Beretta A400 Ultimate
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- Last updated: 20/09/2021
The A400 series of gas-operated, semi-automatic shotguns from Beretta really needs no introduction. They are good quality and are importantly reliable, plus they handle and shoot nicely too. The Ultralite model featured here is right up my alley as when I am out with a shotgun, I am usually after squirrels, rabbits and pigeons in thick woodland, so to me, a light and short 12-gauge with a 2+1 capacity is ideal.
The strong alloy action of the A400 series incorporates a rotating locking head and self-regulating, gas-operated system that handles an amazing array of shot weights and charges. On this model, Beretta has fitted a polymer trigger guard and forend tip as well as a 6mm carbon fibre rib to help lighten the load.
All in all, a very useable and highly manoeuvrable shotgun, let’s see how she shoots.
As the name would suggest, the Ultralite’s stock is made to be slim and lightweight. It’s a bit shorter than I was expecting, though semi’s usually are. This did not distract from the looks or handling as it’s a lovely little semi, weighing only 2.7 kg with the 26” barrel fitted.
The wood is dark, straight-grained walnut and has a really nice oil finish with a semi-rubbed matte look. I really like it due to its practicalities in the field. The forend is only just wider than the action walls and has a well-defined top scalloped section that acts as an almost full-length finger groove for additional grip. The sides and bottom section are finely chequered and underneath there is the obligatory Beretta logo, which is incorporated into the design.
The pistol grip shows three separate chequered panels that increase in size. At its base, a carbon fibre Beretta logo has been inserted and goes some way to cementing the Ultralite’s theme. There are no palm swells but you can adjust cast and comb height via inserts between the pistol grip and action face.
There was a slight right-hand cast and nice low comb that perfectly positioned your eye right down the rib section. To add a bit to the design, there is a small scalloped section that runs parallel with the bottom edge of the pistol grip and along the stock.
The recoil pad is Beretta’s Microcore model. It’s slim yet very effective at dampening recoil, plus it does not impede you when the gun is being mounted. The pad thickness does mean the length of pull (LOP) is short at 13.75” but it does not affect handling or your swing at all. In fact, I really want to buy a few of these recoil pads as they would be very good on some rifles of mine!
Being a rifleman, one other feature I appreciate is the supplied and fitted sling swivels, as these make the Ultralite even lighter when shouldered while walking around the fields.
The A400 Ultralite is available with either a short 26” barrel (on test) or a more standard 28” tube. I much prefer the shorter one as it means the overall length of the Ultralite is only 46.0”, making for great vermin or hide gun. The barrels are very hard wearing and are manufactured from Beretta’s famous ‘Steelium’, thus ensuring a great strength to weight ratio. Perfect for the little Ultralite on test then! Externally, the barrel shows a high polished blue/black finish.
Sighting is via a single red dayglo element at the muzzle and the five larger vents between the rib and barrel ensure good heat dispersal. All models feature the Optima-Bore chambered for 3” cartridges as well as the Optima HP choke system. Three flush-fit, steel proofed chokes are supplied.
The A400 uses the Blink operating system, which as its name suggests, is an ultra-fast bolt setup driven by a gas-operated piston. It achieves reliable, superfast cyclic rates with a wide range of different cartridge types and loads. The whole action is black anodized, aluminium-alloy and features a laser engraving of woodcock in flight. Up top, there are dovetails for optional sight use.
The A400 uses a polished blued bolt body with a rotating head that secures the two large bolt locks into the stainless-steel bolt carrier and rear of the barrel, thus ensuring opening only when the gas pressure is correct. The large single claw extractor to the right face of the bolt takes care of ejection and the black anodised 0.75”, grooved bolt handle is quite small but did not hamper operations.
The bolt locks back on the last round and there is a small blued button located on the right-hand side of the action which is the bolt release. There is also a magazine cut off control on the left-hand side of the action. This allows you to unload, then load a single cartridge without the gun feeding from the magazine. Safetywise, there is a simple triangular push button located towards the front of the trigger guard. Push from the right to FIRE and from the left for SAFE.
The well-proportioned trigger guard with a slightly enlarged front edge gives good access to the smooth, brightly polished, chromed finished trigger, which breaks cleaning at 4.85 lbs.
Because this was a lightweight, I really wanted to see if it could handle the lighter loads, like the Pro-Fibre 24- gram or Blue Diamond loadings. We use these a lot for general close-range vermin work as the recoil is light and the patterns are superb. I even tried out the 12-gauge subsonic cartridges as I had a suitable adaptor for the A12 A-TEC shotgun sound moderator.
We started with some 28-gram, #7.5, Hull VLR subsonic cartridges which use a 65mm case and a fibre wad. In use, they were so close to cycling perfectly, but not quite. The fired case just couldn’t quite go far enough back to eject and pick up the next round, but it’s a big ask for a semi to operate on subs. The 24-gram fibre and plastic wadded loads were superb and they all shot 100% reliably.
With a ½ choke fitted for testing, the Pro-Fibre shot 24-grams of #7.5 shot and achieved a total of 205 strikes at 30 yards. There were 52 inner strikes, while the remaining 153 pellets were still inside the 30” circle.
Next up was the Gamebore Pigeon Extreme with its load of 34-grams of #5 shot, a hard hitter but really manageable in the Ultralite. We had a total of 178 pellet strikes, with 61 inner hits and 117 pellets evenly spread on the pattern board. This combination and the Ultralite’s fast handling is deadly for hide shooting.
We also tried some NSI, Blue Diamond and Imperial Game just to see how they functioned, again, not a flaw and perfect cycling.
For a steel load, we choose some Eley Pro Eco Steels. Using a ½ choke again, the pattern boards revealed that the 32-gram #5 load produced a nice tight pattern, as expected from a steel loading. Coverage was even and there was a total of 170 pellet strikes, with 48 hits to the inner 15” and 122 hits around the periphery. Eley also makes a clay version of this round with #7 steel shot in a 28-gram loading, which would be a great lead-free option for close range, small vermin work.
I really like this gun, and I think that with a few more boxes of 12-gauge through it, it would loosen up a bit. Semi’s do that and perhaps those subs would then work. But that’s just my fancy, all other loadings shot without fault and the patterns were all well centred and on the bead, so to speak. The Blink system is fast, allowing a really fast follow up shot or more and to me, the 26” option is perfect as a do-anything, anywhere type of 12-gauge semi.