Benelli Super Vinci magnum.
It is little more than a century since the first successful semi-automatic shotgun came on to the market.
For years they were slow to catch on in the UK. In both recoil and gas-operated designs, it seemed they were just not for us.
Often dismissed as unsporting, what really concerned a lot of shooters, even for a knockabout gun, was their apparent complexity.
It was more like an automatic machine, feeding and cycling cartridges with a strange mechanism clattering away in the dark recesses of the receiver.
If comparatively simple and well-tried semi-autos caused confusion, what on earth would those old gunsmiths now think of the Benelli Super Vinci?
Here is a case where modern mass production methods and materials come together with modular assembly and lines and styling that, at first sight, give it an almost brooding, Vaderesque appearance.
The surprises start with a long rectangular section gun case with scalloped sides ? modern styling meets Art Deco ? and finding a shotgun inside in three quite large pieces. Fortunately, there is a quick-assembly guide also inside with excellent pictures.
Some of the language is as futuristic as the gun, such as quadrafit buttstock module.
Still, it is actually all fairly idiot-proof and assembly can, with just a little practice, be achieved in barely half a minute.
The component parts lock into each other with a remarkable ease and precision that reflects well on the overall design and good quality of manufacture.
Once assembled, the lines of the Super Vinci can be fully appreciated.
If you do not like semi-autos this gun will probably confi rm all your worst prejudices.
However, approached with an open mind one has to conclude that it is at least rather different. I find it visually quite striking.
The first handling impressions are of an unusually long but seemingly light gun. The barrel on this test gun is only 28in, yet with its slim, delicate ventilated top rib it looks longer.
Of course, the receiver adds much to the overall dimensions of a semi-auto and on this Benelli it is a good 9in.
Yet it balances well, although a bit further forward than you would expect with a side-by-side.
Interestingly it is the balance and handling characteristics that give the impression of lightness as it tips the scales at around 7.1⁄2lb; not bad at all for a shotgun of its type, even if no bantamweight.
Ergonomically it is brilliant: the swooping shape of the fore-end fits very comfortably in the forward hand and the steeply curved pistol grip, allied to the trigger pulling back at an angle, feels just right.
As for the soft, rubbery texture of the stock and fore-end, and ribbing in place of chequering, this suits the style of the Super Vinci and is eminently practical.
The instruction book waxes lyrical about inertial function, oscillating bolt, innovative technical solutions and the shotgun?s structural architecture.
Do not be too taken in by this, as technically the operation of the Super Vinci follows the format of other Benelli semi-autos ? in that it is inertia operated with a semi-rotary bolt head that locks the breech shut.
This is a design that has a reputation for very fast cycling and modest recoil and which does away with the need for a gas-operated piston and its attendant maintenance.
At the same time, it is far quicker and quieter than the older recoil-operated types.
However, like those, reliability can be affected by the cartridge loads used and, if a bit too much on the light side, the action may not cycle correctly. With the typical loads used in this gun it should not be a problem; magnums, and especially the 3.1⁄2in version, ensure very positive operation.
Five chokes are supplied as standard, ranging from cylinder to full: very much the standard package one has come to expect.
As a mechanical size measurement, for the amount of choke they matched the chrome bore barrel almost exactly; and each is marked with their suitability for use with steel shot by the simple expedient of making them either ?steel shot OK? or ?no steel shot? ? a simple, easy-to-understand system. What it comes down to in practice is nothing tighter than half-choke when using steel shot.
The shotgun comes in three pieces, though assembly is very simple.
For maintenance, it can quite easily be stripped down further.
One of the useful features of this gun is a set of spacers that fit at the head of the stock to give some adjustment for drop and cast.
With the quadrafit butt stock, changing spacers is easy as the locking and unlocking to remove it is actually achieved by an interrupted thread, similar in some respects to the breech-locking mechanism of big artillery pieces.
With everything set up it was time to flinch with big loads ? except this turned out not to be the case at all, as the Super Vinci is an absolute pussycat.
True, there is a fair amount of muzzle lift under heavy loads; however, the combination of inertia operation, good balance and well-shaped stock and fore-end, aided also by a super-soft butt pad, meant it was really pleasant.
The trigger pull is short with a little bit of creep, but still very good for a semi-auto and snapping off at just under 5.1⁄2lb.
As for the cross-bolt trigger-lock safety, this is a very practical size ? it is short in operation and must qualify as one of the best of its type.
One has to get used to the fact that the bolt does not lock back, if the gun is unfired, without depressing an auxiliary lock fitted just in front of the trigger guard and known as a cartridge drop lever ? not to be confused with the cartridge stop catch that releases the bolt.
Testing also revealed a marked tendency to shoot high with the steel shot loads used.
This was even found to be the case when taking careful and deliberate aim and may have been affected by muzzle flip under recoil.
If so, this would more likely be due to the characteristic of the cartridge rather than just the load, as the Eley lead magnum loads used were heavier than the Remington steel shot loads.
The Benelli Super Vinci is a daring design that actually works very well and makes an ergonomically good, fast-handling gun.
It incorporates lots of novel features and the build quality, for a semi-auto, is excellent.
It might not appeal to the traditionalist, but for anyone wanting the latest generation of semi-automatic this has to be it.
Benelli Super Vinci magnum shotgun