Beretta’s new 1301 Tactical shotgun is a fast shooting, surgical brawler perfect for home defense and law enforcement applications.
“Shotguns are brutal, hungry weapons,” explained Steve Fisher at Beretta’s first Tactical Summit held at Academi in Moyock, North Carolina. He then proceeded to quickly stuff a Beretta 1301 Tactical shotgun with Federal 00 Buck faster than a snake crossing hot asphalt in July. At 25 yards, you can predict the hits as Fisher unloads, creating a pile of empty shells and fist-size splashes on the painted steel target. “Let’s move back a bit,” he said, reloading.
At 30, 40 and 50 yards, Fisher fired, keeping all nine pellets on the 18×1-inch steel target. At 75 yards, not all pellets hit steel, but the demonstration proved the surgical accuracy of Beretta’s 1301 Tactical shotgun.
Shotguns are not weapons to be pointed, as some may think, in the general direction of the target and fired in the expectation the target will be perforated with a swath of 00 pellets. The Beretta 1301, paired with a modern tactical load like the Federal Personal Defense shell, needs to be aimed—and wants to be aimed—so those nine pellets hit the target precisely where you want them to go.
A shotgun is “brutal” in the sense that, when well deployed, it can ravage a target with the intensity of nine 9mm bullets hitting at the same time; also a 12-gauge shotgun has noticeable recoil. It’s “hungry” in the sense that a shotgun is loaded one round at a time. Unlike an AR, which can be quickly topped off with a fresh 30-round magazine, or a pistol, which may get 15 to 17 rounds with each reload, a shotgun always needs to be reloaded with the operator feeding the machine.
The Beretta 1301 Tactical shotgun uses Beretta’s BLINK gas operating system with a cross tube gas piston. According to John Tamborino, tactical product manager at Beretta, “The 1301 Tactical cycles 36 percent faster than other semi-automatic shotguns,” which means you can get off four rounds in one second. Don’t blink or you’ll miss the show. “The BLINK system has been around for a few years and is the same proven system found in Beretta’s A400 hunting and competition semi-automatic shotguns,” Tamborino added.
Using the 1301 in Moyock as well as back home, I ran it hard and had no issues with the shotgun performing even when feeding it a mixed diet of light reloads and factory ammunition. The Beretta was completely reliable.
“The BLINK gas system,” explained Tamborino, “was designed to cycle most shotgun loads, from light birdshot all the way to slugs, and the gas system also has a self-cleaning design,” which means the piston’s seal is designed to scrape powder residue as it cycles. Even after extensive shooting, the gun had little fouling.
The 1301 Tactical chambers both 2¾-inch and 3-inch shells. The receiver is lightweight aluminum. The triangular safety button located just forward of the trigger, the bolt handle and the bolt release are all oversized for fast manipulation even with gloved hands. The butt stock is synthetic with a grippy texture.
Knowing the 1301 might be used by kitted up law enforcement or petite home defenders, the length of pull (LOP) on the 1301 is only 13 inches. Spacers are shipped with the 1301 so you can customize the LOP to your stature. A soft rubber recoil pad eases any felt recoil. The forend is thin and textured, offering users with small or large hands a good grasp, which is especially important in a fast shooting 12-gauge.
The shotgun weighs a lithe 6.3 pounds unloaded. It is fast handling. Lightweight in a 12-gauge tactical shotgun is not necessarily a good thing: That sense of brutal force can be felt in the shoulder, but I found the 1301 Tactical quite a sweet shotgun to shoot. The action was smooth and, along with the gas piston operating system, helped to alleviate any felt recoil.
“Proper shooting technique” as Fisher said, “can also reduce felt recoil from the equation. In the firing position, use your hands to slightly pull in opposite directions, as if you were trying to pull the shotgun apart. Not enough to cause you to go off target but just enough so that when the weapon fires the recoil force will feel even less on your shoulder and cheek weld.”
Lined up at 25 yards, we were drilled to load increasingly more rounds into the 1301 and fire. As the person to your left fired, it was your turn to load and start firing. On it went down the line until the pace was frenetic and the 1301s were fully loaded and fully emptied. We were firing light target loads, and the push-pull technique Fisher demonstrated helped remove any bite of recoil users might feel, though I thought the 1301 had little felt recoil to begin with. Smaller stature shooters and those unfamiliar with shotguns might disagree, but I heard no complaints from the other shooters on the line.
“The barrels on the 1301 are cold hammer forged, back bored and vacuum distended, which does reduce recoil,” said Tamborino. An adjustable ghost ring rear sight is paired up with a front blade with a white dot protected by wings. A Picatinny rail is mounted should a user want to add a red dot or reflex sight. A fixed cylinder choke is optimized for a variety of defense loads. The barrel is 18.5 inches in length, giving the shotgun an overall length of 37.8 inches. This length makes the 1301 quite maneuverable in a home defense situation, and it makes pie-ing corners easier in cramped environments.
The 1301 comes apart simply. Lock the breech bolt back; then unscrew the forend cap. Pull the forend off and pull the barrel from the receiver. To remove the breech bolt, place your finger on the bolt face and press the bolt-release button. Remember to control the breech bolt. Then pull the bolt handle from the breech bolt. The breech bolt and operating rods with the sleeve can then be removed from the front of the receiver and off the magazine tube. To access the trigger group, punch out the trigger-guard retaining pin, then press the bolt-release button and pull down on the trigger group assembly. It will pivot out the bottom of the receiver. This takes longer to explain than to actually do. Suffice it to say the process is user friendly.
Loading a semi-auto shotgun can be hard on fingers and thumbs, but the 1301 made it fast, enjoyable work since the edges of the loading port are smooth with no sharp edges. Shells slid easily into the magazine tube with no hitches.
Back home at the range, I warmed up the 1301 with some light handloads and fired them for speed. I doubt I fired four rounds in one second, but I did have a stream of empties flowing from the ejection port. Even running the shotgun full bore, the Beretta was easy to control and recoil was manageable. Moving on to military grade 00 Buck, I found patterns measured about 10 inches at 25 yards.
The Federal Personal Defense loads, however, gave me fist-size groups at 25 yards. It was accurate and surgical on center of mass and headshots. At 50 yards, I shouldered some slugs, shooting three-shot groups. Surgical again. The Federal Tactical slugs gave me 3-inch groups when I used a rest and did my part with the trigger. The trigger’s pull weight was about 5 pounds with a slight bit of creep but was well suited for a tactical/defense weapon.
Though Beretta is more known for competition and hunting models, Tamborino said, “the inspiration with the 1301 tactical was to offer LE and home defenders a lightweight semi-auto tactical shotgun capable of cycling shotgun loads ranging from light to heavy.” From my experience running all types of tactical shotguns, the Beretta 1301 Tactical is the kind of shotgun I want close at hand when things turn bad. Reliability and ease of use make this brutal beast an asset.
Beretta 1301 Tactical
2.75-3 in. chamber
BARREL 18.5 in.
CHOKE Fixed cylinder
OVERALL LENGTH 37.8 in.
WEIGHT 6.3 lbs.
STOCK Black synthetic
SIGHTS Adjustable ghost ring/
FINISH Matte black
CAPACITY 4 + 1
Gun Digest Book of the Tactical Shotgun eBook
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Gun Digest Book of the Tactical Shotgun is the essential buyer's guide to the modern home defense and combat shotgun. Author Scott Wagner reviews many makes and models of currently available tactical shotguns, ammunition and accessories. Learn more