Beretta A400 Xcel Sport Black
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- Last updated: 22/06/2020
The A400 series of semi-automatic shotguns has been one of Beretta’s really good success stories owing to its ability to adapt to field and clay use easily, and the range of models reflect the distinct disciplines exactly.
I recently tested an Upland version, but this Xcel Sport Black is an entirely different beast, designed to effortlessly break clays yet still retain the ultra-fast A400 action it is famed for, with the addition of some nice features too, like the weighted balance cap designed to optimise the balance of the gun, carbon fibre rib to reduce weight where possible, the Optima- Bore HP barrel for superior patterns, a micro core recoil reduction pad and weighted stock. Retailing at £2075, you get a lot of technology in a sleek fast handling semi-automatic 12-gauge.
The overall weight of 3.45kg and balance of this Xcel Sport in its Black livery is what first feels and catches your eye. If you are shooting lots of clays, that’s my son’s sport, then this extra weight is a godsend to reduce recoil further and maintain a good sighting line. This balance and superior handling is achieved by a balance cap system that replaces the end cap and retains the forend to the action. The original blued lightweight cap can be removed and then replaced with the stainless-steel weighted cap and heavy knurling that does help keep the barrel down in line. Also, the stock is weighed at the rear and can be removed if you like.
The Optima-Bore HP barrel is designed specifically to achieve and enhance the performance of the cartridge on firing so that it has “room to breathe”, so to speak. Its back bored technology with subtle 18.6mm bores means the shot charge is not bunched together, and so less pellet deformation and better down range ballistics comes coupled to excellent dense patterns, too.
Beretta have their own formula for barrel steel called a Steelium blend which can handle high pressures with no issues, so good for steel or magnum 3-inch loads. As the short forcing cone gives good reliable function and the Beretta barrels do have a reputation for extended life in the field and cope well when very hot, too.
Choice of barrel length is 28-, 30- or 32-inches, we had the 30-inch, and all have the excellent Optima HPO chokes which in this Sport Black model designed for clays has extended chokes, three of Skeet, Light Modified and Improved Modified.
The exterior of the barrels is finished in a very smart and highly scratchresistant satin blue and equally impressive is the new carbon fibre rib. It’s 10mm wide, which is ideally suited for clays and has six equally sized and spaced vents and, although a tad loose, certainly reduces weight by 4oz and provides a great sighting line. In fact, it has a single steel bead halfway down its length whilst the foresight is a nice white element.
Being a gas operated system, the barrel is ported 10.5-inches from the end of the first of the barrels chamber, whilst the piston arrangement beneath that also has the forend spur attachment thread. The stainless-steel position moves freely to send the bolt carrier sledge and twin rail carrier of two steel rods with a polymer shroud rearward, thus cocking the action. The magazine tube is covered by this shroud and so keeps relatively clean, as does the whole gas piston operation, so minimal burn powder or gas residue left behind. Therefore, reliability is high with all these Beretta A400 semi-automatics.
The mechanism of the A400 action produces a smooth and fast cycling speed and this model has its aluminium action black anodised for a sleek look especially against the walnut stock. It has brushed black sides and more smooth satin top to reduce glare and a recessed, grooved trough to mimic the barrels’ rib and thus continuity in the eye’s natural alignment. It’s a deep action that accommodates the extended bolt handle and bolt release well. These features certainly help you operate and load the A400 quickly and without fumbling. I like the polished but blued bolt body too, with its large sprung rotating head that has two large locking lugs that positively engage into the barrels’ extended abutments.
There is a magazine cut-off control on the left of the action to unload the chamber of a round without dumping cartridges from the magazine if you so desire.
The trigger blade is well-curved and polished and sits in a generous trigger guard without that odd-looking loop on some other semis. The safety is just a reversable cross bolt safety system, with push right to fire and left for safe from the nicely shaped triangular push button.
The stock on this A400 is very well appointed, both visually with its walnut figured stock design and its handling characteristics. The forend is long at 13-inches with a forward polymer section to attach the balance cap and has vents to release the barrel vented gases after moving the piston, so easy to clean. There is a longitudinal finger groove and underneath checkering and Beretta logo for added grip.
The rear stock can be ordered with the kick off system that reduces recoil, but the overall weight and balance of this A400 was absolutely fine for me and my son, even with 36-gram loads. Plus, the Microcore rubberised buttpad does a good job on its own. Spacers are provided to fit between the pistol grip and action to adjust cast etc. to your tastes, and recoil pads can be exchanged for thicker ones to increase length of pull.
The overall walnut finish again is really nice, with dark walnut colour and classic defined figuring. There is no palm swell but the pistol grip is generous with, again, good chequered panels for grip. You also have an addition of a Gun Pod polymer cap to the pistol grip. This is a built-in monitoring system hosted within the grip that allows shooters to keep track of shots fired in total and per each individual session. This came Gun Pod-ready but not fitted. You also have the addition of a tubular weight inside the stock that gives this model such good balance and overall heft.
Being primarily a sporting layout clay gun, Jake took it to GB Shooting for a run round the excellent clay circuit and soon realised the weight and balance made connecting with clays very easy, and even after a full 100 rounds the limbs and shoulders were not tired.
Fitted with the LM or Light Modified choke, we tried Eley’s Superb cartridge, designed to be good across the whole broad spectrum of clay shooting. It has light recoil but functions well in the A400. The 28-gram load with No 8 shot size of high antimony in fibre wadding hits harder down range. I had 377 pellets at 30-yards on the pattern board 211 pellets in the outer sectors and 166 pellets within the 15-inch circle.
VIP Sporting is another good cartridge for sporting layouts and clays, and this time the plastic wadded loads can achieve 1550fps and with the 7.5 shot size and 28-gram load. We had a total 222 hits, distributed with 96 inner and 126 outer strikes. All functioned superbly with minimal muzzle flip or recoil.
The NSI-UNO Prima load is a plastic wadded load and uses a 28-grams with No 7.5 shot size with patterns yielding a good overall even spread with a total of 239 No 7.5 shot size pellets hitting the pattern boards consisting of 89 inner and 150 outer strikes and no holes, easy on the shoulder too.
For me, I like a heavy overall gun so long as it balances well, as this A400 certainly does, as it allows far better balance for longer shooting sessions without fatigue. Ultra-fast action cycling, reliable, and very nice looking with some interesting and clever additions makes the A400 Sport Black a real contender on the clay circuit.
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