Gun Review: Beretta 1301 Tactical Shotgun

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Beretta’s 1301 Tactical is a sleek, fast, lightweight semi-automatic shotgun designed for home defense and law enforcement roles. Its short (13″) length of pull and 18.5″ barrel keep size as handy as possible, while its BLINK gas piston system is claimed to “cycle 36% faster than any other shotgun on the market.” A big claim for sure, and I certainly can’t outrun it (i.e. pull the trigger faster than it can cycle). Of course, at under 6.4 lbs. thanks to the aluminum receiver and polymer stock and forend, it can shoot a lot faster than I can keep it on target . . .

In The Box

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That short length of pull may be handy for clearing rooms, but if you’re an average or taller guy, you’ll probably be more comfortable out on the range if you add a little more distance between shoulder and trigger. Thankfully, Beretta includes a couple of spacers — one an inch thick (installed in many of these photos) and one a half inch — inside of the foam-lined, black plastic gun case. For further customization, you also receive two shims. These go between the stock and the receiver, and will adjust the stock for drop (up/down angle) and/or cast (left/right angle).

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One capacity restrictor plug is pre-installed in the 1301’s magazine, limiting capacity in the tube to two rounds for a 2+1 total in case of hunting and/or competition regulations. Another shorter plug is included in the case, and this one restricts you to three in the tube plus one in the chamber.

Unrestricted, you’ll be able to pack either 4 or 5, 2-3/4″ shells in there. With the ammo I had, I was able to load 5 in most cases. Some 2-3/4″ shells are actually longer or shorter than others and if you happen to have slightly longer ones it’ll only take four. The 1301 has a 3″ chamber, and it’ll hold 4+1 of those bad boys.

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If you’re wondering, the capacity is an apparent result of 922r compliance, as the 1301 is an Italian import. There are multiple manufacturers, such as Nordic Components and Carlson’s that make magazine tube extensions for the gun if 5+1 doesn’t suit your needs.

Furniture

The tactical stock and forend are light in weight and well-designed. Aggressive checkering provides a solid purchase on the pistol grip and the long forend.

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It has actually been many thousands of rounds of 12 gauge since I played with a shotgun that didn’t have wood parts. Despite an initial surprise — and, if I’m honest, maybe just a touch of distaste at the feel of hollow plastic on a gun over a certain price point — I got over myself and warmed up to the cool feel of what is undeniably practical, light, and durable polymer.

Barrel

The Tactical’s older brother, the 1301 Comp, uses Beretta’s Optimabore HP interchangeable choke system, but the Tactical flavor does not. It’s made with a fixed, cylinder bore choke.

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Either way you’re getting a cold hammer forged, 3″-chambered, 18.5″ barrel made of Beretta’s “Steelium.” I have no idea what Beretta’s special steel blend is actually comprised of, but it has a solid reputation for quality and long-term durability.

Controls

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A tactical firearm often has oversized, easily-activated controls and the 1301 Tactical is no exception. The trigger guard is large enough to accommodate a gloved finger, as is the pad of the reversible cross bolt safety.

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A big charging handle sticks out the right side of the bolt carrier, and the bolt release is likewise oversized and easily accessed. If I could modify anything about these controls, it would be the addition of at least a bolt release on the left side of the receiver, if not a [probably somewhat sleeker] charging handle on that side also.

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Sights

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Beretta has outfitted the 1301 Tactical with a nice set of ghost ring sights complete with two dots in the rear and one in the front. The rear sight, which can be removed from the receiver entirely, is adjustable for both windage and elevation, and the front sight post can be removed and swapped for another style.

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The rear ring is large, allowing for quick sight acquisition but not true precision of alignment. That’s where the rear dots step in and they actually do provide the shooter with clear reference points for repeatable, fairly precise alignment. Great for shooting slugs or beanbags at longer ranges.

