Tough, reliable and long-lived - shown by the fact that some guns in hard use for over 30 years are still going strong
Remington launched their iconic Model 1100 shotgun in 1963 – sparking a strong spirit of competition in Beretta, who determined to win some of their previous glory back. Two years later Beretta introduced the A300, the first of a collection of guns that continued to raise the bar and improve as the years rolled by.
Beretta carried on producing the popular A300 until the late 1970s, when the first multichoke – the A301 – took over.
Tolerant of light loads
The early 1980s saw the arrival of the A302 and the A303 (the first range to include a Sporter) following shortly afterwards. Then came the A304, to be followed by the A390 – the first to incorporate a really efficient gas valve which made it more tolerant of light loads. Then in 1999 Beretta launched the A391.
Beretta developed the Xtrema into the A400. This shotgun has a gas system and 3.½in chambers which Beretta claim will handle all loads from 24g to 64g.
Most of the guns are right-handed 12-bores, but some models are available in left-handed format, and there are also 20-bores. Some late model guns are available with synthetic stocks and/or camouflage finish.
Many guns come in different versions for different disciplines.
All of the guns imported into the UK before 1989 were five-shot (four in the magazine tube and one in the chamber). After a change in British legislation the factory began to produce three-shot guns for the UK market.
The majority of guns already in UK ownership had their magazine tubes crimped by gunsmiths to limit the total number of shots to three. If you are buying a pre-1989 gun, or any other imported as a five-shot, on a shotgun certificate, the magazine tube must be restricted and must have a Proof House stamp verifying the restriction. You can only hold a semi-auto which will fire more than three shots on a Firearms Certificate.
Guns without adjustable gas valves were usually made to cycle the 32g (1.1/8oz) cartridges. At the time these were the standard norm for clay and field shooting. Many which would not cycle 28g (1oz) cartridges were modified to do so by gunsmiths – usually by opening out the gas ports in the barrels. My advice would be that if you are buying an early gun, try it out with your favourite cartridge before you buy.
Late-model guns are supplied with shims which alter the comb height. A good second-hand gun will have the original shims with it, but if it doesn’t, the importers should be able to help.
How do Beretta semi-autos work?
Beretta semi-autos are gas fed. As the wad and shot travel up the barrel small ports in the tube allow high-pressure gas to flow into a cylinder and piston assembly inside the fore end. The piston is connected by rods to the mechanism within the receiver, and as it moves to the rear it first unlocks the bolt, then moves it backwards. An extractor claw on the bolt face withdraws the spent case until it is clear of the chamber, and a mechanism then flips it sideways and ejects it through the loading port.
As the bolt moves back it re-cocks the hammer for a second shot, while a fresh cartridge is lifted from the magazine tube and placed in front of the bolt. The bolt then moves forwards under the pressure of a spring, chambering the new cartridge. With the cartridge fully home, the bolt locks and the second shot can be fired.
What can you expect to pay for a Beretta second-hand semi-auto?
Buy new and you can expect to pay from £1,390 for the Urika 2 series, £1,420 for the A400 series and £1,490 for the A391 series. These are importer’s recommended prices, and most retailers sell them more cheaply than that.
These guns hold their second-hand values reliably. A301s and A302s are on the market for £300 to £400, and good A303s are generally around the £450 mark. A391 series guns are generally £600-plus, and a good Xtrema model can be well over £900.
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