Gun Review: Beretta 1301 Tactical 12-Gauge Semi-Auto Shotgun

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The 1301 is a Formula 1 car. Its designed to look good and go fast but at the expense of creature comforts. How so? Read below and get to know this Italian 12-gauge boomstick.

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The 1301 next to my personal 930 JM Pro 24″ 3-gun system.

The key component of the 1301 is Beretta’s “Blink” gas system. Beretta claims that the Blink system is a full 36% faster in competition. However, Beretta does not discuss how it gets to this astounding number. Given the limitations of a firearm system, to move something faster means that one of two things are required: reduce the weight or increase the force to the system.

The 1301 seems to be a compromise of both solutions. The 1301 is a svelte lightweight shotgun designed for go-fast situations with a healthy dose of Italian charisma. It has almost everything a tactical shotgunner could ask for: ghost ring sights, rail section, oversized interfaces and a short LOP. On paper, its the complete package.

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The 1301 with a customized 870 MagPul Tactical. With the 13″ LOP stock and lack of a brake, the 1301 is noticeably shorter.

Opening & Handling the Beretta

The 1301 arrives nestled nicely in a hard-sided case complete with the usual accessories. Included is a lock, manual, warranty card, stock adjustments/extensions, and plugs (for 2 and 3-round restrictions. The 2+1 round plug is installed from the factory. Removing the plug for home-defense or tactical duty puts the shotgun at a respectable 5+1.

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The shotgun factory new and unpackaged for the first time.

Picking up the shotgun, I immediately noticed how light it was. The thick barrel and handguard are deceptive. I thought it would be at least as heavy as my personal 870 or even 930. Instead, its a featherweight. Further, it is front “heavy” compared to the 930 as the recoil spring is built around the magazine tube, instead of recessed in the stock.

A look under the handguard.

A look under the handguard.

The oversized charging handle and bolt release are easy to find and even easier to manipulate. Both seem to be connected to weak springs, but no matter how little movement I gave the bolt to close, it locked into battery every time. Lighter springs work fine when the action is polished and smooth.

The aggressive “shark-skin” checking is particularly interesting. Running your hand over the pattern towards the muzzle its rough, but the hand moves smoothly. Grip and pull towards the rear and the fine pattern grabs your hand and locks it into place.

The texture at the grip is a great balance of sticky and comfortable.

The texture at the grip is a great balance of sticky and comfortable.

The same texture dominates the bottom of the forend.

The same texture dominates the bottom of the forend.

The safety is the most interesting ergonomic feature. It is ideally set at the forward edge of the trigger guard, just under where a “straight and off the trigger” finger would be. Its oversized with fine checkering, giving the shooter a tactile notification that the finger is on the hot button. Turning the safety off also produces a pronounced hollow “knock” indicating the weapon is ready for action.

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Turning the safety off is another matter entirely. The position at the front of the trigger guard which makes turning it off easy makes turning it on hard. It is nigh impossible to set it to safe with the dominant hand without taking the gun off the shoulder and turning it while braking your grip. This is compounded by the safety extending farther to the firing side. When on “fire” the safety is recessed, seemingly annoyed at having to safe. This is great for home defense or tactical teams by slowing down 3-gun dumps.

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The trigger is excellent, especially for a stock shotgun. Using a Lyman digital gauge, it comes in consistently near 4.5 lbs. It has a two-stage action with about 2mm of creep prior to hitting a solid wall. Pushing through is a solid break, cycling the quick action, and resetting without hesitation. It was easy to break shots on target while swinging across.

Shooting the Beretta 1301

It was “Shotgun Day” for me at the range with a wide variety of guns for shooting. With me for the day included a Mossberg 930 JM Pro, Mossberg SA-20 (semi-auto 10-guage), Remington 870 MagPul Tactical, and a Mossberg 590A1. With nearly 1000 shells on me, I proceeded to load and line up behind the gun for the first shots.

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Using Estate Dove and Target Loads (7.5 shot, low-brass), recoil was surprisingly heavy for a semi auto. Running the gun fast produced significant muzzle rise as you can easily shoot the 4.5 lbs trigger faster than you can get back on target. Putting my entire large frame behind the gun was just enough to eek out the Blink’s speed, but only just barely. Any lapse in technique and the muzzle breaks from the target.

