Breda Xanthos Damasco Twelve Gauge Autoloading Shotgun

By Randy Wakeman

Breda Xanthos Damasco Twelve Gauge Autoloader
Photo by Randy Wakeman.

Breda Meccanica Bresciana has been around since 1953. I remember and have shot the older, long recoil Breda shotguns, but that was long ago. The current Xanthos model, according to Breda, was introduced in 2006.

As best as I can describe the current Breda line, the Breda Hermes is a similar platform to the Benelli M2 and the Breda Grizzly is very close to the Benelli Super Black Eagle. In the Breda line, it is the Xanthos / Chiron action that is the most interesting. The walnut stocked Xanthos and the plastic stocked Chiron model share the same action and the same steel receiver.

The reviewed Breda Xanthos Damasco uses an autoloading inertia action, locks by means of a vertical lug and has a 30 inch barrel, three inch chamber and weighs 6 pounds, 15 ounces. It has an excellent trigger pull, breaking at 3-3/4 pounds. The Xanthos Damasco retails for an impressive $2995.

Of course, Breda has several other models of inertia guns at significantly lower price points. The Breda Chiron, that apparently uses the same steel receiver and action as the Xanthos, retails for $1449. The Breda Ermes Black, with a two-piece alloy receiver, has a MSRP of $1449.

This is what Breda has to say about the Xanthos:

"The Breda Xanthos Semi-Automatic Shotgun uses the latest version of the inertia operating system originally conceived by Bruno Civolani, the founding father of modern inertia driven semiautomatic shotguns. Breda produces the Xanthos to the highest industrial standards. The result of Breda's meticulous manufacturing processes is a shotgun that has superior accuracy and the highest ballistic output of any shotgun currently available on the market. The Xanthos is the only semiautomatic shotgun produced today that is made completely out of steel. Despite its sturdy steel construction, the Xanthos remains as light as a semiautomatic shotgun made of aluminum alloy. Breda's barrels are drilled from the highest quality steel available. This gives Breda barrels a significant advantage over lesser smooth bore barrels. The Xanthos models are suitable for frequent hunting trips, as well as recreational days on the skeet or sporting clay range. Xanthos models will reliably cycle loads from 2 \'be inch 3 dram 1oz. target loads to 3 inch duck loads."

Some of the Breda claims take a bit of liberty with the truth. Surely, as far as steel-receiver autoloading shotguns go, Breda has heard of the Remington 1100 and 11-87? As far as the "made completely out of steel" claim goes, it does not past muster, for the trigger guard is plastic. As for the claims of accuracy and "the highest ballistic output of any shotgun," someone is going to have to explain to me what in the world they are talking about, unless Breda just has a unique sense of humor. Realistically, the "ballistic output" (shot and other ejecta) depends on the shell, not the gun.

The Breda Xanthos Damasco comes with a select, fancy walnut stock that is beautifully figured and finished. The drop at heel is shim adjustable from 50mm to 60mm. The butt terminates in a "high density recoil pad" that isn't much of a pad at all, just a piece of hard rubber.

The steel receiver is unique in inertia guns. There is Damask engraving on both sides of the receiver. In the middle stands a flying golden pheasant. The finish includes manual polishing of the entire surface and subsequent chemical treatment in a nickel plating bath and ruthenium. The engraving is signed by master engraver Bottega di Giovanelli. Engraving applied to steel invariably looks better than when attempted on aluminum alloy.

The 30 inch barrel on the Xanthos Damasco is a bit much for a repeater. With the long receiver of inertia actions, 26 inch barrels (and even 24 inch) are more appealing for my purposes. Breda lists 24, 26, 28, and 30 inch barrels as available, although I get the impression the 24 inch barrel comes with iron sights for use with slugs. Other barrel lengths are supplied with a high luminosity fiber optic front sight. The chokes are interchangeable in the Benelli Crio Plus style.

Some will be put off by the sticker shock of the Damasco, but this is a top of the line model. I have seen standard grade walnut Xanthos models selling for $1125 street price or thereabouts, a much more attractive price for what is ostensibly a hunting gun with some use for casual clays shooting. Mechanically and functionally, all trim levels of the Xanthos are the same.