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When shooting airborne clays I did find the ghost ring a little distracting and definitely a bit slower than your typical sporting shotgun setup (no rear sight, just a front or maybe front+middle bead or fiber optic). Of course, that isn’t what this cylinder bore, tactical shotty is made for and it didn’t keep me from busting some clays anyway. In fact, as seen in the video, I was able to toss clays by hand — I tried (and succeeded at) as many as three at a time — and get the sights on target quickly enough to blow ’em out of the air. The close distance and short hang time in that make quick sight alignment even more critical, plus the shot doesn’t have a chance to spread out much, so it’s fair to say that I was quite pleased with just how quick these sights can actually be.

Accessory Rails

Should the factory ghost ring sights not suit your desires, the 1301 Tactical comes with a bit over 3″ (7 slots) of Picatinny rail in front of the rear sight. The rail can be removed if you prefer, and with the rear sight removed as well you may be able to install an even longer rail section or other optics of your choice (or run only the front sight).

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Although I’m not the guy who bolts a bunch of stuff to his AR rails, I’m going to have to say that I’m surprised this Tactical shotty is as clean and devoid of rail real estate as it is. Home defense and police work will leave Operators wanting to mount lights, lasers, foregrips, tasers, LRADs, The Ultimate Finish (probably NSFW), and whatever else. If not an already railed-up fore-end and other areas, maybe some slots or key mod holes to allow for the addition of rail sections? There’s an opening for the aftermarket here, and in some cases mag tube extensions like this one from Nordic already include a bonus rail.

Trigger

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Coming in at a consistent 4 lbs., the 1301’s trigger is smooth and fairly short in travel. The reset is nice and crisp. I found the break to be a little bit squishy, but overall this is a very solid trigger out of the box.

Disassembly and Internals

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Lock the bolt to the rear, unscrew the cap on the end of the magazine tube, and now the shotgun is ready to pull apart. The fore-end will slide forwards off the mag tube and barrel/gas sytem, and the barrel can simply be pulled forwards out of the receiver. To remove the bolt carrier group and attached recoil assembly you’ll first have to pull out the charging handle, which is accomplished by compressing the bolt into the carrier until an internal notch allows the handle to pop free. Now this bolt assembly will slide forwards off of the magazine tube. The BCG itself can be broken down in a manner somewhat similar to an AR’s.

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The bolt itself is a rotating, two-lug affair that locks into the barrel extension. As you can see above, there are two steel guide rods welded to the bolt carrier. These actually pull on the recoil spring, which is captured and located around the magazine tube (see pics below). Nothing at all extends into the stock.

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BOLT FORWARDS

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BOLT BACK

This whole assembly is extremely lightweight, which definitely plays a big factor in how quickly the 1301 cycles. As you can see in some of the photos above (and, as always, click any photo to see it in a much larger size), those twin guide rods are welded to a steel collar at the front. More on that shortly…

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Two holes in the barrel vent high pressure gasses into the chamber seen above, which is pictured with the cross tube gas piston removed. The piston, seen installed below and removed in the first disassembly photo a few up, gets shot out towards the receiver, immediately impacting the previously-mentioned steel collar at the front of the guide rods and sending the whole system back to eject the empty hull, cock the internal hammer, load the next shell, and seat the piston back into the chamber ready for next time.

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ACTION IS LOCKED BACK

I believe extra gas can vent out the middle (slots at base of spring collar in pic above) or the front of the gas system and find its way out the slots in the bottom, front of the fore-end.

On The Range

Speaking of extra gas, I was very pleased to see the 1301 Tactical reliably cycle my 12 gauge reloads, which are pretty light loads (1 oz of birdshot at about 1,100 fps out of a 28″ barrel) I make for sporting clays and other shotgun games with my O/U. I put 200 of them through the 1301 and had only one stoppage, which was a failure to chamber due to a screwed up crimp end on one of the shells. Getting back to the extra gas thing though, the gas system in the 1301 is not adjustable. It’s open enough to provide fully sufficient and actually quite strong cycling for pretty darn light loads. For such a light shotgun, though, I was quite pleased with the level of felt recoil while shooting my reloads.

