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When the X-Caliber arrived, I was excited about shooting something so bizarre and definitively ugly. I compared the X-Caliber to the weird kid in class: the one who’s fun to hang out with but tanks your popularity. I found the opposite to be true. Everywhere I took the X-Caliber, people wanted to shoot it. With each shot, I wanted to hang out with it less and less…

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The X-Caliber is marketed as a survival rifle of sorts. The “gun” can shoot both .22LR and 12 gauge. With the addition of any of the eight barrel inserts that come with the gun, it can be made to shoot the following:

  • .380
  • 9 mm
  • 40 S&W
  • .45 ACP
  • .357 Magnum/.38 Special
  • .44 Magnum
  • .410/.45 LC
  • 20 Gauge

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The idea is very attractive. Theoretically, you could toss this gun in your truck or your pack, grab some hard cast .44 Mag for the big critters, a box of .22 for the small critters, a handful of 2-3/4″ 12 gauge for the flying critters, and the barrel inserts to shoot anything else you find along the way. About the time you really get lost in fantasy land, the harsh reality of the practical limitations of the X-Caliber will give you a cold, wet slap to the face.

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The first and most pressing wake up call: the .357 barrel flat out didn’t fit. I tried it with the gun cold. I tried it with it hot. No dice. In fact, the whole premise of large caliber barrel inserts scared me a bit. I didn’t try the .44 Mag barrel. Call me a wuss all you want in the comments, I don’t mind. Much.

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The second downer: how damn unwieldily the little bugger is. You’d figure that a gun that looks this light would be ya know, light. But it weighs nearly six pounds. And for that kind of weight, you could just keep a minimalist AR 15 with irons in two pieces in a bag. While interesting looking, the stock’s made of styrofoam and steel. It’s not comfortable to shoulder at all; the only place to grip with your support hand is right in front of the trigger guard. This makes the X-Caliber downright uncomfortable to shoot in most practical positions.

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Once you break the shot, you break the action open and then flip out the spent casing with your thumbnail. No assisted ejection here. Oh sure, that sort of thing would be impossibly expensive to engineer, but it sure would allow you to put a follow up shot downrange within a few seconds of the first one versus the nearly ten seconds it takes currently. And forget about quick barrel changes. The watertight tool kit included in the stock includes a very purpose-built pick that is the perfect size for prying out barrel inserts. Once you get the hang of it, you can change barrel in less than a minute with far fewer four letter words.

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I let several people shoot this gun. Every person nervously asked, “How bad is it shooting 12 gauge?” To put it bluntly, it’s blunt. The lack of cheek weld, the short length of pull, and the six pound weight combine to make the X-Caliber a pain to shoot. I put five rounds of 2-3/4″ steel shot down the pipe to confirm that it functioned and threw shot in the general direction of my aiming point.

I outsourced the rest of the functional testing to unwitting onlookers at the range. Twenty five yards seemed to be about the maximum range of patterning that would cover a squirrel or rabbit with a few pellets. Hungry hunters would be best served getting a little closer. The 20-gauge barrel is a bit more acceptable from a recoil perspective, the .410 even more so. Like the 12 gauge though, expect to stalk-up close to your prey if you’re interested in ethical kills.
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In a perfect world, the user would sight-in the gun in using the .22 barrel and the POI and POA would always be close to the .22 barrel’s. In the real world, not so much. With the .22 barrel hitting POI/POA at the 25 yard line, the rest of the pistol inserts hit somewhere within an eight inch radius of that aiming point. I use an IPSC torso steel target for a lot of my function testing with new guns. Using the POI/POA .22 sighting method described above, I could reliably hit a steel target at 25 yards with any of the barrel inserts. Great for human-sized animals, poor for small game.

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For the post apocalyptic scenario I’d originally described, this gun might be a contender as long as A Minute of Bad Guy at ~25 yards was your standard for accuracy. Much beyond that and you’ll need to sight the gun for each cartridge you load. If you live in a state where onerous regulations that makes getting multiple guns difficult, the X-Caliber would be a fine thing to have in the safe. You could shoot whatever ammo is cheapest and most plentiful at that moment.

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The one area where I feel comfortable giving the X-Caliber extraordinarily high marks: the trigger. Boy do I love to rip a gun company for shipping guns with bad triggers. I can’t fault Chiappa for these triggers. One is dedicated solely for the .22 barrel and it is on par with my Ruger American Rimfire Rifle. There’s no takeup, minimal creep and the break is clean at just over four pounds. The 12-gauge barrel is a bit worse with some mush and grit in the travel, but an equally clean break at something approaching five pounds.

