Beretta 390 Vs Beretta 391

Dear Technoid,

Have followed your columns for several years now and admire your writings. I share your preference for Beretta autos for sporting and have owned five 390’s over the last few years. Each successive gun allowed me to ‘tweak and tune’ this and that until I thought I had found just the ticket with my last one, a Ballistics Specialist gold sporting with all the bells and whistles, (except backboring)————

And then it happened. Beretta had the gall to introduced a new model !!! Since I am powerless over the notion that a new model MUST be an improvement over an “old” model, (plus the fact that I met a guy who wanted my 390 more than i thought i did), I, well,…. you know ————–bought a new gun. Kinda figured I probably should be sensible and wait till I could shoot a 391 a little , see if I liked it, THEN decide whether to sell my superbly balanced, perfectly fitted, soft recoiling 390. (did I mention the nice wood?) It certainly wouldn’t make sense to sell this magic wand to buy a 391 when I hadn’t even shot one………

Well, now that you know my relentless pursuit of perfection is overshadowed only by my obsessive compulsive disorder, I can admit to being the owner of a new 391 gold sporter that is SO LIGHT that I feel like I’m shooting a Red Ryder BB gun!

Question—-do you think “muscle memory” will learn to slow down and smooth out a light gun when you’ve been used to a heavier one? I would prefer to LEARN to shoot this weight gun rather than trying to add weight . It’s nicely balanced and I’ve fitted stock to shoot to eye focus point. Always wondered about the ” heavy gun-smooth swing ” theory when applied to sporting when I mostly shoot a sort of perverted sustained lead anyway.

What is your opinion of 391 compared to 390?? No fair saying that the 303 was the high point of Beretta auto’s as I started shooting sporting just as it was discontinued!

Thanks for your time


Dear J,

Ah, another one who suffers form CPD (Compulsive Purchase Disorder)! Join the club. CPD promotes an insoluble inventory problem.

1) When you buy the new gun, you sell the old gun. This virtually insures that the new gun will not be as good as the old gun so you will wish that you had never sold it. OR

2) When you buy the new gun, you will cleverly keep the old gun “just in case”. This virtually insures that you will constantly be going back to the old gun and will never learn to properly shoot the new one.

Of course the Beretta auto you really want is the 303 30″ trap model. That’s the one everyone wants for sporting. Unfortunately, Ballistics bought most of those barrels up to convert them to flat ribbed 390 barrels when the 390 first came out with that stupid stepped rib that no one wanted. It was like all the fine Tiffany sterling silver dinnerware that was melted down in the ’70s when the price of raw silver went so high when the Hunts were trying to corner it. Sometimes the market promotes mayhem and vandalism. Fortunately, I still have a couple of 303 30″ trap guns (one NIB) so you don’t have to feel sorry for me the way I feel sorry for you. Don’t you feel better now?

What does it matter what I think about the 391 vs the 390? You’re asking me after you have already made the switch!You should ask me BEFORE! Aaarrrggghhh!

OK, so that you can’t accuse me of withholding- here are my general rules on Beretta gas gun (any model) purchases:

1) Buy the gun and shoot it the way it comes. No backbore. No porting. No forcing cones. No “interior parts polishing”. No fancy chokes. No crapola. This will cut the price of your new Beretta gas gun from $X to $X/2- just what it ought to cost. Now take the other half of that $X/2 you would have spent on a trick gun and buy a SECOND IDENTICAL stock Beretta gas gun.

There. You now have two stock Beretta gas guns in place of the one trick gun without spending an extra nickel. You have a complete set of spare parts. Your primary gun will no longer feel “lonely”. Remember the Technoid’s maxim: “Gas guns are like sheep. They know when they are alone and they don’t like it.” You also have better guns. I can’t tell you how often I have seen “modifications” screw up a perfectly good gun. That said, I do wrap each trigger group up in a $65 bill and send it to Allen Timney to have it crisped up and the safety pinned (for a target gun). Other than that, I leave them alone.