However, if you’re following where I’m going with this, a non-adjustable system gassed appropriately for light loads also means that the system cycles hard when you’re shooting powerful stuff. The recoil when stepping up to max pressure loads of high speed steel, buckshot, and most definitely 1-1/4 oz slugs (I shot Winchester at 1,600 fps and Federal at 1,610 fps) was a little…”robusto.” I have absolutely nothing at all against a simple system that, rather than attempting some sort of complicated gas adjustment (automatic or manual), is effectively just built strong enough to handle being battered around with extra gusto. But, laws of physics what they are, your shoulder will notice this hard cycling action as well.

As fast as the 1301 cycles, I actually wish the Tactical variant had interchangeable chokes. Not for actual chokes, believe it or not, but for the ability to install some sort of compensator or, heck, a suppressor. The gun’s light weight combined with the speed of the action slamming home at full recoil causes a decent amount of muzzle rise. A comp would make this thing pretty ridiculous and lightning fast to shoot, while keeping the sights on target. It’s possible that tinkering with drop at heel could help a touch, and a support arm C-Clamp style hold might keep the muzzle down a little better, although the barrel does heat up a bit too much for that business.

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The factory lifter is pretty nice. It’s great that it extends so far towards the tube and that it doesn’t have a sharp notch for shaving your thumbnail off. You can lock it up and then use the bolt release to empty shells out of the magazine tube without having to cycle them through the chamber. The loading port itself is also fairly large, and shells were nicely guided right into the mag tube without any hangups.

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Conclusions

Great sights and a very good trigger led to a lot of fun shooting the 1301 Tactical. Its compact size and light weight make it excellent in the tactical role for which it’s intended. The thing is crazy fast and it’s smooth and quick to load and smooth to fire. It beats you up a bit with stout loads, but it’s still smooth and an aftermarket recoil pad would probably make a big difference to the ol’ shoulder — the rubber bumper from the factory is pretty thin and stiff.

Reliability was flawless. Not only did it cycle all 199 of the functional reloads that I brought — and I should mention that most of them didn’t even have the brass resized after being shot through my O/U — but it cycled a box-and-a-half of Federal target birdshot, a mag tube of Remington 3″ hi-speed steel, a few mags of Sellier & Bellot #4 magnum buckshot, and a mag each of Winchester and Federal 1-1/4 oz magnum slugs, which were same-ragged-hole accurate at 15 yards and likely well beyond.

MSRP is a bit up there compared to alternatives made in some other countries (that aren’t Belgium), but the materials quality is as good as it gets, and fit, finish, and functionality are top notch as well. This is a pretty sweet rig that will serve you well long-term, but I think the one thing that would really seal the deal for me is interchangeable chokes. And, I admit, maybe a little more “rail estate.”

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Specifications: Beretta 1301 Tactical

Caliber: 12 Gauge
Chamber: 3″
Capacity: 4+1 or 5+1
Action: BLINK semi-automatic, gas piston
Overall Length: 37.8″
Weight: 6 lbs 6 oz unloaded
Stock: Black polymer
Receiver: Aluminum
Sights: Ghost Ring w/ Tritium inserts
Barrel Length: 18.5″
MSRP: $1,059  (“street price” $910 and up)

Ratings (Out of Five Stars): 

Ergonomics: * * * * 
The stock and forend fit nicely in the hands and the checkering is great. Adjustments for length of pull, drop, and cast are included in the box. Controls are big and not in weird places. It would be five stars with a little ambi love on at least the bolt release and maybe with the added ability to slap an angled or vertical forward grip on there somewhere. A little cush on the buttpad wouldn’t hurt either.

Reliability: * * * * *
The gas system is supposed to be self cleaning. It’s certainly simple and robust. It cycles everything and I don’t see that stopping any time soon.

Trigger: * * * * 
Very solid for an out-of-the-box tactical shotgun.

