Beretta 1301 Tactical – Shotgun Review

This week, I got my hands on a long-awaited SHOT Show introduction, the Beretta 1301 Tactical shotgun. Longtime readers of my columns will note that I generally prefer a rifle to a shotgun, and encourage others to think the same. I’m not walking that back, not even close. I am saying that if you choose a semi-auto shotgun for defensive or tactical use, there is a new Sheriff in town.

Most of my disdain for semi-auto shotguns comes from my years shooting 3 gun, and I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t inject that into the discussion. What 3 gun taught me is that a shotgun tends to be less reliable than a pistol or rifle in terms of go bang no matter what. I realize there are some jobs that are best done with a scattergun, like duck hunting. But over and over again, I have seen them malfunction at a higher rate than other weapons.

Part of the problem has traditionally been that we were adapting hunting tools to something they were never intended for. There is a life cycle to anything mechanical, and competition pushes the ragged edge of that. The only shooters that use more shotgun shells than 3 gunners are dedicated trap and skeet shooters, who overwhelmingly choose a side by side or over under. On the hunting side, a hardcore waterfowler might shoot 300 rounds in a year. As a competitive multi gunner, that is probably a week. I’ve seen individual stages as high as 65 rounds, as fast as you can load them. Add the heat and filth of those fast, high round counts, and you start to see why shotguns fall apart.

A few years ago, Beretta set out to fix that. They have a massive stable of champion shotgunners, more than any other company. They brought in one of the European Shotgun specialists they employee to input the design, and the 1301 was born. After proving itself on the other side of the pond, it was brought here and quickly made waves. One of my shooting buddies picked a 1301 up early, and it impressed the hell out of all of us. It was fast shooting, soft, and it ate anything!

In testing with that model, we fed it every kind of shell imaginable. Shotgun shells run a wide gambit, and most guns have a preference. Some guns you are required to switch pistons or other parts to go from hi brass to low brass. Others have a sweet spot of power required per shell, disliking low recoil field shells and slugs or buckshot. The 1301 just chewed them all. It even ate low noise shells, which say right on the box not for auto’s. In competition, the 1301 quickly took the title for reliability, finally unseating the ubiquitous Benelli M-2.

So having said all that, it stands to reason the 1301 would excel as a tactical shotgun as well. Reliability it has in spades, as I saw in my own testing this week. The only thing it wouldn’t eat was Aguila mini shells, which is not shocking from a semi-auto. Some pump guns won’t eat those, so not a deal breaker. It did eat everything else, including multiple tubes from my 5-gallon shotshell trash bucket.

I also like that Beretta didn’t just slap a short barrel on the 1301 and call it the tactical model. The Tactical does sport an 18.5 inch barrel, but that isn’t the only change.

Law Enforcement was one of the obvious target audiences for this gun, and it shows. The 1301 Tactical features a slightly shorter receiver than the 1301 Competition, part of an overall size reduction. The stock is also slightly shorter, offering a 37.8 inch length of pull out of the box. The shorter stock is helpful for correctly shouldering the gun if you are wearing a vest, similar to collapsing an M-4 stock one position if you are in armor. The shotguns overall length is 37. 8 inches, making it easy to maneuver in CQB or your car. And the weight is just 6.35 pounds, making this a winner in the carry it all night department. I also like that the barrel uses chokes, unlike most tactical guns that are fixed. Included in the box is the improved cylinder choke.

Other huge benefits of the 1301 system carry over to the tactical model from the Competition. First is oversized controls. The default controls of the 1301 are amazing, from the bolt knob to the safety. With gloves or less than ideal conditions or just stress, those details matter. Trying to release the pin-sized safety on a normal shotgun while taking fire from a MAC 10 wielding thug is a bad idea. The giant-sized one of the 1301 is hard to miss. My absolute favorite part is the bolt release lever, which is nearly two inches long. Drop on in the chamber and slap the side of the receiver with your palm, and you are almost guaranteed to hit it, no training required.

The speed of the 1301 is also something that can’t be overstated. In normal conditions, it doesn’t really matter how fast your shotgun cycles. In a tactical or competition gun, it can. If you watch a pro blast a plate rack head to head, you will understand what I mean. For a police officer or armed citizen, you may also need to transition targets like lightning. The system used in the 1301 is Beretta’s proprietary Blink, and I can’t really say it any better than they do. Per Beretta, “The 1301 Comp features Beretta’s proprietary Blink gas-operating system, which enables it to shoot 4 shots in less than 1 second–that is, 36% faster than any other brand.”

For a sighting system, Beretta also changed from the Competition model bead only. The Tactical model features ghost ring sights, perfect for tight shots. It also has a chunk of Picatinny on top of the receiver, making this gun optics ready. While I don’t recommend a red dot for skeet shooting, on a shotgun for CQB it is devastating.

Overall, the 1301 is a winner in the tactical shotgun market. The reliability is high, which should be criteria number one. The controls are excellent, and the maneuverability is great. If you like scatterguns, this one should be on your list to try.

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About the author: Clay Martin is a former Marine and Green Beret, retiring out of 3rd Special Forces Group. He is a multi-decade and -service sniper, as well as 3-Gun competitor and Master ranked shooter in USPSA Production. In addition to writing about guns, he is the author of “Last Son of The War God,” a novel about shooting people that deserve it. You can also follow him on twitter, @offthe_res or his website, Off-The-Reservation.com

{ 19 comments… add one }
  • Troy August 21, 2018, 9:04 am

    To the person who asked why these don’t come with larger mag tubes: Blame the BATFE. They’re banned from importation. Not just autos, but pumps as well. If you look at the U.S. built tactical and competition shotguns, they usually are sold with higher capacity mags.

