The Improbable Comparison: Beretta A400 vs. Browning Maxus vs. Benelli Vinci
This is an unlikely comparison on several levels. Though the formerly code-named "Peggy" Browning Maxus was announced first, rolled out as “The Most Reliable Autoloader the World Has Even Known” on October 10, 2008, as of this writing (June 2010) general availability has been limited to essentially one model: synthetic. I have tested two 3-1/2 inch chambered versions, one in black with a 26 inch barrel and one in camo with a 28 inch barrel.
The most surprising release, surrounded by glorious fanfare, was the Benelli Vinci. A 3 inch chambered model, it too has been available in essentially one model, synthetic in black or camo color. Two Vinci's were tested, one with a 26 inch barrel and one with a 28 inch.
The latest new autoloader entry, the A400 Xplor Unico, has a 3-1/2 inch chamber and was the last of the three to be released. It is also offered in only one model at present, with pleasing to the eyes "xtra-grain" wood, but with the option of a Kick-Off hydraulic pad and different barrel lengths.
These three models have evoked the vast majority of my autoloading shotgun reader mail, which is the rationale for this comparison. The improbable part is due to the disparity in the models themselves. If a 3-1/2 inch, composite-stocked water fowling shotgun were the subject, then a Benelli SBE-II vs. Maxus vs. Beretta Xtrema2 comparison would seem to make more sense. That, however, has not been the focus of most of the correspondence. Instead, readers have suggested they want one of these three as an all-around shotgun. You might think none of these shotguns would be desirable for hunting doves or breaking clays, but it has not worked out that way. In some ways, this comparison is apples to oranges, but many folks want one new juicy piece of scattergun to bite into and these three are often among those considered. I will do my best, starting with the easily measured attributes and moving on to the more esoteric/subjective areas.
PRICE AND WEIGHT (AS MEASURED)
Stalker 3-1/2 in., 28 inch barrel: 6 lbs. 15 oz. ($1379 MSRP, $1509 MODB Camo))
TRIGGER PULL, AS MEASURED
CHOKE TUBES SUPPLIED
Three Invector Plus
Speed Loading and Unloading + Magazine Cut-off
VENT RIB TYPE
rib, single front bead
Gas, "Activ Valve" variation
SHELL INTENSITY CAPABILITY W/O ADJUSTMENTS
oz. and up, 3.5 inch chamber
Note: All three cycled 7/8 oz. Winchester white box “Super-Speed Loads.” The A400 ejected them with the most authority.
All three printed well-centered patterns at 40 yards with B&P USA F2 Legend 1-1/8 oz. loads. All three shot slightly high. Factory “Full” chokes patterns out of the Vinci and A400 gave higher percentages and exhibited less patchiness than the Maxus factory full choke.
Felt recoil is subjective and depends greatly on gun fit. For me, the Maxus was the softest shooting, followed by the A400 and then the Vinci with 1-1/8 oz. F2 Legend shells, but all were universally found to be comfortable to shoot. With 1-7/8 oz. 3 inch Remington Nitro-Mag shells, the order changed. The Maxus felt slightly softer shooting than the Vinci, almost close enough to call it a dead heat. The Vinci was far more comfortable to shoot than the Beretta A400. The Vinci scaled extremely well with higher intensity loads with noticeably less muzzle flip.
of the trigger guard
Maxus: Inflex pad
Notes: For me, the Maxus does not come to the shoulder as easily as the others, due primarily to the shape of the Inflex pad. Rather than having a flat face, the factory Browning pad is similar to their X-bolt rifle pad. Fine on a rifle, but it is dished out more like a trap pad than a field pad. Good recoil pad, but a poor profile for a field gun. If I were hunting with a pre-mounted gun, it would not matter. I'm not, though. The Maxus has spacers right in the box to adjust the length of pull if desired; the other models do not.
Oversized bore with lengthened forcing cones
LOWEST PRICE TO HIGHEST PRICE
The lowest-price configuration available for any of these three shotguns would be the three-inch chambered version of the Maxus Stalker at $1199 MSRP. The Vinci and the 3-1/2 inch Maxus models are almost identically priced. The most expensive of the three is the A400 with KO at $1725 MSRP.
