This new over-and-under is startlingly futuristic, says Lewis Potter
Overall Rating: 90%
Pros: Fast and light, more like a 20-bore
Price as reviewed: £2,325
Cons: It will be one of those "love it or hate it" guns
One of the wonderful things about shooting in these early years of the 21st century is the relaxed attitude to the type of shotgun seen on the shooting field. No longer does one need to aspire to a sidelock or feel disadvantaged with a boxlock, and as for the growth of interest in and social acceptance of the over-and-under, that has been nothing short of phenomenal.
There are always those with rigid views of what is acceptable and, more to the point, what is not, and this came to mind when I received the new Benelli 828U for test. Why? Because conventional this gun is not, neither in build nor appearance. It is rather a bold step forward, almost guaranteed to startle the ultraconservative traditionalist.
Benelli is best known for its fast-firing, futuristically styled semi-autos, and with the 828U, its first over-and-under, it has thrown away the rule book and started with a completely new set of ideas. How about, for starters, a weight of a smidgen over 6½lb (for a 28in barrelled over-and-under 12-bore), a carbon fibre top rib and, in a mass-produced gun, quickly detachable lock work? These are just a few of the features of a shotgun that is as innovative and technically interesting as its looks are striking.
Handling and styling
It is almost worth closing one’s eyes to explore the handling characteristics of this Benelli over-and-under. The point of balance is just about where the barrels hinge and with its light weight this translates into an exceptionally fast handling gun. Indeed, one could be forgiven for momentarily thinking it was a 20-bore. It would certainly be useful for someone of slight build who preferred the larger gauge.
The pistol grip has a fairly tight curve, just a little cramped for my large hands, but the foreend has plenty of length to locate the forward hand to one’s liking. What might be described as a semi-fishscale pattern on the grip actually provides a positive feel, much better in fact than some chequering.
As for the overall fit, this over-and-under, like the maker’s other guns, comes complete with spacers to alter the drop and cast while a length of pull averaging 14¾in will suit many shooters.
The looks can be summed up as smart and modern with some eye-catching features, especially the aluminium-alloy action body. It is shiny, unusually long and has flowing lines. The fish-scale pattern adjacent to the stock is neatly executed, while the scrollwork in the form of a vine with what appear to be oak leaves and acorns is unlike any plant I have seen but it adds nicely to the decorative effect.
There is no doubt that the interchangeable carbon fibre top rib adds to the truly modern and rather racy styling, as does the lack of side ribs, the long, curved top lever, the soft comb insert, the raked fore-end tip and the Progressive Comfort butt-pad. Individually these could perhaps be regarded as extravagant features, but it looks right, because the gun has been designed as a whole, not a modification with add-on extras.
While the action body is made from aluminium alloy, it carries rectangular steel inserts machined with the hinge discs or trunnions for the location of the barrel hooks. At the rear is a sprung, hinged steel breech piece with a semi-circular lug that locks into the barrels. This takes the place of what would be a fixed, standing breech on a conventional gun.
The actual locking of the barrels is provided by a pair of circular locking bolts that engage in the extension arms protruding rearwards from the top barrel. These wrap-around extension arms also give lateral support.
As for the ejector mechanism, this is one of the more complex arrangements that I have ever seen on a mass-produced shotgun. It is also quite beautifully made, with long external springs located either side of the barrels.
Two more points of interest include that unusually long, curved top-lever and the lock work. The top-lever not only withdraws the locking bolts to open the gun but also cocks the locks. Interestingly, this is a revival of a feature first used in the 19th century on early sidelock side-by-sides.
As for the lock work, this can be dropped out complete with the simple wire tool provided but it is necessary to follow the instructions in the manual provided. If all this were not enough, the Progressive Comfort butt-pad is actually a sprung system designed to tame recoil, and the soft comb insert is detachable and replaceable. My only small gripe concerns the Anson push rod-type fore-end release, which I found a bit small for my fingers, especially as it is partially recessed into the fore-end.
After all that it seems almost an anti-climax to report on the five screw-in chokes ranging from cylinder to full. These are held in a handy box that also contains an oil bottle, the tool for releasing the lock work, stock spacers and choke key. This box fits neatly into the sturdy, functional and surprisingly non-modernistic gun case.
Benelli 828U on test
I did not need to resort to changing the stock spacers as I found the Benelli fitted me fairly well straight out of the box. It placed the pattern nicely on target with the “bird” just over the foresight.
Cartridges used included Eley Impax and VIP Game, Gamebore Clear Pigeon, Hull Special Pigeon and Lyalvale Express Super Game. The first thing that was noticeable in use was the wide gape of the barrels when open, which made it easy to load the bottom barrel.
I do admit that, in spite of all the technology that had gone into designing this super-light 12-bore, I did anticipate a bit of recoil, which always seems worse when shooting from a static position at the pattern sheet. However, I was most pleasantly surprised at how well the Benelli tamed recoil. I even
found the 36g loads in the Express Super Game to be reasonably comfortable.
The broad safety button was pleasant and precise in use and the ejection of empty cartridge cases was nicely timed. In short, the Benelli did everything well.
Importer: GMK, 01489 587500 or visit their website.
The Benelli 828U is futuristic - both in looks and design - and owes little or nothing to earlier over-and-unders.