Casting aside convention, this semi-auto specialist has turned its hand to making a light and adjustable over-and-under, says Matt Hunt
The Benelli 20-bore 828U Field really is blue-sky thinking in its design. The established, reliable and respected systems of designing lock, stock and barrel have been shelved and the designers at Benelli have approached the challenges of gunmaking in a totally different way.
The elephant in the room is why and for what purpose and, to be honest, I am unable to answer this. First, the gun is very light at 5.5lb. The weight reduction is achieved through the action not being a structural part of the design; this has been made possible by using an innovative locking breech that floats in the action body and locks under the barrel lugs. The barrels themselves are monobloc in construction and use the exceptionally strong, Power Bore Crio steel. Weight has been reduced further by having a floating mid rib and a carbon-fibre top rib.
The overall stock shape is good and due to its clever design in the way the stock heads up on to the action, the gun is truly ambidextrous. A system of shims can be used to alter cast and drop in the same way as you can on a semi-auto. More than 40 different measurements can be achieved in this way. The grip is a full pistol grip with a comfortable radius, although those with larger hands may find it too short.
One of the unique selling points of the 828U is the recoil system fitted into the stock. Branded as Progressive Comfort, the recoil pad is attached to a system of polymer interlocking buffers to reduce recoil across a range of different cartridge sizes.
The overall styling and finishing are superb and I really like the sleek contemporary lines of the gun. The blacking of the barrels is a deep glossy black that looks superbly durable. The carbon rib is of superb quality and gives a great sight plane down the barrel.
The silver action is striking, with part oak leaf scroll laser engraving and a fish-scale pattern that runs seamlessly into the chequering of the grip, which is in the same pattern. The wood finish is a satin oil-type that is very hard and will offer good protection from the elements.
Need to know
- Manufacturer Benelli
- Model 828U Field Silver
- Calibre 20-bore
- Barrels 30in
- Chamber 3in (76mm)
- Chokes CB interchangeable choke system
- Rib Raised vented carbon-fibre top rib with floating mid rib
- Grip Full pistol
- Weight 5lb 9oz
- Importer GMK, 01489 579999
- Price £2,900
From the moment I operated the top-lever, I realised that the 828U was a bit different. In a strange way, it felt like a semi-automatic in operation. The top-lever was stiff, as this recocks the mechanism, and due to the floating breech, the opening was vague and needed to be worked at when closed, giving an unpleasing clunk that sounded like a semi-auto closing.
The safety and barrel selector are situated on the top strap. Little purchase is available in the safety and moving it to the firing position was a struggle. The gun mounted consistently and comfortably. The stock measurements, design of grip, shape of fore-end and how the measurements can be adjusted were high points. The shooting experience was good, too, with the balance of the gun biased to the stock. On a lighter gun, this should make it fast and whippy. However, the gun was stable and easy to control, even on longer targets.
Loading and unloading was simple and the ejection was faultless. The system is based on sprung coil springs but tripped by the expansion of the fired cartridge case in the breech. This means there is a small trip on the inside of the chamber. It’s a fascinating concept and highlights the innovative thinking of the designers.
In summary, the Benelli 828U Field shoots beautifully, looks superb and is easily the most flexible gun on the market in terms of fit. On the negative side, it closes like a car door, is unnecessarily light and at nearly £3,000 is pretty expensive. It might suit wealthy rough shooters, but I don’t see a big market for this gun in the UK.
- Action and barrels: Exceptional finish but overly complicated 16/20
- Handling: For a light gun, it is very stable to shoot’ 18/20
- Trigger: Trigger-pulls are adequate and crisp 16/20
- Stock: The highlight; clever tech and good design 18/20
- Value: Pricey compared with similar guns 10/20
- Overall score: A light gun with a hefty price tag 78/100