In the beginning
In mid-2004 Beretta released the Xtrema 2 semi-automatic 12 Gauge shotgun in the United States. A buddy of mine showed me a YouTube video of the Beretta pro shooter demonstrating it. I was floored by his obvious skill, but also immediately intrigued by the almost complete absence of apparent recoil and how fast it fired. View the video below:
Based on that video, I went down to my local firearm retailer and dutifully filled out the requisite paperwork and forked over $1,400 bucks for the 28” barreled version. While the gun was designed predominately for hunters in mind, I thought it made a pretty fair home defense weapon, too. However, its obvious shortcomings for home defense use is that huge 28” barrel. It’s pretty tough to stealthily move through a house with that barrel knocking over knick-knacks and putting dents in the drywall. So, I waited and waited and waited.
Roughly a year ago, the engineers at Beretta finally decided that the Xtrema 2 would make a great tactical and competition platform, too. Maybe my letter-writing campaign encouraged them. I don’t know, but now I’ve got my hands on one and we’ll go over it to see if it may be right for your home defense needs.
Beretta released this gun in two varieties. Both are 12 gauge. One is meant primarily for competition, while the one we are reviewing today is primarily meant for law enforcement and home defense use. The obvious differences are that the competition gun comes with a ribbed 21” or 24” barrel, a fiber optic front sight and interchangeable choke system, while the tactical model has a fixed choke, an 18.5” barrel, ghost ring adjustable sights and a Picatinny rail up top.
The internals on both are identical, utilizing Beretta’s BLINK gas piston system (video below), which Beretta claims will fire “36% faster than any other shotgun”. While I can’t tell you if it is indeed faster than any other shotgun, I can tell you that it fires fast. Really fast. Like, Jerry Miculek fast.
So, let’s take a look at what this gun has in the way of design basics. There is a lot to talk about here. First is that shorter barrel. The carbine shotgun concept is a winner with me. Its shorter barrel allows you to manipulate it in close-in spaces without making drywall dents and allows you to keep the gun leveled at the ready position as opposed to lowering the barrel to turn a corner. It’s made of something Beretta calls “Steelium”. I don’t know what that is, but, so far, I’m impressed with it.
The equipped ghost ring sights are ideal for quick target acquisition and the rear sight is fully adjustable. The sights have two dots on the rear and a single dot on the front blade, making them easier to acquire in low light situations. A dab of glow-in-the-dark paint will set you up with some really inexpensive night sights. The shotgun is also equipped with an oversize charging handle, oversize bolt release and safety buttons and an oversize trigger guard. The length of pull is short, with the overall length of the gun being 37.8”. The pull and cone are both adjustable and the spacers needed to make the adjustments are included with the 1301.
The chamber will accept both 2 ¾” and 3” shot shells. The barrel has been tested with and can accept HP steel shot.
The magazine is limited to 2 shells from the factory. They install a reducer in the magazine tube. Nowhere in the manual or any other media from Beretta could I find instructions on how to remove the reducer. So, we’ll help you out here.
First, unscrew the fore-end cap. Slide the fore end off, and then pull the barrel out. At the end of the magazine tube is a slot where the plug is inserted. Press down on the little catch for the plug and gently wiggle it out of the end. The spring is under tension, so you’ll need to be ready to catch it once the plug is fully removed. Once the plug is out, the reducer can be easily removed. Reinsert the spring into the plug and work the whole plug and spring assembly back into the tube, paying careful attention to re-engaging the barb on the plug into the magazine tube so the assembly won’t pop back out. Re-insert the barrel, then the fore end. Install the fore-end cap and you’re all set. No more 2 shot reducer.
The fore-end and grip area are well checkered and make great hand holds with or without gloves. The gun is also light. At roughly 6 pounds, 5 and one-half ounces (scale not calibrated). This light weight, short pull, short barrel design makes this a very maneuverable gun in close quarters.
Beretta sells this gun with a nice full size black plastic, foam lined case, owner’s manual, warranty brochure, butt stock spacers, cone spacers, sling attachments, a one-round reducer and a two-round reducer (installed).
In order to explore the capabilities of this gun, I felt it necessary to work with several different ammunition types. I first loaded up some Federal target loads. These are 2 ¾” shells with #8 shot with a muzzle velocity of 1145 FPS. These rounds are very easy to shoot. They’re accurate enough, but because of the overall expansion of the pattern at distances, I wouldn’t choose these for a home defense load. For target practice, and just general range time, these are great shells. I ran through two boxes (50 rounds) and did not experience one FTE or FTF. Very reliable, these shells. Patterning from roughly 10 yards was very good. Each of the six test shots landed center mass of the target.
For our next set of test rounds we used Federal’s Personal Defense shot shells. Also 2 ¾” with 34 #4 copper plated buckshot pellets that leave the muzzle at 1,100 FPS. They were easy to load and fire. The recoil was very manageable, especially in this shotgun. Again, I did not experience any failures at all. Patterning was good from the 10 yard mark. Even shooting rapid fire the muzzle was very controllable and I was able to keep it on target. Since these are buckshot shells, I was expecting a greater recoil effect, but these were roughly equal to the target shells. These are great 12 GA home defense rounds.
Finally, we wanted to put some rifled slugs downrange. The 1301 spat out each slug without complaint or errant behavior. I was very impressed with the overall accuracy of this gun. This probably has a “reach out and touch someone” range of about 100 yards loaded with slugs. Armed with slugs in this thing, you’d have a pretty fair chance of defending your castle if the need arose.
We used Herter’s 2 ¾” shells with 1 ounce rifled slugs. For those of you unfamiliar with Herter’s, it is Cabela’s in-house brand. Herter’s was an outfitter much like Cabela’s is today. Their heyday was during the 60’s and 70’s. At one point they were able to sell firearms through the mail! In 1968 the firearms act banned the sale of guns through mail order, which sent their profits plummeting. Unable to recover from one of their most profitable sales being effectively canceled by Uncle Sam, some bad business decisions, poor customer service, lots of backorders and a fighting a recession, they eventually ran out of money and went bankrupt. The name was kicked around for a number of years afterwards until Cabela’s bought it. Today, their ammo is made by Sellier and Bellot under the name “Herter’s Select”. Usually their prices are pretty good, and I’ve yet to have any issues with any of the ammo I’ve purchased under their “Herter’s” brand. I know you probably didn’t come here wondering about that ammo, but I felt the need to throw in a little history lesson. Class dismissed.
Back to the Beretta…
So, once again, the Berretta proved to be exceptionally accurate. Still using the 10 yard mark I let fly the slugs, which you can see in the photo, all hit their mark with authority.
I also decided that since part of this firearm’s claim to fame is its ability to fire rapidly. For your entertainment and amusement, in the two video clips, I did my best Jerry Miculek impression. We did it at normal speed, then for dramatic effect, we filmed it in slo-mo. I’m no Jerry, and I was never able to pull the trigger faster than this thing could spit out lead.
I’m a big fan of this gun. Make that a huge fan. I had to do a fair amount of searching to find this gun, none of my local shops (Gander Mountain, Cabela’s, Bass Pro, among others) stocked it. When asked if they could order it, each of them said they would but I’d be paying the full retail price of $999.99. I managed to locate it online from Botach.com for $770. That’s a pretty good deal.
The lightness, quickness and shortness of this shotgun make it an ideal candidate for both home defense and law enforcement, as advertised. This one, however, is not for sale. It’s been cleaned, and reloaded. You’ll find it dutifully propped up against the wall just behind my bedroom door.