August 28, 2023
The shotgun is still the preferred longarm of novice shooters looking for something more formidable (and easier to shoot accurately) than a pistol. We have to look no further in the past than the spring of 2020 with the COVID outbreak and civil unrest to see which type of firearm citizens chose to defend themselves with. Shotguns sold out first, with the least expensive models evaporating almost overnight.
The shotgun is a wonderful tool for self-defense because nothing is more lethal inside 25 yards. Once we get past the old wives’ tales about how “racking the slide will strike fear into the heart of any assailant” and “there’s no need to aim because it’ll sweep the whole street,” more serious conversations can start. Shotguns deliver a massive payload and offer a broad range of projectile weight and performance options. They are also simple to operate. Historically, the shotgun’s biggest drawback was the time it takes to load and reload. Beretta’s A300 Ultima Patrol leverages those strengths and mitigates weakness.
I’ve long felt that a semiautomatic shotgun is better than a pump-action for anyone’s use in self-defense. The semiauto is simple to operate and doesn’t run the risk of a new or stressed shooter short-stroking the slide and causing a malfunction. The difficult pill to swallow was that reliable semiauto shotguns were usually too expensive for most folks to afford. The good news here is that the A300 Ultima Patrol will slide across the gun counter for less than $1,000. Far from being a new and unproven design, the A300 Ultima has been in the field as a sporting shotgun for more than a year. It has already earned a reputation for being a reliable performer. Plus, it’s a Beretta. They always work.
The semiautomatic is piston-operated and has a compensating exhaust valve that bleeds off excess gas from high-velocity shotgun loads. The self-adjusting operating system means everything between the soft-shooting 2¾-inch with a 7⁄8-ounce payload to the 3-inch magnums with a 2-ounce load cycles just fine. It almost impossible to find a factory load that won’t work in the A300 Ultima Patrol. (Okay, okay. I concede that mini-shells will not cycle in this shotgun.)
Beretta built an ideal shotgun around its piston system. The 19.1-inch barrel is chrome lined and comes with an Improved Cylinder (IC) choke installed. Any of Beretta’s Mobilchoke tubes will work in the A300 Ultima Patrol. The chrome-lined chamber and bore are normally found on more expensive shotguns to boost corrosion resistance, but isn’t surprising for a Beretta.
The A300 Ultima Patrol has excellent sights and a Picatinny rail. The front sight housing is made from aluminum and has a section of fiber optic that functions well, even in dim light. The front sight housing is screwed directly to the barrel, and the rear sight is a polymer ghost ring that sits on a polymer housing. A single Torx screw loosens to allow adjustment of the rear sight. Two screws hold the rear sight assembly to the receiver.
Just forward of the rear sight is the aforementioned 3-inch section of rail that allows for mounting an optic. The combination of good iron sights and a factory-installed rail that supports optics means that the consumer has several options for effective sighting without having to send the gun off to a gunsmith. As much as I’m thrilled with the sights and rail on the A300 Ultima Patrol, there is one small solvable problem that comes with it: There is enough drop in the stock that even the lowest red-dot sight will likely require a cheekpad of some type added to the comb for a comfortable connection between the shooter’s head and the stock during aiming. This is important on a shotgun because recoil moves both gun and shooter, so a solid connection between the two is essential for fast follow-up shots. The red fiber optic and aperture rear sight that come on the A300 Ultima Patrol are high enough that a cheekpad is still a good idea. I’d rather have the sights and rail that come on the Patrol and need a cheekpad than be stuck with just a bead up front. The drop in the stock is a minor issue.
The most insightful and meaningful features of this shotgun are the loading port area and carrier. Loading a shotgun is by far the most unique shotgun-associated task, and it can be difficult to master rapid reloads. Too often, shotgun reloads can be timed with a sundial. (They’re almost that slow.) The problem is that a shell needs to be loaded into a tubular magazine, and a lifter has to be moved out of the way to access the tubular magazine. Competition shooters have developed a number of tricks to make this speed loading faster and less error-prone.
A gunsmith’s solution is to machine around the loading port to open it up as much as possible. Another important modification is to bevel the lifter so that it won’t cut or pinch the shooter’s thumb as shells are stuffed into the magazine. When I was still serving in the U.S. Army, I once paid a custom gun shop a lot of money to open the loading port of an 870. It cost me a few hundred dollars because the work was done by hand.
