Bourjaily Tests the New Beretta Xplor

Last week we speculated on Beretta's new Xplor, a gun capable, we were told, of taking anything up to and including a dinosaur. Having just seen and shot the Xplor in Italy, I would amend that statement to read "up to and including a small dinosaur." The A400 Xplor is a 3 ½ inch semiautomatic shotgun. It is probably enough gun for velociraptors, but way too small for brachiosaurus or T Rex hunting, even with slugs.

On one hand, I was slightly disappointed the Xplor didn't turn out to be something more radical, but mostly, I was very pleased to see, handle and shoot the next generation of the excellent A391 semiauto. Actually, the A400 Xplor is a hybrid of the best features of the 391 and the Xtrema, with several improvements thrown in for good measure.
Highlights of the Xplor include:

A redesigned gas system that will go much longer between cleanings than the already unstoppable 391 and Xtrema systems. Beretta says test guns have cycled as many as 10,000 rounds without cleaning.

A 3 ½ receiver that is no longer than a 3-inch receiver, making this a compact gun. One of the complaints about the Xtrema was that it was hefty and bulky. This gun is neither; it feels like a 391 and is a little lighter than its predecessor.

A bolt return spring that fits over the magazine tube a la Xtrema instead of inside the stock. A spring on the tube is easy to access and keep clean.

An improved, optional version of the very effective Kick-Off recoil reducer. The Xplor doesn't beat you up.

Modern -- but not space-age -- styling, and a receiver that is anodized to a distinctive gray-green color. It's a good-looking gun.

The Xplor cycles very quickly. As you can see in the picture* the shooter has four empties in the air at once. Beretta claims the Xplor cycles 36% faster than any other semiauto on the market. Personally, I can't work my trigger finger fast enough to outrun any autoloader, but some people can.

One last bit of good news: although most workers were out on a scheduled strike on Friday when I toured the plant (Beretta is in Italy, after all). I saw rows and rows of finished Xplors ready to ship. The 3 1/2- inch , wood stocked versions will be out next month, with synthetic waterfowl guns and a sporting gun to follow soon. The Xplor lists for around $1600 in 3 ½-inch versions. Three-inch guns should list for $100 or so less.

*the picture is the better of two provided by Beretta for use before the gun's official release on November 1. Although we journalists took lots of pictures in Italy, Beretta asked us to promise not to publish them until October 30.