Well, OK, I’m lying. I do like Rich Cole’s exhaust valve spring kit for the 390 and I do use the hardened links and hammer struts. Those parts make sense. The 390 exhaust valve spring selection is a real winner and allowed me to tune my 390 to optimize low recoil with a particular shell. I don’t have any barrel work or other interior work done to the guns. They don’t need it and you are wasting your money. Barrel work screws them up more often than it helps anything.

Now that’s off my chest, lets talk 390 vs 391. I like the 391 better in most respects. I REALLY like the fit of the pistol grip area of the stock and the slim forend of the 391. The ergonomics make the gun. As to the light weight, I dunno. The 390 and 391 30″ sporters I reviewed for my column in “The Clay Pigeon” weighed within an ounce of each other. The 390 carried a bit more of that weight up front (though the barrels both weighed almost exactly 1.0 KG). To me the 391 does feel “faster” than the 390.

As to the gas systems, I’m just not sure. The gas system on the 390 was reliable, simple and easy to clean. The new hardened link and hammer struts will solve 90% of the 390 breakage. The guns never really broke very much anyway. Besides, you had have your identical spare backup gun, didn’t you? The 391 system seems to be equally reliable, but is a bit harder to strip and clean because you have to disassemble the gas valve to get inside the gas chamber to clean the baffle. Not a big deal, but an extra 10 minutes once a month. I also don’t know if Rich Cole will be able to come up with a set of exhaust valve springs for the 391 or if they will respond to changes in spring tension the way the 390 did. I really liked tinkering with those 390 springs.

Rich (Cole Gunsmithing, Rt. 123, Harpswell, ME 04079, Tel: 207-833-5027, <>) did send me an experimental forend weight for the 391. It replaces the 3 oz metal forend cap with a sectioned metal cylinder. The first piece is about 5 oz, but you can add two more pieces of 2 oz each for a total of 9. It’s a nice clean alternative if you want to add some weight up front. Easy to take off and return to stock form too. I don’t know when or if he will market it, but he should.

What do I think about a heavy target gun vs a light one? Depends on where the heavy and light are in the gun. I really care much more about the balance of a gun that I do about its absolute weight. Personally, I seem to do best at sporting with guns in the 7-1/2# to 8-1/4# area. The 7-1/4# 30″ Browning 425 28 gauge sporter was just a touch too light for me even though it was very nicely balanced. Most of the monstrous K-80s I have shot have been better suited to pre-mounted gun games like ATA trap and American-style skeet. I guess you can get used to anything.

About five of the 391 sporters I have shot do have one strange malady. When using heavy loads, the gun sometimes engages the magazine cut-off all by itself. You shoot your usual two shells, but when you go to reload, you hit the bolt closing button and the bolt won’t close. You look on the other side of the receiver and see that the magazine cut-off lever is sticking out. When you push it back in, everything closes and works fine. You initially think that you hit the lever yourself by mistake, but that isn’t the case. The 391 are actually engaging it on their own. There was some sort of change in that magazine cut-off lever because the 390s never did that. The 391s don’t all do it and the ones that do, don’t do it all the time, but it is a problem. It will be interesting to see what the fix will be.

Bottom line 390 vs 391 advice: I’ve said this before but since I usually can’t even remember what I ate for lunch, I can’t expect you to remember my usual dose of drivel. If you are shooting a 390 and you like it, there is no need to go to a 391. If you have a 390 and it is almost, but not quite right, going to a 391 makes sense. If you don’t have any gas gun at all and want to try one, get the 391. Don’t write me AFTER you have done something and ask my advice! What good is it then? OK, maybe it isn’t much good beforehand either.

Personally, I really sort of like the feel of the 391, especially with the 30″ bbls. Now if they would just make a straight trap stock without the Monte Carlo hump…

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
The Technoid writing for Shotgun Report, LLC
(Often in error. Never in doubt.)

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