The 3-dot ghost ring sights were easy to pick up, set at an ideal height for my big face. The two white dots on the rear are at the 3 and 9-o’clock positions across a generously sized aperture. The front sight post is familiar to anyone having shot an M-series weapon in the last 60 years, flanked by guards bending outwards. The long sight radius is ideal for the gun’s rear aperture. It points naturally and I would hesitate to say a red dot is not needed, except in the most extreme low-light situations.

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Patterning the shotgun at 10 yards yielded typical results. Using 7.5 shot Winchester AA Heavy Target loads, the pattern was slightly larger than the 930 with improved cylinder choke and an inch or so smaller than the 870 with “tactical” cylinder muzzle brake/choke.  Even the wad was almost at POA.

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Slugs were, spot-on from the factory. Using Winchester rifled (I know, but it was all that was available) 1 Oz. slugs, it shot amazing well… albeit at the cost of my shoulder. Slugs brought out the best and the worst of the “Blink” gas system, which sacrifices recoil for speed. Even on bags, my shoulder was bruised and the follow-up shots were cringe-worthy. I suspect that to get the speed increases, Beretta has over-gassed the system.

Rifled slugs in a smoothbore barrel at 25 yards. POI equals POA from the factory with no adjustment.

Rifled slugs in a smoothbore barrel at 25 yards. POI equals POA from the factory with no adjustment.

Slugs highlighted the one significant complaint I have about the weapon: the 1301 needs a recoil pad… badly. The recoil of the shotgun is significant for a semi auto. My non-scientific shoulder-meter put it even or worse than with the two pump-action 12-guages with recoil pads. Running 3-gun/target loads was manageable, but slugs were unpleasant. Why Beretta equipped the gun with the slim hard pad when they otherwise address all other issues is an unusual oversight. For those looking to purchase the 1301, set aside another $50 for a good pad.

The Good:

  • POA-POI with slugs out of the box.
  • Light with excellent checkering on the grip and forend
  • Big, easy to manipulate controls
  • BLINK gas system is fast and cycled everything I could put through it.

The Notable:

  • Barrel is not shielded and heats up quickly. Be careful if attempting to “Load 2” and accidentally touching it.
  • Front sight assembly is not removable- this is a true home-defense shotgun.
  • Recoil spring is around the magazine tube. While putting some weight forward, it allows for shorter LOP stocks good for smaller men, women, and those with body armor.
  • With the safety at the front of the trigger guard, its easy to set to “Fire” but requires breaking grip and taking the weapon off target to “Safe”

The Bad:

  • Felt recoil is equal to or greater than a pump gun – the 1301 needs a recoil pad STAT!
  • Only 5+1. Other 18″ “Tactical” Shotguns are 6+1.

Final Thoughts:

The Beretta is quintessentially Italian. Its a combination of svelte aesthetics and it works (just not always the way you might think.) The lightweight and shorter length of pull makes it easy to work with in confined spaces of the typical home defense situation. In that role, I cannot fault the annoying safety. I would much rather make it easier to go bang but would prefer it equally easier to safe.

Street prices for the 1301 Tactical hover around $999. For the premium, especially compared to a pump-action or domestic semi-auto), you don’t necessarily get more, but you do get better. The good trigger, excellent sights, and easy ergonomics make the 1301 worth it to those who want to get their money’s worth.

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This is the GT track-package Mustang to the common V-6 semi-auto. Both work and get you there fast, but one is faster and “funner.” Personally, if this 1301 had better suspension, I would drive the snot out of it.

 

Specifications (from Beretta):

Barrel length (cm) 47
Barrel length (in) 18.5
Chamber (mm) 76
Chamber (in) 3″
Choke OCHP
Gauge 12
Lylium Y
Overall length (mm) 960
Overall length (in) 37.8
Receiver Aluminum

 

Gallery:



Nathan S.

One of TFB’s resident Jarheads, Nathan now works within the firearms industry. A consecutive Marine rifle and pistol expert, he enjoys local 3-gun, NFA, gunsmithing, MSR’s, & high-speed gear. Nathan has traveled to over 30 countries working with US DoD & foreign MoDs.

Nathan can be reached at Nathan.S@TheFirearmBlog.com

The above post is my opinion and does not reflect the views of any company or organization.


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  • USMC03Vet

    Good review.

    You missed the most important part though. Video of you slinging lead downrange with firearm.

  • NeedanAutoShotgun

    Great review, I’ve been looking at the 1301 3-Gun Model.

