Have you ever shot an M1 Garand, followed by an M1 Carbine? Or perhaps a FAL, followed by a Ruger 10/22? Or maybe a full size over and under 12 gauge, followed by a compact coach gun?
If so, then you already have an idea of the relative feel of the Beretta 1301 Tactical shotgun.
What attracted me to this gun for testing and evaluation is its compact size, light weight and super quick handling. You can think of it as a shotgun carbine. With an 18.5 inch barrel and short stock, the entire length is just under 38 inches long. As a comparison, the M1 Carbine of WWII fame is 35.6 inches end to end, while a Ruger Carbine measures 37 inches.
Just the specs…
The factory configured stock is really, really compact, offering a length of pull of just about 13 inches. As I wanted a compact shotgun, I left it just as is – almost. More on that a bit later. If you prefer a longer stock and length of pull, Beretta includes two spacers that work together or separately. One is ½ inch while the other is 1 inch, so choose the length you want and mix and match accordingly. As with most other Beretta guns, you can also tweak drop and cast, although I had no need – this one fit me out of the box and offered a natural sight line right down the sights.
Offered in 12 gauge only, the 1301 Tactical features a 3-inch chamber, not that you need it. If you want to get thumped, feel free, you can load the big boy shells.
Magazine capacity is a bit of a mystery. Some retailers quote the 1301 Tactical as 4+1 while other say 5+1. Beretta doesn’t exactly say in their website specs, but the owners manual indicates 4+1, so I just tried it. Mine fit four 2 ¾ inch shells plus one in the chamber. Just a heads up, Beretta ships the gun with the magazine plug installed, which limits you to two shells in the tube. Just remove the end cap and pop that out to take advantage of full magazine capacity.
The primary controls are all oversized and easy to operate, presumably to enable operation with gloved hands. This also makes it a solid combination home defense and competition shotgun.
The bolt release button is oblong with textured ridges, so operation is easy and positive. The bolt handle is also oversized, and shaped somewhat like a snow cone cup, with the pointy end in the receiver. The shape encourages your fingers to stay on the handle when operating it quickly. The push through safety bar is also oversized and reversible.
One of the engineering enhancements is an upgraded gas operating system. According to Beretta, “The integrated BLINK gas operating system, featuring a cross tube gas piston, allows the 1301 Tactical to cycle 36% faster than any other shotgun on the market.” Reset and cycling is fast, allowing up to four shots per second if the shooter does their part.
Your first look at the bolt will indicate that something is different. The bolt head looks and acts, somewhat like that of an AR-15 design. The bolt turns and locks into place, reversing the turn to extract the fired shell.
The gas system is self-cleaning. So far, I haven’t touched anything remotely resembling a cleaning kit and we’re still rocking. But then again, I’ve had a similar experience with most Beretta shotguns. They’ll run and run before you need to break out the brushes and chemicals.
Unloading the 1301 is easy once you know the tricks. Flip it upside down so you can see the magazine tube. Then press the bolt release button and the tube will release shells into your hand. No need to cycle them through the chamber to empty the gun. When the magazine tube is empty, cycle the action with the bolt handle to remove any shells in the tube.
Designed for the law enforcement and home defense market, the 1301 features real sights to facilitate use with slugs and tight buckshot patterns.
The front sight is a removable post with wings on either side to protect it from bumps and thumps. The rear sight is a ghost ring aperture, also with side wings. The aperture is large for fast sight acquisition, and I had no problem being precise with slugs at 25 and 50 yards. The rear sight is both elevation and windage adjustable with corresponding screws. When you pick your preferred load, you can tweak those to get your desired line of sight and point of impact match.
Just in front of the rear sight is a 3 1/4 inch long, 7 slot MIL-STD 1913 Picatinny rail. It’s the perfect place for a small profile red dot optic. I’m adding an Aimpoint Micro H1, and if my fancy math skills are correct, it will sit at the perfect height so that the ghost ring rear and front sight post will be visible through the glass as a backup.
I’ve talked quite about about the compact size, and this makes handling fast. As Beretta markets this for law enforcement and home defense segments, it’s also a lot less clunky indoors where one might have to navigate hallways, doors and furniture.
The pistol grip has a nice texture all the way up to the receiver. The fore-end has the same type of texture along the bottom half for almost its entire length. An inset groove along the sides of the fore end stock provides a natural resting place for your support hand.
While we’re talking shooting, this is a cylinder bore shotgun without removable chokes. That would be a bit silly on a gun like this.
The gas system is designed to work with a broad array of ammo types. Being a tactical model, you would assume it’s good to go with heavy slug and buckshot loads. The trick is getting it to work consistently with pussycat loads also. Assuming I would have no trouble with rock ’n roll shells, I tried the light target loads first.
Federal Target Load ⅞ ounce 7 ½ Shot
Cycling reliability was perfect with this light ⅞ ounce load. I didn’t measure a pattern as traditional patterning of bird shot through a cylinder bore self-defense gun doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. But I did do some Kentucky estimation on a paper target placed 15 yards downrange to get an idea of how the pattern would impact for 3-Gun. After all, I’m using this shotgun at the upcoming Crimson Trace midnight 3 Gun Invitational and want to have at least a subjective idea of how wide the pattern is at “3-Gun” range. As you can see by the photo, the smaller than standard ⅞ ounce load (all I had on hand) in 7 ½ shot size, pretty much covered the 14-inch square target.