The loading port on the Ultima Patrol is as big as could possibly fit on the shotgun. It’s beautiful. It is the full width of the receiver, and the bottom has been scalloped away to get the shooter’s loading hand as close as possible to the tubular magazine. It’s perfect. Beretta didn’t stop there, either. Most shell carriers have a semi-circular tip that hugs the internal contour of the loading port. This one is cut into a half-moon scallop to provide needed clearance to ensure the lifter never pinches the loader’s thumb shells are fed into the magazine. Potential owners of the A300 Ultima Patrol rest easy knowing the carrier’s shape was engineered to work reliably with the shotgun and not just some aftermarket handiwork.
The A300 Ultima Patrol has a stated capacity of seven-plus-one rounds of 2¾-inch shells. However, I found it possible to “ghost load” an additional round by first loading the tubular magazine to capacity, then manually retracting the bolt to slip one round in the chamber and laying another one on top of the lifter. This brought the total capacity to nine rounds.
Kitted Out for Defense
The A300 Ultima Patrol is the first time I’ve seen a complete tactical package offered to the civilian consumer with everything that makes me happy. No work has to be done after the point of sale, except to add an optic, light, and, perhaps, a sling. All the right parts and pieces are in place. In order for a shotgun to be ready for self-defense use, it has to have good sights, accept a sling and a light. The A300 Ultima Patrol qualifies in each regard.
There is a barrel and tubular magazine clamp near the muzzle that houses a quick-detach sling swivel cup on each side. The rear sling swivel attachment point is near the buttstock’s toe, which comes with a flush-fit rubber plug installed. (It took some effort with needle-nose pliers to get that plug out.) The test shotgun’s sling swivel cup housed in the toe sat too low inside the stock for the sling to attach, but a few turns of the 6mm Allen wrench, and it stood just proud enough from the stock for the sling to firmly attach.
A sling is essential on any defensive shotgun, something like a holster for a pistol. Sooner or later the user will need their hands for something other than holding a shotgun. The sling allows the gun to hang close by and still be ready for immediate use, should that become necessary.
The A300 Ultima Patrol is also ready to accept a forend light on either side. Lights are essential because we have to positively identify targets before shooting. The forend has M-Lok slots molded into the bracket on both sides of the shotgun. There are several lights available that mount to M-Lok slots, so all there is to do is choose one and attach it. There is no need to buy a third-party clamp or handguard.
The handguard’s long length is also a thoughtful feature because it offers plenty of real estate for hand placement when shooting around cover, or when utilizing supports in the field. Short handguards require the shooter to put the support hand in just one spot. Long handguards allow the support hand to slide closer to the muzzle, getting the shooter lower and closer to cover or the ground. A long handguard is also easier to lay across a fence post, tree limb or barricade for more precise shot placement.
Accuracy testing and patterning the A300 Ultima Patrol yielded no surprises. Beretta shotguns usually place about 60 percent of the pellets above the point of aim and 40 percent below it. The test shotgun put 64 percent of the pellets above the point of aim and 36 percent below it at 40 yards. Rifled slugs fired in three-shot groups at 100 yards had a best group size of 2.97 inches and an average of 3.78 inches. Buckshot placed five to six pellets within 5 inches of the point of aim at 40 yards. The furthest pellet landed 9 inches from my point of aim, which is a tight pattern at that distance. I used Federal’s Hi-Brass Game Load (23/4 inch, 1,330 fps, 11/4 ounce, No. 5 shot) for patterning.
The A300 Ultima Patrol is big win for the consumer. It offers Beretta’s legendary reliability and combines all the necessary features required for a tactical shotgun. Though it retails for $1,100, you’re going to find this awesome shotgun selling for less than a grand. The A300 Ultima Patrol should be in high demand for quite some time.
Beretta A300 Ultima Patrol
- Type: Over-under shotgun
- Gauge: 12, 20, 16 or 28 (tested)
- Capacity: 7+1 rds.
- Barrel: 19.1 in.
- Overall Length: 38 in.
- Weight: 7 lbs. 1 oz.
- Stock: Polymer
- Length of Pull: 13 in.
- Finish: Grey or Tiger Stripe
- Sights: Red fiber optic (front), ghost ring (rear)
- Safety: Two-position selector
- Price: $1099
- Manufacturer: Beretta, 800-237-3882, beretta.com
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