September 23, 2010
The last bits of darkness still shrouded the brush country near San Angelo, Texas, when I directed an owl hoot in the general direction of a sliver of silvery moon. It brought an immediate gobbled response, confirming the presence of turkeys on a roost a few hundred yards away. Moving quietly in the direction of the gobble, I picked a spot and sat down with my back against the broad base of an old oak tree. I figured I was about 200 yards from the roosted turkeys.
The grayness of dawn was beginning to silhouette nearby oak motts when I heard the flapping of wings, signaling the turkeys' flight to the ground. A few cutts and yelps scratched out on a round piece of slate brought another gobbled response. I repeated the exercise, but the next gobble was fainter than the first. This smart tom was herding his hens away from the roost and me. I waited another 30 minutes, anxious and hoping to hear the distinctive ringing sound that only big tom turkeys make. But only oppressive silence followed, and I consoled myself with thoughts of yesterday's success.
The previous afternoon I had successfully taken a fine long-bearded bird with the Beretta A391 Xtrema 3.5 I was evaluating for Shooting Times. The turkey I had dropped had wandered away from his compadres to investigate the hen sounds coming from a mesquite bush where I waited. He'd cautiously stepped to within 30 paces of my position; he was uncertain but still curious. When he suddenly thrust his head up and flattened his feathers, it was time to shoot. I delivered a 3-inch turkey load of No. 4 shot to his head and neck area, which crumpled him in his tracks.
The Xtrema Up Close
I pressed the safety of the Xtrema semiautomatic shotgun and stood up. As I walked over to collect my bird, I took the opportunity for another admiring look at the gun I'd just fired. Its recoil had been so tolerable that I questioned whether the turkey load I'd chambered was in fact a magnum load. The Xtrema 3.5 is a handful of gun that's capable of chambering any load up to goose- and turkey-busting 3 1/2-inch magnums. Introduced in 2002 by Beretta (Dept. ST, 17601 Beretta Dr., Accokeek, MD 20607; 800-797-2205; www.berettausa.com), the Xtrema was designed to shoot the heaviest steel loads repeatedly and continuously with four separate features designed specifically to minimize felt recoil.
The Xtrema's recoil reduction begins with a Gel-Tek recoil pad fitted to the buttstock. This innovative item utilizes a silicone gel core, which enables it to expand and distribute the recoil effect over a broader pad surface. The Xtrema's Optima-Bore barrels have been overbored and the forcing cones have been lengthened, which also helps reduce felt recoil.
The Xtrema was designed to shoot the heaviest steel loads comfortably, and after putting it through a field test on Texas turkeys, Joe is impressed by the gun's recoil-reducing capabilities.
In addition the Xtrema has a Spring-Mass recoil reducer system located inside the buttstock. This system counteracts the rearward forces generated by the energy of the shot.
And finally, a bolt-travel recoil absorber reduces the stress caused by the bolt's impact as it cycles through the shot sequence. This eliminates the bolt-impact vibrations that are transmitted to the shooter. Recoil tests show that the Xtrema reduces felt recoil by 20 percent more than other autoloading shotguns.
According to Dr. Ugo Gusalli-Beretta, president of Beretta Holding, "When we designed the AL391 Urika, our goal was to have the best three-inch chambered shotgun in the world. Unlike other 31/2-inch shotguns that are simple extensions of their three-inch counterparts, the A391 Xtrema 3.5 was designed from the ground up to handle 31/2-inch ammunition. The Xtrema is a completely unique design that complements the popular and reliable AL391 Urika shotgun."
The A391 Xtrema 3.5 has adopted the Urika's same sleek lines styled by the internationally renowned Giugiaro Design group. The drop at the comb is 1.34 inches, and the drop at the heel is 2.36 inches. Unloaded, the Xtrema weighs 7.8 pounds. Other enhancement features include soft rubber grip inserts inlaid on the pistol grip and forend and a full complement of accessories, such as sling swivels, stock drop and cast spacers, Beretta gun oil, five choke tubes, and choke tube key. The Xtrema comes with a molded hard-shell carrying case that's constructed from the most durable materials available and features a custom set combination lock for absolute security while traveling.