  • 391Guy

    Any clue if the 1301 will take a A400 barrel? I am looking to update my 391 and also want a capable 3-gun shotgun. If i could slap a 28″ trap barrel on the 1301, the gun suddenly becomes way more appealing.

  • KestrelBike

    How is the loading gate? Heavy/light spring? Easy to fast-thumb shells in?

    Slight derail: My Benelli Nova pump’s loading gate stays in the down position after you put the first shell in the magazine-tube, which makes loading the rest of them an absolute breeze. I’ve never seen a loading gate do this on any other shotgun; my dream would be finding a semi-auto shotgun that does this and use it for 3-gun. Does it exist??

  • claymore

    Great write up but I missed if the safety is ambidextrous. It looks to be but hard to tell. Being left handed it is a concern.

    • KestrelBike

      Looks like it: (taken from http://www.beretta.com/en-us/1301-tactical/ )
      “Right out of the box, the 1301 Tactical features an oversized charging handle, large textured bolt release and an oversized reversible safety button.”

      • claymore

        Good find, I would think that Beretta would do that like on other of their firearms.

  • Darryl

    If you’re going to call it tactical the least you could do is put an extended mag tube on it.

    • J-

      Like the Benelli shotguns, since it is not manufactured in the US, it can’t have a capacity of more than 5 shells. To increase the magazine size legally, you have to replace a certain number of parts with US made parts. I have a Benelli M4 that is 922(r) compliant. It’s a pain in the butt and expensive to do. The few Benellis that do have extended mags are modified by Benelli in the US to have the right number of parts to be sold high capacity. That is why they are so much more expensive.

      • RegT

        I’ve got its predecessor, the 1201 FP3, a 3′ chambered semi-auto with the Benelli inertia recoil system (it’s an almost exact copy of the Benelli Super 90/M1) rather than a gas system. Works great with everything I’ve run through it, from #8 birdshot through all kinds of OObuck and slugs. Plus it holds six in the mag and a seventh up the spout. I added a larger charging handle (Arredondo), for ease of operation.

        Bought it back in ’90 when I lived in Northern Californica (Yreka, near the Oregon border – in the State of Jefferson 🙂 Before California went _completely_ Commie.

        • T Rex

          The Beretta 1201FP was/is a reliable underpriced workhorse that uses the same fire control and bolt as the Benelli M1 Super 90. I’ve shot hundreds of light and heavy loads in my 1201FP over the 20 plus years I’ve owned it with no failures, if it goes bang it cycles. The recoil of the 1201FP like the M1 Super 90 is also about the same as a pump 12 gage, but the proven design can still spit out 6 rounds in less than 2 seconds.

          Not sure why Beretta felt compelled to reinvent the wheel with the 1301 after ceasing production of the 1201FP about 10 years ago, apparently Beretta doesn’t buy into the wise old adage that if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. There are a lot of used 1201FP’s still out there but except for occasional LE surplus guns, they don’t come up for sale very often because no one wants to get rid of theirs.

  • J-

    I have never seen one in stores. I’d love to try one out but I don’t know any distributor that has these.

  • Giolli Joker

    Great review with a ton of pics!
    Thanks!

  • Giolli Joker

    “Mossberg SA-20 (semi-auto 10-guage)”
    Did you mean 20 gauge?

  • ghost

    I can not save them all, but, I save the ones I can.

  • AK™

    To me, it makes sense that the safety is easy to push off and harder to put on.
    When you want to activate the safety,you have break your firing grip or move your support hand..making it a deliberate action. Maybe they designed that way so there is a lesser chance of a negligent/accidental discharge.

    I’ve always been a fan of the straight finger above the trigger,so easing the safety off seems easier

    I keep my 870 setup for brown bears and home defense,in my part of Alaska. No shells in the chamber,safety is off. Rack it and go to work.
    I use the safety when I’m at my personal firing range and there are other people present. Everyone in my family knows if something happens and they need the shotgun,just grab it from where it’s hanging up,rack it and pull the trigger.

  • Kivaari

    Does it function? I had serious failures with Beretta (Binelli)shotguns. I only had 3 in the last 30 years. None of them worked well. Beretta customer service stinks.k

  • supergun

    I’ll take the Mossberg 930 all day long.

  • I__AM__GOD

    Really good review, seeing as how its a FOUR PLUS ONE. Not 5. Did you even have the gun, or just read about it, and barf out a fake review?