Few things will spur a debate among waterfowl hunters like the debate over which shotgun is the best for taking birds. For the longest time, it was a matter of which domestic pump gun was best, but as the recent car commercial for Fiat illustrated, along came the Italians. The fact of the matter is that the Italians have been making guns longer than the United States has been the United States. Beretta has been in the business since 1526, and they know a thing or two about making fine firearms.

Shotgunners have long known about the quality of a Beretta firearm. My first experience with one came from a friend of mine who owned a Beretta Pintail, a semiautomatic shotgun that was recoil-operated. I remember not being able to miss when I was shooting clays with it. I had a similar experience this past SHOT Show, when I was shooting the Beretta A400 Xtreme for the first time.

So what makes the Xtreme a Hard Core shotgun? The first thing you’ll notice is the pride of the craftsmen who make it. The gun is literally flawless in fit and feel. Speaking of feel, there are traction-providing grips built into the handguard and stock that will keep the gun in your hands in the nastiest of fowl-weather days.

The grips on the A400 keep your hands where they should be, even in the most Hard Core weather.
The grips on the A400 keep your hands where they should be, even in the most Hard Core weather.

One other thing–I’ve shot a lot of camo guns. The process for “camo-fying” a gun involves hydro-dipping the parts, laying on a camo pattern that is permanent and matches the contours of the firearm. The problem is, quite a few times, the little nooks and crannies can sometimes get missed. It’s really not a big deal, but when you’re putting out the kind of cash you will to buy an Beretta A400 Xtreme,  you want it perfect, right? I know I do. The Beretta is perfect in this regard too. The Realtree MAX-4 pattern is vibrant on this gun and it is flawless. Nice touch.

The Beretta A400 Xtreme will shoot anything you throw in it, or so Beretta claims. It is chambered to handle up to the maximum 3-1/2-inch magnum shells and will fire those all day long. I was concerned about it handling lighter 2-3/4-inch target loads, and like any true gun, it did better after some break-in time.

The Beretta A400 Xtreme makes use of what Beretta calls their Blink technology. It refers to their gas operating system that allows the gun to fire shot after shot. The shotgun also incorporates their Unico system, which allow the gun to fire any load size. Whatever they want to call it, it works. It’s a little stiff at first, but it never jammed in any way, with no cleaning to speak of for the first 250 shells I put through it.

I tried it on some target loads from Federal Premium and some of the killer Winchester AA Tracker loads and it was smooth as glass. The Tracker loads have a brightly colored wad that you can see very clearly after you shoot. It’s a great tool for training and seeing where and why you missed. Seems like a simple thing, but it sure works.

I threw enough shells down the Beretta A400 Xtreme’s barrel to make my shoulder sore, and that is saying something. Why, you ask? Well, because of the Kick Off, of course. No, I’m not talking about a Green Bay Packers game, at least not yet. I’m talking about Beretta’s excellent recoil reduction technology. Beretta claims Kick Off will reduce felt recoil by up to 60 percent. I’d say that is pretty close to accurate, especially when the felt recoil on the A400 is compared to a pump gun while shooting the heavier loads. They achieve this with a special recoil pad and three hydraulic dampeners built into the stock. Now when I’m hunting and popping up out of my Hard Core Man Cave blind to drop some honkers or some mallards that are dropping into the stubble, I could care less about felt recoil. It’s afterwards when we’re sitting around drinking coffee, eating breakfast, and rehashing the morning’s hunt that I start noticing the pain in my shoulder. After putting over 250 shells through this gun in one day, I can say my shoulder doesn’t hate me, even if it was a little sore–I don’t think I could say the same if I had been using a different shotgun. I’m really looking forward to post-hunt breakfasts this season.

Just a sample of the ammo for testing. The AA Tracker ammo is a great tool for learning where you’re shooting.
Just a sample of the ammo for testing. The AA Tracker ammo is a great tool for learning where you’re shooting.

Now, another thing about me and shotguns. I’m not kind to them. If they were animals, I’m sure some bleeding-hearts group would come try to take them away. I ask a lot from my shotguns because I hunt in some pretty extreme weather. What can I say? I was a Hard Core waterfowl hunter before being a Hard Core waterfowl hunter was cool. So I am pretty pleased with Beretta’s Aqua technology. Basically, they make the gun pretty much rustproof, which is a good thing. My old trusty pump gun that I cut my waterfowling teeth on took a serious beating and I always had to wipe it down with oil to keep the rust demons at bay. Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t keep the gun clean, but the A400 will take a lot and if you don’t always have the chance to wipe it down, Beretta has your back.

If I have to pick one thing I don’t like about the Beretta A400 Xtreme, it’s the price. At a suggested $1,895, it’s not a cheap gun. Of course, it may just be the last shotgun you need to buy, so in that respect, it might be worth it. Of course, I’m not about to tell my wife it would be the last shotgun I’d ever need. That’d be just dumb on my part.

Shooting the Xtreme is pretty sweet. It fits very well, thanks to the included fit shims. Beretta is very conscious about guns fitting well and they provide the tools to help you get the right fit. My gun fits me very well and that has a lot to do with why I’m busting clay after clay. The trigger guard is wide enough for gloves, which will be key come late season. The recoil reduction stuff helps get me back on target after the first shot, which is important when I’m thumping 3-1/2-inch magnum goose loads. The hair on my arms is bristling just thinking about it. Those honkers better be careful this season, lest they wind up in my Camp Chef Smoke Vault. Life is good, my friends, stay Hard Core. It’s Not Easy!

Images by Derrek Sigler

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2 thoughts on “The Waterfowler’s Gun: The Beretta A400 Xtreme Unico

  1. Great looking gun and fine and informative column.
    As info, I bought a Winchester X2 years ago for 1/3 the money. Out of the box it handled 7/8 oz. international trap loads flawlessly -and everything else on up the line.
    It has never jammed.

  2. I have had this gun in black for a while and I do really enjoy its low recoil. I am comparing this to the Versa Max, M2 field, SX3 and the Maxus (which is I guess same as SX3).

    It did cost me quite a bit more, but I can see where the extra money goes on this gun. I wish I could convert one to use in 3-gun, but for now it is great for hunting.

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