Beretta Extrema shotgun.
Good semi-autos are all tough, knockabout guns, and for many years Beretta have been building some of the toughest.
There are still some of the old 302 and 303 models from more than 20 years ago performing yeoman service, but Beretta have never been a company to let the grass grow under their feet.
Over the years the Beretta semi-auto series has evolved, and its latest incarnations include the Urika, Teknys and Xtrema models, all but the Xtrema based on their AL391 action.
Among the first two are to be found guns for virtually every conceivable use, except coastal wildfowling with the heaviest steel loads. That’s where the Xtrema 2 comes in. It isn’t just a magnum – it’s a super-magnum which will handle steel loads of up to 2.1/4 oz.
The gun’s distinctive lines come not from the Beretta factory, but from one of the world’s most distinguished design studios, Italdesign Guigiaro.
The Turin-based studio, founded by Giorgetto Guigiaro, has turned its artistic and practical hand to virtually everything from kitchens to cars over the years, and is the company that gave us, among many other everyday items, the shapes of the Volkswagen Golf and the Fiat Panda. They have also had some design input into Beretta pistols.
Who makes it?
Beretta, at their factory in Italy’s Gardone Valley, just outside Brescia, where the Beretta family have been making guns since the early 1500s. As well as shotguns, the present-day company also makes rifles, and pistols for military, law enforcement and competition work.
How adaptable is it?
By British standards the Xtrema 2 is really a fowler’s gun, but its weight and ability to soak up recoil make it suitable for almost everything except formal game shooting.
How does it work?
This is a gas-fed semi-auto, and here’s how it works. After the hammer falls and the powder ignites, the wad and shot begin their high-speed journey up the barrel, propelled by a rapidly-expanding volume of hot gas. As the wad passes somewhere around the half-way point in the barrel it exposes a port which bleeds off some of the hot propellant gas and feeds it into a cylinder underneath the barrel. The cylinder surrounds the gun’s magazine tube.
Once in the cylinder, the pulse of high-pressure gas forces back a piston, which is attached to the gun’s bolt by action bars. The rearward travel of the bars first unlatches the bolt’s locking system, then start to push it into its fully-back position.
During this period of backward travel the fired cartridge case is ejected and the hammer is re-cocked. With the bolt fully back a separate mechanism lifts a fresh cartridge from the magazine tube and places it in front of the bolt. The bolt spring then takes over, pushes the bolt forward, and chambers the cartridge. At the limit of its forward movement the bolt’s locking mechanism drops into place, ready for the next shot. This all takes place in the blink of an eye, and a semi-auto will fire as fast as you can pull the trigger, until the magazine tube is empty. That’s the broad principle, and it is just how the Xtrema 2 works – but there are some refinements.
For a start, the Xtrema bolt has a rotating head (a la Kalashnikov) which gives a very secure lock-up. The gas piston has a pressure valve, which allows the gun to cycle properly on cartridges carrying anything from 2.1/4oz of steel to 1oz of lead. That’s a very broad spectrum, and is a great credit to the Beretta engineers.
Furthermore, the bolt and action bars which connect it to the gas piston are made as one unit for maximum strength. The piston also has a self-cleaning exhaust valve – a blessing because semi-auto pistons and cylinders can pick up hard carbon deposits which are the very devil to clean off.
Add to this the fact all the metal parts have been treated with some very advanced processes to combat corrosion, and it can be seen why the gun will appeal to coastal wildfowlers in particular.
The action housing is formed from strong aluminium alloy, and the gun features the semi-auto’s usual drop-out trigger group, removed by tapping out a pin, which makes for a very easy cleaning routine. The safety is a big button built into the front of the trigger guard, and the magazine tube is limited to two 3.1/2in cartridges, giving a total of three shots when you include the round in the chamber. Tubes to give six-shot capacity are available for those able to hold their guns on a Firearms Certificate. An enlarged trigger guard is fitted, to make the gun easy to handle and fire when wearing gloves.
– Tubes of 24, 26, 28 and 30 inches are available – and remember that, because of the extra length of the action, a 28-in semi auto has the sight plane of a 30-inch break-action gun.
– All the barrels are chambered for cartridges up to 3.1/2 in (89mm), and carry proof which enables the heaviest steel loads to be shot.
– Barrels are bored using Beretta’s over-diameter Optima system, and Optima Plus flush-fitting choke tubes are fitted.
– The top rib is ventilated, and is fitted with a Truglo sight which stands out well in poor light.
– Several different coloured inserts are supplied with the gun.
– Not so much woodwork as ‘plastic work’ because stocks and fore-ends are made of a glass-reinforced polymer which is very weather-resistant and doesn’t absorb water as does wood. Therefore it cannot crack as it dries. Three versions are available – plain black, and two different cammo patterns.
– The cammo patterns are styled ‘Hardwood’ and ‘Wetland’, with Hardwood available only on the 26-inch model and Wetland only on the 28.
– Now for something really different: the stock contains a Kick-off recoil absorber – a device which incorporates hydraulic dampers and springs which is re-set after every shot.
– To further protect the shoulder of shooters firing those super-magnums, a Geltec pad is fitted to the butt.
– The stock can adjusted for length by fitting the spacers supplied, and other shims allow drop and cast to be altered.
– Another nice touch is the incorporation of easy-to-grip patches of softer plastic in the pistol grip and fore-end; just the job for those frosty winter mornings when your hands are getting more numb by the minute!
The gun weighs 7.3/4 lb.
What the tester thought
Sporting Gun tested the Xtrema 2 in November 2005. It was awarded 7 out of 10 for build quality and handling, and 9 out of 10 for styling and value for money.
The tester commented: “In spite of the price, this really is an excellent semi-automatic. It is designed for field use, but in my book it has to be one of the ultimate guns for wildfowling… the best all-rounder in terms of looks and practicality.”
£1,235 – with the cammo versions at about £100 extra.
There is a Browning Gold semi-auto chambered for 3.1/2in shells, and also a Winchester Super X.
www.gmk.co.uk which also has a link to the main Beretta English-language website in Italy.