Benelli Beccaccia shotgun: Benelli is a gunmaking company that specialise only in semi-auto and pump action guns and pursues a policy of continual innovation, improvement and product development.
If you wanted proof of what this approach means to the models they build then you only need to look at the Beccaccia, an interetsing gun to roll off Benelli’s design desk and production line.
It’s certainly different to a lot of recoil operated semi-autos already on the market.
I don’t know to what degree the Beccaccia (woodcock) has inspired in the design of this gun but it is certainly very light, compact and fast handling, much like the bird itself.
The barrel is about the same length as a woodcock’s beak – but that is more of an observation than a criticism.
Well designed reload system
The first good thing to note about the ‘woodcock’ is that it utilises the inertia bolt system and rotating bolt head which is a hallmark of every Benelli semi-auto. In fact the bolt arrangement is the working heart of a Benelli. When the trigger is pulled the hammer falls onto the back of the striker, firing the cartridge as it hits the primer. At this point the hammer detaches the magazine stop allowing a fresh cartridge to be released so that it sits under the bolt. At this stage the bolt is still in the forward position.
Full detonation of the cartridge creates a backward force that causes the rotating head of the bolt to lock up completely in its barrel recess. In other words, when the gun as a whole starts moving back under recoil, the bolt moves forward to counter it. In effect the bolt stays still as the rest of the gun pushes rearward around it, a movement that causes a large spring within the bolt to compress and store energy.
When the force of the fired cartridge starts to dissipate the energy within the bolt spring takes over and throws the bolt backwards, so releasing the rotating bolt head and ejecting the fired case. The second cartridge is immediately brought up by the carrier and, as the bolt comes forward again, it is pushed forward and fed into the chamber.
The whole re-loading operation is completed in milliseconds, faster than the blinking of an eye.
This may sound a little complicated, but in terms of physics it is really simple – the net effect is that we now have a semi-auto shotgun with fewer moving parts, a good omen where long-term reliability and performance is concerned. With no gas flying about under the fore-end the woodwork can be made a whole lot slimmer and there is far less muck and powder residue to clog the mechanism so there is less need for daily cleaning.
The trigger group follows the same design as other models in the Benelli semi-auto range but this time it is contained within a polymer trigger block which, again, gives an element of weight saving.
Versatile little shooter
The Woodcock is made only in 12-bore but it is a very flexible and versatile gun in that it has been designed to work with a huge range of cartridges from 28gram right up to a whopping 56gram (2oz) load. Whether you would want to fire a lot of heavy magnum cartridges of this size through such a light gun is debatable, but the gun has been chambered and proofed to cope with them.
In the past Benelli autos have been largely designed to re-cycle 2.3/4in (70mm) or longer cartridges, but the Woodcock should work with 65mm cases due, in part, to its new spring loaded ejector mechanism.
Crisp trigger pulls and an easy maintenance pull-out trigger plate assembly are key features of this shotgun.
The noticeable thing about this gun when you pick it up, is just how light it is. On my scale it tips in at around 6.1/4lb which puts it firmly into 20-bore territory where overall weight is concerned. As a result of this the gun is incredibly fast handling, and it points like a dream too.
Some shooters might argue that the 24in barrel is too short for general shooting but in fact this lack of length is not immediately apparent. When I first picked it up I had to measure the gun because at first glance I thought it was nearer to 26in. This isn’t unusual because semi-autos of whatever make can be deceptive due to the receiver length adding enormously to the overall length of the gun.
With the Woodcock there is a further deception in that the magazine is made deliberately short to minimise weight. It’s a neat design trick because this short magazine and shorter barrel complement one another in how the gun looks, and how it manages to deceive the eye.
The top rib is made from carbon fibre which means it can’t be permanently fixed to the barrel thereby offering a certain element of float should the tube get excessively hot after firing a lot of cartridges in quick succession. The top of the rib has been left plain and without any form of chequer but, being carbon, it is naturally matt coloured when cut along this plane and won’t reflect light.
The rib is finished with a neat red front sight and a small silver mid sight. In general Benelli have few equals when it comes to the finish of blacking on semi-auto barrels and actions, and the Woodcock is no exception – the quality is superb with a deep and lustrous black that can’t help but please the eye.
Benelli’s bolt and carrier feed system is lightning fast…and ultra reliable. As you can see here, the bolt release button is mounted into the side of the receiver and the magazine locking catch is handily placed alongside the trigger guard.
The same goes for the chrome plating to the breech end of the barrel and the action block. As is the fashion now, the wood on this gun has been treated to a veneer or synthetic skin to give the appearance of very high quality walnut. Benelli call this their Elegance system finish.
As with other models in the range the stock has an adjustment for drop to the comb and three shims are supplied with the gun to achieve this. From standard the middle setting is 1.1/2in at comb and 2.1/4in at heel. Overall length of pull is 14.1/4in which is a little on the short side but for field use where you are likely to have more clothing on, it is probably an advantage in the long term.
The stock shape at hand is comfortable and there is a large chequer pattern to give plenty of grip, and the same goes for the extra slim fore-end. This slimness – plus the short magazine – pays real dividends in the way the Woodcock handles because it puts it on a par with a well balanced over-under, rather than a typical ‘chunky’ semi-auto. These attributes, plus the weight savings gained through fewer mechanical parts, makes this a model well worth a second look.
Each gun is supplied in a cleverly shaped ABS carrying case and comes complete with three choke tubes – cylinder, quarter and half. These are Benelli’s own long length flush-fitting Crio chokes, which help throw exceptionally good patterns.
BARREL: 24in tube chambered for 3in cartridges and proofed for magnum cartridges. Matt coloured carbon fibre top rib.
ACTION: Inertia operated recoil action with a cleverly designed locking bolt head. A manual safety catch is situated behind the trigger and a magazine locking lever is fitted to the side of the receiver housing.
STOCK: Wood with an outer veneer fitted to give the impression of high grade walnut. Length of pull is 14.1/4in and shims are supplied for the buyer to alter the drop at comb and heel to suit.
This gun is going to cause quite a bit of excitement among pigeon shooters and wildfowlers because of its weight, balance and pointability.
Rough shooters who cover a lot of ground during the day will also be tempted.
Build quality: 8
Value for money: 8