Hope for Beretta 391 Lovers
There is finally some hope for Beretta 391 series shotgun fans in the form of an over-sized, 8-1/2 x 11, spiral-bound workbook that covers nearly fifty pages. The Beretta 391 (and 390 / 3901) is one of the most popular autoloading shotguns on the market today and has been that way for years. It is not only one of the most appreciated shotguns out there, it also can be one of the most frustrating autoloaders you can possibly own depending on the one you get and your personal maintenance practices. I've had them both ways recently, with a 391 Urika 2 12 Gold gauge that was as flawless of a new shotgun as I've tested and its little brother that was an irritatingly horrid little jam-o-matic.
The Beretta 391 comes in a lot of flavors, from wondrously good to frustratingly bad. The problem is, they come in the same box with the same part numbers. Beretta customer service has long been virtually non-existent. Beretta USA's notion of customer service has been so outstandingly bad that it has created and grown companies like Cole Gunsmithing that actually know what they are talking about and can fix things promptly, or get you the correct part.
One of the problems is that Beretta has never bothered to inform their customers exactly how their 391's work and has had great trouble fessing up to some serious production issues like their shell carrier. The forearm nut of the Beretta 391 stands alone as drug-induced engineering run amok, with most Beretta officials (and dealers) at a loss to tell you what it actually does, how many parts are inside of it, and what maintenance is supposed to be with this nasty little trick. If you get a good one, you may well be a Beretta 391 fan for life. Get a problem gun and it seems more often than not, too bad so sad-- you're on your own. Help has arrived, but not from Beretta to be sure.
Long time Beretta 391 aficianado Seamus O'Caiside has put together this shop manual over three years or so that explains all the stuff that Beretta never has bothered to or is unable to. It goes for twenty bucks and can easily save you ten times that (or more, depending on the price you put on your own sanity). Seamus may well have sacrificed his personal sanity for the sake of Beretta autoloaders, I'm not really sure on that one. My understanding is that Seamus was a bee-keeper for a time, so he likely "ain't right."
"When all else fails, read the manual" is good advice. When the manual is incomplete or does not cover what you really need to know a multi-language attempt at an owner's manual is of very little comfort. Sometimes you can get dazzling good 391s out of the box with no attention, like the 391 Urika 2 that downed the pheasants above. Then again, you can get such troublesome examples that forced me to comment at the end of one Beretta review that, "It is one thing to admire the 'Trident' but quite another to be actually pricked by one." The "Boy Scout's Motto" applies. The best thing you can do before you ever buy a Beretta 391 (or 390 / 3901) is to pick up a copy of Seamus' book. Then, you'll be prepared. Otherwise, you might be sent into the hobby of bee-keeping like Seamus was-- or like I came close to. The advantage of bee-keeping is of course that when you get stung it is no great surprise.
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Copyright 2010 by Randy Wakeman. All Rights Reserved.