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The other area of great surprise: the sights. The front is a very bright orange fiber optic with a rear aperture adjustable for windage and elevation. Windage is handled by the sturdy knob on the right side and windage is handled by sliding the aperture forward or backward on five marked detents. Its’s fairly easy to knock the elevation adjustment loose carrying the gun around, so keen operators will make checking that a part of their firing sequence. Other than that minor issue, these sights are incredibly crisp and easy to use, and much better than some factory irons I’ve tested in the past. 
IMG_1766Specifications: Chiappa Firearms X-Caliber 

  • Caliber(s): Many!
    • 12 gauge – 2¾” – 3”
    • 22LR
    • .380
    • 9 mm
    • 40 S&W
    • .45 ACP
    • .357 Magnum
    • .44 Magnum
    • .410/ 45 LC
    • 20 Gauge
  • Type: Over & Under combination shotgun/rimfire rifle
  • Action : Folding break open
  • Feeding : Single shot with extractors
  • Barrel : Steel
  • Trigger system : Double triggers
  • Front sight : Fixed fiber optic
  • Rear sight : M1 style adjustable elevation and windage
  • Safeties : Top tang manual
  • Finish : Matt black; steel and polypropylene foam stock
  • Price: $615

Fit, Finish, Build Quality * * 

Looking past the materials, namely stamped steel and styrofoam, the quality is utilitarian at best. There are obvious machining marks all over, and the gun has gained a fine patina of rust in the few months I’ve had it. The rust is easily removed with some elbow grease and largely inhibited with an oily rag, but it is by far the least elegant gun that’s ever taken up residence in my safe, and there was a Mosin Nagant in there for a while. Had all the barrel inserts fit, this would have been a solid three stars, but the one barrel not fitting AT ALL knocked it down to two stars.

Ergonomics * 

Terrible from top to bottom. The length of pull is too short, there’s no forend to speak of, and it kicks like a mule using moderately powered 12 gauge ammo. The only shining stars are the triggers and the sights, but all the crisp breaks and bright front sights in the world can’t overcome all of the other things that make this rifle so hard to shoot. It doesn’t actually fold down to the compact size you’d hope it would and makes for an ungainly backpack carry.

Accuracy * * *

Sighted at POI/POA with the .22 barrel, it puts all rounds on a man sized target at 25 yards no matter what barrel you select. Individual groups seemed to be roughly the size of my hand, consistent with most handguns I’ve tested in those loadings. A tackdriver this is not.

Customization * * *

It has Picatinny rails on the top and sides which would allow you to mount lights, lasers, and reflex optics.

Overall Rating * * * 

Given the abysmal ergonomics, and poor fit and finish, I’m compelled to award no more than three stars. Lucky for the X-Caliber, there are precious few guns that do all the things this one does, so the field of competition is very thin. And given that it does gun like things at reasonable distances for the cartridges it’s loaded for, I really can’t fault it. There’s a tremendous amount of room for improvement in this gun, but I think doing so would make it like all the others, and this gun is better off being the weird kid in class.

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69 Responses to Gun Review: Chiappa X-Caliber

  1. I hope you contacted Chiappa about the insert that didn’t fit. They should at least get that fixed for you. As to the rest, aesthetics could be improved, but a lot of other features would cause the price to climb.

  2. The purpose of a survival rifle is to help you survive. I don’t expect a gun that does everything to be good at anything. I would say that the X-caliber is as functional as it needs to be for a backpack survival rifle.

    • Bringing a broken shovel to a grave digging makes the grave take a lot longer to dig. Similarly, a survival rifle that barely works is a liability more than a tool. A survival is about functional expediency, not the strategic elimination of function and utility to the point of near uselessness.

      • Yes. “Survival” gear to me means something that may not have all the bells and whistles, but is rock-solid and reliable.

        Sure, this is an interesting gun, and at 1/2 the price I might be tempted to get one just for fun. But in a ‘survival’ situation, I’d much rather have one gun that uses a common caliber and shoots it very well instead of something like this.

      • Well he said it works it just works like crap, just like cooking ramen over a esbit fuel tab works but not as well as on a gas oven. I’m not surprised though. Trying to make something affordable that does everything basically means it will function like crap. Then again people spend $100 on a hi-point and then are amazed is not the same as a $1000 kimber.

