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Barrel Length

Dear Sir,

I am in a position of buying a new semi-auto gas operated gun. [Probably an Extrema 2]. I will use this gun for rough shooting, I would like to know what are the advantages and disadvantages of a long barrel compared to a short barrel. Another thing is, this gun is a 3.5 inch chamber, if I use a 3 inch or shorter shell, does it effect the shot pattern?

Best regards,


Dear Kevin,

The Beretta Xtrema 2 comes only in 26″ and 28″ shotshell barrels, so that’s what your choices will be. Other autos usually come with 26″, 28″ and 30″ barrels.

A long barrel has only the very smallest ballistic effect with modern shotshells. In the old days of black powder, longer barrels allowed the powder to burn more completely and produced higher velocity. Modern powders burn much more quickly and barrel length has minimal effect on velocity. Choke has more effect on velocity than barrel length does. Did you know that a 12 gauge using Full choke will have about 50 feet per second more velocity than the same gun/shell using a Cylinder Bore choke? I was surprised when I found that through testing.

Barrel length does have some slight effect on pointing the gun. When the gun is fully raised to the face, it is impossible to discern differences in barrel length because you are looking right down the rib. But when the shooter is in the act of raising the gun to the face, he will be aware of barrel length. In that situation, longer barrels require less visual (but the same actual) lead. This is not a good or a bad thing. It is just something to get used to.

The biggest difference between long and short barrels is balance. That is what I would concentrate on. If you can try both the 26″ and the 28″ barrels and compare them, pick the one that balances best for your taste. The longer, heavier barrel will be slower swinging, but more steady. The shorter barrel will move faster and correct more quickly, but will be a little less stable. The Xtrema is quite a heavy gun as it is, so you might not need any more weight. That is really personal taste.

When considering barrel length, remember also that the receiver of the Xtrema is quite long. It is about 3-1/2″ longer than the receiver on an Over/Under. Thus an Xtrema with a 26″ barrel would have the same sighting plane length as a 29.5″ O/U.

Using a short shell in a long chamber will not affect the pattern. The Xtrema 1 that I tested shot 32 gram 2-3/4″ shells very reliably.

Best regards,
Bruce Buck
Shotgun Report’s Technoid

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Sensitive to Recoil

Dear Technoid:

My wife has a shoulder problem that makes her sensitive to recoil. We like shooting clays. In the interest of continuing the sport she leaves her Belgian Browning O/U 20ga at home and shoots a new Beretta 303 20ga. The gun was fitted with a nice pad by Chuck’s here in Atlanta. She still complains about the recoil. She shoots light loads. I presume that adding weight to the gun is the next alternative. Are the mercury filled attachments worth consideration? What advice do you have for me?

Second question. The pistol grip on the Beretta’s stock is proportioned for a larger hand than her’s. The trigger is more difficult for her to reach on the Beretta than on the Browning. I have seen leather attachments for other areas of the stock. Do you know of any similar attachment that might fit in the grip area? Do you have any other suggestions?

Thanks, Brad

Dear Brad:

Many people assume that all 20 gauge guns kick less than all 12s because the shell is smaller. ‘Taint so. As you rightly stated, weight is an important component of the free recoil formula. Most Beretta 303 20 gauge guns are under 6.5 pounds and I have seen them as low as 6.25. At that weight, even in a gas gun, there is some recoil.

Adding weight is the way to go. You will probably want to add equal amounts of weight to the front and back. Mercury recoil reducers work just fine because they are heavy. I have a bit less faith that the mercury sloshing back and forth adds any measurable recoil attenuation. Some people find it irritating, some do not. “Breako” and some other companies make mercury reducers for the 303. You might try one screwed on to the front in place of the forend nut and have one fit inside the stock. If you keep the weight addition to no more than 1/2 pound in front and the same in the stock, you will have done about all that you can do.

The reducers will change the moment of inertia of the gun- sort of like comparing a broom stick that balances in the middle to the same stick with a brick on each end, but still balancing in the middle. You wife may find some increase in the moment of inertia to be acceptable, but you can go too far.

Second question: the pistol grip. Beretta semi-auto pistol grips fit very few people and there are a lot of complaints about them. You might try building up the inside of the pistol grip with duct tape to shorten the finger reach. If that works, take it to a stock maker and have him cut a piece out of the grip, add in a bigger piece and shape to fit. I have also seen some people use Bondo or other putty type auto body repair products to build up grips and palm swells. Andy Duffy’s palm swell is made out of something like that- or perhaps it is denture mould compound.

Another approach would be to shorten the stock where the head of the stock meets the rear of the receiver. You would have to cut a relief rim on the stock and tinker with the washer on the through bolt, but that would be an ideal way to move the pistol grip forward. It would also raise the stock slightly- usually of benefit to a woman. They tend to shoot higher stocks than men because their faces are smaller.

Good luck. Jeff’s Outfitters ( in Cape Girdeau, MO make a market in Beretta stocks if you screw up and want to start anew.

Best regards,
Bruce Buck
Shotgun Report’s Technoid

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Beretta 3901


This question is perfect for you.