Customize This: * * * 1/2
A short Pic rail for optics and the ability to remove/swap the rear sight and to remove/swap the front sight post leaves you with lots of possibilities. Again, a good amount of stock adjustment parts come in the case. Also included are two capacity restriction plugs. Should you want more capacity, the aftermarket is already there with mag tubes of many lengths. We’re definitely missing a solid star here for the lack of accessory rails (or ability to mount rails) for mounting lights and doodads. It’s a tactical shotgun, after all, and Operators gotta operate. Another half star out the window for the fixed choke. Yeah, it’s totally fine for most tactical purposes but it limits your other options.

Overall: * * * * 
The 1301 Tactical is a really solid firearm. It’s reliable and fast. It’s slimmed and trimmed and lightweight and good looking. In many ways, a lot like an Italian sports car…but reliable. It fits its home defense and police role beautifully, and can easily transfer to fun times on the range or 3-Gun course with a little stock adjustment and maybe an aftermarket recoil pad. It’s built to last, and it’ll cycle whatever you feed it.

comments

  1. avatar Vhyrus says:

    Is it better than a mossberg 930? Is it twice as good? Cause they’re asking twice as much.

    1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      Ditto.

      So this action cycles a bit faster. Has anyone ever really over-run the cyclic time on the available products? Not that I’ve heard of. The light weight of this product will mean that someone trying to run it fast is going to feel it tomorrow.

      What would make a new “tactical” shotgun worth more than the next one? A Vang Comp for starters. Then when done with the internal profiling, chrome plate the bore. That would be worth something. Or a completely stainless barrel, receiver, Vang Comp’ed, stainless magazine, follower, lifter – heck, make all the lockwork stainless. etc. That would be nice in a rough environment.

      I don’t see anything here that would induce me to pay up for the Beretta – and I really like Beretta shotguns. I think they’re a high quality product, I own one (and perhaps soon another). But for what a “tactical” shotgun is used for…. I don’t see the ROI here, mostly because I would like a short-barrel shotgun to have a pretty tight pattern of 00 buck at 25 to 50 yards – like under 2′ square at 50 yards.

      1. avatar Jeremy S says:

        I seem to have overlooked mentioning it in the review, but many of the action parts are hard chromed (as far as I can tell). Bolt, barrel extension (the entire part that inserts inside of the receiver and where the lug recesses are), looks like the chamber & bore as well.

        TTAG did pretty darn extensive testing of the 930. It’s a great gun, but multiple reviews and tests showed it struggling to cycle practice/target loads. Here, THIS REVIEW talks about it and, in the first paragraph, links to a shootout/ stress test between the 930 and the FN SLP.

        What that’s worth to you is subjective, but the 1301 had zero issues whatsoever and cycled a huge range of ammo from very light — lighter than factory Federal target load — to as stout as it gets.

        DG — you aren’t going to get those groups at 50 yards with this one. 18.5″ cylinder bore opens up quicker than that. Slugs will be nice and accurate — the barrel is excellent — but any sort of shot is going to spread out way larger than a 2′ diameter at 50 yards. Birdshot was over 2′ at 15 yards. 00 buck would hold tighter but not to 50…

        1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

          That’s one of the advantages of a Vang Comp. Having Vang work over a “tactical” (or buckshot) shotgun results in some much tighter patterns with 00 buck downrange, and that’s why I think, if someone got smart and used his system on a factory production gun, I’d sit up and say “OK, now that’s worth paying $1K for…”

      2. avatar Lolinski says:

        What do you think of the Becas-M Auto shotgun? It seems like an inexpensive semi-auto that works.

        1. avatar Jeremy S says:

          I’m not sure we can get those in the U.S.

          …I’ve been recreationally and semi-competitively shooting an Over-Under for a few years now, but I wouldn’t mind going on a bit of an auto-loader binge to check out similar offerings from various manufacturers over the entire price spectrum. Remington, CZ, FN, Browning, EAA, Winchester, Century, Charles Daly, Interstate, Mossberg, Tristar, Weatherby, etc etc etc… Oy… too many.

