Beretta 390-28″ or 30″, Step Or Flat


Dear Technoid,

A couple of real quick questions. I have taken your advice and arranged for the purchase of a AL-390 from PA which will be shipping sometime early next week. (I live in VA and have made the proper arrangements through a local dealer, we are just waiting on the FFL to arrive in PA).

I need to make 2 decisions before the dealer ships the gun.

1. Do I go with a barrel length of 28″ ( which I have been advised would better suit my frame, I’m 5’8″, 165 lbs, and 32 inch sleeve ) or the 30″ which I am told is the current length of choice among Sporting competitors? (For longer shots?)

2. Do I choose the discontinued “Step” rib, or the flat rib?

I have rented both 28″ and 30″ and used them on the skeet field and cannot see any difference as far as performance between the 2 lengths, but again I’m a beginner. I’ve been advised to take the 28″ based on my build, and I can say that I do prefer the 28″ a teeny bit over the 30″, but if there is a performance advantage with the 30″ I could go with that gun without any hangups.

So far, and for a while longer I will be shooting a lot of skeet to get up to speed, I also head out to the trap field every so often with the thought that I will see some of those targets as well when I start sporting. I figure that the 30″ would be the all around length for skeet, trap and sporting, and I’m an all around guy. I’d like to make a purchase that will serve me in all 3 disciplines with the goal of finally sticking with sporting.

Second, the rib. I’m not sure about real world but the thought of a taller rib makes more sense to me, but again I don’t know what I’m talking about. (The guys at the range could not tell me if the Berettas they rent were high or low, just that the gun was the sporting model.) I know that the higher the rib the higher the gun shoots which is good for trap. I’ve been advised to chose the low rib for two reasons. One, because the step is discontinued and if I get used to it, I could have a hard time adapting to the new lower style if I do change guns to a different barrel length later.

Also I have been told use it just because that what everyone else considers the new rage for sporting. Well I’m not sure, so thats why I’m turning to you, I know that many of these decisions are personal preference, but since I’m so new I have no preferences yet, I need to know what generally works better.

I am buying this gun to shoot skeet only for about 6 months (The moving to sporting) so it needs to be able to that good also. My priorities are skeet/sporting, and the ability to shoot the occasional round of trap, and I need the all around gun to ultimately carry me through Sporting.

Thanks very, very much for the sound advice during this purchase.


Dear Calvin,

I wish that I could give you hard and fast answers, but you are right- it is all personal.

First of all, there is no meaningful ballistic difference between a 28″ and 30″ barrel. The longer barrel is preferred simply because it hurts you less on the short birds than it helps on the long birds. 390s tend to be pretty light up front and the extra 2″ of barrel is preferred by most people to add some stability at the sacrifice of maneuverability. Once a clay target gets going, it is quite predictable. A touch of nose weight for follow through and steadiness is considered desirable. In the field, where a bird usually changes trajectory suddenly, a more responsive gun is an advantage.

That said, you are very correct in matching the size and weight of the gun to your physique. Pick what feels best to you, but remember that as you shoot more, you will develop more upper body strength, not less.

The main reason that I prefer the longest barrels that I can handle is that the longer sighting plane helps me be more precise on longer targets. It doesn’t seem to hurt me in the slightest in skeet either. It definitely helps a bit on the long sporting birds and at trap.

As to high rib/low rib, that is also personal taste. For my self, I feel very strongly that the high stepped rib is a mistake at sporting. 60% of sporting clays targets are droppers. I set my flat rib guns up so that when I cheek into the bone I am looking flat down the rib. Of course, you never actually shoot cheeked that hard, but when you get a dropper you do cheek a bit harder than usual. I set my guns up this way so that I my eye NEVER can go below the rib. If this happens, you lose sight of everything and functionally go blind. When I cheek my flat rib guns with normal pressure I see the usual trap “figure 8” of the beads. This means that I am seeing a little bit of rib. I find this reassuring in that I subconsciously now have a good reference as to how I am cheeking my gun. Naturally, you don’t actually look at your rib, but it is there in the peripheral vision nevertheless.

The reason that I simply loathe stepped ribs for sporting is that they are designed to give a fair amount of built in “up lead” for the constantly rising trap target. Since the stepped rib is higher at the back than at the front, when you look straight down the rib, you are actually pointing the barrel slightly up- just about the amount that I am with my flat rib gun when I see a “figure 8”. Well and good. Trap shooters normally set up these guns so that they even see a bit of rib even though it is already a step rib because they want the gun to shoot quite high. Sporting shooters don’t usually want that high a shooting gun, so most set their step rib guns up so that they look right down the rib. This builds in just a little height and seems to work great. EXCEPT that for me a problem occurs when I get a dropper and tuck my head in just a bit more. Then I lose everything as my eye disappears behind that step. It just kills me. Other people seem to have come to terms with it, but I can’t. For this reason, I avoid using step rib guns at sporting. I don’t mind them at ATA trap where I want a gun to shoot a good bit high. At ISU bunker and wobble trap (which I shoot more than ATA trap), I again want a flat rib gun because the targets vary vertically and there is a very good chance of getting a virtually flat bird.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
Shotgun Report’s Technoid
(Often in error, never in doubt.)

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2 Responses to Beretta 390-28″ or 30″, Step Or Flat

  1. TH Milstead says:

    Mr. Buck is right as rain…as usual. AL means light barrels. Received a 20 gauge AL 390 26″ barrel as a gift…big difference with a 1100. Replace barrel with 28″ barrel….still too light. Had Briley machine 4 oz magazine plug to replace plastic version. Bit nose heavy…butcept it works fine.Of course add 3″ of receiver to barrel length.


  2. Ed says:

    Calvin: You don’t mention how the 390 you plan to purchase is stocked. 390s can come with different butt stocks, each having different drop at comb and heel. I have a 28″ step-rib barrel marked “Sporting”, and a 30″ step-rib barrel marked “Trap”. My butt stock is from a Sporting model and is significantly fuller bodied than a Field gun. I’ve carefully patterened both barrels, including some testing on the same day, and found that they have the same point of impact at 35 yards. Using the Beretta shims between action and butt stock, I have my POI set 50/50 at 35 yards as my primary use is for Sporting Clays. Of course, this works fine for Skeet, which I shoot recreationally. So, the length does not change POI – for me. The two barrels also give about the same pattern percentages with the same choke tube. In my experience, the 30″ barrel balances just slightly better when mounted on my action/butt stock. I see no visual difference when mounting and firing the two barrels. My advice is to go with the 28″ step-rib barrel for your build and use. -Ed


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