391 Cleaning

Dear Bruce:

After a half a dozen exclusive years with a Browning O/U, I’ve made the switch to an hull-chukar! I’ve been shooting a 391 for nearly a year now and while I didn’t like the gun the first few months, I absolutely love it at this point and wouldn’t go back to an O/U for regular shooting.

However, despite the affection, all is not roses. I absolutely hate cleaning this gun! It’s a good thing that it shoots flawlessly without frequent cleaning because I probably only give it a thorough cleaning about every 2,500 rounds. It takes me 2 plus hours to do all including trigger assembly, etc.

So, here’s my question…. You promote shooting this brand gun “wet”, and one of the reasons is that CLP (which, thanks to you, I’ve used for years) keeps the crud in suspension. I apply light coatings to the bolt assembly (made the mistake of wetting the trigger assembly one time) and the rails, and the slide. Do you recommend wetting the piston and housing? Will that make these pieces easier to clean?

I have yet to experience a jam in over 7,000 rounds! Incredible! All light target loads.

I look forward to your response,


Dear Terry,

Yes, the 391 is an amazing gun. It will go a shamefully long time between cleanings. When I shoot my Beretta autos (303s) wet, I shake the BreakFree CLP bottle up to churn everything up and then I put a couple of drops into the bolt via the charging handle hole. Then I put a couple more drops on the piston guide rod, then some on the outside of the piston and sometimes a few drops on the inside of the gas chamber that hangs under the barrel. That’s about it.

I’ve always figured that the BreakFree CLP that I put into the bolt sloshes and spatters around lubing all the internal stuff back there. It’s not very scientific, but it seems to work. I think that the lube on the piston rod, piston and gas chamber is what really matters.

When it comes to cleaning time, I also use BreakFree CLP (why change if it works?).The 391 has a more complicated secondary valve system than my 303s. Much more complicated since my 303s don’t have any secondary valve. Before you clean the 391 gas chamber, you have to remove the baffle, plus the spring and jam nuts. I bought a steel wire plumber’s solder brush that just fits into the piston and the next size up for the gas chamber. They have them at the home supply places for a couple of dollars. I slobber BreakFree CLP inside the piston and gas chamber, let it work for ten minutes and then have at it with the solder brush once you’ve pulled out the secondary valve. Cleaning both areas spotlessly clean doesn’t take three minutes. If you have an airhose, the inside of the action is a piece of cake. Just paint it with solvent and blow it out. What takes the time is searching for any little parts you blow out of the trigger. Watch out for one of the cross pins that always seems to escape.

I don’t really know how often you have to clean the 391 to keep it running. There are obviously some variables in the shells and weather. Since you are getting 2,500 between cleanings now, why not just run it until it stops and then clean it 1,000 rounds before that point is reached again. One thing’s for sure, if your 391 starts to slow down, you can always squirt in some BreakFree CLP to get it going again. That will see you through any shooting day. I have a Canadian friend who put over 50,000 ( !, but that’s what he says and I believe him after seeing the gun) through his 390 without ever cleaning it. He just added BreakFree CLP from time to time. I guess that it can be done.

By the way, I always made a habit of replacing the mainspring on my 303s every 10,000. I’m not sure how necessary that is on the 390/391 series with the secondary valve controlling the bolt speed better. Still, it can’t hurt. Rich Cole at Cole Gunsmithing, http://www.colegun.com, has all the parts.

You might also want to check out some of that fancy wood Rich sells for the 391. With one of Rich’s el deluxo supremo stocks on your gun, people will pay you to let them clean it for you.

Best regards,

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

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2 Responses to 391 Cleaning

  1. Bill E. says:

    Brownells also sells the mainsprings as well as a gazillion other parts for all the Beretta series semi autos and even a few for some of the 600 series O/Us at very reasonable prices. In fact with the exception of the receiver and barrel, I am not sure an entire gun couldn’t be made from all the parts Brownells lists. I bought a mainspring for a friend’s 391 for about $13 not too long ago; didn’t check Coles for price comparison because that seemed very reasonable. That gun had 10-15,000 rounds through it and upon removal, found that the old spring was a full 2-2.5 inches shorter than the new replacement. So from that example it appears that the gas compensating system on the Berettas with or without the secondary valve, does cause permanent spring compression after extensive shooting. Therefore, Technoid’s advise to replace the mainsprings applies to the newer series of Beretta semi autos also. Of course on my friends 391 he had to really heat the nut almost cherry red to get the adhesive used by Beretta to release enough to remove the mainspring. Not sure why Beretta does that because it is not necessary and my buddy’s gun has been functioning fine without any of Beretta’s “death grip” Loctite on it. That nut is positioned so it really should not get loose anyway.


  2. stanley says:

    A Dremel sure makes it a lot easier and quicker.


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