    2. avatar jandrews says:

      I was thinking the same. Also looking at the innards my first thought was ‘jesus, what a complicated mess.’ Large part of the 930s beauty is its simplicity. If it ever gummed up in the field, I could clean it back to functionality with a twig.

      Its true they dont like light loads, but 1250 or 1300 fps birdshot is a dollar more per box at most. Roughly 4 cents per round. I can swing that.

      I dont see another $500 of value here over the 930, which is still the poor-man’s semiauto to beat.

    3. avatar 3Gun J says:

      “Is it better than a mossberg 930? Is it twice as good?”

      Yes. Reliability, accuracy and cycling.

  2. avatar Taylor TX says:

    Do want but wish it was a little cheaper.

  3. avatar Toby in KS says:

    I like the fast cycle. I don’t like the price, nor do I like the choke.

    Hmm. That fast cycle is pretty cool though. Makes me want to try one out.

  4. avatar Joe R. says:

    Mag extension? Box-mag conversion? Can someone please make a bull-pup version with 3 overhead mag tubes?

  5. avatar publius2 says:

    Great review Jeremy. If I wanted a simple well set set up out of the box semiauto shotty for HD by a maker with highest quality manufacturing, (and I do),

    this looks like the one, for unlimited discretionary income for gun budget ( which I dont…:(

    Thanks for the input, Dys G, now I’d like to see a shoot off on that Mossberg or something like it with the things you suggest adding, vs this Beretta, or something like it with same.

    For now the 870 will do…reminds me to use some of that budget to refresh my “wannabe operator who is actually ofwg hd user” moves, at the range….and deer slug season is coming up too…

  6. avatar Jack says:

    I wonder how to compares to the Hatsan Escort MPA. Which is really the Fabarm SAT-8 Pro made by Hatsan.

    1. avatar grant says:

      The MPA is half the price and 1/3 of the quality I am afraid, my brother bout one, it went back, sights shoot v low, some waffle, new sights fitted, before you say, over 5 people tried the sights, in excess of 100 years shooting experience easy, verdict sold……….Junk

  7. avatar former water walker says:

    I really like the looks of this. For now my pardner pump will do. BTW did I see this on firearm blog?

    1. avatar Jeremy S says:

      Not the same individual firearm, but yeah they reviewed the same model. I had mine for a couple of months and pushed writing the review back another week or two due to a busy work schedule, then the following week saw TFB publish their review and kind of kicked myself 😉 . Always better not to be late to the party if possible.

  8. avatar Bob says:

    It unlikely that this will work for any 3 gunning, unless its mostly clays or steel up close. When I first got my benelli nova 18.5″ thinking it was the shiz for that game, I had the plates on the Texas star laugh at me. Even with high brass 7-1/2 (all we can use on that range) they wouldn’t come off. Switched the barrel to a 24″ with chokes and never looked back. Well until I picked up a 24″ beretta 1301 comp. I can never figure out why the tac shottys don’t have chokes. Makes sense you’d want to pick a load and a choke for it intended engagement distance. Sometimes I think the tac shottys are meant to shoot slugs more than anything else with the ghost rings

  9. avatar Michael C says:

    Let me know when the make a pump version of it. Then I might start saving up to buy it.

  10. avatar Yngvar says:

    «The piston gets shot out towards the receiver, immediately impacting the steel collar at the front of the guide rods and sending the whole system back to eject the empty hull, cock the internal hammer, load the next shell, and seat the piston back into the chamber ready for next time.»

    This isn’t entirely true. The piston mechanism just unlocks the bolt. The recoil from the shell does the rest of the job.

    1. avatar Jeremy S says:

      Most systems using a locking action (gas, piston, short recoil) do still benefit from some amount of blowback action pushing the breech back. How much of each is pretty hard to determine and depends on timing and tons of other factors. The 1301 is pretty standard of a short piston design, just like most piston driven ARs, and typically the piston is credited with providing the energy to cycle the action. Most of them want the projectile out of the barrel and the pressure dropped before the action is unlocked. I’m sure it’s some of both in this case like usual, but really have know way of knowing. You may be 100% correct.