I am looking for a very reliable, quality, utility back-up semi auto shotgun. I am a long time inertia action shotgun shooter (i.e. A5s & Benelli). In fact, I have never owned a gas gun. I use my Benelli SBE for almost all hunting situations. I do not have a suitable back-up gun in case the SBE should ever break. The SBE performs extremely well, but I would feel better having a spare field gun that I could also use periodically for sporting clays.

I see Beretta offers a synthetic stock 390 priced near $600. The price is more attractive than the 391 or Benelli. I would appreciate your view on the 390 gas gun and how it compares to the 391.

What are the mechanical and operational differences are between the 390 and 391? Is the 390 as reliable as the 391? I was informed the 390 is now made in the US. Is this true? If so, then is this 390 the same as 390s made in Italy, or is it a lower quality gun? I never owned a gas operated gun. Is the 390 difficult to clean? How often does it require cleaning? Do you know how long Beretta will provide parts for the 390? I do not want to buy a gun that could soon be obsolete and have trouble finding parts? Based on you vast experience with Beretta gas guns, what spare parts should a 390 or 391 owner have in possession?

Thanks in advance for your help.



Dear Jeff,

I believe that the gun you are talking about is a Beretta 3901. That’s basically a Beretta 390, but it is made in the same USA plant that makes (made, now that the US armed services are going back to the .45) the Beretta service pistol. Google “Beretta 3901″ and you’ll get plenty to read about it.

For a backup to the SBE and occasional Sporting gun, I can’t think of a better choice. I don’t think that you are giving up anything to the 391 in a practical sense. The 391 is a little better in handling a wide variety of shells. The 390/3901 will handle the same range of shells without requiring any adjustment, but it’s happiest with one of Rich Cole’s ( spring kits to get the absolute perfect bolt speed with real hot or real light loads.

I can’t remember whether or not the 3901 has a magazine cut-off like the 390 and 391, but that really isn’t such a big deal either way. I’ve really not spent much time with a 3901, but did use a 390 for quite some time. The actions are identical and that’s what you care about. I’ve also heard that the 3901 doesn’t come with the stock adjustment shims, but I can’t substantiate that. Doesn’t matter as they are only a few dollars from Beretta.

As to parts, I don’t see any issue as I can still get all the parts I need for my 303s. Rich Cole is a great source of parts if you choose not to go through Beretta.

As far as I could tell from the 3901s that I’ve seen, the interior is of no lower quality than any of the Berettas made in Italy. The exterior is plainer (and to my eye, more attractive), but that’s just cosmetics. Personally, I prefer the synthetic stock for general use, so the 3901 would be my pick.

While I can’t comment directly on the performance of the 3901, I sure put enough rounds through the 390 and 391. My 391 had some teething problems because it was one of the earlier ones (magazine block failure, recoil buffer failures, bent lifter), but all were sorted out and it now is flawless. My 390 never had any real problems of any kind. One of my 303s is approaching 100K and has has most of its parts replaced at one time or another, just as any gun will require after much use.

The one area where I think your SBE is better than the Beretta gas guns is in shooting when the gun is soaking wet. Sometimes I think that the Benellis will run under water (NO! Don’t really try that.) When my Beretta’s get soaking wet, they don’t like it. A little rain won’t hurt things, but when I have to pour water out of the gun, it doesn’t like it. Of course, if I cleaned my gas guns more often it might make a difference. The 391 seems to be able to go forever without cleaning. Ditto the 390 (and I assume 3901). A Canadian pal of mine once ran a dirt test on his 390. He ran thousands and thousands and thousands of shells through the gun without cleaning. You won’t have to worry about cleaning it until you feel guilty. Just slosh BreakFree CLP all over it and keep on shooting. The 303 won’t go as long, but it does pretty well, certainly much, much better than the Remington 1100.

Mechanical differences in the 390/3901 vs 391 are really mostly in the gas valving. The 391 uses a different piston and secondary gas valve. My impression was that the 391 changes were due as much to the desire to use a thinner forend as they were to change performance. I believe that the trigger groups are mechanically identical, but don’t hold me to that.

Bottom line: I think that the 390 was a heck of a gun and I wouldn’t hesitate to buy one. I understand that the 3901 is a cosmetic variance of the 390, so I wouldn’t hesitate to buy it either. MSRP on the 3901 synthetic is $750, but I’ll bet you can find them for $650 or even a bit less.

One last thing- if you’ve never owned a gas gun before, you will be surprised a the reduction in recoil compared to your Benelli.

Best regards,
Bruce Buck
Shotgun Report’s Technoid

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Sticky Pads


I just go through trimming and putting a Limb Saver on an 870. I find that, as you say in the article, it is very “sticky” and not worth a dime for throwing up and shooting birds or skeet or anything!

Please tell me if there is anything that I can put on the pad to make it “slick” so that it will work for me.

Your help is greatly appreciated!

Kindest regards,

Huntsville, Texas


Try some Slick-Eez

You are certainly not the only one to suffer from sticky-pad-itis. Slick-Eez works pretty well.

Bruce Buck
Shotgun Report’s Technoid


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Buying Used Shotguns

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