        • I like Kimber and I really want a pro carry II, but I have seen a .45 ACP $100 hi point (more like $165) out shoot 3 different Kimbers, maybe just a fluke but I have seen hi points work, and not work. I have also seen Kimbers work great, or just barely work.

    • How about a Short Barreled Shotgun, either SxS or O/U, and a set of inserts? Let’s see…the inserts are ~8″ long so maybe a shotgun with 12″ barrels? Break it in half and have a ~12″-long stock + receiver half and a ~12″-long barrels half? That would easily fit in a backpack or small bag. Dual trigger or single selective trigger so you can choose which barrel fires and what caliber is in either…

      • For pure portability, there’s the Henry AR-7. If you want to trade size & weight for firepower, as you say there are plenty of takedown shotguns out there. Somewhere in between are various bolt-action carbines which can be stowed in the trunk. That, of course, ignores the obvious 16″ AR-15 with a folding stock (which seems to be a dime a dozen these days). Heck, even a Hi-Point Carbine would seem to have more utility than this.

      • I use the X-Caliber inserts in my 12″ stoeger double barrel sbs. I absolutely love them. 44mag is my favorite

    • For a survival rifle, those chamber inserts are overkill, IMO. All it needs to do is shoot rifle rounds and shotgun rounds in one package, and do that reliably and with minimal maintenance.

  3. Tyler, you wrote “The one area where I feel comfortable giving the X-Caliber extraordinarily high marks is the trigger department.”

    But I didn’t find this sentiment anywhere in the ratings. Is there some reason in particular? Or was the gun just overall so bad it wasn’t worth mentioning the bright spot in the wrap-up?

    • He mentioned the good trigger in the “ergonomics” section of the ratings: “The only shining stars are the triggers and the sights, but all the crisp breaks and bright front sights in the world can’t overcome all of the other things that make this rifle so hard to shoot.”

  4. I dunno. Many is the time I’ve found ammo scattered about the ground while on a survival trek. Just wish I’d had extra chamber inserts with me instead of food and water.

    • Yes, I also enjoyed that comment.

      I haven’t read the company’s propaganda for this gun, but I think folks are pushing their own definition of “survival” onto it. I don’t see it as a backpack-it-and-all-accessories-everywhere type of survival gun; I see it as a substitute for a half-dozen other guns in various calibers as a camp meat gun. If you were to find a box of .44 Mag ammo while scrounging or trading, but didn’t have any gun in that caliber, the ammo is useless to you, and most folks cannot afford a dedicated gun in every caliber that might pop up. If you have this gun and insert set in the back of your safe, trunk of the car, or atop your donkey cart, you could dig it out and sight it in with the .44 ammo and use it to harvest game until the ammo ran out, then convert it to another caliber ammo and keep using it.

      • ” If you were to find a box of .44 Mag ammo while scrounging or trading, but didn’t have any gun in that caliber, the ammo is useless to you,”

        One dimensional thinking is not a survival mindset.

        That found .44 Mag is very useful to you…as a trade good. For example, if you are FINDING boxes of .44 Mag laying around (and no gun to go with it), maybe, just maybe, there is someone with a .44 Mag around that needs ammo.

        Your found box could well be mighty valuable to HIM, and he might well have something you want/need.

        There’s more than one way to skin a cat, as they say.

        • True, but only if you don’t mind: dragging it around with you; storing it until you can trade it off; and arming someone else who might not share your worldview or morals/ethics.

          Personally, I’d prefer to use it to expand my possibilities/options vs clog my valuable cargo storage and transport and arm possibly opponents, but each to his own.

        • I would think trading the found ammo would solve your storage and transport problems, as opposed to keeping the found ammo.

        • I’ve hauled WAY too much stuff back-and-forth to gunshows/swap over and over again to think that it would move as quickly as I’d like. It seems like heavy crap ALWAYS sells slowly.

          I’d rather use it up first (or as-you-find-it), and save the “good stuff” that I’ve stored for more critical uses or tasks that require higher levels of accuracy.

        • Your points are all perfectly valid, of course…but with the caveat that the real world does not bend to our preferences.

          In the ideal case, I’d prefer to not be in a survival situation to begin with. I’d prefer to “find” ammo in the caliber I have (with me). If I’m going to find ammo laying around unattended, I’d prefer to find the gun that goes with it, even if I already have one in that caliber. Etc.

          Probably fair to say the “right answer” is going to be very fluid and very situation dependent.

  5. An article @ Thefirearmblog.com from 2011 about Chiappa said they planned to put RFID chips into their guns. No idea if they followed through with such a creepy idea.

