If you’re into shotguns at all, you likely know that Italy produces some of the finest examples of that venerable firearm in the entire world. If you didn’t know that, well, you do now. Beretta continues the tradition with their line of 1301 shotguns, but does the 1301 Tactical meet that high standard? In the video linked below, John from Pew Pew Tactical spends a day on the range with a Beretta 1301 Tactical and tells us what he thinks.
John admits from the start that he doesn’t have an extensive shotgunning background. He owns a full-size Remington 870 that he shoots a few times a year and that’s it. So, this is more of an everyman review of the 1301 Tactical, which I will refer to from here on out as simply “the 1301.” Along those lines, John notes that the 1301, despite being Beretta’s flagship semi-automatic shotgun, is very forgiving to less experienced shooters.
Beretta 1301 Tactical Features and Specifications
Let’s start with some specs and features from the Beretta website:
- 12 Gauge
- Barrel length: 18.5 inches
- Overall Length: 37.8 inches
- Chamber: 3 inches
- Available Finishes: Black, OD Green, Flat Dark Earth, and a Marine edition with a high-visibility, corrosion-resistant finish, and Beretta’s “Aqua-Tech” coating.
- Synthetic stock and handguard
- Sights: Adjustable ghost ring rear and an interchangeable front blade with protective ears.
- Capacity: Variable. According to Beretta’s website, the 1301’s capacity ranges from 4+1 to 7+1 depending on the length of the magazine tube and whether you’re using 2 ¾-inch or 3-inch shells.
John talks about a few of these features, saying the sights “work quite well.” The adjustable ghost ring rear sight is nice for slugs. There is also a pic rail on top of the receiver if you want to mount an optic. John suggests that an RMR or Holosun 507c might work well, though he did not use an optic in his tests.
The elongated handguard features aggressive texturing for positive retention. It also has some nice grooves “that allow a shot shell to neatly fit in the swell while you’ve got the gun gripped in your support hand to facilitate the most tactical of reloads.” John says the 13-inch stock feels short compared to his 870 but thinks it fits well with the 1301’s overall compact feel after he got used to it. Beretta includes spacers if you want a longer length of pull. John says there is a model available with a Mesa Tactical stock and pistol grip.
One of the first things you notice about the 1301 is the “chunky ass charging handle.” John says it looks more like a cabinet doorknob than a firearm component but in a good kind of way. He thinks the 1301’s oversized fire controls are “one of the coolest parts of the shotgun.” Running a shotgun effectively isn’t always easy and requires practice. The larger controls make it easier to pick up, which is why John says the gun is forgiving to those who may be just learning to handle a shotgun.
The other controls are an easy-to-reach, textured cross-bolt safety just aft of the loading gate and a large, textured bolt release. The latter is “intelligently placed just below the ejection port to facilitate a hyper-fast bolt drop during a tactical reload from a locked bolt.”
The 1301 has a nuanced operating system.
But John says “tactical reload” might not be the correct terminology because of how the 1301’s operating system works. “You’re likely going to be breechloading the gun quite a bit.” What he means by that is the 1301 won’t chamber a round when you manually work the bolt unless the hammer is down. That means you either have to pull the trigger on an empty chamber to drop the hammer or hit the small button on the rear of the lifter. That pulls a round from the mag tube onto the lifter to be chambered when you work the charging handle.
It took me a minute to picture that, but John links to another video that takes you through the process. Once I got it, I saw the value, as John did, of being able to quickly change from one shell type to another. Say you’re loaded with birdshot but need a slug. You can make that switch without emptying the entire mag tube. All you do is rack the charging handle manually, insert the round you want, and you’re in business. Continuing to fire normally will take you through the magazine, or you can repeat the process as many times as you want. It will definitely take practice, but it looks like a nice feature once you get used to it.
The trigger is “quite nice and crisp” at about four pounds, which goes well with Beretta’s “Blink” gas recoil system. The company advertises the Blink system as being 36 percent faster than any other semi-automatic shotgun on the market. John notes that he lacks the experience to offer an informed opinion on that claim but says the 1301 “does indeed feel fast.”
One Small Bizarre Issue with the 1301
He ran a variety of bird and 00 buckshot during his day on the range with good results. He did, however, experience a “small, kind of bizarre issue.” It seems that hitting the bolt release in a specific way with a round already chambered induces a double feed when the gun tries to load a round from the lifter and one from the mag tube simultaneously. That results in “a quite obnoxious traffic jam inside the breech.”
Beretta says this problem has been addressed with the Gen 2 1301s so just make sure to grab the latest version of the gun. John says the problem did go away after removing the already installed mag tube capacity blocker, which is apparently aimed at hunting regulations that limit capacity. John notes the strangeness of that feature on a gun labeled as “Tactical,” but it is, as they say, what it is. So, limiting the mag capacity to two rounds, plus having rounds that aren’t exactly 2 ¾ inches may contribute to the problem.
Final Thoughts on the 1301 Tactical
“Outside of that,” John says, “the Beretta 1301 is pretty damn fun to run, although…throwing a couple hundred rounds of 12 gauge downrange in a day is a great way to just kinda rattle the hell out of your skeleton.” The things one does for science and gun reviews.
Beretta doesn’t list a weight value for the 1301 on its website, but John comments on how light it is. He estimates it to be about two pounds lighter than the Benelli M4, which is probably its closest point of comparison. That lightness, John says, makes the 1301 feel like it “jumps around a little bit more than a normal shotgun.” He doesn’t see that as a knock, however, because it’s part of the trade-off that comes with a lighter, more compact gun.
“The 1301 feels sleek and points naturally,” John says. And the fact that he felt halfway competent with the gun after just a few hours and a couple hundred rounds “should tell you something.” He laments that he didn’t have more time with the gun to improve his skills and try some of the nice aftermarket upgrades that are out there. He would especially like to add an extended mag tube, forward rail, and a forward sling point. But Pew Pew Tactical liked the gun so much they bought it from the store that lent it to them for the test. So, that has to be a good sign and maybe we’ll see more of it in the future.
John closes by saying “I had an absolute blast with it. If you’re in the market for a tactical shotgun that’s sleek, runs well, comes with a host of rad features right off the bat, and isn’t going to break the bank, I’d absolutely recommend getting your hands on a 1301 and seeing how you like it.”
So, what do you think? Does the 1301 Tactical look like a winner? Let us know in the comments. Happy shooting, y’all.