Benelli's Black Eagle has landed and Matt Clarke is the first to get his hands on it
With its 3in chamber, matt black finish and easy-to-use controls, there is no mistaking that the latest incarnation of the Benelli Black Eagle has been designed for the wildfowler. (More on the best kit for wildfowling here.)
Innovations include a stylish new receiver, a technopolymer stock – incorporating an improved recoil system – along with a larger bolt release and safety catch, both designed for use with gloved hands.
Apart from that, the new Black Eagle uses the tried and tested Benelli inertia system that many of you will know cycles quickly and doesn’t have any gas parts to gunk up. The gun has a 3in chamber, allowing the use heavy steel shot loads when required.
Naturally, large loads mean more recoil, but even though the Black Eagle is a relative lightweight at 3.25kg, it is comfortable to shoot. This is in part thanks to the semi-auto inertia system that absorbs some of the kick and also due to Benelli’s Comfortech 3 system. This works by incorporating shock-absorbing rubber inserts into the stock. There is also the new Combtech technology – a soft squidgy rubber pad on the comb that absorbs the recoil and allows the shooter’s head to remain still on the stock after the gun has been fired and so helps with quick target acquisition for the second shot. It also allows different cheek welds for different shooters.
When I tested the Black Eagle, I was restricted to 28g loads because I was on a clay ground. As you’d expect with a relatively light load, the recoil was well managed and this gave me confidence that the gun would be comfortable to shoot with much larger loads. The gun cycled these relatively light loads with ease. This is a testament to how good Benelli’s engineering is. Many inertia-operated mechanisms can be cartridge fussy, requiring heavier loads to cycle easily.
When shooting the gun, I was aware of the bolt handle sliding back and forward, which is not something I have noticed on other Benelli semi-autos. This could be to do with the larger, more ergonomic cocking handle. However, this wasn’t a problem and wouldn’t stop me buying one.
The controls are easy to operate and are designed to be used while wearing gloves. I wasn’t wearing gloves, but all the features of the gun, such as the safety and bolt release, which is now larger, were easy to use. (More on the best gloves for shooting here.)
What I did notice was how grippy the chequering was. I tested the gun in a drizzle and was afforded excellent control. However, the grip radius could be a little too slender for some, but you might find that the grip is designed to work better with a gloved hand.
Mechanically, the gun was superb. Everything worked smoothly. Loading was a cinch and the gun fired off three cartridges as quickly as I pulled the trigger and ejected the spent cartridges effortlessly.
I am used to heavier over-and-under guns and so I felt the muzzle waved around a little more than I was used to. However, once I got used to it, I was soon on target. For those used to using semi-autos, the muscle memory would be there to keep the barrels swinging through the target. Being lightweight also meant that the gun would be good for quick target acquisition.
A matt-black finish would also work well in sunny conditions as there would be no light reflecting from any part of the gun. And for those who want to be even more stealthy, there is a Max-5 Camo option at £2,100 that looks as if it would fit well into the British coastal environment.
The finish on the gun seemed to be particularly good and would certainly protect the metal parts from the corrosive coastal environment for many years.
Cleaning was very easy. The barrel and stock just required a wipe down and as an inertia-operated system there were no fiddly gas parts to get gunked up. I liked the geometric design of the front nut, which made it easy to grip and screw on and off. The external choke was easy to remove; just make sure you keep an eye on it as it can work loose. This is true for any guns that have removeable chokes and it is always good practice to keep an eye on them.
I have to admit that I struggled to get the gun together when I first got it out of the box, which is odd as I’ve tested many Benellis and they are all similar in the way they fit together. That said, when I took it apart to clean it, I reassembled it easily.
The gun comes in a hard case with a slightly quirky hessian lining, a choice of chokes, instructions and even a bottle of gun oil, which makes you feel you are getting value for money.
This is not a cheap semi-auto, but it is a very good one. Made to the highest standards it will give years of solid service on the marsh, so it is worth every penny.
Editor’s verdict on the Benelli Black Eagle
If you are a wildfowler you will love this gun. Everything about it is designed for the sport, and I particularly liked the matt-black finish on the barrel because water ran off it like fat in a non-stick frying pan. At almost £2,000, it is expensive for a semi-auto, but this gun is superbly engineered and you can see why a Benelli is considered the ultimate semi-auto. I would say it’s money well spent as this gun would be a companion on the marsh for many years.
Scores on the doors
- Build quality 25/25
- Handling 23/25
- Styling 23/25
- Value for money 23/25
This is not a cheap semi-auto, but it is a very good one