Beretta’s autoloaders have dominated both the competition and hunting scene for years, especially since the release of the A400 series back in 2012. In my opinion, Beretta is at the top of the food chain when it comes to gas-operated shotguns. It comes as no surprise that I was excited to review their latest flagship model, the Beretta A400 Xtreme Plus. Released in 2018, this is the new and improved version of the ever successful and popular A400 Xtreme series.
The A400 Xtreme Plus is regarded as the ultimate waterfowl shotgun, receiving worldwide praise for its excellent performance and unmatched reliability.
I was fortunate enough to get my hands on the A400 Xtreme Plus model in early 2018 while coaching overseas at the Wing and Barrel Ranch in California. This was before it had hit the market here in New Zealand. (Yes, I was bragging to my waterfowling mates back home!) A friend and colleague of mine, a Beretta USA rep at the time, was out on the sporting clays course with a variety of newly released Beretta shotguns, the Xtreme Plus being one of them. I was called over to smash some targets and share my opinion.
It was an instant standout – a great-looking shotgun that points amazingly with impressive balance and feel, far superior to any other semi-auto I’d shot, including Beretta’s previous model, the A400 Xtreme. With the A400 Xtreme Plus, Beretta has incorporated their latest ‘Steelium’ barrel technology, which is found only in the higher-grade competition shotguns. This is the first hunting shotgun to have a competition grade barrel – what’s not to like about that?
The Beretta A400 Xtreme Plus is a premium semi-automatic shotgun with all the bells and whistles, jam-packed with the latest technology and features.
Something unique about the Xtreme Plus, as mentioned earlier, is the Steelium Plus barrel brought over from their competition over/unders. This technology is the evolution of Beretta’s 500 years of experience making gun barrels. Cold hammer forged and made from Nickel-Chrome-Molybdenum, Beretta has a patented ‘recipe’ using these materials to produce what they say are ballistically superior barrels. The Steelium Plus barrel has a lengthened forcing cone of about 14 inches – far longer than what you’d find in a standard shotgun barrel. A forcing cone is the transition inside the barrel from the size of the chamber to the size of the bore. Having this transition lengthened makes for a smoother delivery of the shot, which reduces felt recoil and produces tighter, more consistent patterns with fewer deformed pellets.
For the 2021 season, the A400 Extreme Plus features the new Aquatech finish to the barrel; according to Beretta, this new coating offers even further protection against the harshest of environments, which makes A400 Extreme Plus even better. I was unable to test this finish, short of leaving the shotgun out in the elements or submerging it for a period of time in the local wetlands – neither of which I had time for. You’ll just have to trust Berretta’s word, and given the quality of their products, I doubt that would be a problem.
The A400 Xtreme Plus has a 7mm non-tapered, stepped rib, which I believe greatly improves its pointing ability and target acquisition. Combined with a steel mid-bead and a fibre optic front sight, I find that my vision is naturally guided down the rib and out to the target without interference, making this gun very instinctive while shooting. At the muzzle, you’ll find an extended choke tube – Beretta’s latest model of chokes named Optima HP. The gun is shipped with a set of five Optima HP Black Edition extended choke tubes, from cylinder to full. The Xtreme Plus is only offered in 12g, and there are three barrel sizes offered with this model depending on your preference: 26, 28 and 30 inch. The Xtreme Plus weighs in between 7½ to 8 pounds depending on the barrel length, which initially will feel a little heavy. However, the gun’s great balance distributes this weight evenly to both hands making for a very smooth-swinging shotgun.
Chambered in 3½”, the A400’s impressive ‘Blink’ gas system will cycle anything from 24-gram 2¾” shotshells, up to the heaviest 3½” magnum loads with no adjustment required, making this shotgun incredibly versatile. It’ll chew up and spit out whatever you feed it and is designed to function reliably in the harshest conditions. Beretta claims that this Blink system cycles 36 percent faster than other autoloaders by reducing the amount of leaked gas when a shot is fired. With less gas getting into the gun’s action and a self-cleaning piston, this also means it’ll stay cleaner for longer. The enlarged loading port, bolt release and charging handle are designed for ease of use in cold weather while shooting with gloves and make the controls easy to manipulate – a feature that I thoroughly enjoy. Another detail is the full-length shell lifter, which eliminates any chance of thumb bite while loading the magazine. I found all of these features to be extremely useful – they make the overall handling/loading of this gun a joy.
