Bird of Another Feather: Beretta’s A350 Xtrema Max5 12 Ga. 3.5″ Waterfowler – Full Review.

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Beretta's A350 Xtrema Max5 is made to work but doesn't give up any of the classic features.

Beretta’s A350 Xtrema Max5 is made to work but doesn’t give up any of the classic features.

For more information, visit http://www.beretta.com/en-us/a350-xtrema-max5/.

To purchase an A350 Xtrema Max5 on GunsAmerica.com, click this link: https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.aspx?T=A350%20Xtrema%20Max.

When my editor gave me the opportunity to try out the new A350 XTrema Max5 from Beretta, I was happy to oblige. The last Beretta shotgun I looked at here was a prima donna – the Beretta 692 Sporting B-Fast over and under. While that one was certainly made to shoot and admire, I might have a little heartburn tossing it into a John boat in the middle of January. This 3.5-inch, 12 gauge A350 Xtrema Max5 model is all about maintaining a working gun reputation, but that doesn’t mean it skimps on classic Beretta features.

The entire shotgun, less a few selected parts, is coated with Realtree's Max5 pattern.

The entire shotgun, less a few selected parts, is coated with Realtree’s Max5 pattern.

SPECS

  • Chambering: 12 gauge, 3.5-inch chamber
  • Barrel: 28 inches
  • OA Length: 48 inches
  • Weight: 7.25 pounds
  • Stock: Realtree Max5 finish
  • Sights: Fiber optic bead
  • Action: Semi-auto
  • Capacity: 5+1 with 2.75-inch shells
  • Finish: Realtree Max5 camo pattern
  • MSRP: $1,150.00

The Tour

The A350 Xtrema Max5 is a semi-automatic shotgun with a tubular magazine under the barrel. This 3.5-inch shell shotgun holds five rounds of standard 2¾-inch shells in the tube if you remove the plug. I verified that with some Federal Premium Target Load shells I had handy. Oh, if you choose to shoot the big 3½-inch shells, capacity is three plus one in the chamber. I did try some 3-inch Remington Sportsman shells and could easily fit four and almost, but not quite, five in the tube. By the way, the plug is there to limit magazine capacity to two for compliance with many state hunting laws. If those don’t apply in your locale, or you’re going to use this shotgun for other purposes, removing the plug only takes a minute. Beretta packages a second plug in the case that limits the magazine to one shell plus one in the chamber if you need that capability.

The Max5 pattern is designed specifically to blend into a wide variety of waterfowl environments.

The Max5 pattern is designed specifically to blend into a wide variety of waterfowl environments.

This one is configured as an ideal waterfowl gun. Built to shoot, it’s also got a finish appropriate for waterfowl hunting. The “Max5” part of the product name is a nod to the Realtree Max5 camo pattern that covers this shotgun muzzle to butt (stock.) The pattern, according to the Realtree folks, is…

“filled with cattails, reeds, cane and grasses to blend into flooded marshes. Plus corn, wheat, oats and sunflowers to hide you in open fields. It has branches, twigs, and leaves that work in flooded timber. And with open areas that mimic mud, water, bark and shadows, MAX-5 literally adds another layer of invisibility to camo – no matter where or how you use it. Of course, all MAX-5 pattern elements are strategically placed to create super-realistic tone, contrast, and shadow. Viewed up close, MAX-5 offers incredible detail. At a distance, the pattern obliterates the human outline completely.”

So there you have it, the gun itself is made to blend into your preferred waterfowl environment. In fact, the only parts not covered in Max5 are the black butt pad, magazine tube cap, and trigger. OK, the front sight housing and bolt handle and release are black, but that’s getting nitpicky.

The crossbolt safety is reversible to accomodate left-handed shooting.

The crossbolt safety is reversible to accommodate left-handed shooting.

This A350 Xtrema is configured with a 28-inch barrel and the Optima Choke HP choke tube system. The Optima Choke HP tubes are long for the purpose of lengthening the constriction transition applied by the choke. Like the forcing cone that we’ll discuss in a minute, the idea is to minimize pellet disruption and deformation. The gun comes with a single Modified choke tube that mounts flush with the muzzle. It’s good to go for steel shot, but it you want more choke variety, you’ll have to buy them separately.

There's a fixed sling attachment point on the butt stock.

There’s a fixed sling attachment point on the butt stock.

The front sight is a small, green fiber optic bead.

The front sight is a small, green fiber optic bead.

