Kicking Beretta 390

Dear Technoid:

I have a Beretta 390. I shot a case of Federal Grand American 1-1/8 oz loads. I must honestly suggest that the gun punched the hell out of me. I fired one practice round and 100 registered singles. The score places me solidly in “D” class.

My cheek was severely slapped, and my shoulder bruised, seems the toe of the stock was too high in the shoulder. A couple of questions have come to mind since. My left eye is my master eye, thus I tried shooting this gun left-handed. (I had learned long ago as a member of The New Jersey State Rifle Team that the eye dictates the shoulder from which the weapon is fired.) I always shoot rifles left handed, but, I wonder?

This may sound crazy after admitting to the above, but, when I shoulder this Beretta right handed, I am looking directly down the center of the rib, and, though it lacks a center bead, my eye looks at the proper amount of rib. The only problem I see is a faint “ghost” image which I am sure is generated by the dominance of the left eye.

My question, or questions are: Is there something wrong with the Beretta? (it seems to function properly). Can I shoot right handed without any further adjustment. (This would be nice as my left shoulder has taken a lifetime of recoil, and then some). Would a piece of transparent tape over my left lens do more harm than good? Are Federal Grand Americans extra “hot”? (Seems my old turkey loads kicked less from my Mossberg).

There seems to be a very varied opinion on any of these subjects, but, I have narrowed the choices down to he who “is never in doubt” so long as “he” does not mind these incessant questions.

Any help will be appreciated,


Dear GE:

“Often in error, but never in doubt”, I will give it my best shot at long distance diagnosis over the ether of the internet. Attacking things in no particular order-

Federal Grand American shells- The Federal Grand American handicap loads that I bought when I was at the Grand in Vandalia two years ago were definitely a bit hotter than a normal 3 dram load. All the “majors” load special shells for the Grand and, although ATA rules expressly prohibit shells faster than 3 dram equivalent, they freely admit that their shells have just that little extra “competitive edge”- ie, are faster.

Be that as it may, a slightly hotter load should not have caused your symptoms. It has to be something else.

I doubt that there is anything mechanically wrong with the 390. You never mentioned that it failed to function. If it had, I believe that you would have said so. About 90% of the 303s and 390s work just fine right out of the box. The other 10% need to be carefully cleaned and then heavily lubricated with BreakFree CLP until they get broken in. One of my 303s required this, but now works perfectly.

Excessive cheek slap almost always indicates

1) improper fit gun (cast, pitch and height) and/or 2) incorrect shooting style. In that order usually.

Shoulder bruising indicates

1) a different kind of gun fit problem (usually stock length) and/or 2) incorrect shooting style.

There are really too many variables to get into without seeing you in action- but naturally, I cannot resist taking a few guesses.

As a cross dominant shooter, my guess is that you are keeping your head very erect when you bring the gun up to your cheek. There is a relatively long distance between the cheek and the shoulder due to this “heads up” shooting stance. This is why only a small part of the toe of the butt is against your shoulder and the rest is sticking out in the air. This means that all the recoil is concentrated into the little part of the butt that is on your shoulder, instead of spreading it out over the entire butt the way it should be. This would make anyone’s shoulder hurt. Having just a little bit of the butt on the shoulder would also make the gun move a great deal on firing. This would cause the face slap in a big way.

The problem may well be in your gun mount. I suggest that you try mounting the gun as follows: mount the gun to your shoulder so that the ENTIRE butt of the gun is against the shoulder. Now, with the gun in the shoulder, raise the shoulder up towards the face until the stock properly contacts the cheek. This way the butt will be fully in contact with the shoulder and the comb will still be on the cheek. Avoid having part of the butt on the shoulder and part sticking out above. This may seem awkward at first because you are doing it left handed, but I do believe that it will go a long way towards solving your problem.

If you want to switch from left to right shoulder, give it a try, but make sure that you mount the gun as I have described above. Since you say that you shot “100 registered singles” I assume that your sport is trap. Shooting “one eyed” in trap is not as big a disadvantage as it is at sporting clays or in the field, but it still is a bit of a handicap. I do agree with your rifle experience in that it is usually better to switch “handedness” than to switch eyes, but your case may be different with a bad shoulder to protect.

If you want to try right handed shooting with a left master eye, a piece of frosty Scotch tape on the left lens is fine. To put it on right, mount the gun as if you were shooting and have some one put the patch on the lens so that it just obscures your front bead. You do not need, or want, to cover up the whole lens. The other alternative is just to close the left eye, either before you call for the bird or after you have identified its trajectory.
You should know that the Beretta 390 stocks are adjustable by way of shims and washers. The most recent field 390s come cast off for a righty and with 60 mm of drop, although you never know what Beretta will do on a gun to gun basis. You can increase the height slightly and center the stock just by reversing the shim and washer. If you want more extreme adjustment, you can order other washer/shim combinations from Beretta in Accokeek.

Your gun probably lined up correctly when you mounted it right handed because it comes set up cast for a righty, but it is easy to change. There is not such thing as an absolute right or wrong gun stock dimension. All people and shooting styles differ a bit. If you can shoot off of your left side with both eyes open, I would do it. Binocular vision is a plus in any shooting game. I certainly would not let the fact that my gun seems to fit better righty than lefty influence that decision. Change the way the stock fits. The gun should serve you, not visa versa. If you do want to shoot righty, give it a try, secure in the knowledge that you can adjust the stock if it does not work out. By the way, it was pretty gutsy of you shooting registered with a new, unfit gun and an unsolved eye dominance problem. You are obviously not afraid to take risks!

Best regards,
Bruce Buck
Shotgun Report’s Technoid

This entry was posted in Shotgun related, Shotguns and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Kicking Beretta 390

  1. Ljutic3651 says:

    Check to see if your 390’s stock shims are set up for left hand. SX for cast on (left hand) DX cast off (right hand). You can google the owner’s manual if you don’t have one. There are two of them, [plastic] one at the rear of the receiver and [metal] one is screwed down by the stock bolt which is inside the stock. To access this, remove the recoil pad and use a 13mm socket to remove the bolt. Pull the stock off, keep the spacer on the back of the receiver and look to see if “DX” is facing you from the rear. If so then it’s set up for right hand and flip it over to SX for left hand. Pull out the spacer inside the stock and check for the same. I have a 391 teknys trap which had Beretta in stock recoil reducer and no cheek slap or shoulder recoil. However if you want to drop the recoil pad down, have a adjustable butt plate installed. There are a number of them built by Jones Adjustable Butt Plate, Gracoil, Add-A-Rib, Country Gentleman, etc.


Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.