Beretta AL 391 Urika
Michael Yardley Beretta AL 391 Urika
The test gun is a budget semi-auto from Beretta - the AL391 synthetic. It has a black plastic stock with rubberised, grey, grip inserts. The barrel length is 28" and the action is black. If you called this the 'stealth' model you would not be far from the truth! Some people will like the looks, some will
feel they are a bit well… black! But beauty is as beauty does - particularly in a utilitarian model like this. The gun is quite stylish in its own dark way. First impressions on picking it up are that it is quite weighty (it only hits the scales around the 7lb mark but one might guess a little more). The
pistol grip is quite tightly radiused, but feels very secure. The comb shape is particularly good and the forend feels surprisingly slim.
The Urika is built on the now well established 391 action. It is the latest incarnation of the famous 300 series of gas operated semi-autos - and my fondness for these is well known - the 391 is itself an improvement of the Model 390. The 390 and 391 unlike the older 303, are equipped with a venting system which allows them to digest a broad range of cartridges including 24 gram shells (though I usually stock to 28s in a semi). The primary difference between the 390 and the newer 391 is that the gas vent, a sprung plunger at the rear of the gas collar, is permanently attached to
the barrel on the new gun, simplifying takedown and re-assembly.
The 391 has been around for some years now and has established itself as an altogether excellent design. Alloy-actioned Beretta semi-autos are incredibly tough – I have done my best to break several over the last ten years but they still seem to on going. A year or two back, I thought that I had finally broken my old 303, only discover to from Malcolm in the GMK workshop at Fareham that it had simply stopped functioning from accumulated crud in hard to get at places! I realise that this does not say a lot for my gun cleaning, but it is quite an endorsement for the design. Malcolm stripped my old semi in his usual lightening quick – pit
stop – style and it is now back to the normal routine of 1,000 or more cartridges a month. I routinely use my 303 for instruction and, whenever it is acceptable, use it for game shooting too. As I have noted many times before - mine has shot everything from puff-adders to partridge.
Beretta semis are not only engineered for durability, but they usually handle well too. The test gun is no exception. It feels solid, but not too heavy. This is a big issue with semi-automatics. Some feel completely lifeless, those that don’t are often too light for good work at clay birds targets. More than a few feel OK but then disappoint when fired. I am not giving too much away, if I say this one doesn't! OK lets look at the spec. The barrel on the test gun is 28” long as noted and equipped with a very conventional, narrow, ventilated rib. The sighting bead is metal (by far my favourite on a standard gun) and gun bears Italian proof marks for 3” (76mm) shells like most recent Berettas. Happily, there is no centre bead is fitted. I thought rib and bead provided an excellent subliminal picture.
The Urika, though relatively inexpensive, has many of the Optima modifications of the latest DT10 and 682 Golds. That is the bore is larger than the old Beretta standard (18.6mm compared to 18.3 or 4) and the chokes are of the new long Optima pattern. This is all good stuff. Both are real improvements that are likely to improve pattern quality. It is interesting to note, moreover, that in this semi-automatic Beretta have not decided to increase forcing cone length substantially as seen in the Optima versions of the DT10 and 682. The Optima package in the 391 is just bore and chokes. I wonder if this has something to do with gas pressure? Perhaps, but many firms in the USA do extend the cones on Beretta semi-autos and seem to have few functioning problems. Beretta, though, tend to veer on the side of caution.
The stock on the Urika is synthetic as noted and measures 14 3/4" for length of pull with an extra 1/8 to heel and 3/8" to toe. A black pad of about an 1" is fitted (and may easily be changed within the Beretta system for different lengths giving fitting flexibility). The drop dimensions on the test gunsurprised me - there is a little more than 2 1/2" at heel and about 1 1/2" at comb. Lower than I had expected by 1/8" or so. But, this is compensated for a fuller than average and very comfortable comb. A thin comb, of course, may drop the head position, as extremes of cast can (and, conversley, a very thick comb may elevate the head and push it to one side) . The Urika, like all Beretta semis, incoroportates the excellent shim system where one may modify cast and drop to suit the individual. I have already said that I liked the tight grip shape, the slim forend was good too (made possible by the improved 391 gas venting system), and the rubber 'chequering' panels provided super purchase and would be excellent on moor or marsh.
Hold on to your seats - fantastic! No duff. It was one of the best guns that I have shot for months, and probably the best gun that I have shot this year - regardless of cost. The is high praise, but I found it difficult to miss much if anything with the Ulrika. I put it through the normal routine of skeet and sporting birds at the Braintree Shooting Ground. It was a splendid gun functionally speaking. Recoil was low (i am convinced plastic stocks absorb more recoil than wooden ones). The 391's neutral, fairly steady, handling characteristics just seem to suit me fine. I shot the gun with the delightful Emma Covington-Cross - the marketing manager for GMK - and suffice to say that she was jumping up and down with glee at one stage when she saw her product being used effectively.
We got Emma shooting with the Urika too. She had had some doubts about clay shooting in the past, but she was soon breaking targets with the Urika once she adopted a good stance and realised that shooting is about nothing so much as pointing. In buoyant mood, I ended the session with a few birds from the hip on the skeet range - not something that I normally do (or reccomend). Even then, the Urika just kept crunching the targets. It may be black, I can live with that, but this is one that is definitely not going back (and I have not said that for while). Meanwhile, this would be a great gun for skeet, sporting, pigeons or wildfowl. As far as its shooting qualities are concerned I cannot praise it too highly. It also offer great value for money.
My thanks to GMK, Emma Covington-Cross, and Lyalvale (Express) who supplied the cartridges for the guntest.
|Action type||gas-operated semi-automatic|
|Multi-choke||yes - Optima long type|
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