  6. For as much as you seem to not like the thing, three out of five stars is a net positive review. This is why one can never go by numerical ratings…they only give the most cursory of impressions.

    That said, my own cursory impression is that this doo-dad is just that.

    • It’s basically the only one of its ilk, so setting the average (3 out of 5 is supposed to represent exactly average) makes sense as it isn’t better than any other many-caliber survival rifle/shotguns and isn’t worse than any others, either 😉

  7. Seems like you could improve the shootability quite a bit with one of those armsaver pads on the butt of the stock.

  8. So, it works for a SHTF scenario where ammunition may be hard to find and you need to shoot small game to stay alive..but not much else. Got it. Sounds like they were going for a very specific market that seems to be in a buying frenzy these days.

    • I think it’s more of a closed-cell flexible foam, rather than the more rigid, will-snap-in-half-if-you-bend-a-piece-of-it styrofoam.

      • The takedown Henry AR-7 is also a Styrofoam stock, you stow all the gun’s components in the foam cavities in the stock.

        Thanks to the Styrofoam stock in the AR-7, that sucker floats in water.

        BTW – Styrofoam is a closed-cell foam. Just not very flexible…

        • You are correct, of course, I just didn’t know how else to describe the other more flexible type of foam, but I didn’t want it to sound like a sponge.

      • The flexible closed cell foam might be a ethyl vinyl acetate or EVA, which has long been used in soles of running shoes and many other applications. Much more durable than styrofoam.

    • From what I can tell that includes all the sleeves and the rifle. Not a bad price for multiple weapons in one.

  9. Fighter bomber. Not enough of one, too much of the other.

    If I was going to buy a combo gun for a survival package I would go with tried and true. .22 over either .410 or 20 bore. Anything else is just needless complication.

    • Right?

      If 25 yards is the best that gun can do, I’d much rather have what you describe, carry variety of shells from slug to birdshot and take the chance of dissappointment at not being able to fire the pile of assorted handgun cartridges I am unlikely to stumble across.

      Or a dreiling gun. I would love to have a three barrel dreiling in .22, .308 and 12ga. That’d be a hell of a survival gun.

    • I would love to see 7.62×39 over 20 gauge.

      Although I have to admit a .22lr, .308, and 12 gauge drilling, as someone pointed out, would be the bee’s knees.

  10. I would have added a bayonet lug at the muzzle to increase options of a single shot rifle. It’s a shame that this wasn’t just a little better with accuracy.

  11. Concept is great, execution…not so much, especially at that price.
    Put a better stock and forend on it, drop the price to maybe two or three hundred, and
    maybe we can talk, but a foam stock on a six hundred dollar rifle ? No thanks.
    an NEF break open shotgun and a set of inserts would have better build quality at around the same price.

  12. You may want to call your FFL. This looks like it could be one of those homebrewed firearms from the Philippines.

  13. Yeah. ….I wish CZ would re-introduce their survival rival that was distributed through Springfield Armory for years and years. THAT was minimalist survival rifle. I have a parker iced one in 410 and 22 hornet. Great little rifle. m Prices on NOS and used are getting ridiculous.

  14. I generally like this kind of kitschy stuff. I this case I’d probably just buy a used H&R single shot 12 gauge for ~$80, and a set of inserts from Gauge Mate for ~$400.

    dubya-dubya-dubya(dot)gaugemate(dot)com/adapters/arsenal

  15. I’m not too hot on Chiappa. In February I purchased a .17 hmr 10 shot revolver. It ran great for 50 rounds, then it started having problems. The cheap metal internals are wearing away every time it gets shot and cleaned. It can’t cycle more than 10 rounds before it gums up and quits working. I was interested in the “little badger” but I think I would rather just keep extra mags for my carry gun in the trunk then crap that will fail.

  16. While I generally like Tyler’s reviews, I found certain aspects of this one to be a bit confusing.

    Being concerned about rate-of-fire in a break-open breechloader seems a bit off-base, but nowhere was it mentioned that you could just pull the other trigger to get a quick second shot. Unlike most break-open single-shot firearms, this one has separate firing mechanism for each barrel, so you can get two shots off before you HAVE to reload, you just may have to settle for a less-effective caliber for that rapid second shot.

    Similarly, to complain about the heavy weight (for the type) of the firearm in one passage, then complain about the recoil (a direct function of the caliber/gauge and the gun’s light weight) in a second passage seems a bit disconnected from reality. In a large caliber/gauge manually-operated breechloading firearm, you can have light weight or you can have light recoil, but you can’t have both.