Winchester 3 inch Magnum 15 pellet 00 Buck
Having a desire to inflict pain on myself, I shot some rounds of Winchester 3 inch Magnum buckshot. These are 15-pellet rounds and the best way to describe recoil is… enthusiastic. While here is really no need to carry these monsters, I was curious, so I tested some patterns from the Beretta 1301 cylinder bore. How much range could I get before the 15-pellet pattern become so wide it was uncontrollable? It turns out that most pellets impacted within an 8 inch circle, with a couple of flyers opening up to just about 12 inches.
Winchester PDX1 Defender Personal Defense
This is one of the new combination loads, in this case a one-ounce slug combined with three 00-buckshot pellets. In the PDX1 shell, the pellets are placed on top of the slug, which seems to help spread the pattern aggressively. Winchester Ammunition advertises this to “compensate for aim error” and it certainly does that. Of course, you need to make your own decision as to whether a wide pattern works in your environment. After all, you’re responsible for where each of those 30-caliber pellets ends up.
As you can see by the photo, the pattern does spread rapidly. At 15 yards, the slug went directly to the point of aim, with the three pellets spread into a near-perfect triangle pattern with 10-inch sides.
Winchester Super-X 1-ounce Slugs
These hum along at 1,600 feet per second, plus or minus a bit depending on your barrel length. I didn’t want to get overly scientific with measuring groups given that this is a compact, cylinder bore shotgun. As it’s not really designed for longer range rifled-barrel deer hunting, I set up a target 25 yards downrange, placed the Beretta 1301 Tactical on my shooting bag, and proceeded to abuse my shoulder. I fired a five-shot group using the built-in iron ghost ring sights. The first four shots created one rather large hole and the 5th was about one inch outside of those. That flyer was all me. I think I had enough of getting thumped by a lightweight 12 gauge at that point. Call it plenty combat accurate.
Remington 9-pellet 00 Buckshot
This 2 ¾-inch shell fires its load at 1,325 feet per second. I also measured a pattern 10 yards down range. All 9 pellets fell into a 6 ½ inch circle. Given that this patterned slightly better than the others, I placed a second target twice as far down range, 20 yards, and found the pattern still stayed within 9 ½ inches. Not bad!
Federal 9-pellet 00 Buckshot
Also clocking in at 1,325 feet per second, this load created a pattern just under 7 inches at its widest point.
Winchester 9-pellet 00 Buck
I shot this load at “indoor” range of 10 yards. The pattern was spread nicely around point of aim and measured just over 6 ½ inches across at its widest point.
A couple of tweaks.
As soon as this shotgun arrived, I knew I was going to have to send Beretta a check so I could keep it. Now guilt free about tearing things apart and making a few changes, I did two and a half things to “personalize” it just a tad.
First, while I like the ultra short stock, I wanted just a hair more length of pull and distance between my nose and the back of the receiver. The included Beretta rubber recoil pad is effective, but a little thin. So I ordered a Kick-Eez KZ-109 pre-fit recoil pad. This size fit the butt stock perfectly and I used the existing screws to mount it. Couldn’t be easier. It’s almost twice as thick as the factory installed pad, so length of pull was increased just enough. The effectiveness of Kick-Eez recoil pads is legendary – they really make a difference in shooting comfort.
The second change is really not necessary for “regular use” except that I’ll be using this shotgun at the upcoming Crimson Trace Midnight 3 Gun Invitational in Bend, Oregon. My plan this year is to use my “regular” home defense guns in the match to gain some good practice time in the dark. To cheat just a little for 3 Gun, I added a Nordic Components MXT two round magazine tube extension. I could have added a longer extension, but that would have stuck out past the muzzle – negating the benefit of the “carbine” shotgun. Installation of the magazine tube extension was very easy. Just unscrew the existing fore-end cap, remove the front stock and you can access the magazine tube cap. Remove that and gently guide the existing magazine tube spring. The Nordic Components extension screws into place just like the fore end cap which is no longer needed. The kit comes with a new magazine tube spring which you cut to desired length.
Remember that magazine capacity ambiguity I mentioned earlier? It seems I benefit from the “half” shell extra space as now, with a two shell tube extension, I can fit seven 2 ¾ inch shells into the magazine, or six 3 inch shells, plus one more in the chamber.
The “half” customization was the addition of a light. For the upcoming night match, I’m adding a Crimson Trace Rail Master light on the right side of the barrels using a Nordic Components barrel clamp and rail segment. I mounted it on the right side so it’s out of the way of my support hand, but easy to reach if I want to turn the light on.
The Beretta 1301 Competition
If your priorities are more aligned with 3-gun shooting, you might want to check out the 1301 Tactical’s sibling. The competition model shares the same basic features but is optimized for the competitive shooter. It has a more traditional sighting rib topped with fiber optic front sight and does not come with a rail. The receiver is drilled and tapped so you can easily add one. The 1301 Competition is also longer, offered with 21 and 24-inch barrel lengths.
This gun is exactly what I expected. Compact and light, it handles like a dream. You’d get some funny looks taking it to the trap field, but for buckshot and slugs, it’s a winner. While the factory recoil pad is tolerable, so yourself a favor and upgrade that. The gun is light, and defensive 12-gauge loads will provide a little extra unwanted love to your shoulder.
I haven’t had the chance (yet) to use this in a three-gun match, but I’m already sold on its value as a home defense option.