First Look: Beretta A400 Xtreme Waterfowl Shotgun

If you can accept the fact that shotguns built by robots (not craftsmen) can have stocks made of plastic and rubber (not walnut) and be "decorated" with camo, (not engraving) and still cost upward of $1500, then we undeniably live in the Best of Times for semiautomatic shotguns. The Browning Maxus, the Benelli Super Black Eagle, the Winchester Super X3, the Remington Versa Max and the Beretta A400 all cycle a wider variety of loads more reliably and with less cleaning than any semiautos that have ever come before.

Until now, Beretta's 3-½-inch 12 gauge A400 was available only in a walnut and blued model with a sea green receiver. Now it comes in a camo waterfowl version. I had a chance to shoot one at targets and take it hunting last week. It is one terrific hunting gun. Like the Original Recipe A400, the camo version ($1,700) is an extremely shootable, reliable and easy-cleaning shotgun. My beloved 391 (the A400's predecessor) seems boring and obsolete by comparison.

Besides the Realtree finish, the new version has some other differences from the wood stocked A400. It weighs about 7-¾ pounds, 12-14 ounces more than the wood version. I like waterfowl guns that weigh closer to 8 pounds than slightly under 7 (for a little extra recoil reduction and smooth swinging) so I am fine with the extra weight.

The Kick-Off recoil reducing system has been changed. It is still a hydraulic dampener that compresses under recoil. Now, however, it has been relocated from the butt to the middle of the stock (you can see the rubber insert in the stock) so when reducer compresses, you don't feel the comb move under your cheek. I shot the A400 with Kick-Off one morning and my 391 the next, and you could definitely tell a big difference in felt recoil.

This A400 Waterfowl's coolest innovation is a gimmick, but a great gimmick. Its magazine cap removes like no other. Give it about a quarter turn and it pops off. It's one of those features where you just like to say "Hey, watch this," and show your friends how easily you can take off and replace your magazine cap.

The waterfowl gun also has Beretta's Aqua rustproof coating, first seen on the Beretta Xtrema semi-auto. When Aqua initially came out, I mixed up a bucket of very salty water and slopped it all over an old blued junk barrel and an Aqua treated barrel. In the course of a morning the blue barrel rusted badly and the Aqua barrel didn't rust at all. Salt water hunters take note.

The A400 Waterfowl is a formidable duck gun with a formidable price tag. If the idea of plunking down that much money for a gun will drag you through the mud doesn't faze you, the A400 Waterfowl is what you want.