The Improbable Comparison: Beretta A400 vs. Browning Maxus vs. Benelli Vinci
This is an unlikely comparison on several levels. Though the formerly code-named "Peggy" Browning Maxus was announced first, rolled out as “The Most Reliable Autoloader the World Has Even Known” on October 10, 2008, as of this writing (June, 2010) general availability has been limited to essentially one model: synthetic. I've tested two 3-1/2 inch chambered versions, one in black with a 26 inch barrel and one in camo with a 28 inch barrel. Firing "Peggy," over a year and a half ago, back when Planet Maxus just began to spin. Peggy was extremely soft-shooting then and remains so today.
The most surprising release, surrounded by glorious fanfare, was the Benelli Vinci. A 3 inch chambered model at the moment, it too has been available in essentially one model, black synthetic or camo. Two Vinci's were tested, one with a 26 inch barrel and one with a 28 inch.
The latest new autoloader entry, the A400 Xplor Unico, has a 3-1/2 inch chamber and was the last of the three to be released. It too is offered in only basic one model at the moment, Xtra-grain wood but with the choice of “Kick-Off” hydraulic pad or not, with a few different barrel lengths. Whether you view the A400 as an "Xtrema2 Light" or perhaps as an "Xtrema + Steelium + KO3," the tested example was a problem-free shotgun and is easy on the eyes, despite the fake grain on walnut and extensive use of "advanced technopolymers." The overbored A400 barrel is overbored all the way from the American standard of .729 inches to .730 inches on my Skeet's bore gauge. The A400 has its fair share of fine points, but it is more than a bit overboard to call the barrel over-bored. The best addition is the KO3, not for the shooter, but for the gun. It keeps the action relatively stress-free despite extremely high bolt speed.
This attempted comparison is only an attempt. As these three models have evoked the vast majority of autoloading shotgun reader mail, that's why it is being attempted. The “improbable part” is due to the disparity in the models themselves. If a 3-1/2 inch composite-stocked dedicated waterfowling shotgun was the subject, then a Benelli SBE-II vs. Maxus vs. Beretta Xtrema2 comparison would seem to make a great deal more sense. That, however, has not at all been the focus of most of the correspondence. Instead, readers have suggested they want one of the these three more as an “all-around” shotgun, "all-around" meaning all kinds of different things to different people. You might not think any of these shotguns would be necessary, or even highly desirable to take a dove or break a clay, but it hasn't really worked out that way. Though in some ways this is apples to oranges, a lot of folks want one new juicy piece of scattergun to bite into and these three are invariably among those considered. So, I'll do my best starting with the easily measured attributes, and moving on to the more esoteric areas.
WEIGHT, AS MEASURED
Maxus Stalker 3-1/2 in., 28 inch barrel: 6 lbs. 15 oz. ($1379 MSRP, $1509 MODB Camo))
Vinci, MAX-4 Camo, 26 inch: 7 lbs., 1 oz. ($1479 MSRP, $1379 black synthetic)
A400, non-KO, 28 inch: 6 lbs. 13 oz. ($1625 MSRP, $1725 w/ KO)
TRIGGER BREAK, AS MEASURED
Maxus: 6 lbs.
Vinci: 5 lbs.
A400: 4-3/4 lbs.
Maxus: No written warranty.
Vinci: Five years.
A400: One year.
CHOKE TUBES SUPPLIED
Maxus: Three Invector Plus
Vinci: Five Crio Plus
A400: Three, Optima-HP
Maxus: Speed Loading and Unloading + Magazine Cut-off
Vinci: Speed Unloading
A400: Magazine Cut-off
VENT RIB TYPE
Maxus: flat rib, single front bead
Vinci: raised rib, single front and center beads
A400: flat rib, single front bead
Maxus: Gas, "Activ Valve" variation.
Vinci: In-line Inertia
A400: Gas, Franchi / Xtrema variation.
SHELL INTENSITY CAPABILITY W/O ADJUSTMENTS
Maxus: 1 oz. and up, 3.5 inch chamber
Vinci: 1 oz. and up, 3 inch chamber
A400: 7/8 oz. and up, 3.5 inch chamber
Note: All three cycled 7/8 oz. Winchester white box “Super-Speed Loads” as tested. The A400 ejected them with the most authority, however.
All three printed well-centered patterns at 40 yards with B&P USA F2 Legend 1-1/8 oz. loads. All three shot slightly high. Factory “Full” chokes patterns out of the Vinci and A400 gave higher percentages and exhibited less patchiness than the Maxus factory full choke.
The Maxus was the softest shooting, followed by the A400, and then the Vinci with 1-1/8 oz. F2 Legend shells, but all were univerally found as comfortable.
With 1-7/8 oz. 3 inch Remington Nitro-Mag shells, the order changed. The Maxus was just slightly softer shooting than the Vinci, close enough to call it a dead heat. But the Vinci was far more comfortable to shoot than the Beretta A400. The Vinci scaled extremely well with higher intensity loads with noticeably less muzzle flip.
Maxus: back of the trigger guard
Vinci: front of the trigger guard
A400: front of the trigger guard
Notes: The Maxus safety is, for me, too close to the right hand. Too easy to bump off the safety with the side of my right forefinger while carrying.
Maxus: “Inflex Pad”
Vinci: ComforTech stock system
A400: “Micro-Core” Pad
Notes: The Maxus does not come to the shoulder as well for me as the others, due primarily to the poorly designed “Inflex” pad. Rather than having a flat face, the factory Browning pad is similar to their X-bolt rifle pad. Fine on a rifle, but it is dished out more like a "trap pad" than a field pad. Good pad, poor profile for a field gun. If I was hunting with a premounted gun, it wouldn't matter. I'm not, though, so it does. The Maxus has spacers right in the box to adjust the length of pull if desired-- the other models do not.