  11. avatar Col. Angus says:

    Nice review, Jeremy. How would you compare this gun with the Benelli M4, aside from the obvious (price, capacity, etc)?

    Thanks.

  12. avatar Richard K says:

    I received my Beretta 1301 Tactical a couple of weeks ago, and I like it. I’ve been wanting a tactical shotgun for quite a while. While the Benelli M4 is the gold standard, it’s a little too rich for my blood. Of note, mine did not come with tritium sights. I wish it had, as it would have been a definite plus. They may have possibly been placed on your test gun to help “enhance” the review. 🙂

    As for comparing a Mossberg to a Beretta…that’s like comparing a Kia to an Acura. That’s not to disparage Mossberg, but they are a budget gun company. Just my .02.

    1. avatar Jeremy S says:

      Hmmm. Okay, I’m really not sure what happened here but clearly I’m an idiot. Judging from the photographs I took, the sights are pretty obviously NOT tritium inserts. They’re swappable and I’m not sure if literature mentioned tritium (as replacements) and I got confused, or something about the color or size of the dots, etc, made me think they were, but they clearly are not. Review has been edited. Thank you for pointing this out!

      1. avatar Joe says:

        Well, actually, they have one of those luminescent paints applied to the dot. “Charge” them up with a flash light and they’ll glow for a little while.

  13. avatar TTWiT says:

    Regarding gassing, you seem to have missed the explanation that was right in front of you. The ports in the front of the piston chamber are closed by the spring-loaded “exhaust valve” in front of the chamber. If the force from the pressure in those holes equals or exceeds the spring preload force, the valve will lift off and vent gas to the inside of the forend. It’s basically the exact same thing as a turbo wastegate, or any other gas pressure regulating device. Allows the mechanism to work well with low-pressure loads while being safe and not overgassed with high-pressure loads.

    The VersaMax has multiple sets of ports, some of which are closed by a 3-inch shell. So it’s regulating gas pressure by shell length, rather than by gas pressure. Regulating gas pressure by gas pressure seems like a smart way to do it.

  14. avatar Scott P. says:

    The price is good compared to the Benellis. I think the gas system should be set up for heavier loads, optimized for 2 & 3/4″ std buckshot. After all, this is a “tactical” shotgun

  15. avatar Douglas N says:

    Amazing that the Beretta designers of the Px4 Storm Compact can fit a light/laser rail on that little pistol while their shotgun design team apparently haven’t been able to figure this out for their “tactical” shotgun. Perhaps it’s a good time for a Skype conference call.

  16. avatar D. Randisi says:

    Great review I went out and bought the pistol grip model for $999

    https://www.armsunlimited.com/Beretta-1301-Tactical-Semi-Auto-12-GA-Shotgun-p/j131p18.htm

  17. avatar DBeau says:

    Wonderful write up. I clicked the link from YouTube and here I am.
    Why on Gods earth would you attach a target to a tree. Gun owners have enough obstacles to hurdle. I wanted to forward your review to a friend looking for an auto loading 12 gauge. No dice.

  18. avatar Danny says:

    You can complain about price as far as i am concerned you get what you pay for. I payed slightly over 1000.00 for mine and am happy for the quality and as the review said it will eat anything it is fed.Buy a Cheaper product and get cheaper results.

  19. avatar Jeremy says:

    Would Reaming the barrel out for berreta chokes be an option?

  20. avatar Derick says:

    I’m looking at the 1301 to pair with my SilencerCo Salvo for bird hunting. Considering the Tactical and having it threaded for chokes, or the Comp with the 21″ barrel. Which do you think would work better? Of course shorter is better with a 10-12″ can hanging off the end, but wondering if the bead on the comp or the blade sight on the Tactical would work better… if I went with Tactical, I’d have to remove the rear sight.

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