The Beretta Xtrema Max5 ships with a 3.5-inch chamber. Yes, those shells can be abusive, but if you like to shoot steel shot at large birds, the extra juice in those cartridges will help make up the performance difference between something like very expensive non-lead, high-density shot and far less dense steel shot. The idea is that lighter shot driven at higher velocity will still help you knock down large birds like geese and score reasonable distance shots on ducks. Of course, you can fire 2.75-inch and 3-inch shells as well if you prefer. Be aware that the self-cleaning action of this gun might call for a break-in period if you start off with super light one-ounce loads. Shoot a couple of boxes of standard field loads if you experience any initial function issues with light loads.

One of the things you’ll get with a shotgun in this class is a quality barrel that will not only shoot reliable and predictable patterns, but it’ll also last through hard use in rough conditions. The barrel in this Xtrema is made from something called Steelium. I can’t find that on my old high school chemistry periodic table of the elements, so it must be a Beretta concoction. According to Beretta, Steelium is a three-alloy steel carefully selected for its ballistic properties.

One of the things I noticed right away was how well the camp pattern was applied. It's perfect, even in all the nooks and crannies. Note the texture on top of the rib to reduce glare.

One of the things I noticed right away was how well the camo pattern was applied. It’s perfect, even in all the nooks and crannies. Note the texture on top of the rib to reduce glare.

The barrels are cold hammer forged, which is a pretty cool and impressive process in itself. You should watch it sometime. A series of hydraulic hammers bash the living snot out of a drilled-out steel bar. Inside is a mandrel that has the desired shape of the interior of the barrel. Gradually, and with much noise and violence, the steel assumes the shape of the mandrel as it’s hammered onto it. The cold hammer process apparently helps to eliminate stresses in the metal that can arise during the drilling process with other barrel-making techniques. After this violent birthing process, barrels are treated with a vacuum dissension process that results in a deep (read weather and rust resistant) protective finish. I had an opportunity to tour the Beretta factory in the Gardone Valley, Italy a while back, and the equipment used to do this stuff is massive, intimidating, and quite frankly, a bit scary. That’s OK, however, as the results of all that industrial violence are really fine gun barrels.

The loading port is huge to accommodate 3 1/2-inch shells.

The loading port is huge to accommodate 3 1/2-inch shells.

The grip features aggressive texturing.

The grip features aggressive texturing.

Like many other Beretta shotguns, the A350 Xtrema features a longer forcing cone. That’s the area between the chamber and the part of the barrel that begins the exact 12 gauge bore diameter. The longer and more gradual transition from the chamber to the standard barrel diameter is believed to help the shot make that adjustment in a more “loving and gentle” manner. The idea is that patterns are better because of less shot deformation and recoil is mellowed a bit more too as the initial shock of pellets jamming into the smaller hole of the bore is mitigated.

The gas system is self-exhausting and self-cleaning. It has a vent system that you can see just behind the magazine tube cap. The idea is similar to that of a release valve on a water heater or pressure cooker. When there’s a ton of gas pressure, more than required to reliably cycle the action, the excess is automatically vented off through these ports. That’s what allows this shotgun to handle (without any manual adjustment) everything from one-ounce loads all the way to 3.5-inch howitzer shells.

The gas system is self-regulating and vents excess gas from higher pressure loads. It's also self-cleaning within reason.

The gas system is self-regulating and vents excess gas from higher pressure loads. It’s also self-cleaning within reason.

The trigger has about 1/8-inch of take-up followed by a surprise break. You have to work pretty hard to sense when it’s going to release and I like that in a shotgun. The weight as measured by my Timney Triggers scale is right a 4 ¼ pounds. While we’re talking about the trigger, you’ll note that the trigger guard interior is generous, so there’s no problem shooting the A350 Xtrema with gloves on. The safety and bolt release controls are hefty enough to allow easy manipulation with gloved hands as well. Mittens, not so much. By the way, the safety is reversible, so if you’re a lefty, you’re in luck with this model. You’ll still have shells ejecting in front of your face through the right side ejection port, but at least you can operate the controls.

The magazine tube cap has a swiveling sling attachment point.

The magazine tube cap has a swiveling sling attachment point.

I liked the trigger. It was smooth and had a 4 1/2-pound break.

I liked the trigger. It was smooth and had a 4 1/4-pound break.