Maxus: Browning oversized bore “Invector Plus,” lengthened forcing cones.
Vinci: Standard bore, chrome-lined, cryogenically treated.
A400: Very, very, very slightly oversized bore (.730 in. vs. .729 standard U.S. bore and .725 in. standard European), chrome-lined, extra-long forcing cones.
Based on my own experiences, I would rate the respective customer service departments as follows:
Maxus (Browning): Excellent.
Vinci (Benelli): Excellent.
A400 (Beretta): Poor.
LOWEST PRICE TO HIGHEST PRICE
The lowest-price configuration available for any of these three shotguns would be the three-inch chambered version of the Maxus Stalker at $1199 MSRP. The Vinci and the 3-1/2 inch Maxus models are almost identically priced. The most expensive of the three is the A400 with KO at $1725 MSRP.
I'm often asked if “Xyz” is “good gun.” It isn't easy to answer, as “good” is such a vague, loose term that it has no universally held definition. The best answer to the question is often, “It's not bad.” So it goes with these three models, none of which are bad. All of them are destined to be offered in more configurations than they are presently and nothing ever made is immune to improvement.
The Maxus is the most versatile shotgun ever offered under the Browning nameplate. If there is a Browning “shotgun curse” over the last fifteen years or so it has been overly heavy triggers. Often called lawyer triggers, Browning can offer any explanation they'd like, perhaps true, but nevertheless Browning shotgun triggers do not compare favorably to many other triggers on the market, including the A400 and the Vinci triggers tested here. If they want to really be the “Best There Is,” then they will have to notch up their trigger quality in my view. For now, it would take a trigger job and a replacement recoil pad to get the Maxus up to speed for me.
Beretta, in another hearty bout of self-congratulation, announced a while back that their “relentless pursuit of excellence” they again set the benchmark for the “do it all shotgun.” They weren't referring to the A400, though, they were speaking of the Xtrema2. The A400 version of the Xtrema2 is easier on the eyes, harder on the wallet, more suitable when the application involves significant walking and carrying, perhaps a bit less suitable as a dedicated waterfowler with its shinier barrel and lighter weight. Better for upland, though, with little question. In fact, had Beretta introduced the A400 as the “Xtrema2 Uplander” it wouldn't have been that far off the mark. The Vinci, easily winning the non-conventional aesthetics award, is the simplest, most reliable shotgun of the bunch. While none of these shotguns are at all difficult to maintain, not by any stretch, the Vinci field strips with a push of a button and the twist of the magazine cap, and no time is spent cleaning a gas system as it doesn't have one.
The softest-shooting shotgun of the group is the Maxus, followed by the A400, but the Vinci is more comfortable than the A400 with heavier loads and essentially equal with the Maxus. The Maxus wins in the shell-handling contest, then Vinci, then A400. Both the A400 and Vinci triggers beat the Maxus handily with Benelli's swift customer service lightening the five pound as supplied trigger to about 3-1/2 pounds for me at no charge. This is no harsh dig at Browning Customer Service, which has been uniformly excellent. Browning trigger spec on their field guns is 5-6 pounds. Heavier than that, they will be happy to touch it up for you, but only to within their spec. You won't get an A400 or Vinci-comparable trigger from Browning; see your favorite gunsmith for that.
If you rarely hunt, or don't hunt much, then none of the above would likely be considered the "ideal dedicated clays gun," as they are all a bit on the light side. Rightly or wrongly, several clays shooters seem to immediately take substantially heavier guns (A391 Urika 2) but still can't wait very long before taping on weights, using aftermarket forearm caps, gluing lead into buttstocks, and the like. Anyway, T & S hull catchers are not available for any of these three that I know of, but the Birchwood Casey "Save-It Shell Catcher" can likely be used though I've not stuck any of them onto these guns. If the notion is more clays than anything else, the A400 with a 30 inch barrel and the KO would likely come closest to what many would prefer in premounted games. I also suspect that with its violent action and perky bolt speed, the A400 is a bit better equipped to handle some of the crappy looking, pipsqueak, "dumpster diving quality" reloads that seem to be common on some clays fields. All of these models are clearly advertised and promoted as hunting guns. Neither camo nor 3-1/2 chambers would be requisite to break a clay pigeon.
Having tested both the Maxus and the Vinci with both 26 and 28 inch barrels, I very much prefer the overall handling, balance and speed of the 26 inch barrels on these two models compared against their 28 inch counterparts. Invariably, I end up with better hunting load patterns from extended chokes than factory, as in Trulock Precision Hunter tubes, so I'm ending up with a 27 inch barrel, regardless.
At seven pounds, give or take, all of these autoloaders hit the same general weight class of 12 gauge. When it gets down to an ounce or two as being meaningful, well-- loading one less shell in your autoloader may change carry weight about that much, so it isn't enough to obsess about.
This is, as mentioned earlier, an “improbable comparison.” There are enough differences in finish, chamber length, and styles to make this less than a specific, intended use directed match-up. As an all-around hunting gun, my preference is clear. Based on the best warranty, the most reliability, the simplest action, easiest clean-up, excellent customer service, a bit more value from extra choke tubes, and the fastest shouldering qualities of the bunch, it wasn't at all hard for me to vote Vinci.
Copyright 2010 by Randy Wakeman. All Rights Reserved.