Gun test: Beretta A400 Upland 20-bore

Mike Yardley shooting the Beretta A400 20 bore

Mike loved the 12-bore version of the Beretta A400 so decided to try out the 20! - Credit: Mike Yardley

Mike Yardley tests the 20-bore Beretta A400 Upland semi-automatic shotgun, to see how it measures up to its 12-bore big brother!

Beretta A400 20 bore

The receiver is adorned with pheasants and partridge - Credit: Mike Yardley

Spring is in the air. Well, not quite from where I write. There is rain, hail and it’s been bloody freezing! I’ve looked round for a springtime gun for us, and, with the help of Imogen Waktare of GMK, came up with the Beretta A400 20 bore ‘Upland’ semi-automatic. Although pheasants and partridge adorn its silver-finished receiver, it struck me as an ideal gun for spring drilling pigeons (not to mention being just the ticket if you have any youngsters that you may want to introduce to shooting). It’s got a 26" barrel which is ideal for a hide (or ab initio instruction) and weighs in at just 6lb 2oz. The RRP for either the 12- or 20-bore, is £1,800. So it’s reasonably priced.

We looked at the A400 Upland semi some years back in 12-bore, which weighed in at just over 7lb, and were impressed. This feels a different gun. It has its own character with the shorter barrel and lighter, scaled down, 20-bore form. The aesthetics are similar to its bigger sibling, with a nickel-finished, game scene engraved receiver and the (optional) Kick-Off recoil reducer amidships, but the handling qualities are distinct. This makes a point that is well worth remembering: don’t assume because guns look alike that they are actually alike in their handling dynamics. With that said, on with the show...

Beretta A400 20 bore

The Steelium barrel is 3" chambered - Credit: Mike Yardley

Beretta A400 Upland - key features
On bringing the A400 up to face and shoulder, one is not only struck by the lack of mass, but by a particularly good (new) grip design. The latter is of medium radius without a palm swell and suits the gun well. 

The slim fore-end is elegant too, but it would have been even better for me without relieving the profile above the chequering. My preference would have been for something just a little more rounded and hand-filling. It’s nice, though, to see a real wooden stock combined with Kick-Off feature.

The 26", 3"-chambered ‘Steelium’ barrel of the Upland is hammer-forged. There are 24, 28 and 30" options, the first on FAC. The tube is marked as “alloy Co [chrome] Mo [moly] quenched high tensile steel” which gives a good clue as to its content. I can only say that even pre-Steelium, I’ve never known any barrels tougher than Beretta. Those on my Beretta semi-automatics have proven almost indestructible over the years, and I have not been kind to them!

The forcing cone here is quite long, and the bore diameter, at 16mm, is wider than some 20-bores (both features that would tend to reduce felt recoil). Longish Optima multi-chokes are fitted and look as well-made as ever. 

The plain 6mm ventilated rib was well matched to the gun as well, although a solid design might be considered and could prove more dent-resistant.

The stock looks good with an enhanced figure which Beretta call “X-tra grain”. As mentioned, it has a nice grip shape – one of the best I’ve encountered on a small 20. The length of pull is 145/8" with an extra 1/8" to toe. There is not the usual slight extra length to heel, which I’d have preferred because it can make the butt feel more secure at the shoulder. It’s an easy remedy though, just change the recoil pad. This gun is fitted with the latest ‘Extralight’ pad, but I prefer the shape and traditional dimensions of the old Micro-Core pad which you can still get.

Finally, I was particularly impressed by how easy it was assemble the Upland. There was no scratching your head and reaching for the instruction manual here – it goes together and comes apart without undue hassle, all aided by a well designed fore-end nut. To put the gun together, just bring the bolt handle back on the action until it locks and drop the cleared barrel on, then the fore-end. That’s it. No complication at all. Perhaps the A400 is the easiest semi-auto there is for assembly.

Beretta A400 20 bore

The gun is easy to assemble - Credit: Mike Yardley

Beretta A400 Upland 20 -Technical
The A400, like the 391, 390 and 303 which preceded it, is a gas-operated design, but adds to the proven Beretta semi-auto equation a rotating bolt. This came from the X-trema magnum model which first incorporated the feature developed by Benelli, which was acquired by Beretta in the 1980s, hence allowing Beretta to use it in some of their range, too.

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All A400s boast a compact self-cleaning piston which remains in its gas shroud on disassembly. There are twin action cocking rods welded to a short steel sleeve which is covered by another polymer sleeve running on the outside of the mag tube. 

The hinged ‘hat’s tail’ to the rear of the bolt, as seen on many semi-autos, is not present. The moving parts are brought forward by a long coil spring positioned between the cocking-sleeve and the action. It is a scaled-down version of the 12-bore and has the same (optional) Kick-Off system with hydraulic dampeners very similar to those on a car suspension. These reduce slipping between the stock and the cheek as well as reducing muzzle flip.

Beretta A400 20 bore

The new grip design is great! - Credit: Mike Yardley

Beretta A400 Upland 20 - what's it like to shoot?
I shot the A400 with a shooting pal, Geoff Peck, and we were both struck by how light and handy it was. The 26” barrel would not have been my first choice, I like long barrels, especially on semi-autos. But this one handled and shot nicely.

Of recoil, there was none! Well, very little, and this in spite of the low all-up weight. Some of this might be put done to the Kick-Off, but felt recoil with 21 and 24g Lyalvale Express loads was barely noticable.

I found the fore-end a little slim for my hand as it tended to slip, and I thought the gun could have done with just a little more length to heel to aid muzzle control. You need about 1/8” extra to heel typically to secure the butt at the shoulder well. Here, the length to heel and middle of the butt sole were about the same.

Nevertheless, this is an excellent, well made semi at a less than eye-watering price. It would be a near ideal companion in a pigeon hide, or, for anyone recoil shy.

Thanks to Lyalvale Express for the Supreme Comp cartridges used in this test.

We Like

  • The lack of weight and fast handling
  • The grip
  • The absence of felt recoil for such a light gun

We dislike

  • The shape of the recoil pad

Make: Beretta
Model: A400 Upland
Action type: gas operated semi-automatic with rotating bolt
Bore: 20 (12 bore available)
Barrel: 26” with 28 and 30” options and 24” on FAC
Choke: Optima flush fit – 3 supplied
Weight: 6.2lb
RRP.: £1,800 (with or without Kick-Off)