Beretta Trick

Dear Bruce,

I have a question that I haven’t seen asked so here goes. A good friend who shoots the Beretta 390 in sporting clays pushes the action button on the receiver after he loads a shell into the chamber. This releases the shell from the magazine tube and lets it ride directly below the action.

He claims that this does several things. It changes the balance point slightly rearward and helps compensate for the nose heavy feeling of his earlier model 390. It makes the gun even more reliable than it was, he claims to get almost 250 rounds more through his gun between cleanings. He also states that there is less recoil and quicker cycling of the action. That you can’t feel the shell coming back towards the rear of the gun?

I also shoot Beretta automatics and wanted to try his method of preloading the shell. The action did seem smoother and once when my gun was real dirty, and started hanging up I used his technique to get through the day with out anymore problems. I didn’t really notice the drop in recoil or change in balance, but it does seem possible?

What I would like to know is have you ever tried this or heard of it, and is it in anyway harmful to the gun? Two of my shooting partners are now doing this, and I would like your input on the matter.

Thanks in advance for your help,

Dear Fezunt,

Your most excellent question just goes to show me that no matter what I have gotten used to doing for umpteen million years, someone else will figure out a different way. When I read your question, I just assumed that when you said “pushes the action button on the receiver” you really meant to say “pushes the little stud at the lower back part of the shell lifter”. I have never seen, nor did I know that you could, release a shell from the magazine by pushing the action button on the receiver (“breech bolt release button” in Beretta-speak). So, I just went down to the cellar and pulled out a 303 and a 390 and tried it.

Sure enough. You are absolutely right. If you push hard enough, you can indeed release a shell from the magazine by pushing on the “breech bolt release button/action button”. On my two guns, it goes back about 1/2″ and the brass stops against the front of the shell lifter. Although I didn’t fire the gun this way, it sure looks to me as though it would jam fairly frequently in this mode. Perhaps not. I’ll shoot it at the range and find out.

This was not the technique that I was thinking of. The one that I have experimented with, and that I have seen used by many, many shooters, is to push the little stud at the lower back part of the shell lifter to pop the shell out of the magazine. The shell comes to rest all the way back between the bottom of the closed bolt and the top of the lifter. This is the technique which I refer to in the rest of my answer.

I have been shooting Beretta gas guns on and off for about 15 years. They all use the same trigger mechanism. I have been aware of the technique of popping the second shell out of the magazine to rest under the bolt, but I don’t do it.

At one shoot, my 303 started to hang up on the second shell, so I used the technique to get through the day. At lunch I was chatting with Scott Robertson, also then shooting a 303, and asked him what he did. He said he always popped the second shell out of the magazine and rested it under the bolt. His reasoning was that it was just one less thing for the gun to do and would make it that much more reliable. I certainly can’t argue with that.

The problem with my gun was a metal burr on the magazine retaining spring. I filed it clean with my Swiss Army knife and haven’t had the trouble recur since. As soon as I cleared it up, I went back to the standard way of loading, without popping the second shell back. Other than this one incident, my 303s and 390 have proven very reliable with the standard loading procedure. The trigger group and magazine entrance are very easy to keep clean, so I don’t really think that a problem in that area will occur that popping the shell back can solve. The dirt and carbon usually collect on the piston, piston guide and inside gas chamber. I don’t think that popping the shell back helps that.

However, if I am totally honest (a rarity for the smoke and mirrors Mahatma of Machinery), I will admit that when my gun is hiccuping and I can’t immediately figure out what is going wrong and can’t strip and clean the gun or spray it with BreakFree CLP at that particular moment, I will pop the shell back to see if that helps. Any port in a storm.

If it were a “what the heck, it can’t hurt” situation, I would happily do it every time. But- I think that there is a draw back when you pop the shell back. To me, popping the shell back increases, rather than decreases recoil. For me, it is a noticeable amount too.

This may be subjective, but here is why I feel the way I do. To me, a gas gun kicks more then it fires one shell, with nothing in the magazine, than it does when it fires a shell and then loads the second. I think that it has something to do with the bolt going back forward. Yes, the timing comes way after the recoil pulse, but I think that the gun is still bouncing around on my shoulder a tiny bit and the push forward of the bolt sort of takes the top off the recoil peak just a touch. Anyway, I can notice it.

To the same extent I can also notice the difference between a shell springing out of the magazine and one that is simply being lifted up. The shell coming back seems perfectly timed to be a mini 1-3/4 oz moving weight recoil reducer. For me it flattens out the timing of the recoil pulse just a little, but noticeable bit. I lose this effect when I manually pop the shell back.

I am sure that not everyone senses recoil the same way that I do. We all perceive it differently. But for me, the reason that I don’t pop the shell back is that I feel that I am giving up some recoil reduction. If I felt that I had a reliability problem with the magazine feeding, then I would surely do it and give up the little bit of recoil reduction I feel. However, my gas guns have proven extremely reliable, averaging slightly better than 3 malfunctions per 1000 rounds over the years. Most of those malfunction had nothing to do with feeding so popping the shell back wouldn’t have helped. Besides, I have shot gas guns so long that the occasional malfunction really doesn’t disturb me in the slightest. I consider it a free look at the target.

None of this is to say that you should stop popping the shell back. If you don’t notice the reduction of recoil when you leave the shell in the magazine, then it costs you nothing to do it and may actually help once or twice.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
The Technoid at <>
(Often in error, never in doubt.)

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