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I found this on Beretta's web site...pretty cool stuff.

The original 390 shotgun was introduced in 1994. Also known as the Silver Mallard, it was offered in field and various competition versions. These versions could be distinguished by receiver type. The field featured a square back, and the competition had a rounded back. The action was of the locked breech gas operated type that featured a unique self compensation valve. The spring loaded gas valve allowed the use of light 2 3/4" shells and 3" magnum loads to be use with no changes being made on the part of the operator.

In 1999 the 391 was introduced to replace the 390. This new shotgun featured the same operating system of the 390 but with an updated gas system to allow for less maintenance and easier assembly of the shotgun. It featured a round back receiver with an internal bolt buffer to limit shock and vibration, a revised fore-end cap designed to reduce barrel vibration, and a new magazine limiter plug that could be changed in the field by only removing the fore-end cap. The stock and fore-end external dimensions were made smaller and slimmer for a less bulky feeling. In 2003, the barrel was updated to the latest Optima bore design throughout the 12 ga 391 line up and the stock was drilled internally to accept the Beretta recoil reducer.

In 2003 the 3901 was introduced to offer an entry level semi-automatic shotgun to the market. Basically, this is a re-issue of the previous 390 without the magazine cut-off lever that was located on the left side of the receiver. For 2005, this shotgun is offered in 3 grade levels to cover all of our customer needs.
 

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without the magazine cut-off lever that was located on the left side of the receiver.
I hate how Beretta calls this lever a magazine cutoff. It has zero affect on blocking or cutting off the rounds in the magazine. All it does is lock the bolt in the backwards position. It does make it easier to change loads when the lever has been engaged. All of the models mentioned above have automatic magazine cutoffs. On all of these models, if all you do is pull the bolt back no rounds will be released from the magazine.

easier assembly of the shotgun.
Who are they trying to kid.

They are all good models.
 

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:twisted: Never one to pass a chance to spit on the Eyetralian B-guns, I have a 391 that is actually TWO guns:1. my first Beretta and 2. my LAST Beretta. Very poor design compared to the Remmies, IMHO.
///olde 8) pharte///
 

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Funny how you get all kinds of opinions. I've had, owned and lived with, hunted with and shot clays with nearly all the semis. 1100's, 390's, 391's, 11/87's, Gold's, A5's, you name it. What do I still have in the safe, and what makes it to the field? A5's and Berettas. Of all the autos I've shot, I can't ever remember having one of them jam or fail in any way, even with really light loads. My son likes the heft of a 390 with it's thicker wood and bigger feel, while I like the slimmer and svelt 391. In all honesty, I believe them to be the best semi money can buy. I like 1100's, and to a lesser degree Golds. When it comes right down to it, they all work pretty well, I just like Beretta the best. They are nearly indestructable.
I'm curious, in what way you consider the design to be poor? It handles all loads with ease, fires all loads, even when extremely dirty???? My son NEVER cleans his 390, and it NEVER fails. I usually borrow it about every year or so and can't believe the amount of crud from hunting and shooting several thousand rounds a year and yet it shoots and shoots and shoots.
 
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