Can the Beretta A300 Ultima Patrol Supplant the 1301 Tactical?

by Vern Evans

A few years back, my agency decided to upgrade our 40 year old Remington 870 shotguns to something semi-automatic. The problem was, 100% of the tactical semi-autos on the market at the time wouldn’t cycle with our duty ammo: reduced recoil buckshot. Many of us who knew a little more about ballistics explained to our management that it was a terribly ineffective round and we should be using full power slugs, but we had already purchased pallets full of that underperforming buckshot. Our management explained we were stuck using it and had to find a gun that would cycle it. We never did, and the semi-auto shotgun project died on the vine.

Beretta A300 Ultima Patrol Versus Beretta 1301 Tactical

Not long afterwards, I purchased a Beretta A400 Xcel with the B-Link gas operating system for my wife for Sporting Clays because she was very recoil sensitive. I noticed its unfailing reliability and was soon testing that reduced recoil buckshot in it. It functioned flawlessly. In 2010 Beretta introduced the short-lived TX4 Storm Tactical Shotgun which utilized the B-Link operating system, but still left a lot to be desired for a tactical shotgun. Its sights were too high for a good cheek weld, the bolt release, safety and charging handle were tiny, and it lacked a full-length magazine tube which limited capacity. I still considered it the best semi-auto tactical shotgun on the market and purchased one as my home defense gun, but I made a lot of modifications. 

In 2014, Beretta introduced the 1301 Tactical. They fixed almost every feature that was lacking in the TX4: bigger controls, better sights, enlarged loading port, and longer magazine tube for better capacity. Plus it still had the B-Link operating system for unparalleled reliability. The only downside was the price. MSRP for the 1301 is over $1,700, which is three to four times the cost of a traditional, tactical pump shotgun.

This year, Beretta introduced their A300 Ultima Patrol with an MSRP of $1,099, which can often be found for under $1K. It doesn’t use the B-Link operating system, but instead uses the A300, which has proven its unfailing reliability since 1968. Finally, instead of being a budget version of the 1301, it actually made a number of improvements. So the world wants to know, how does the A300 Ultima Patrol measure up to the 1301 Tactical?

Shotgun Sights

Both shotguns come with ghost ring sights.  The A300 has a fiber-optic front, while the 1301 has a post with a white dot. The A300’s fiber-optic screws into place and was able to pivot left and right. The 1301’s rear sight is fully adjustable for windage and elevation, while the A300’s is fixed and non-adjustable. Some reviews say you can loosen the screw the holds it in place and move it that way. Not true. It fits into an indent and cannot be shifted any direction. It is also made of plastic, while the 1301 is steel. That said, both have identical 3-inch Picatinny rails for mounting an optic, which I would highly recommend on any tactical long arm, so the iron sights are almost a moot point. 

Personally, I think a red dot sight on the picatinny makes me lift my head too high and ruins that perfect cheek weld. I reached out to Tactical Ordnance Inc, who sent me one of their aluminum, CNC machined, Beretta 1301 Tactical Co-Witness Mini Mounts. It replaces the Picatinny, fits perfectly on either gun, and allows you to mount your choice of red dot with the RMR/Holosun, ACRO, or Holosun HE509T footprint. With this setup, you get a perfect co-witness with your iron sights. I mounted a Steiner MPS on the TACORD Mini Mount and a Burris Fastfire 4 on the Picatinny, then switched the sights back and forth between the A300 and the 1301. Both sights worked great, but I definitely preferred the lower seated Steiner on the TACORD for moving targets.

Advantage: 1301

Beretta Barrels

The A300 barrel is about a 1/2-inch longer than the 1301’s 18.5-inch barrel, but they look identical to the naked eye. The 1301 has a Steelium barrel with an elongated forcing cone, which reduces shot spread and makes lead shot pattern more uniformly. The A300 does not have these features. For the accuracy portion I benched the gun at 25 yards, and plodded through a teeth-rattling regiment of five-shot groups. I wore the thickest shoulder pad I could find. Make fun all you want, but slow, precision fire from a benched position with slugs is punishing to anyone. I also dusted off my trusty Oehler 35P chronograph just to see if there was a noticeable change in velocity due to using different types of barrels with different lengths of forcing cones. The 1301 often had higher velocity. Accuracy was about the same. 

Advantage: 1301

Fightin’ Furniture

Both look similar with identical M-LOK barrel clamps, but the rear stock on the A300 has a hidden QD socket, while the 1301 has an old-fashioned ring. The A300 also has M-LOK mounts on the forend in the 3, 6 and 9 o’clock, while the 1301 has vents. Being able to mount a white light directly in line (above or below) the barrel is crucial for room clearings. Otherwise, your light is in front or lags behind each time you work your angles on a door. 

Advantage: A300

Operating Systems for Operatin’

Both are gas operated, but the 1301 has the B-Link gas operating system with a chrome plated, rotary bolt that is arguably the fastest and most reliable system on any semi-auto shotgun manufactured today. The A300 has the A300 system with non-rotary bolt, but has over 50-year tried and true reliability. The 1301 also feels like the recoil is slightly lighter. 

