Always the innovator, in the Benelli 828U 12-bore the company has produced an over-and-under like no other. Roger Glover is impressed
With this series of guns, Benelli has cast aside convention. A newcomer to over-and-under guns, the company has previously been more concerned with the manufacture of semi-automatic shotguns, an area where it also broke the mould with its patented inertia drive system.
Benelli’s semi-autos don’t use the pressure of the charge in the barrel to cycle the bolt (gas operation), nor do they use the rearwards force on the bolt head (blowback). Instead the company was even more forward-thinking and recognised that, once fired, the whole gun is in recoil until the shooter recovers and regains position, and that this imparted recoil lends itself to some clever use of physics.
The bolt remains in battery until fairly late in the cycle, so all the combustion pressure is put into the shot. Once the gun slows at the end of recoil, inertia in the bolt unlatches it from the barrel and cycles to eject the spent case, cock the ring pin and chamber a fresh cartridge. All pretty much outside the envelope of conventional thinking — and it is that thinking that carries over to the design of the 828U, which is a very clever gun.
First impressions of the Benelli 828U 12-bore
On the face of it, this is an over-and-under like any other. If no one told you, you would pick it up and be able to shoot it as you would an ordinary one. But it is different — very different. It is a top-lever-opening gun like most others, but the top-lever cocks the hammers as well as opening the gun and resetting the safety catch. By cocking the gun this way, the movement of opening the barrels is a lot easier because you are not then cocking the gun in that same motion, yet there is no perceivable extra force required on the top lever.
This can definitely be classed as a light gun, especially for a 30in-barrelled model. By deleting the side ribs, using a carbon-fibre top rib and an alloy action, it comes in at 6lb 13óoz. In comparison with another gun without side ribs, the Laurona 85 Super Game, the Benelli 828U is a whole 10 per cent lighter. The aluminium action and carbon-fibre top rib really do make that much difference. That is what 30 years of technical advances can do.
A new era of gun design
Using some shrewd design elements, Benelli has made an aluminium action work very well indeed. The trunnions are of steel, dovetailed into the action and are replaceable. The really clever part comes in the way that the barrels are closed at the breech. It uses a completely new concept and a departure from the normal standing breech. An entire new era of gun design begins right here. The breech is no longer the standing face of the action; it is now a floating plate that engages opposing lugs with the barrels. Upon closing the gun, the breech-plate is presented to the barrels under spring pressure: as the barrels close through their arc the plate engages the lugs and comes to the vertical position, lining the hammers up with the strikers. Unusually for an over-and-under, the strikers are aligned with the axis of the bore rather than at angles to it, giving a cleaner, more direct strike of the primer.
The next development is in the way the ejectors are set to eject, or simply extract if a barrel has not been fired. Most guns use either a link from the hammer or the actual cocking mechanism to set the ejector once a given barrel has fired. Not so on the Benelli. The designers have saved weight and complexity again and taken a fresh look at the way the ejectors are signalled to eject or not.
When a cartridge is fired, the pressure within slams the case tight against the chamber wall to produce a gas seal. Once the pressure reduces, the cartridge shrinks back to a loose t to allow extraction. The 828U uses this pressure pulse to push a plunger in the wall of each chamber to set the ejector. The plungers don’t interfere with chambering the cartridge as they are flush-fitted, and in fact have a very short working stroke. You can just see a witness (mark) on the cartridge case where it has moved the plunger. When you break the gun open, depending on whether an ejector has been set or not, steel lugs above the trunnions trip the ejector to discharge the spent case or just extract an un red cartridge in the same manner as most other guns. Same objective achieved, but through different methods.
Another carry-over from Benelli’s semi-autos is the ability to change stock length, drop and cast to suit your requirements. You do this by changing shims between the butt and the action. This is a huge advantage. Few people ever get a gun fitted, yet with this system you have 20 options for both right-handers and left-handers. There is no longer a reason for not having the gun fit correctly, so you need to come up with another excuse if you missed your bird.
Rather than chequered grips, the 828U has fish scales, which offer strong purchase on those cold, wet days when a fine chequer could give a questionable hold on a gun. Wood t and nish are of a very good standard throughout with a lovely grain pattern and coloration, topped by a solid oil finish to keep out the worst weather.
I had the 28in version of this gun out on test as soon as it became available around 18 months ago. I liked it then as I do now, and the only shortfall for me was the two lengths of barrel then available, the 26in and 28in. Though that gun performed well, I found it exceptionally quick to change swing direction — a bonus on the blustery day I used it when clays were lifting on the wind. My shooting is divided between shotguns and rifles and I often need a reminder to keep the gun moving and not lock on the target. The extra barrel length of the 30in model certainly helps with this, yet the overall balance changes little if any.
Trigger pulls are crisp and even on this gun, with a slight tendency for the second to be heavier. Once you set the stock up, point of aim and shot fall naturally on target. Even this 30in version will change direction quickly if you want it to, yet it carries a swing well too. Cartridge strikes were consistently strong and central, more reminiscent of a semi-auto than an over-and-under. Ejection also performed well, even throwing 3in cases well clear.
The 828U is well presented in an ABS case along with three alternative chokes, choke key, manual, gun oil and a tool to remove the trigger group. It is a gun of new technologies but sound principles, engineered for the 21st century, yet with traditional styling. Now with a selection of three barrel lengths and two action finishes, there is an 828U to suit most tastes.
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Definitely worth a look