A break from tradition and an attempt to break new ground make for an intriguing new over-under, as Alex Flint discovers.
This new over-under shotgun represents something rather rare in the world of sporting shotguns: the new and unusual. Of course, all gunmakers continually innovate in shotgun design and manufacture, but most changes tend to be incremental. The 828U offers something completely different. It is the first ever over-under shotgun from its maker Benelli, the Italian manufacturer known for its range of semiautomatic shotguns. Moreover, it is also a design quite unlike any other over-under shotgun I have ever seen.
Visually, the gun’s heritage is quite clear and it is certainly a handsome beast in the anodised, satin-black finish we tested. There are some surprising touches that give the gun the air of a modern sports car, such as the inclusion of a carbonfibre top rib, a smart aesthetic choice that also doubtless contributes to the 12 bore gun’s remarkable 6lbs 6oz weight. The action body is simply styled, the clever triggerplate design allowing for an attractive long and slim shape.
Overall the gun has been well shaped, with a strong wave running along its length and a brushed-effect standing out alongside the matt finish on the rest of the action body. Aside from this there is very little ornamentation but the gun still feels like a premium piece of equipment. There is virtually nothing in the way of engraving, with only the model number picked out in a restrained white. Underneath one finds the manufacturer’s logo and some other information engraved, though this is very small and subtle. The restrained black action body really does work well, though the bold engraving on the nickel-finished gun is very attractive indeed.
The wood used on the gun is nicely figured without being exceptional and has a good, smooth oil finish. Chequering is in the form of quite large crescent shapes, providing good grip but without any of the roughness one might associate with a brand new gun. Even the rubber comb insert suits the look of the gun. The only real disappointment is the red plastic sight bead, though this is far less offensive than others I have seen, being quite small and subdued because it is partially transparent and well contained.
The selective automatic safety catch is quite large and an unusual shape, but is very satisfying to use – the scalloped top edge is particularly pleasing when taking the safety off.
First impressions are excellent thanks to the green Benelli branded ABS case with a lovely tartan lining. Unlike other cases of this ilk, there are clever inserts installed so the barrels and action of the gun are fitted securely into their sections. All the accessories and manuals, including gun oil, multichokes, choke key, stock plates and triggerplate removal tool are stored within a smart plastic box, again with its own secure compartment.
All in all one gets the impression this is a gun from a manufacturer that takes customer satisfaction seriously. Even the manufacturer logo is a small plastic item, easily removed from the barrels rather than a large sticker one finds on other guns.
Internally, the gun is very interesting. It is essentially a semi-auto shotgun but built as an over-under. For example, where one finds a locking bolt in a semi-auto, here we have a sprung floating action face. When the gun is closed, the free-floating, ventilated barrels lock onto this floating face. The fact the action face moves should reduce stress on the gun.
This clever and unusual design has a significant impact on the handling of the gun. As already mentioned, it is very light but also extremely well balanced, giving an easy, natural and positive mount and excellent handling characteristics. The gun moves extremely well and recoil is dealt with superbly, though oddly the design does give the impression of quite a lot of movement when firing.
The 828U is certainly an interesting proposition and looks and feels well worth its asking price. It offers a genuine alternative to the dominance of other manufacturers with more history in making guns of this type, though whether technological and design innovation will be enough to tempt more casual buyers away is a tricky question to answer. Considering this is Benelli’s first over-under shotgun, it represents a fairly remarkable achievement, and one I would certainly recommend trying out.
Benelli in the field
The 828U seemed quite at home at Grange Farm, feeling easy in the hand. Instructors Ed Smith and Steve Wood looked immediately comfortable with the gun mounted, and I certainly found it came up the shoulder consistently well. In spite of the low weight for a 12 bore, the gun was easy to keep on line and moved naturally.
Trigger pulls were good, and the gun dealt with felt recoil well – however it must be noted that shooting with it was actually quite an unusual experience.
Most game shots, certainly those well versed with overunders or side-by-sides, will be used to shooting guns with a certain sense of rigidity about them. This is not to say the 828U felt in any way loose or flimsy, rather that inevitably one felt the gun moving about a fair amount when firing due to the nature of the design, in particular the free-floating barrels and action face. While it did not affect my performance and was not unpleasant, it was unusual and would take some getting
used to long-term.
The movement did create a few complications, however, as I felt the gun was catching my cheek a little – this is probably why the stock has a rubber insert in the comb. Recoil was barely noticeable, however. Oddly, I had the impression the gun would have been rather happier with some heavier loads being shot through it.
Overall, I found the 828U was a highly impressive and enjoyable – if a little unusual – gun to shoot, and one I would recommend any interested party should try.
View from the gun shop. By Bill Elderkin.
There are a lot of clever things going on with this gun. These range from components seen more commonly on semi-autos – such as a system of shims inserted between the stock and action body – to the patented new locking mechanism. The free-fl oating steel action face is a locking surface with four points of contact with the barrels, resulting in a tight seal to the monobloc barrels. This allows for the use of a light aluminium frame.
Indeed, the 6lbs 6oz weight is a major plus as it is very unusual for a 12 bore with multichokes to come in much under 7lbs without making some sacrifi ces in terms of felt recoil. Though the gun is only available with 26” or 28” barrels, it should nevertheless be attractive to youngsters, ladies and men alike.
There are more unusual design choices on show. For example, the gun does not re-cock by the action of the barrels opening, rather operating the top-lever re-cocks the hammers. This should improve reliability and longevity. The ejectors are operated not by inertia, but rather by the pressure of air being forced through special holes in the chambers upon cartridges being fired. All of this is centred around the complex but sturdy-looking triggerplate action, easily removed with the supplied tool.
Should you require repairs, the gun will have to go back to the manufacturer as most gunsmiths will only be able to carry out basic work. However, due to the clever design, there should be few problems. You will be well supported by the importer GMK – also responsible for Beretta in the UK – who will look after you well and provide good warranties. This new Benelli certainly looks like a gun for the 21st century.
Light, extremely well balanced and excellent handling characteristics