Prices for inertia guns are currently all over the map. For example, the current Benelli 25th Anniversary Super Black Eagle has a nosebleed MSRP of $3199. The plastic stocked (black synthetic) Benelli M2 has an MSRP of $1139.

The modern inertia action has been around for a very long time; see United States patent #3,447,417 filed February 27, 1967, patented June 3, 1969, by Bruno Civolani. Shopped to several manufacturers without success, it was finally assigned to the Benelli Brothers motorcycle company (long defunct) and served as the basis for their firearms venture. Benelli Armi SpA was founded in 1967.

Benelli firearms also failed as an independent entity, being absorbed into the Beretta family in 2000. As the Civolani patents have expired, anyone who wants to make an inertia gun can. This is why there is a glut of inertia guns on the market from Girsan, Weatherby, SKB, Browning, Franchi, Stoeger and Benelli.

The Breda Xanthos not only uses a steel receiver, but has a heavier bolt that is claimed to reduce recoil. Whether one design is an advantage over the other is hard to say, as the latest offering from Breda is their 930i Sporting which uses a two-piece alloy receiver.

The Breda USA website says the Xanthos has a two year warranty, but the owner's manual states that it has a three year warranty. Warranty work, if needed, is supplied by Cole Gunsmithing in the USA.

The initial impressions of the Breda Xanthos Damasco are that it has a better trigger, better fit and finish, better polish and bluing than most autoloaders. The Xanthos also has very good shell handling and includes a magazine cut-off. The safety is a conventional transverse button in the rear of the trigger guard.

On the not so hot side, the lack of any attempt at a reasonable recoil pad is puzzling. Although the Xanthos shoulders and swings nicely, the reach from the very hooked pistol grip to the trigger is quite long, forcing some shooters to use just the tip of the forefinger to pull the trigger.

The top locking lug design is attributed to Bruno Civolani. The top lug bolt design would not be possible with a comparatively weak alloy receiver. The Xanthos does not rely on a rotating bolt, so that would seem to reduce the dreaded "Benelli Click."

The speed loading from the magazine directly into the chamber is a slick idea, but the tip of your thumb gets sore in a hurry pushing the shell in the magazine forward and then releasing it. The rim of the hull gets a free swipe at your thumb tip every time. The magazine cut-off fares much better, as you just push the button on the left side of the receiver and clear the chamber, throwing in a different load while leaving the shells in the magazine undisturbed. It is also handy when crossing a fence and so forth, when you want an empty chamber.

It has been extremely windy here in Northern Illinois, with 58 mph gusts and a goodly portion of rain and snow flurries. I was in a hurry to shoot the Breda, with more rain in the forecast (it is raining as I write these words) and more wind and rain on the way. So, it was off to the farm to give the Xanthos some attention.

This Xanthos is a miserable jammer. Although Breda claims it will handle one ounce loads, it repeatedly failed to feed with one ounce, 1200 fps Federal Top Gun loads. It then jammed repeatedly with B&P F2 Legend 1-1/8 ounce, 1230 fps loads.

To rule out the possibility of Jupiter misaligning with Mars, causing strange and unusual B&P shell behavior, I shot some of the same shells through a Browning B-80, which performed flawlessly. I then tried a third load, Federal Gold Medal 1-1/8 ounce 1145 fps loads. The Xanthos jammed repeatedly yet again. This Xanthos was supplied by the importer and had already been well used, so the old fairy tales of cleaning away factory preservatives and break-in to assure reliability do not apply.

As far as the heavier bolt of the Xanthos significantly reducing recoil, that also proved to be false. The Xanthos feels just like any other seven pound inertia gun, meaning it is clearly and obviously a harsh shooter compared to gas operated autoloaders of similar (and even lighter) weight.

I certainly cannot say that all Xanthos models are jam-o-matics, for this is the lone example before me. However, for a premium $2995, top-of-the-line autoloader to function so poorly is totally unacceptable. For any modern autoloading shotgun to be this problematic is tragic.

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Copyright 2016 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.