Beretta AL391 Urika 2 Shotguns
For many years, I've had a bit of a love affair (platonic) with Beretta gas-operated semi-autos. They don't break, they don't jam with a bare minimum of reasonable maintenance, and they are soft-shooters to boot. This includes Browning B-80 models, A303's, and Beretta A390's which still see regular, enthusiastic use. I've resisted the urge to go the 391 and Urika route, primarily because there is nothing lacking in the six Beretta gas guns I still use regularly. In addition to that, my cache of extra barrels and choke tubes are not easily replaced.
My mind was changed at this year's SHOT Show, having the chance to shoot Beretta's new Urika 2 Gold. It felt perfectly balanced, smooth, a bit livelier than my 390's, and it was nearly impossible with which to miss. The full name of the model is the "AL391 Urika 2 Gold #J39TB18, featuring the Beretta's "Optima Bore System" a very small enlarged bore barrel of .732 in. vs. the old Eurostandard of .725 in. and the American standard of .729 in. nominal bore diameter.
Beretta has added a new, "spinning toothed" gas piston that they claim reduces maintenance by 50% and improves reliability by over 40%. That remains to be seen. Long ago, I intentionally fed one of my A390 Gold Mallards over four cases of reasonably dirty reloads with no cleaning, hoping for some jamming on the skeet field. I never could get that 390 to jam, and finally just gave up the effort in delighted disgust. Certainly, the gun was filthy after that 1000 rounds of shooting, but I didn't have one single failure to eject or failure to feed. If Beretta has really improved on that performance they really have done something.
As I understand it, the motivation for the 391 series in the first place was primarily to slim up the fore end. That it did, the value of which is subjective, and it was accomplished at the expense of an over-engineered fore end nut with more pieces than seems reasonable. In any case, the 391 has been a huge hit for Beretta, already selling over 1.5 million units.
The field models of the Urika 2 come in two basic configurations, the standard and the Gold. The standard version features Beretta's new "X-Tra Grain" wood. This shouldn't be confused with the plasticy "X-Tra Wood" dip that I've found silly, fake-looking, and slippery. The "X-Tra Grain" retains the natural look and feel of wood, while giving the appearance of distinct mineral streaks. My theory is that the wood is burnished or etched, perhaps by laser, before staining, giving it "figure" that otherwise wouldn't exist.
It really is impressive, looking so good and so natural that a couple of the "Gold" versions appeared to have wood a notch back from the "X-tra Grain" standard models. There is only one thing I found distasteful about the X-tra grain; that being that the gun is embossed "X-tra Grain" right by the pistol grip. Had they done the obvious and identified it under the buttpad it likely would have convinced me it was nothing but great looking, well-finished wood. Sort of like stamping something "genuine enhanced imitation leather," I suppose. It is attractive though, and I'm told very durable and easy to care for. The light engraving on the receiver of the standard model is tasteful as well.
The 390 has been a fabulous shotgun for me, a shotgun so competent it refuses to be discontinued, having been reintroduced as the "Made in USA" Model 3901 series. It is one of the very best bargains available in a quality semi-auto.
Nevertheless, the Urika 2 Gold impressed me as being something extraordinary, and one is coming for a review from our friends at Beretta. It will be fun to compare the Urika 2 vs. one of my A390 Gold Mallards shot-for-shot, and we will also see how George Trulock's Precision Hunter Optima style extended tubes stack up against the factory Beretta tubes.
Note: There is a detailed review of the Beretta AL-391 Urika 2 on the Product Review Page.
Copyright 2007 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.