution in semi-automatic shotguns and a major advance in technology, innovation and design.”
I don’t doub’t the effort that has gone into the design. But, I did note one significant issue. When you bring the working parts forward, there is a very evident harmonic clang. I also noted this later when I shot the gun. What causes it, I am not sure, it may have something to do with the new rotary bolt design and lightweight receiver. But, there are a lot of positives too. When you bring this relatively light auto-loader to the shoulder, it feels both lively and manageable. Benellis tends to be lighter than recent Berettas, but the A400 is an exception. It may even be a little too light for this type of gun.
Although the grip could have benefited from a little more chequering as noted, the stock shapes and dimensions were pretty good, save for the length – a little short at just under 14 ½”. Drop was 1 ½ and 2 ¼” – a smidgen low, but typical of a Beretta field gun. The svelte forend felt very good and is an improvement on previous models. I also approved of the fairly narrow, vented, sighting rib which – hurrah – sports a plain metal bead at the muzzles not some bit of plastic that is likely to break off or detach itself.
The action has a new self cleaning piston. This stays in the gas collar when you remove the barrel (you cannot assemble the gun unless it is in place - as in the Xtremas). The steel cocking sleeve that is located on the outside of the magazine tube is short and there are double cocking bars welded to this (an arrangement seen in the Xtrema as well). There is also a plastic cover over the mag tube itself (once again, like an Xtrema). If you look to the rear of the working parts you will not find the usual rats-tail that acts in a tube. The mechanism is brought forward by a large helical spring positioned between the rear of the cocking-sleeve and the receiver body. The trigger is newly designed as well with elements of both the 391 and the Xtrema units. The old plated carrier – the hinging bit underneath that you push the cartridges against as you load the magazine – has been replaced by a stainless steel component. The A400 also has a magazine cut off.
The ‘Steelium’ barrel is bored at 18.6 and has Opti-boring and optichokes as mentioned. The barrels are made by a process which Beretta describe thus: “STEELIUM is the exclusive barrel technology of Beretta. Made with the exclusive Beretta Steel (Nickel, Chromium and Molybdenum), different from all other commercial steel, the Beretta barrels are deep drilled and cold hammer forged in a production line with 9 hammering machines. Furthermore, Beretta realizes the barrel distension phase in a specific chamber with a vacuum atmosphere. The Hyper Vacuum Technology, exclusive to Beretta, enhances the reliability and the resistance of the barrels.”
Well, that’s the hype and it adds up to an even better Beretta barrel – I know of no other more durable, save for the stainless and laser welded barrels made by Fabbri.
I liked the way the gun looked and admired its engineering excellence, but I was not especially fond of the way this gun shot. I much prefer the excellent Beretta Urika II (which dispenses with the rotary bolt) and is a 391 series gun. My impression was that the new gun – and I have now tried it in all its forms – was quite punchy and that there was some vibration on firing. I let several people try it and they were of the same opinion. That said, I know that there are some very satisfied users of the A400 out there and that it has proved a good seller too.
It may be the case that the recoil reducing features really cut it once one uses heavy loads. I don’t know. That’s the honest truth. The quality of the gun and the integrity of its manufacture are not in doubt. My inclination, though, would be to go for the excellent Urika or 391 unless you need the 3 1/2” capability.
|Model||A400 Xplor Unico|
|Barrel||28” with Optima boring and concealed type Opti-chokes|
|RRP||£1,545 (or £1,625 for the Kick Off model)|
All Prices Are Guides Due to the Changes in US & European Exchange Rates