  • G M Bradt August 20, 2018, 6:31 pm

    I’m used to pump actions and my grandfathers old Rem 1100 Trap but I have wanted one of these Beretta 1301’s for a few years now… I just wish they were a little less expensive, although I guess you get what you pay for 🙂

  • Emil Sechter August 20, 2018, 12:05 pm

    I shot live bird tournaments for around 25 years. While I used a variety of Perazzi O/Us, I mostly used an old Beretta 302 auto loader (vintage circa 1986). There is a lot of money involved in live bird contests, so gun malfunctions can be very costly. In all my years, I never had a malfunction. Not only that, even though I have put over 60,000 heavy rounds (3 3/4, 1/1/4) through that gun at live bird tournaments alone, I have never had a part break. Also I have made trips to Argentina to hunt doves. I fired a 20 gauge 302 6000 times on each 4 day trip without ever cleaning it, and also had no malfunctions. So the reliability of Beretta auto loaders has been beyond reproach for decades. In fact, the Berettas are just about the only auto loaders you’ll see at live bird tournaments, save for a few Benellis, because of their reliability.

  • Mark E Johnson August 20, 2018, 11:36 am

    I wonder how it compares to its older brother, the TX4–what differences, weight, etc. I’ve handled the 1301 and like it, might be getting one. Some day.

  • Mike in a Truck August 20, 2018, 11:01 am

    Ah…geez.Now I gotta have me one .

  • Irish-7 August 20, 2018, 10:26 am

    My family owns multiple shotguns, pump (Mossberg 510, Remington 870, Stevens 320) and semi-automatic (Mossberg 930 SPX). I understand why the hunting guns have lower magazine capacities than the tactical weapons. I can’t fathom why ALL the “high end” semi-automatics (Benelli, Beretta) don’t have extended magazines to hold 7 or 8 rounds. Certainly a semi-auto shoots quicker than a pump, so you will be out of ammo faster. For law enforcement or military use, where your life is on the line, I would think more rounds are required.

  • Mike August 20, 2018, 9:57 am

    Personally I like the Benelli M2 – M4 better, a more solid feel. The Beretta shoots as well as the Benelli however and it costs less.

  • Dennis August 20, 2018, 9:50 am

    Wow, Clay, I knew you were a big guy, but I want to see you shoot that 37.8 Length of Pull! I could not find the right specs on Beretta’s site, they just say it’s adjustable. If it’s anything like my A350 or the A400’s I’ve shot, reliability is amazing. I’ve shot sub 1100fps 7/8 loads in mine at the skeet range and it always goes bang. I really love my Benellis for hunting, but they are not fond of really light loads. Thanks for the write up, looks like a great unit.

  • Dwight August 20, 2018, 9:48 am

    Have been an auto loader shooter since day one, have used Brownings and Remingtons, both of which I have literally worn out shooting geese. 20 years ago I started shooting Berretas which were a great improvement over every thing else I have shot, but when the Temperature drops close to zero the reliability of shotguns can go out the window, I have even had trouble with my Browning BSS and pumps. If this thing shoots reliable when it is snowing at 10 degrees or colder and you have crawled a 100 yards with snow on the ground and the mud and dirt is freezing to everything you will have a winner. I probably would not use this gun for hunting geese but it would be nice to know if it will work in those conditions if I needed it for self defense or survival.

  • MORRIS KEITT WOOD August 20, 2018, 8:59 am

    What kind of $$$$ tag does the 1301 carry?

    • Mark E Johnson August 20, 2018, 11:34 am

      The 1301 goes for under $1,000 on the street. Good value, especially in the light of the Benelli M4 costing twice that. The Mossberg 930 SPX goes for about $100 less, but it isn’t a Beretta.

  • Jerry August 20, 2018, 8:52 am

    For all those that want a semi-auto, try a Remington 1100. The one I have will put 12 gauge 00 buck down range as fast as you can pull the trigger.
    I use it in my home protection arsenal; I am not sure if it would work for competitive shooting. But imagine be able to fire 7 rounds with 12 pellets per round to dissuade an attacker. Effective range is in excess of 60 yds. It has a 26” barrel so if the shyt hits the fan, it can be shortened.

  • Jerome M Graham August 20, 2018, 8:28 am

    I Was using a rem 870 for 3 gun for a long time, I was looking a long time to go semi auto and look at a lot of shot guns, guys were using summer of 2017 I pulled the trigger $1100.00 and the 1300, is the fastest I have shot the faster you pull the Triger the fast she goes, my new love.

  • DIYinSTL August 20, 2018, 8:04 am

    “[T]rap and skeet shooters, who overwhelmingly choose a side by side or over under.” Nope, just the over under. Side by sides are for vintage events, upland bird hunting or a little nostalgia on your great-great grand pappy’s birthday.

    • Allen August 20, 2018, 9:06 am

      Amen

  • Jim Hovater August 20, 2018, 6:24 am

    ‘…a 37.8-inch length of pull.’? WOW!

    Seriously: I carried a personslly-owned Berettta 1201FP on duty as an LEO. It was extremely reliable, but ‘let you know’ when you pulled the trigger! Fortunately, Choate had a solution for that.

  • Mike August 20, 2018, 4:56 am

    Spelling mistake in description ON should be ONE. Plus no capacity, fully loaded? 4? or more?

  • PAUL A DERIDDER August 20, 2018, 3:00 am

    Welcome to the dark side.

  • piper August 18, 2018, 10:42 pm

    Great article. I’ve been really curious about the 1301 line of shotguns. Thanks.

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