I am often asked if ___ is a good gun. It isn't easy to answer, as good is such a vague term that it has no universally held definition. The best answer to the question is often, “It's not bad.” So it goes with these three models, none of which is bad. All of them are destined to be offered in more configurations than they are at present and nothing ever made is immune to improvement.
The Maxus is the most versatile shotgun ever offered under the Browning nameplate. If there is a Browning shotgun curse over the last fifteen years or so, it has been overly heavy triggers. Often called "lawyer triggers," Browning can offer any explanation they like, but Browning shotgun triggers do not compare favorably to many other triggers on the market, including the A400 and the Vinci triggers tested here. If they want to be the “Best There Is,” then they will have to notch up their trigger quality. For now, it would take a trigger job and a replacement recoil pad to get the Maxus up to speed for me.
Beretta, in another hearty bout of self-congratulation, announced a while back that they had again set the benchmark for the do it all shotgun. They were not referring to the A400, however, they were speaking of the Xtrema2. The A400 version of the Xtrema2 is easier on the eyes, harder on the wallet, more suitable when the application involves significant walking and carrying, perhaps a bit less suitable as a dedicated water fowler. Better for upland hunting, though, without question. In fact, had Beretta introduced the A400 as the “Xtrema2 Uplander” it wouldn't have been that far off the mark.
The Vinci, easily winning the non-conventional aesthetics award, is the simplest and most reliable shotgun of the bunch. While none of these shotguns is difficult to maintain, the Vinci field strips with a push of a button and the twist of the magazine cap. No time is spent cleaning a gas system, as it doesn't have one.
The softest-shooting shotgun of the group is the Maxus, followed by the A400, but the Vinci is more comfortable than the A400 with heavy loads. The Maxus wins in the shell-handling contest, then Vinci, then A400. Both the A400 and Vinci triggers handily beat the Maxus. Benelli's swift customer service lightened the five pound as supplied trigger to about 3-1/2 pounds for me at no charge. This is not a dig at Browning's Customer Service, which has been uniformly excellent. Browning trigger spec on their field guns is 5-6 pounds. Heavier than that, they will be happy to touch it up for you, but only to within their spec. You will not get an A400 or Vinci-comparable trigger from Browning; see your favorite gunsmith for that.
If you rarely hunt, or don't hunt much, then none of the above would likely be considered an ideal dedicated clays gun, as they are all a bit on the light side. Rightly or wrongly, several clays shooters seem to take substantially heavier guns (A391 Urika 2), but still tape on weights, use aftermarket forearm caps, glue lead into butt stocks and the like. Anyway, T & S hull catchers are not available for any of these three. The Birchwood Casey Save-It Shell Catcher can likely be used, although I have not stuck them onto these guns. If the purpose is more clays than anything else, the A400 with a 30 inch barrel and the KO would likely come closest to what many would prefer in pre-mounted games. I also suspect that with its violent action and perky bolt speed, the A400 is a bit better equipped to handle some of the pipsqueak, low quality reloads that seem to be common on many clays fields. All of these models are clearly advertised and promoted as hunting guns. Neither camo nor 3-1/2 chambers would be desirable for breaking clay pigeons.
Having tested the Maxus and the Vinci with both 26 and 28 inch barrels, I much prefer the overall handling, balance and speed of the 26 inch barrels on these two models. Invariably, I end up with better hunting load patterns from extended chokes than with factory supplied chokes, as in Trulock Precision Hunter tubes, so I'm ending up with a 27 inch barrel, anyway.
At seven pounds, give or take, these 12 gauge autoloaders are in the same general weight class. When it gets down to an ounce or two, loading one less shell in your autoloader may change carry weight about that much, so it isn't enough to obsess about.
This is, as mentioned earlier, an improbable comparison. There are enough differences in finish, chamber length and styles to make this less than a specific, intended use directed match-up. I hope that this article has presented useful information that will help potential buyers reach their own conclusions.
Copyright 2010 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.