Gun test: Beretta A400 Xcel Sporting
- Credit: Drennan Kenderdine
Drennan Kenderdine takes the new A400 Xcel Sporting out for a spin and is impressed by yet another top-quality Beretta semi-auto
With all things, there are two sides to the story, and first impressions of the Beretta A400 Xcel Sporting could induce one of two initial reactions – one of approval, and one, quite possibly, of not. It comes in a cardboard box, and you might be slightly disappointed that the moulded plastic cases Beretta have always presented their semi-autos in are a separate purchase.
On the other hand, you could, like me, nod your head in approval that Beretta is doing its bit for Mother Earth. Beretta has moved from plastic to cardboard packaging for their semi-autos and new BRX1 rifles to reduce its carbon footprint; the reduction in 2021 of 51 tons of plastic was largely thanks to 100% green cardboard packaging. If you do need a case, ask your dealer; if you don’t, well then, all’s well!
I’m no stranger to Beretta semi-autos. I’ve shot them for over 40 years. You can blindfold me and I’ll be able to know, without question, the difference between a Beretta semi-auto and any of their competitors; they ooze quality, and this Xcel Sporting is another typical example of the refinement Beretta builds into these types of guns. That’s why they’re often a few quid more than many other semi-autos on the market; beauty, reliability, engineering and quality have what I call a 'Jessie Jay' to them (it’s a Price Tag, keep up, folks!).
Once assembled, this gas-operated semi-atuo is elegant and simple, yet shouts 'buy me, shoot me!' fairly loudly! There’s a rather large bundle of changes that have been made to the new Xcel; some of these are so brilliant in their application that they help make this semi-auto one of the top players in the area, and I’ll explain why later in this article. For now, we’ll take a look at the overall appearance and quality of the gun.
We’ve gotten used to Beretta having Steelium barrels – chrome-lined, multi-choked and strong as an ox – and this gun is no exception, with 3" chambers to allow future-proofing for clay shooting while also fitting into the market for those who shoot 3" cartridges in the field. This model comes with three black extended chokes and, when in the barrel, the look is of stealthy appeal; the 20mm extended choke design also makes getting them in and out an absolute breeze.
With the new top ventilated rib boasting a Sporting-style arrangement, tapering from 10mm to 8mm, the view plane is comfortable and allows the eyes to push through to the target without compromise.
The all-new grey receiver comes with Aqua Tech Shield, to help protect it from water and dirt. The grey provides an excellent canvas from which the other parts of the gun stand out. Its overall aesthetic doesn’t noisily attract attention; rather, it suggests security, reliability, modesty, maturity and quality. So, a bit of a fence-sitter... or is it? You decide. I love its simple yet bold laser engraving on the coating of the receiver, but some may want a little more decoration.
The bolt handle, thank the lord, is oversized (or extended, if you prefer), allowing faster, more effortless loading between shots. This makes operating the working parts (cycling the bolt) as easy as opening a can of coke. Accompanying the oversized bolt handle is also the oversized/extended button release. Again, this is a feature that allows the shooter a better experience when operating the gun, minimising the pressure required to release the bolt significantly.
The gun is fitted with an 18mm Beretta Micro Core recoil pad, which is nice and comfy; different thickness pads can be inserted (separate purchase) to change the length of the stock.
The new competition shell carrier is brilliance in the making – once the bolt is forward, the shell carrier drops down inside the receiver to allow loading of the next cartridge/s into the magazine tube, without the hindrance or possibility of the shell carrier pinching one of your fingers or your thumb as you insert the shell into the belly of this beast.
Beretta has taken the loading to another level on the Xcel Sporting. They have made a tapered cut into the receiver by enlarging the bottom loading widow (like on the 1301 Comp Pro), allowing easier and faster reloading of the magazine tube.
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Recoil is virtually eradicated with a Kick-Off plus wooden stock fitted to the A400 Excel Sporting. Beretta says that felt recoil is -50%, and that is some bold claim – many would be sceptical, as was I until I shot it. It really does work!
Shims are supplied to allow both drop and cast to be added to the stock. The stock sits comfortably in the hands and features a gentle palm swell for both left- and right-handed shooters. The well-spaced and patterned design of the laser chequering adds to the ergonomics by providing a nice grip, and adds to this sporter’s shootability.
The fore-end has also been kicked through the ergonomics lab and, like the stock, feels very much a part of you. Again, the chequering has been put in the right place, and gives not only excellent grip but also complements the stock and fore-end, providing the appearance and functionality of a professional-grade gun. Add to the mix that you can add weight to both the stock and the fore-end, and you’re taking what is already a brilliant gun up to the next level!
The trigger group has changed as well. The shell carrier is part of the upgrade which I have mentioned above. To add to the delight of this gun, the safety, which is also part of the trigger group, is in the right place for me. It’s in front of the trigger, so well out of the way of the trigger finger. The safety is of a decent size and shape that’s comfortable to operate and gives you a confident feel in its function.
What’s it like to shoot?
Now, I’m sure by now you’ve gotten to this stage and wondered why haven’t I mentioned how it shoots. Well, there’s a saying that a picture speaks 1,000 words, and it does; but if that’s true, then a video tells you the whole story. I shot the A400 Xcel Sporting at Oakedge, and we made a full video review on Shooting & Country TV (see above!) to compliment this article.
The film shows, much better than I can describe, how brilliant this gas-operated gun is, so I encourage you to watch it if you’re interested to see this gun in action. Here, I will simply say that I really, really liked it, finding it easy to control and very forgiving. It cycled every shell I put through it faultlessly, from 21g up to 28g from a range of manufacturers. It would pretty much suit anyone looking to enjoy a good mix of clay shooting disciplines, with the option to take their gun out in the field whenever they felt
Finally, as a side note, the warranty lasts for three years, and you must register the gun with GMK; you can also get a 10-year extended warranty for £60 with GMK.
Model: A400 Xcel Sporting
Chamber (in): 3”
Barrel: Steelium - Optima Bore High Performance (OBHP)
Available Barrel Length (in): 28”, 30”
Chokes: Extended Optima black edition, 3 included
Safety: Standard over trigger guard
Magazine capacity: 2+1
Stock: Wood, sporting style with palm swell
Recoil reduction system: Kick-Off Plus Wood (Kick-off models only)
Length of Pull: 14.35” with Kick-Off, 14.5” with no Kick-Off
Weight with barrel: 121.7 oz
Accessories: Extra Chokes, choke wrench, shims, oil
RRP: £1,900 (no Kick-Off stock); £1,950 (with Kick-Off stock)