The magazine on the Xtreme Plus has a capacity of four rounds, and two plugs are included to limit the capacity to two or three. The magazine cap has a unique feature where it only requires half a turn to fully lock or unlock the forend, making assembly or disassembly quick and easy while in the field. The A400 Xtreme Plus is offered in a variety of high-quality camo finishes as well as a black synthetic and, of course, now the Truetimber Prairie camo with Aquatech. The pistol grip has a small amount of palm swell, which comfortably fills the hand, and the addition of soft rubber padding on both the forend and grip provide great traction with a premium feel. The enlarged safety catch is located at the front of the trigger guard and is reversible – a nice touch. The trigger on this gun is great; breaking smoothly at a little over 5 pounds, it feels nice and crisp.
Beretta claims that this is the softest shooting waterfowl gun on the market, boasting a 70% reduction in felt recoil. This mainly comes down to the improved Kick-Off technology in the stock. The A400 Xtreme Plus is equipped with Beretta’s latest recoil reduction system, Kick-Off Mega. When a shot is fired in a semi-automatic, there are two recoil peaks – the first being the explosion of shot, and the second when the bolt finishes travelling to the rear of the receiver. The Kick-Off Mega features two hydraulic dampeners near the butt which absorb most of the recoil energy before it reaches your shoulder. The third dampener is located inside the grip, which softens the ‘slap’ of the bolt after a shot is fired. The comb has a rubberised panel to rest your cheek on, which I found very comfortable. For a hunting gun designed to shoot the heaviest 12g loads out there, Beretta’s Kick-Off technology is an extremely practical and appealing feature, bringing this shotgun into a league of its own. The stock is adjustable for cast and drop by changing the shims which are provided, and a 1-inch spacer is included allowing you to lengthen the stock if needed. Having this adjustability allows the shooter to get a near perfect fit which, as we know, is so vital with a shotgun.
The Beretta A400 Xtreme Plus is a purpose-built hunting machine. With industry-leading features from tip to tail, this shotgun will handle anything you can throw at it time after time, all while being a pleasure to shoot.
Unfortunately, I was unable to take this gun on a hunt, so I decided to put the Beretta through its paces on the sporting clays course, shooting simulated game. On the range, I’m able to put the handling and performance of this auto to the test. The Steelium Plus barrel is the same you’d find in Beretta’s competition shotguns, so I thought, what better way to test the patterning ability than shooting clays from long-range?
For this test, I was using 28-gram, 7½” shot target loads with a velocity of 1250 FPS. I kept
the half choke in the gun during all of my shooting. Starting off with some high- and fast-crossing targets at around 50m, the breaks were very strong with impressive consistency. Next up was a springing teal target stretched out to 80m. When I could place the shot correctly – which was not every time – the targets were still breaking convincingly. I found the raised rib really complements this shotgun and gives you a great sight picture with lots
of visibility. Combined with its excellent feel and balance, the A400 Xtreme Plus is a real shooter and a natural pointer.
The Kick-Off technology did its job well of soaking up recoil and keeping muzzle rise to a minimum, allowing me to stay right on target for a follow-up shot. The A400 Xtreme Plus combined with target loads makes for a pleasant shooting experience with little felt recoil. Of course, the real test for the Kick-Off system is to use some heavy game loads, so in went some 3″, 33-gram magnums with a velocity of 1500 FPS. I continued to smash some long birds using the 3″ shells, and although you’re still going to feel some punch from these, the recoil was very manageable, resulting in better focus on the bird throughout the shot, less muzzle rise and less chance of flinching. Overall, I believe Beretta’s claim of this being the softest shooting semi-auto holds true.
Out of curiosity, I took the A400 to the patterning board to see the results on paper. As expected, the Xtreme Plus produced solid patterns that were even, consistent and tight, placing almost all of the pellets inside a 30″ circle at 30 metres, using the Black Edition half choke.
The Beretta A400 Xtreme Plus is a waterfowler’s dream. It’s a premium hunting shotgun with no expense spared, is packed with great features and the latest technology. For me, this semi-auto ticks all the boxes with competition-grade performance and handling and unrivalled reliability – it’s possibly the softest shooting auto on the market.
Beretta have really hit the mark with the Xtreme Plus, improving upon its previous model, the highly praised A400 Xtreme, which was already the top waterfowling gun in New Zealand. If you’re in the market for a hunting shotgun that can do it all, look no further than Beretta’s A400 Xtreme Plus.