Short version: Love it.
Long version: Sit down, I have many words.
I became a fan of autoloading shotguns over pumps during my recent shotgun class. While they had mostly sorted it out by the end of the day, I noticed a lot of the 870 guys had some issues with short stroking the slide at the beginning of the class. In the most mild manifestation, this only causes a “click” where you expected a “BANG”. In more extreme cases, jammed hulls and double feeds can occur. While this is a training issue, I would prefer to simplify the chore list during a lethal force encounter as much as possible.
My first experiment with the autoloading home-defense shotgun was with a cheaply acquired Remington 1100. While it works fine, it required some work and tinkering before it was ready for duty. It worked perfectly during class, but I still have a couple of quibbles.
First, loading the shotgun from “cruiser ready” (loaded magazine tube and empty chamber) is a two step process. This is because the 1100 locks the bolt back on every shot. It only gets unlocked by a new shell hitting the shell lifter or the user hitting the action release on the lifter. So loading the gun involves running the bolt back, then moving your hand under the gun to press the action release. Not a huge issue, but it’s still one more thing to remember when the glass is breaking and the dogs are barking.
Secondly, I’m not happy with the figure-8 mag tube clamp/sling swivel assembly. It works loose under recoil no matter how hard I crank it down, and if I slide it too far down the barrel, it pushes the barrel and magazine tube apart. This means that every time I take the clamp off for gun cleaning, the point of impact of the gun may shift.
The 1201, on the other hand, was completely good to go out of the box. It already comes set up for a sling and has rifle sights installed. I somewhat prefer a bead on shotguns, but the Beretta’s sights are small, low and unobtrusive compared to the massive ramps of the Remington.
The 1201 is more easily brought into action from cruiser ready. After fully charging the magazine tube, the 1201 user hits the shell advance button on the lifter, which releases a shell from the mag tube and lets it sit on the lifter. The shotgun can be safely stored in this condition. (John Farnam advises dropping the hammer on an empty chamber to accomplish the same thing, to permit the action springs to be at rest. I prefer to not dryfire a gun when there’s live ammo in the magazine tube, and I’m also concerned about dryfiring the 1201 too often. It’s up to you). Then readying it for action is a simple matter of working the bolt. It seems to me that one should be able to put a round on the lifter and close the bolt over it without advancing a shell from the mag tube, but so far I haven’t discovered the secret.
The 1201 is also a good pound and a half to two pounds lighter than the 1100. Due to the aluminum receiver, the 1201 balances further forward than the 1100 and seems to be easier to keep on target during rapid fire. It is down a round in total capacity, and unlike its Benelli cousin, there’s no way to add an extension. But if you anticipate needing more than 6+1 rounds of buckshot available to finish a fight, dude, drop me a line because we need to start hanging out.
The 1100 is a softer shooting gun, but the difference isn’t as huge as the innernet claims it is. I’d say it kicks less than an 870 (heavier steel receiver) and a lot less than a Winchester 1300 (slide action that weighs about the same). But a lot perceived recoil is due to a too-long stock, and since I’m blessed with a freakishly huge wingspan I’m not as sensitive to it as others. So if you’ve got an 870 that’s beating you up, try screwing on a Ram-Line Bantam stock.
Oh yeah, the Benelli ad copy about the recoil operated system running cleaner is no lie. I still haven’t cleaned it after 165 rounds and so far the only accumulations of crud are at the rear of the bolt, and they were easily wiped away with a swipe of an oily rag.
Negatives? It is somewhat … Italian in the field stripping procedure, but it only goes together one way. Spare parts are on the expensive side compared to Remington or Winchester bits. $11 for a trigger plate retaining pin!
For the future, I need to figure out a way to attach a white light. Right now I’m leaning towards my good ‘ol #36 Weaver base with 2 machine screws screwed into the handguard, but I may cheap out with a Surefire G2 and some hose clamps.
I need to track down the aforementioned trigger plate pin, to remove the speedloader attachment the previous owner bolted on. But I may add a sidesaddle instead. I mean, it would only be another $12 over getting the pin!
I’ve also got my eye on the Benelli M1S90 pistol grip stock, because I’m curious about a pistol grip on a shotgun, and bolting it to a 1201 looks like hot sexy death.
In summary, I love it. I wish to hell Beretta hadn’t screwed it up (by permanently attaching the magazine end cap and reducing its capacity by one) and discontinued it. To get an equivalent Benelli would run you close to $800, and these were retailing for 5 bills before they got the axe.
C’mon Beretta! Bring back the 1201!
If you arrived here from google or a forum, please check out my Beretta 1201 followup.