Advantage: 1301

LE Worthy Loading Ports

The A300’s loading port has been opened up considerably compared to the 1301. When the 1301 Tactical was released, so was the 1301 Competition.  The 1301 Competition had a wider and longer loading port to accommodate the 3-Gunners’ demand to be able to quad load. When the A300 Ultima Patrol was being designed, Beretta was smart and listened to the 3-Gunners again. Yes, it is for a tactical shotgun, and no one will ever quad load a tactical shotgun in the middle of a shootout, but anything that makes it faster and easier to load is a good idea. The 12-gauge has always had superior ballistics and more versatility over the AR rifle, but it holds far fewer rounds and is a lot slower to reload. If you want a shotgun to compete with an AR, this is the Achilles Heel that you have to tackle. 

Advantage: A300

Real World Reliability

Remember, I started down this journey nearly 15 years ago because my agency could not find a semi-auto shotgun that would reliably cycle reduced recoil shells. We stuck with our 870s because they were reliable. In the end, this feature trumps all other features in a life and death battle. So how did the 1301 and A300 measure up? I have been shooting the 1301 for several years and it eats everything I have thrown at it. High brass, low brass, low velocity, high velocity, birdshot, tungsten, steel, lead, frangible, slugs, buckshot.

So how did the A300 do? I went through my rather extensive closet full of 12-gauge shells and took a few of almost everything I own. As expected, it ran all of the normal rounds without a hiccup. But I was really interested in those low-recoil rounds that jammed virtually every other tactical shotgun. It ran those just fine too. In fact, in my testing, it had zero jams.

Advantage: Tie in my testing, but experts say the B-Link is better and will last longer. 

Modern Ergonomics

Both guns have nearly identical controls: oversized charging handles, oversized bolt release, oversized safety placed in front of the trigger, and non-thumb catching lift gates. The 1301 does have a slightly larger safety button, but that can be seen as a slight advantage or disadvantage, depending on shooter preference.  The texturing on the A300 is slightly more aggressive than the 1301, but not much. The grip of the stock on the A300 is textured while the 1301 is smooth. 

Advantage: Tie

Show Me the Money

The A300 can be found in stores for less than $1K. The 1301 is going to cost you about 50% more.

Advantage: A300

Final Conclusion

Are either of these tactical shotguns perfect? No. But they are as close to perfect as any being manufactured today. Which one fits your needs better? For most people, I would say the A300 Ultima Patrol. Yeah, it has a little more recoil and you can’t change out the stock. Who cares? When you take it home, you will never notice it has a little more recoil. Get a red dot sight, a light with an M-LOK mount and a sling for it and you are ready for any close quarters tactical mission, especially if you are assaulting a vehicle or protecting your home.

For those few and far between shooters who need 100% reliability with all types of ammo, or put thousands of shells through their gun every year, I would say the 1301. Plus you can switch to an aftermarket stock if you like. I would recommend changing to an aftermarket forend with M-LOK mounts. Me, I’m a hard-core shotgun guy, so I will probably be tinkering with both for many years to come. However, if they take that 1301, open up the loading port, put M-LOK mounts at the 6 o’clock on the forend, cut the receiver for a direct red dot sight mount, and offer a version with a 14-inch barrel, I may have to step back and admit that absolute perfection has been achieved.

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1301 Tactical Specs

  • Barrel Length: 18.5 inches
  • Overall Length: 37.8 inches
  • Weight: 6 pounds, 10 ounces
  • Chamber:  3-inch
  • Choke:  OBHP-IC
  • Gauge: 12-gauge
  • Capacity: 7+1
  • Receiver: Aluminum
  • MSRP: $1,720

A300 Ultima Patrol Specs

  • Barrel Length: 19.1 inches
  • Overall Length: 38 inches
  • Weight: 6 pounds, 15 ounces
  • Chamber:  3-inch
  • Choke:  MC
  • Gauge: 12-gauge
  • Capacity: 7+1
  • Receiver: Aluminum
  • MSRP: $1,099

1301 Tactical Shooting Data

Load Velocity Average Accuracy Average Accuracy Best
Federal Classic Rifled Slug 1 oz 2,518 fps 2.4 inches 1.59 inches
Remington Slugger Rifled Slug 1 oz 2,447 fps 1.64 inches 1.25 inches
Federal Truball Low Recoil Rifled Slug HP 1 oz 1,239 fps 2.20 inches 1.52 inches

A300 Ultima Patrol Shooting Data

Load Velocity Average Accuracy Average Accuracy Best
Federal Classic Rifled Slug 1 oz 2,260 fps 2.14 inches 1.44 inches
Remington Slugger Rifled Slug 1 oz 2,220 fps 1.56 inches 1.32 inches
Federal Truball Low Recoil Rifled Slug HP 1 oz 1,239 fps 2.15 inches 1.29 inches

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