There is a video clip on the Internet which is from the Benelli promotional DVD. It features an American, Tom Knapp, doing some rather unorthodox clay shooting. He throws multiple clays off one arm while holding the shotgun ready in the other hand, and then blasts them out of the sky or, in some cases, when they are nearly on the ground.
Now, barring the unlikely possibility of using exploding clays, it makes Tom Knapp quite brilliant and the highlight of the film has to be when he hits a clay and then flicks the gun around to shoot the ejected cartridge case. The action is fast and furious, the gun a Benelli semi-automatic. We know this because the shooter takes every opportunity to mention it and there is a huge banner proclaiming the name. It is a visually exciting piece of video, the presentation is perhaps a little brash, but one cannot deny it is a heck of an advertisement for Benelli and, at the very least, whets the curiosity.
A break from the norm
It certainly interested me enough to obtain a Benelli Legacy for testing ? finding a semi-auto that is a bit different is not an easy job these days. The first novelty is the carrying case, which is made in a tapered shape. Handy and easy to carry, it is, due to its rounded ends, a job to prop up without it slipping and ending up flat on the ground. The gun is nestled inside, with four spare chokes and a key, oil bottle, stock spacers and among the paperwork a spare parts list, as well as one of the most comprehensive owner?s manuals I have ever come across. Written in eight languages, it covers everything from operating principles, safety and choke selection to, for the more adventurous owner, a complete strip down.
A maintenance strip down is not as complicated as it sounds, particularly as this gun is comparatively simple. Benelli makes a virtue of simplicity, which is something to be applauded in any gun, especially as the usually complex ?machine tool? type of operation of a self-loader is best if uncomplicated. So what makes it not only simple but different? Part of the answer lies with the inertia operation, which has less working and moving parts than a gas-operated type or even the older barrel recoil designs. What the latter had (with suitable maintenance) was a rugged reliability, while the gas-operated types became known for lighter recoil and speed of operation. It would be interesting to see how the Benelli compared.
The model on test had strikingly attractive styling, the long receiver (action body) with its silvered finish is a nice contrast to the blued-steel of the action cover and barrel, all set off by the reddish-brown walnut stock and fore-end. The sweep of the trigger-guard follows a distinctive modernistic shape, as does the gold-coloured trigger.
Style is one thing, handling another, but here, too, the Legacy does not disappoint. At around 7lb, it is light, fast-handling and very pointable for a gun of this type. Complementing this is the good range of stock spacers provided so the cast, drop and, to a certain extent, the length of pull can be tailored to the user?s own requirements ? though for me it was still a little short.
Beautifully finished barrels
There is a choice of barrel lengths, the gun on test having a 28in tube which, married to the long receiver, makes for a fairly lengthy package. Chambered for 2¾in or 3in cartridges, it is exceptionally well finished both in the chromium-lined bore and externally. The ventilated top rib is laid true, neatly matted and fitted with a tiny centre bead and suitably modest red foresight, though a brass bead would be a nice option.
A total of five nicely plated screw-in chokes are provided, which Benelli markets as its ?Criochoke?. Each one is notch-marked and identified by asterisks. So, for example, four notches at the end will also be identified on the side with four asterisks ? as well as whether or not it is suitable for steel shot. The size range provided covers full choke, improved modified, modified, improved cylinder and skeet. Using the British system of measurements, this equates to the actual bore size of 0.721in as full choke, three-quarters, open half, improved and full open (more open than true cylinder).
Strict instructions in the manual explain the need to insert the chokes the correct way around. Though I did not find it possible to put them in backwards it is, nonetheless, a sensible idea. I liked the sturdy choke key, which has a threaded section at one end, formed especially for cleaning out the internal thread in the barrel. This bears the legend Warning, remove before firing ? a good point if you want to avoid a very hairy and potentially dangerous moment, as well as a ruined barrel!
A pretty piece of wood
While there are models based on this action that have synthetic stocks, the Legacy sports walnut woodwork, which looked and smelled like American black walnut. The finish is a silky varnish through which the grain shows well, the butt exhibiting a good amount of blaze patterning. The fore-end, as is appropriate for a slim and quite complex shape, has straighter grain, but it is still a pretty piece of wood.
In spite of its slim appearance, the fore-end provides a comfortable feel, with plenty of length to accommodate your preferred hand position. At the same time, the curved pistol grip provides a positive hold, seeming much more of a handful, even though the actual dimensions belie this.
Laser-cut chequering is neatly done, the patterns clean and practical without being flashy. From the well-shaped fore-end cap, which holds everything together, to the classic plain black butt-pad, everything seems to have been thought out not simply for looks, but for practicality.
Easy on the eye
The one non-practical item that is always welcome is some decorative work around the action. The Benelli?s long receiver gives plenty of scope for this, in an interesting combination of banners, floral work and two game scenes. The brushed finish produces a pleasing matted effect and the sculpted shape, resulting in a series of panels, is easy on the eye while effectively disguising the fact that this is actually quite a large action.
Out in the field, the opportunity was taken to intercept a few crows on a well-known flightline. They proved unco-operative, but the few shots taken proved that the gun could be fired as quick as the trigger-finger worked, so there were no qualms about its fast-firing capability. The one thing that did take a bit of getting used to was depressing the cartridge drop-lever located to the front right of the trigger-guard to lock the bolt back for reloading. On most self-loaders this is an automatic function when the magazine is empty, but the Benelli method is not a problem once you get used to it.
Testing on the pattern plate showed respectable patterns with the cartridges I was using and ejection proved very positive. There is also something comforting about knowing that the dual-lug bolt-head is located in the rear of the barrel when everything is locked shut. Of course for the legally restricted UK market the magazine is crimped, but full-capacity magazines are available for customers who want one on a firearms certificate, usually for vermin control.
The Benelli Legacy passed all my tests, though there is a small cautionary section in the handbook recommending cartridges giving a reasonable amount of recoil to cycle the action. With the mixed bag of 2¾in cartridges I used, it performed without a hitch.
The general consensus was that this is a stylish gun, delightfully simple in operation, easy to handle and which does everything required of it. As for hitting nine clays thrown at the same time by hand, that might take more than a little practice, but you certainly wouldn?t be able to blame the gun for not managing it.
Shot Patterns: 3 / 5
Reliability: 5 / 5
Handling: 3 / 5
Trigger: 3 / 5
Finish: 3.5 / 5
Stock: 3 / 5
Value: 3 / 5
Price when tested:
Contact: GMK Ltd on 01489 587500 or visit GMK?s website