Down Gauging: The Beretta A-400 Extreme Plus Semi-Automatic 20-Gauge

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

The Beretta A-400 against camo hunting gear
I got this in Max 5.  The camouflage is applied to last and the Beretta A-400 blends in well with the marsh. 

I have shot 12-gauge for most of my life regarding waterfowl.  With the exception of my youth when my father bought me a Beretta model 412, 20 gauge single shot.  That was a great shotgun for a young kid and many a rabbit, duck, and even a goose met its fate with that shotgun.  For lots of reasons, we might consider the downsizing of our waterfowl guns.  I know the obvious is the 20-gauge, but don’t forget the 16, 28-gauge, and 410 as possible weaponry.

Considering Gauge Downsizing

Now, let’s delve into the reasons behind considering gauge downsizing. A medical condition called Atrial Fibrillation (AF) prompts this change for me.  Others may seek a lighter gun, a semi-automatic in a lighter gauge, reduced recoil, or may simply feel they’ve harvested enough and desire a fair challenge, prompting a gauge change.

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Hunter in camo aiming the Beretta A-400 at the trees above him
Aside from being gas recoil, the stock is actually very technical in absorbing recoil.  Overall it does feel softer and kicks less.

For medical reasons, the recoil can be the big player.  Anything from a pacemaker to a recent stint, or by-pass, even back and spine issues or neck problems might instill a desire to keep hunting but with a smaller gauge.  While I continue to shoot a 12-gauge even after my AF and with the doctor’s approval, I often wonder what if I caused something to change simply by the recoil produced with my shotgun.  Making a change to a light gauge, especially semi-automatic gas recoil made sense to me. 

One has to be reminded that many only perceive recoil.  I say that because we assume recoil will occur, but don’t understand exactly how it occurs.  We measure recoil in foot-pounds.  I don’t want to be too detailed here but safe to say that once approaching 25 foot pounds one might start to develop a flinch.  Also note that a side-by-side, over-under, or single-shot gun frame will transmit 100% of the recoil to the shooter, while a semi-automatic in either gas or spring, plus recoil reduction stocks and butt plates will absorb some of the recoil. 

Hunter examining the buttstock of the Beretta A-400
One only has to take this three-piece stock apart to fully understand internally all that is working in concert to lessen the recoil. 

Beretta A-400: A Recoil-Friendly Option

Recoil is a nemesis of many shooters no matter the target.  Heavy waterfowl loads are no exception to the kick one feels upon pulling the trigger.  My Browning Wicked Wing 12 gauge (featured here) is gas recoil and has a reasonable kick with heavy loads including 3.5” shells (close to 50 foot-pounds).  Don’t get me wrong it does kick and for some enough to cause concern for many of the reasons listed above. 

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The Beretta A-400 Extreme in a 20 gauge also gas recoil is slightly less in recoil (say just over 30 foot-pounds).  That reduction is noticed in most loads from light trap and skeet loads to heavy waterfowl loads.  Since we are talking about waterfowl guns the loads are higher and the recoil is increased.  In lighter loads, the recoil tends to lessen and only a slight difference is seen between a 12-gauge and 20-gauge.  Think about what you will shoot most.

Hunter in camo shirt and hat aiming the Beretta A-400
The A-400 comes with an additional casting cam plate and drop plate.  You have the option of eight different drop cast options.

Weight, Performance, and Competitive Hunting

The weight is also a benefit albeit a slight.  While I am not comparing two of the same guns I am still confident in saying among semi-automatics, a 20 is less in weight than a 12 gauge.  The Browning weighs in at 7.5 pounds while the Beretta is 6.8 pounds.  Consider some data suggest that weight has an inverse effect on recoil.  Increase the weight of a gun by whatever percentage and an equal reduction in the percentage of recoil will occur.

Down Gauging: The Beretta A-400 Extreme Plus Semi-Automatic 20-Gauge

As a final consideration is the idea that downsizing in gauge will perhaps create a more competitive hunt at least in the eye of the beholder.  For me the challenge is laid down for me to effectively and within the perimeters I have for me personally to harvest with the skill I have in larger gauges.  I love the idea of downsizing so will it stop at the 20-gauge or move to a 28 or even a 410?  My shot selection will of course need to be enhanced, but I tend to shoot over the decoys anyway.  I see this smaller gauge as nothing short of fun.

Down Gauging: The Beretta A-400 Extreme Plus Semi-Automatic 20-Gauge
Beretta is a quality firearm capable of many years of use and abuse. 

The Beretta A-400 Extreme Specifications:

  • 28” barrel also available in 26” and 30”
  • Ventilated rib
  • 48.5” in length
  • 14.5” LOP with a 1” extension
  • 1+1 magazine reducer
  • Adjustable Length of pull
  • Extended charging handle and bolt
  • Kick-off Plus recoil reduction
  • Reversible safety lock
  • Competition enlarged loading port
  • Adjustable stock drop and cast
  • Aqua-Tech Shield Surface protection
  • B-Link gas-operated system
  • B-Lock magazine cap
  • Steelium Barrel
  • 7x7mm step rib with intermediate bead and optic front bead

The A-400 comes with five Optima HP choke tubes including:

  • Full – not steel rated
  • Improved Modified – not steel rated
  • Modified
  • Improved Cylinder
  • Cylinder

Beretta A-400 Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the selling price?

A: The A-400 goes for an MSRP of $2,049.00

Q: What gauges are available for the A-400?

A: It’s available in various gauges, including 12, 20, 28, and .410.

Q: What is the typical barrel length for the A-400?

A: The A-400 typically comes with barrel lengths of 26″, 28″, or 30″, depending on the model.

Down Gauging: The Beretta A-400 Extreme Plus Semi-Automatic 20-Gauge
Give Beretta credit for not camouflaging the entire gun and then including a bright chrome breach.  The black is perfect.
Hunter holding the Beretta A-400 and giving a close-up on the charging handle
The oversized cocking handle is designed for the water fowler with gloved hands or simply really cold fingers.
Down Gauging: The Beretta A-400 Extreme Plus Semi-Automatic 20-Gauge
Getting shells into the magazine is easy and smooth.  The magazine is factory set for two shells, but an additional plug is provided if only one shell is required. 

Final Thoughts on the Beretta A-400

Let’s discuss these shells and accept the fact that a 20-gauge one-ounce waterfowl load contains fewer pellets than a 12-gauge waterfowl load. To consider apples to apples let’s take a look at a 20-gauge #4 shell in 3” vs. a 12-gauge #4 in 3”.  The 20-gauge has approximately 120 pellets, discharging at 1300 feet per second, while a 12-gauge has 134 pellets firing at 1350 feet per second.  About a 10% loss in pellets but reasonably close in velocity. 

In conclusion, using a 20-gauge waterfowl gun instead of a 12-gauge may offer only perceived benefits. My ability to shoot killing shots likely will be all about my skill set and not the gun.  Give the 20s a try and see if you find advantages that meet your needs and do not diminish your harvest rate.

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About the author: began hunting waterfowl at a young age due to his father being a waterfowl biologist for the Missouri Department of Conservation. Today he hunts both public and private waterfowl grounds and is always working on something related to waterfowl throughout the year. He loves to turkey hunt and fish for walleye and crappie in the spring. David is a university professor, holds an NRA Level II coaching certification and works with youth in trap and skeet shooting in the summer with his annual trap-shooting academy.

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