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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