Beretta AL 391, Correct Barrel Length

Dear Technoid,

I am looking at a Beretta AL391 synthetic stock. I am debating between the 24″ and 26″ barrel. I turkey hunt, so the 24″ seems appealing, but I haven’t handled one yet. The longer forearm on the Beretta makes even the 26″ look shorter than it is. I will occasionally use the gun for ducks (once a year). Other than that, some clays and dove.

Does the longer barrel improve cycling consistency? If not, I think I will lean toward the 24″.

Also, any comments on the unique rubber inserts on the Beretta synthetic stock?

Thanks for any help.


Dear Matt,

The length of the barrel really has very little to do with the cycling consistency or shotshell ballistics. There is a slight loss of velocity in a short barrel, but not very much and not enough to worry about. Cycling should not be affected by any factory barrel length. They do the testing. They wouldn’t sell a particular length if it didn’t work. If you decide to do aftermarket work on the barrel, you are on your own.

Barrel length does a couple of things for you. In an aiming situation (turkey hunting), the longer the barrel, the longer and more precise the sighting plane. This is sort of a rifle vs pistol thing. If you use an optic this won’t matter, but if you are just shooting off the front bead length is some small help.

On targets moving through the air, barrel length does help slightly with more precise target alignment as the distances lengthen. This is one of the main reasons that the 30″ barrel has become so very popular at sporting clays and why even longer barrels are popular at trap. We are also seeing many 30″ barrels at skeet, hitherto thought to be a sport where short barrels were an advantage.

I’ve said this before and gotten some comments both ways, but I still believe it. A longer barrel permits less perceived lead on a distant target. Most shooters are a bit more comfortable when dealing with less perceived lead. Yes, I know that barrel length doesn’t matter when you are looking down the rib with the gun fully mounted. You can’t judge barrel length then. But if you shoot low gun, you do a great deal of your “aiming” or lead adjustment as the gun is coming up. Here barrel length does come into the picture.

It is important to remember that the gas gun typically has about 3-1/2″ more sighting plane than an O/U with an equivalent barrel length because the receiver on the gas gun is that much longer. To some extent, the longer receiver gives the impression of a longer sighting plane, but it has never seemed exactly the same as the rib to me. Sort of in between.

On the other side, short barrels weigh less than long barrels. You may or may not want more weight up front. Again, for turkey shooting, I don’t think it matters. But for wing shooting and clays it certainly does. The gun should be properly balanced to suit your preferences. To my way of thinking, the 391 seems to balance best with a 28″ or 30″ barrel. To my sense, they are pretty light up front and can handle the extra couple of ounces. This certainly doesn’t apply to all gas guns, but I think it does to the 391.

I generally select barrel length more for balance than sight picture. I suggest you do the same. Pick a barrel length that seems to balance nicely for you and then live with whatever length that works out to be. Balance is everything in shotgunning.

When I hefted the 391 synthetic at the SHOT show, I felt that it was a heavier gun than the 391 wood stocked field gun. I couldn’t say exactly how much, but it felt a bit heavier and seemed to move the balance point back a bit. Factor that into your barrel length requirements also. I felt that the synthetic stocked 391 was about right with a 28″ barrel.

I think too that barrel length selection also depends somewhat on your individual height and strength. To some extent the overall length of the gun ought to fit the shooter. I’m not talking stock fit here. Obviously that is vitally important. I am talking general proportion. There is nothing hard and fast in this area, but it’s an overall concept. Example, on a SxS with double triggers, I shoot almost a 16″ stock. A gun with a stock that length just doesn’t look right with 26″ barrels.

As you may surmise, I’m not too big a fan of 24″ barrels on that 391. If you try to sell a 24″ 391, I think you will find a diminished market. Still, it’s up to you. You could always buy a second barrel later on.

As to Beretta’s synthetic stock on the 391, I guess that it looks modern to some people. I still prefer Beethoven to Sting, so I bring a bit of personal bias to the table when people try to make shotguns look like cars or toasters. The grip inserts seemed to work OK, but do does wood checkering. Surely, the synthetic will be a bit more resistant to dings and whacks than the wood. If you think that’s a fair trade off for the way it looks, then do it. Of course, the synthetic stock is a bit harder to alter if you can’t get enough movement out of the shim set when you adjust the stock. Wood is pretty easy to hack and patch.

Best regards,

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

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