Beretta Xplor A400 Action 20 bore
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- Last updated: 16/12/2016
The Beretta A400 is the new generation Beretta semi-auto as many readers will know. The 20 bore version – the subject of our test – has not been around that long. Indeed, this is one of the first that I have seen or shot. It’s an attractive gun. The receiver has a smart bronze finish. The action body is quite compact, with the odd machined-in go faster stripe. It is restrained, nevertheless, nothing OTT and looks good. Dix points (or should I say dieci punti) for style. The stock wood was real and had surprisingly good figure; it is enhanced by a laser process called Xtra grain, but who cares, it looks so good! The laser chequering was well cut too. The forend has a sculptured ridge midway which descends moving forward. This looks modern (but not too modern) and it is ergonomically efficient as well. The design ticks all my boxes. Modernistic without being Flash Gordon.
You won’t knock this gun on it’s aesthetics. It is svelte in form and about as attractive as semis get. The 400 is no mere styling exercise either but a whole new platform. Beretta took a big risk with a new design when what they had before was so very good. A lot of research effort clearly went into the 400. Beretta noted on the 12 bore: “This innovative new gun has passed through 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.” More work has evidently gone into creating the 20.
Like its big brother, it is based on an action which looks outwardly familiar and which is gas-operated – as the vast majority of previous Beretta semis – but which also has a rotary bolt as seen on the magnum Xtrema models of a little while back and of course in different form on Benellis (a firm which is now part of the Beretta empire). The barrels of the A400 20 are Opti-bored and Optima choked. They combine a modest back bore, with long, flush-fit, multi chokes and long forcing cones. The barrel itself is made from a new alloy steel which Beretta call ‘Steelium’. I am no metallurgist but having visited the Beretta lab a couple of times I have no doubt it is tough stuff. The feed system on the 400, 20 like 12, has been modified and the trigger mechanism improved. 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 much more significant in the future.
The 20 bore Xplor is really light at under 6 pounds (5lbs. 14oz. to be precise). But it does not not feel unstable in any way. On the contrary, this is one of the best handling 20 bore repeaters that I have encountered for a long time. It does not seem ultra-light, and it would not be giving too much of the game away to say that it would be an ideal gun for young and lady shots (and as part of the test, I have been using it with both) as there is not too much weight forward.
I thought the stock shapes good too, but some of the measurements could be improved a bit. Length of Pull (LOP) was short - a whisker under 14 1./2” with 18mm Microrcore pad fitted (there is a 23mm option) but, intriguingly it did not feel especially short. Drop was 1 3/8” and 2 1/8” as it came out of the box.
Absolutely fine. The unusually sculptured and slimmer than average forend felt as good or better than those on previous models. The triangular bar type safety forward of the trigger was easy and positive to use. The 6mm sighting rib suited the gun well and kept barrel weight down. It was finished with a red translucent bead – the rod type in a skeletonised cage. Not bad at all, but I still prefer a metal bead because it is more durable.
As for the mechanics, apart from the features already mentioned, there is an improved piston which has serrated teeth on a spring steel circlip and thus does not need cleaning as previously – a boon with any gas operated semi. As the gun cycles the piston moves back and forth in its shroud and the teeth clean the inside of the piston housing. Twin steel cocking bars are welded to a slider partially covered by a polymer tube as in the 12 bore version.
There is no rat’s tail attached to the rear of the working parts. They are brought into battery by a large coil spring between the rear of the cocking-sleeve and the receiver body itself. All A400s have a magazine cut-off, which allows one to change loads by removing whatever is in the chamber without unloading the magazine - though I must note that it is a feature that I rarely make use of. I prefer to unload completely and then reload with a new batch of cartridge.
I shot the A400 with Chris Bird and Melissa Volpi at the Holland & Holland Shooting School near Northwood - one of the best grounds in Britain. There are, meantime, some guns that when you test them impress you sufficiently that you take them out again just for the fun of it. The A400 20 is one of those, and so it went on an expedition to H&H recently having been shot a number of times previously at my home ground. Frankly, I prefer it to some of the 12 bore A400s I have shot (I still prefer the 391s for use with normal loads to the latest guns).
What else can I say? It’s light but it points really well. The gun has that great quality of ‘shootability’. The trigger is adequate, the felt recoil is minimal even with the low overall weight. The barrel is only 28” long but the sighting plane is well over 30”. It is really nice to shoot - forgiving, and soft on face and shoulder. All things considered an A1 gas gun and probably the best repeating 20 that I have tested. That’s quite an accolade. I might add that it is an ideal gun for ladies or young shots - Melissa shoots it very well - and I would be delighted to have it in a pigeon hide too.
My thanks to Robert Frampton, Malcolm Grendon and Glen Dryer of GMK, Holland & Holland, Melissa Volpi, and to Lyalvale Express for supplying the cartridges used in this test. GM