    • I was surprised anyone would consider a rifle under six pounds “heavy.” I wonder how much a rifle has to weigh to count as “light.”

  17. Yeesh, too expensive.

    Rather have an M6 scout if I could find one, or the Savage Model 42 (which is youth sized, but probably still usable).

    Or Chiappa’s own Double Badger.

  18. Sorry I’ll pass. Great review but I don’t see 3 stars here. Lots of viable(and cheaper) alternatives…

  19. There’s two ways I look at a requirement for a “survival” gun.

    You can look from the shotgun end of the problem – get a shotgun, and use either birdshot, buckshot or slugs. With some of the newer slugs, you’ve got a credible big game gun out to 80+ yards. You’ll need iron sights only, and for moving game, you’d ideally want a read sight that flops down out of your way. 20″ barrel, interchangeable chokes would be nice. If the overall weight is 6.5lbs and under, the slugs are going to rock your world when you touch off the trigger. So will high-brass hunting loads of 1.25oz or more.

    Then there’s the rifle perspective. You need a light, handy rifle, ideally in something that could take smaller big game, and accurate enough to take birds when they’re roosting or on the ground. Something (again) with a 20″ barrel and iron sights would be nice.

    Either way, I’d like to see a stainless barrel or at least a chrome-lined bore; there are shotguns with chrome lined bores – and some of them are very high end shotguns. But stainless would be preferable. The action should be simple and easy to clean, with as few fiddly small parts to lose as possible.

    But here’s a thought:

    If you want both a shotgun barrel and a rifle barrel, and your budget doesn’t include a German drilling, then how about looking at a something like a Thompson Encore? You could have what you want (shotgun and/or rifle), in a very functional package. You could have either a single-shot 12 or 20 gauge shotgun, then your choice of rifle chambering. You would need two barrels.

    You can have wood or synthetic stocks, optical or iron sights, stainless or blued barrels. Their triggers can be made very, very nice, and my experience with them (and the Contender) has shown me that they can be quite accurate. Alternatively, if you don’t want the weight, you could go with a rifle round in a single-shot pistol configuration – and they’re still rather accurate.

  20. I love these “survival” guns, and the discussions that ensue whenever one is reviewed.

    I almost wish there were people who routinely went into lawless, “eotwawki” situations.. we could call them “armies”.. and regular folks looking to prepare for those situations could look at those “armies”, and see what *they* used in that kind of a situation.

    Oh wait, we *do* have those groups!

    And how many of them carry styrofoam guns with 9 different barrels?

    Lol..

    • Survival means different things to different people. Those “armies” that you describe usually get fed out of boxes off the back of trucks or carried on choppers. They’d probably starve pretty quickly if they had to live off the land.

      If you have to forage for food an ebr is probably not the best choice. During the wild west days the American army had a number of foraging guns issued to frontier units. Shotguns.

  21. I wonder if they sell the inserts alone.
    Am I wrong in assuming that any 12gauge should be able to use them?

  22. I bought one of these in march for $550 and was very disappointed. My biggest issue was the complete lack of accuracy, the 44mag was the worst. At 25 yards it would barely stay on a 2’x3′ target.

    the biggest issue with this is what you are getting for the price. The problem is, there isn’t much they can do to make it cheaper. Barrels are expensive and you are essentially buying 10 barrels.

  23. Hard to imagine shooting a six-pound 12 gauge that “kicks like a mule”, especially one with no recoil pad and forend. I suppose the recoil pad could be added with an aftermarket part. I like the idea of the gun, but I’d rather see an option with a centerfire rifle barrel capable of ethical varmint kills at up to 100 yards, like .222, .223 or even .243.

  24. This is a marginal to satisfactory gun. I have spent many hours with mine at the range. Like someone said, the 44 mag fires all over a 3′ X 3′ target at about 65-70 feet. I fired 3″ 00 buckshot 6 different times and my trigger hand has hurt for about a month since. Not a lot of pellets on target & Kicks/bucks big time. Most of the other pistol calibers all fit into a softball size area at 65-70 feet. The 410 Winchester PDX defenders were nearly useless at the above distance. This is a good “camp” gun to have around or if you feel a need to have a rifle when strolling in the woods, it’s fine. It just feels heavy. Great novelty gun to talk about and show off. And if ever there comes a day when we really have to hunker down in the bush to survive, you will have a satisfactory to good tool in your possession. I don’t regret my purchase because as of today, it’s one of a kind. But so was the AMC Gremlin.

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