Shotgun review: the Xcel A400 Sporting aims to make you a better wingshooter


When I started bird hunting, I didn’t consider missing a bird or two as consequential since there were so many opportunities. That element of my youthful ego was quashed, however, after a hunt or two with an avid trap shooter. He just didn’t miss, but I did. A correction was needed, so I joined a trap club and soon discovered the sheer exhilaration of busting clays.

During those formative years, I learned a lot about shotgun stance, hold, lead, fit, patterning and chokes. Collectively, it made me a better wingshooter, and the knowledge I gleaned along the way has served me well for hunting upland birds and waterfowl. While trap is more popular, both skeet and sporting clays also offer disciplines that can achieve much the same result.


Beretta has been making quality guns for eons. My first trap gun, a Beretta S680 over/under, fit like a glove and accounted for innumerable clays and my share of trapshooting wins. Despite the challenge and reward of powdering clays, long days on the trap range left me wondering whether I should have been using a shotgun with less accumulative felt recoil. Enter the Xcel A400 Sporting. Beretta refers to this shotgun as “the fastest, lowest-recoil clay buster,” offering the following innovative features to back up the claim.

Federal won the day while patterning


There are three variations in design, including Kick-Off Mega and Kick-Off, which reduce perceived recoil by up to 70 per cent and 60 per cent, respectively. My test model, equipped with Kick-Off Plus, consisted of two elastomer shock absorbers and return springs to reduce the perceived first recoil peak by up to 40 per cent. A third elastomer shock absorber inserted in the tie rod acts on the second recoil peak caused by the impact of the slide against the receiver.



This system is said to be as fast as the blink of an eye, and it’s the guts of the shotgun. It offers 36 per cent faster follow-up shots, so you can empty your magazine before that first hull hits the ground. According to Beretta, it’s the most reliable gas system in the world. It will cycle any type of ammunition and requires minimal maintenance and cleaning. And since the main elements can remain mounted during disassembly and cleaning, there’s no risk of losing even the smallest component.


The Kick-Off Plus models are equipped with the B-Steady system, which divides the stock into two sections. This separation of the stock and pistol avoids the annoying sliding of the nose piece on the cheek, and the loss of sight line.


Beretta’s barrels are made from the gunmaker’s exclusive tri-alloy steel (nickel, chromium and molybdenum) that is subjected to deep drilling, cold-hammer forging and vacuum relieving. Collectively, it ensures the smoothest ballistics, and aids in recoil reduction and muzzle jump while ensuring perfect, dense and uniform patterns.


The inner profile of this barrel has been designed to provide optimal accuracy with all lead and steel shotshells. It includes an 80mm long double forcing cone that reduces both recoil and muzzle jump, while providing dense and uniform patterns.


These interchangeable chokes are manufactured from high-strength steel, guaranteeing substantial corrosion resistance while handling the rigours of a long day of heat-generating competition. They can be found in different configurations for the various shooting disciplines.


The enlarged loading port, as well as the extended bolt handle and release, make handling and loading easier in all conditions, including when wearing gloves.


Balance is a critical component when shooting clays. This shotgun’s redesigned shooting cap allows for the addition of aftermarket weights to achieve the ideal balance for the shooter. The ergonomic checkering, meanwhile, provides for more secure handling and instinctive pointing.


The Xcel A400 Sporting boasts a new style of receiver that includes an enhanced top and bottom profile, complete with a proprietary, laser-engraved Aqua Tech Shield grey coating. This surface treatment combines the best selection of materials with the most powerful protective treatments to provide maximum internal and external protection from corrosion and everyday wear.


This lightweight recoil pad is made from open-cell polyurethane. Soft and very smooth, the Microcore rubber includes specially designed checkering on the surface for greater control and stability.


First, I patterned my test shotgun at 40 yards using a modified choke and two premium brands of target ammo: Federal Premium Target Load #7½ shot, and Winchester AA Tracker #8 shot. Judging by the patterns on the 30-inch targets, the gun was shooting a bit high and to the left. While a bit high is ideal for a trap gun, the stock needed to be adjusted with some cast off to move the pattern to the right. This is common for right-handed shooters, and very correctable using the shotgun’s included shims. As for the performance of the ammo, Federal delivered 25 per cent more shot on target than Winchester, for a total of 360 pellets versus 280.

Before heading to the trap range to complete my test, I weighed the gun in at seven pounds 10 ounces, with a trigger pull weight of five pounds two ounces. While the pull weight was consistent, I did detect a discernable amount of creep, which isn’t the same deal breaker for a shotgun as it would be for a rifle. Otherwise, the gun cycled as quickly as promised, making it a surefire candidate for shooting doubles. My only minor complaint was the location of the safety, which I would have preferred to be at the rear of the trigger guard, rather than in front.

On the trap range, my son, Brent, and I had 25 clays apiece. Brent only missed one bird, while I showed some rust, dropping four. All in all, the shotgun handled well, but balanced a bit forward. That gave me pause to consider whether a 28-inch barrel may have offered a bit quicker target acquisition. Of course, that’s very much a personal choice, and dependent on whether you’re shooting trap, skeet or sporting clays.

Also of note was how mild this shotgun was to shoot; there’s no question the Kick-Off Plus system offers a degree of recoil reduction. I also liked the enlarged controls, as they made loading easier and quicker. Overall, the Xcel A400 Sporting was fun to shoot, and with some time on the trap, skeet or sporting clays range, it would unquestionably improve your wingshooting skills. And if you were looking to expand the gun’s potential to include busting some roosters, I would not hesitate to give the 28-inch version the nod.


  • Gauge: 12
  • Total length: 50 5/8”
  • Chamber length: 3”
  • Barrel length: 30”
  • Weight: 7 lb 7 oz
  • Length of pull: 14¼” (adjustable)
  • Drop at comb: 1½”
  • Drop at heel: 2¼” (adjustable)
  • Chokes: 3 extended chokes. (IM/M/IC)
  • Magazine capacity: 3