850 Puddin Ridge Road is not a tough sounding address, but I have a nostalgic connection with the world-class training facility now known as Academi situated at the end of that road. However, the tempo of the Beretta event I was attending didn’t leave a lot of time for reminiscing. For two days we participated in blocks of instruction and practical range exercises on Sako rifles and Beretta pistols, shotguns and carbines.
Early in the event, I commented to a colleague about my lack of enthusiasm for the shotgun. You see, prior to my tenure as a security contractor, I worked as a law enforcement officer in the era when the 1997 North Hollywood bank robbery initiated a migration from shotguns to patrol rifles. By the early days of the 21st century, I’d developed my agency’s less-lethal munitions training program and was instructing hundreds of officers that the shotgun would forever hold a valuable position — as a specialty munitions launcher.
With that as a backdrop, I settled in to hear shotgun instructor Steve “Yeti” Fisher’s presentation on the Beretta 1301 Tactical shotgun. I immediately found Steve an informative and engaging instructor, accustomed to encountering people who’ve likewise demoted the shotgun in their tactical hierarchy. Early in his presentation, Steve cited the clichéd weaknesses of the shotgun: It’s a cumbersome platform with a low magazine capacity that’s slow to reload, the recoil is oppressive, slugs present an elevated risk for over-penetration and 00 buck pattern spread is too severe to deliver projectiles with any precision if necessary, even at close range.
Well, there it was … the elephant was in the room. Steve’s goal was to dismiss that elephant and educate the open-minded but skeptical attendees such as myself on the tactical shotgun paradigm shifts that have occurred. Since realignments require first-hand experience as opposed to PowerPoint and lecture, we moved from the classroom to the range for practical familiarization with the Beretta 1301 Tactical shotgun.
My attention was immediately drawn to the controls on the 1301 Tactical. The charging handle is oversized, and the bolt release and crossbolt safety are oversized and textured. When combined with the aggressive checkering on the stock and forend, the platform is extremely tactile, and the ability to maintain control and function of the shotgun under stress is enhanced whether wearing gloves or if hands are wet. The shotgun is equipped with ghost ring sights, with the front sight interchangeable for user customization, and forward of the rear sight assembly is a receiver mounted rail for optics. The 1301 Tactical has an 18.5-inch barrel and is chambered for 3-inch shells, four of which will fit in the OEM magazine tube, or five of the 2¾-inch variety. Included spacers increase or decrease the length of pull to fit shooters. The 1301 Tactical is a gas-operated shotgun, and Beretta claims that its BLINK gas operating system cycles 36-percent faster than any other shotgun on the market.
Steve had us initiate our course of fire with target loads, familiarizing us with the shotgun and knocking the rust off our ability to keep it fully stoked and in fighting condition. We loaded from support pockets, dump pouches and the Ares Gear five-round, tear-away shell carriers. These slick side saddle carriers attach to the receiver and make it easy to replace with another five-round Ares Gear shell carrier after you strip its payload.
Next we transitioned from target loads to 2¾-inch Federal Flitecontrol 00 Buck. Federal’s Flitecontrol ammo utilizes a redesigned wad, which contains the shot for an extended period of time after it exits the barrel and results in tighter patterns. Steve rallied us at the 10-yard line for a demonstration of improved Flitecontrol accuracy on a hostage rescue target. If you’re familiar with your shotgun/ammo combination, you can develop proficiency and hold point of aim on, say, the bad guy’s outboard earlobe away from the hostage and deliver a shot at room distances that should place enough 00 projectiles on target to modify the bad guy’s nefarious behavior.
Boom. Holy #$*& — one single rat hole right between the bad guy’s running lights? That is not how this drill used to end.
After that attention getter, Steve had us continue our course of fire with the 00 Buck from room clearance distances to the 50-yard line. Then, for good measure, he backed us up to the 75-yard line where he further demonstrated the potential range of the platform by firing a single shot at a freshly painted torso sized steel target, which resulted in eight out of a possible nine .33 caliber projectile hits on steel.
Home Defense Ready
At the beginning of the Beretta Tactical Summit, I was confident that the event would conclude with me submitting a request for a carbine. No one was more surprised than me when I requested a Beretta 1301 Tactical shotgun instead.
While waiting for the shotgun, I sourced aftermarket components to enhance its capability as a home defense platform. I began with a Beretta 1301 Tactical MXT Extension Kit from Nordic Components. This magazine extension kit increases magazine capacity from five rounds to seven (2¾-inch shells) and includes a barrel clamp with a QD mount and 1½ inches of rail. This rail section was employed on the right side of the magazine tube as a mounting point for a 500-lumen SureFire M600 Ultra Scout Light with a momentary-on tape switch.
As for the home defense platform “sling vs. no sling” argument, I chose “sling” and affixed a Magpul MS3 in its two-point configuration. In addition to mounting an Ares Gear shell carrier, I also sourced a Raven Concealment Moduloader and affixed it to the buttstock end of the Magpul sling. The Moduloader is intended for use on a beltline, but works well to store another five shells onboard the shotgun via an additional Ares Gear shell carrier. Finally, I didn’t let the receiver mounted rail go to waste and mounted a Trijicon Adjustable LED RMR.
I ran everything from target loads to rifled slugs to 00 and 000 Buckshot through the Beretta 1301 Tactical during my evaluation, and it consumed it all without a hiccup. I continued to be impressed by Federal’s Flitecontrol wads, but that isn’t the only game in town. I also tested Hornady Superperformance 00 Buckshot with the Versatite wad. The Hornady shell has an eight-pellet payload and, at 1,600 feet per second (FPS), is 275 fps hotter than the Federal load.
So did I have a tactical shotgun paradigm change? Yes, and I attribute it to a plethora of factors, mainly the features and handling characteristics of the Beretta 1301 Tactical, which includes the speed of the BLINK gas system and the controllability of the platform’s recoil. Enhancement of ammunition management due to the Nordic Components magazine tube extension and the modular Ares Gear shell carriers also played a significant role. And the evolution of rugged miniature red dot sights (MRDS), such as the Trijicon RMR, to enable rapid sight picture acquisition in varying conditions and the enhanced accuracy of contemporary shotshell loads can’t be overstated.
There is, and likely always will be, a give and take between the capabilities of a shotgun and a carbine, but Genghis Khan himself at the back door would give pause at the concentrated and effective shock and awe delivered from the muzzle of this platform. I’m pleased to announce that the shotgun has made its way back into the home defense arena.