BERETTA A400 XTREME PLUS - test & review
- Credit: Archant
The Beretta A400 Xtreme in Bottomland camo is perfect for those wanting a gun that will do service on both wildfowl and clays, writes Mike Yardley
BRIEF OVERVIEW - BERETTA A400 XTREME PLUS
WE LIKED: The low felt recoil; The reliability with all cartridges 24g upwards
WE DISLIKED: The stiff mag; The over-sized, over-sensitive, bolt-release
CONTACT: GMK Ltd
Make/model: Beretta A400 Xtreme Plus
Mechanism: gas-operated semi-automatic with rotating bolt-head
Bore: 12 (18.6mm)
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Chamber: 3 1/2" (76mm)
Chokes: Optima HP extended
Weight: 7 pounds 9 ounces
Finish: Mossy Oak 'Bottomland' with options of Realtree ''Max 5'' and ''OptiTimber'' patterns at the same price.
RRP.: £2,195 (£2,025 - plain black version)
IN DEPTH TEST & REVIEW - BERETTA A400 XTREME PLUS
This month's test gun is a Beretta semi-auto: the A400 Xtreme Plus, chambered for 3½" loads in a long-coned Steelium Plus, steel-shot-friendly barrel. The Mossy Oak Bottomland camo version we are looking at is new for 2019 (the Xtreme Plus model itself was introduced in 2018). It is an interesting gun with a not insignificant RRP of £2,195. The camo aesthetics look as if they are influenced by recent military fashion, and the style is very different to Realtree waterfowl styles of camouflage. This is not to say that camo of any sort is my thing - I have often wondered about putting a gun down in the woods and not being able to find it (only part jest)! Wood or black plastic will do me (and the black version of this gun is £170 cheaper too).
First impressions of the new A400 are, nevertheless, good. Smartly presented in an ABS travel case with five Optima HP extended chokes, it seems lighter than its 7lb 9oz when you first put it together, pick it up and mount it. It feels quite lively forward, with a 28" barrel (the only option with this camo style, but 30" is also available). The ample, well-shaped, rubberised grip surfaces achieve very good purchase, (although I would worry about their longevity if used hard). You can crank the action back easily with an over-sized bolt-handle, but it is also easy to release it accidentally with the protruding and somewhat over-sensitive bolt-release lever.
The Xtreme Plus is based on a well-proven mechanical design. It traces its immediate origins to the original 3½"-chambered 391 Xtrema (introduced in 2002). All the A400 series guns have adopted a similar mechanism with rotating bolt-head (reminiscent of Benelli inertia action guns save that the A400s are gas-operated). Looking at Beretta's range of dedicated 3½"-chambered guns, after the 391 3½" Xtrema, the 391 Xtrema 2 arrived in 2005. The 391 series was discontinued in 2010 (it included traditional solid bolt as well as the rotating bolt-head models mentioned).
The new A400s appeared in 2010, initially called A400 Xplor, then the Xtreme (from 2012 and still current). The Xtrema and Xtrema 2 and A400s all have very good reputation with gunsmiths. One told me: "I don't know what it is, but those earlier Xtremas were great guns, offering reliable function with a variety of loads. It may be that this is why this action has been adopted across the range, as the Xtrema and Xtrema 2 had very few issues. Mechanically, it was excellent."
Now the Xtreme Plus is added to the Beretta range in various guizes (three different types of camo and black). Very similar to last year's A400 Xtreme (which also had Kick-Off Mega) just the little things have been changed. The Plus model features a bigger ejection port, an oversized bolt-handle and bolt-release latch as discussed. In addition to the new Kick-Off Mega recoil system, where a telescopic anti-recoil mech is placed mid-stock instead of to the rear, there is a raised rib.
The Xtreme Plus, as discussed, is a gas-operated semi-auto with a rotating bolt-head. The action return spring is in front over the mag tube, not in a tube in the stock as with the (near) solid bolt 300 series. This gives the gun a different feel and operating sound compared to other Berettas as well as certain straight-line mechanical advantages, as discussed. The gun ejects conventionally to the right through a slightly extended port (though the Black 28" barrel version and Camo Max.5 - also 28" only - are also available with left hand receivers).
The basic design has a great reputation and owes something to Benelli as well as earlier Berettas. Looking at the mechanics in the test gun, not much has significantly changed compared to earlier versions of this chassis save the new and improved Kick-Off Mega recoil system.
Searching, we could note that old Xtrema and Xtrema 2s have almost, but not quite, identical trigger mechs. Newer guns have a similar style trigger unit to the Xtrema 2 (some parts are interchangeable but not all - the frames are slightly different). The bottom line, though, is not many guns designated 3½" on the market will shoot such variety of loads - few others will shoot 24g loads reliably.
This was an intriguing gun to shoot. I love comparing semi-autos because I shoot one so often myself. The Xtreme Plus had a distinct character. It's front end was lively. I missed my first target forward but then locked-in and missed very little. With the Optima HP half-choke fitted, targets evaporated. The 18.6mm diameter Steelium Plus 28" barrel seemed to be doing the business well too. Felt recoil was extremely low. The new Kick Off system clearly works. So far all positives. I had a few glitches, however. Initially the mag tube would not fully load cartridges. I thought there was a fault, but eventually it gave way to a really hard push (the spring follower may have been binding in the tube). I also had a problem accidentally activating the enlarged bolt-release lever. On the A400 Xtreme this is addressed with a plastic cap at the back of the bolt release that prevents you from accidentally pressing the back section and releasing the bolt prematurely (something similar would be a good idea here). I adapted to the liveliness and the proof of the pudding was 90% plus of sporting targets broken during the test. If you are looking for a low-recoiling semi-auto for hide or marsh that could do double service on clays this could well be it.
Beretta gas guns
As we have had a little A400 history, I shall mention the earlier Beretta gas guns too. I am a great fan of the 300 series - 301, 302 and (especially) the 303 (not to mention the 304 which appeared briefly before the demise of this great series). These led on to the 390 which had a spring loaded gas valve separate from barrel (you put barrel on, then valve, then a spring, and then fore-end, then the nut which tightened down on the spring and valve). The 391 arrived and introduced a gas valve system attached to the barrel. When A400s appeared with their rotating bolt heads, 3" chambers became standard. My 303s are limited in the cartridges you can use, but they are great handling and shooting guns still. The truth is I'm an old school dinosaur! But the newer guns do have a technical advantage or two. On a 300 series gun, the recoil does not come directly, the breach block comes back on line but the rats tail connecting rod goes back into the sprung recoil tube at an angle. On A400 series (and the 391 Xtrema and 391 Xtrema 2) the bolt moves straight back with everything in line. The newer design is more efficient contributing to its ability to reliably cycle light loads.