The first thing you’ll want to do with this shotgun is to check the fit. You should be able to mount the shotgun with your eyes closed and when you open them, you ought to be looking right down the rib and through the front bead. If you can see the top of the rib or if your line of sight is well below the top surface of the rib, your drop needs adjusting. If you see one side or the other of the rib, then adjust the cast. While the fitting process is too much to go into here, know that the gun comes with options to adjust both cast (side to side) and drop (up and down) stock adjustments. There is one set of steel stock plate and polymer spacer already installed in the A350 Xtrema. If you reverse those, you can change the fit from a right-handed to left-handed cast. If you need more drop adjustment, there’s an extra set of plate and spacer included. If you find you need to adjust the fit, and have never done it before, find a knowledgeable friend or gunsmith to help you out. The mechanics are easy, it’s the knowledge of shotgun fit principles that require experience. After all, your eye IS the rear sight, so it’s important to get the fit perfect. Maybe it’s because I have a lanky neck, but I usually need to adjust the drop on Beretta shotguns. No worries, that’s why the extra parts are there. It’s an easy job once you figure out how the process works.

The recoil pad is smooth and not too mushy. It won't catch on clothing during the mount.

The recoil pad is smooth and not too mushy. It won’t catch on clothing during the mount.

These vents at the very front of the fore-end allow escape of excess gas.

These vents at the very front of the fore-end allow escape of excess gas.

The Micro Core recoil pad is firm but offers good protection. It’s not squishy or sticky and won’t get hung up on clothing, so the mount is smooth. It’s attached to a one-inch thick spacer which in turn attaches to the synthetic stock. In the case is a ½-inch spacer, so you can reduce the length of pull a bit if you prefer.

The rib is ¼-inch wide and ¼-inch high off the top of the barrel. It’s also thoroughly coated with the Max5 pattern. At the front end is a small fiber optic bead sight.

The stock is synthetic, and even though the grip and fore-end are aggressively textured, you’ll notice that the Max5 camo application is perfect. There’s not a wrinkle or blemish visible, even in nooks and crannies like under the rib. There are two sling attachment points on the stock. There’s a swivel on the magazine tube endcap and a fixed point on the bottom of the butt stock.

Shooting the Xtrema

I’ve been shooting the A350 Xtrema Max5 with a modest variety of shot types ranging from #8 target loads all the way up to Winchester Super-X 1,600 fps one-ounce slugs (just for the heck of it.) As a semi-auto with a well designed gas system and effective butt pad, it’s a gentle shooter as far as 12-gauge shotguns go. It’s impossible to know how much of the shooting characteristics are a result of each of the recoil reducing features like pad, gas system, lengthened forcing cone, and so on, so we’ll just say that the combination of all of the above works well. I even tried some Winchester Super-X 9-pellet, 2 ¾-inch buckshot rated at 1,325 feet per second. While you’ll certainly know you pulled the trigger, it wasn’t abusive.

I shot a wide variety of loads ranging from #8 target to slugs.

I shot a wide variety of loads ranging from #8 target to slugs.

As for handling, we quickly get into personal preference issues. For swing, I tend to prefer a longer barrel because I like the bit of extra momentum. So I was happy with the 28-inch barrel which brings the overall length of this shotgun to 48 inches. The weight is 7.25 pounds but to me it feels lighter, probably because of its balance. Using the highly scientific “balance it on your finger” test, the center point is right at the front of the ejection port.

The A350 Xtrema Max5 ships with a magazine tube plug limiting capacity to two plus one in the chamber. It's easy to remove by popping off this end cap.

The A350 Xtrema Max5 ships with a magazine tube plug limiting capacity to two plus one in the chamber. It’s easy to remove by popping off this end cap.

Magazine capacity is (5) 2 3/4" shells, (4) 3" shells, and (3) 3 1/2" shells.

Magazine capacity is (5) 2 3/4″ shells, (4) 3″ shells, and (3) 3 1/2″ shells with the plug removed.

Closing Arguments

All in all, this is a nice shotgun. I love the way it shoots and you can’t argue with Beretta’s reputation for semi-automatic reliability. Even though the owner’s manual warned that you might need some break-in period for light target loads due to the way the self-venting gas system works, I had no function issues at all. I also was impressed with the finish. It’s literally perfect and as hard as I tried, I couldn’t detect a single glitch with the Max5 finish.

For more information, visit http://www.beretta.com/en-us/a350-xtrema-max5/.

To purchase an A350 Xtrema Max5 on GunsAmerica.com, click this link: https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.aspx?T=A350%20Xtrema%20Max.

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Anhinga April 3, 2017, 10:50 am

    Review??? You shot only 2 3/4 loads? It’s supposed to be a waterfowl shotgun and you didn’t test it with any 3″ or 3.5″ waterfowl shotshells? Your title “Full Review” – NOT! How about finishing the test.

  • joshooter April 3, 2017, 9:06 am

    This is a reincarnated Xtrema2, offered as Beretta’s Spartan model in 3.5″ for those that don’t want to tie up $1500+ in the newer Xtreme. I bought one early on, took the Kick-off system off another synthetic 391, worked like a charm.

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