The author's sample gun sported Beretta's new X-Full Turkey external choke tube and Realtree's Hardwoods HD finish, which he says is perfect for blending into Texas brush country.
The five Optima-Choke Plus tubes that come with the Xtrema are designed to withstand the stress of continuous heavy steel shot use. And they feature a long gradual constriction to minimize shot deformation and improve shot patterns.
The action of the Xtrema features a unique combination by incorporating a gas-operated system with a rotating locking bolt. The locking lugs engage the extended barrel tang that in turn mates perfectly with the receiver owing to its indexing lugs and the extended surface-contact area. The result minimizes barrel movement caused by shooting the powerful 3- and 3 1/2-inch loads, which also improves accuracy. The Xtrema's operating system also integrates a reliable self-cleaning system.
The top of the Xtrema's receiver
has integral grooves for scope mounting and will accept accessory scope base C61275. The barrel features a flat ventilated rib with a single metal front bead. The triangular-shaped, crossbolt safety is located at the rear of the trigger guard, making it easy to reach. The removable trigger group is easily detached by punching out a single pin located on the side of the receiver above the trigger.
The Xtrema is chambered for 12 gauge and comes standard with blued metal and a synthetic stock. Several optional Realtree camo finishes completely cover the metalwork and the stock, except for the gray rubber-grip inserts. Realtree's camo patterns will match any type of habitat in which you care to hunt and include Realtree Hardwoods High-Defintion (HD), Advantage Timber HD, and Advantage Wetlands.
Talking Turkey With The Xtrema
The gun I used had a Realtree Hardwoods HD finish — perfect camo for blending into the Texas brush country. My ammo was Federal's Premium Grand Slam Turkey load in a 3-inch shell, loaded with 17/8 ounces of No. 4 copper-plated shot. Choked with Beretta's new X-Full external turkey choke, the Xtrema's pattern effectively covered a turkey's head and neck out to 40 yards.
After another unsuccessful attempt at calling that second morning, I hiked toward an open field that looked likely to attract some birds. As I eased up a dirt road cut through the bush, I heard a tom gobble ahead of me. I dropped down to my hands and knees and dodged into the edge of a huisatch bush. The flock was on the move, and the first birds I saw were a couple of hens about 40 yards away. They were busy scratching for bugs and passed by me without spotting my crunched torso trying to look like a huisatch sprout. I knew time was critical as the big tom was sure to be following close behind the hens.
Federal's Premium Grand Slam Turkey load topped with 17/8 ounces of No. 4 copper-plated shot worked extremely well on the Rio Grande turkeys the author hunted.
My cover wasn't ideal — the huisatch's thorns poked me in several sensitive spots — so I wormed my way into a more comfortable pose where I could swing the Xtrema into a shooting position. With the Xtrema at my shoulder, my first look at two gobblers involved only their heads as they cautiously surveyed the little clearing they'd just entered. I kept my eye on the longer bearded fellow, figuring he was every bit on the 35-yard side of 30 paces.
I was positioned well enough, but not ideally, to put his head on top of my front bead and stay in line with his neck if he would just step forward a little more.
When he did move forward, I was ready. A charge of No. 4 shot to his head and neck bowled him over. I stood up to claim the second bird I'd taken in as many days with the Xtrema and realized I'd not felt a thing recoil-wise, in spite of shooting from an awkward position. After firing several patterning shots at targets prior to the hunt, and then firing two more shots in the field that accounted for two big gobblers, I was very impressed by the Xtrema's recoil-reducing capabilities. The next time I stoke a shotgun with a 3 1/2-inch Magnum shotshell, you can bet the gun will be a Beretta A391 Xtrema 3.5.
Beretta A391 Xtrema 3.5
12-Gauge Semiautomatic Shotgun
|Beretta USA Corp.17601 Beretta Dr. Accokeek, MD 20607|
|A391 Xtrema 3.5|
|24, 26, 28 inches|
with metal front bead sight
(all models are supplied with
plugs to limit capacity to two)
|Blued steel/black synthetic stock;|
Realtree Hardwoods HD, Advantage
Timber HD, and Advantage Wetland HD camo finishes are also available
|$1143 (blue); $1260 (camo)|