The Benelli SuperNova 12-bore is an advanced, aesthetically idiosyncratic pump-action shotgun built for a working life, says Lewis Potter
The first and only pump-action shotgun I ever owned, around 40 years ago, was an 1987 Winchester, something of a famous model in the world of pump actions. I acquired it out of technical interest and found it to be reliable but remarkably noisy in operation; shooting chums claimed the manual cycling of the action could be heard over a field away. This old Winchester, with its big semi- exposed hammer, was very much a tool to do a job and it came to mind the other day when the Benelli SuperNova 12-bore arrived for testing — not because of any similarity but perversely because the Benelli seemed so different.
A pump-action still operates on the same basic principle whether made last week or more than 100 years ago: a shotgun where the fore-end is moved back and forth to cycle the action producing a distinctive metallic ker-chuff sound on opening and closing. In the years after the 1987 Winchester was made, most pump-actions became the cheap alternative magazine shotgun. Benelli, it seems, has moved it more upmarket and adopted a particularly modern look.
First impressions of the Benelli SuperNova 12-bore
First impressions were of a shotgun that had transcended its basic function to appear almost an object of art, if, perhaps, a dark art form. The styling, from my point of view, is attractive, partly because it is so “no holds barred” extravagant, but also because it turns out to be practical and functional.
The ribbed and fluted fore-end provides an excellent grip, as does the similarly ribbed and fairly sharply curved pistol grip, while the synthetic material has a little bit of give so it does not feel too hard. As for the butt-pad, it is really soft but at the same time does not drag on the shoulder, and the butt stock design, with its soft chevron inserts, follows Benelli’s ComforTech design.
Apart from its gothic looks, the overall impression of the Benelli SuperNova 12-bore is one of a rather long gun and this example, even with a nominal 28in barrel, measures a total of 50in, or to put that another way, nearly 5in longer than an over-and-under of similar barrel length. The length of travel on the fore-end is just under 41/2in, so add in the length of the bolt and the receiver has to be a substantial piece of work.
The balance point is at the front of the receiver and with a weight on my scales of just about 8lb it is pointable, if a little deliberate in handling.
One of the most striking features is the trigger- guard; it’s angular in form with ample room for a gloved finger. Very wide and tapered at the front, it leads directly to the loading well in the base of the receiver and from there to the magazine. As an aid to fumble-free loading on something like a darkened foreshore it is an excellent idea.
Built into the Benelli SuperNova 12-bore’s fore-end is a large stippled button which the maker describes as a “push- button shell-stop” and this acts as a type of magazine cut-off. This means a cartridge can be extracted from the chamber and changed for a different load without feeding another already in the magazine. The operation is quite simple — push in the bolt release lever situated in the trigger-guard to open the bolt, press on the fore-end button and, as the breech opens fully, a lock clicks into place preventing the release of a cartridge from the magazine. Change the cartridge, press in the bolt release and close the action — all very quick.
Lock-up of the bolt is via a pair of lugs on the semi-rotary bolt head. That is both simple and effective. As for the short protruding round bar on the magazine cap, that is supposed to be an aid to field stripping to help remove the pins securing the trigger mechanism. Except in its military format, I cannot see it being used. However, the built-in sling fittings are a good idea for a gun of this sort, allowing hands-free carrying whether out on the salt marsh or occupied carrying feed buckets.
One thing of technical interest that is not obvious is that the receiver is a steel skeleton framework overlaid with what could be described in layman’s terms as a sophisticated form of fibreglass, or in manufacturer’s language as injection-moulded technopolymer reinforced with glass fibre!
This Benelli SuperNova 12-bore is made to handle cartridges from 23/4in (70mm) to 31/2in (89mm) and one of the good things about a pump action is that it will reliably feed cartridges of different power and length due to cycling only being dependent on “arm power”. Interestingly, the ejection port is only 31/8in long but will throw out the longer cartridges without hesitation.
I am not the slickest user of a pump-action and to start with I usually have to think about the next shot and remember to pump that fore- end. The Benelli SuperNova 12-bore turned out to be easy to adapt to, partly because it unlocks readily with that semi-rotary bolt head aided by the twin guide rails which produce a smooth action. Due to the length of travel of the fore-end, which is the same whatever length of cartridge is in use, it is not a wrist-flicking movement but starts right from the elbow.
A variety of cartridges were fed through this gun including Lyalvale Express Super Comp and Super Game, both 23/4in cartridges. Another of the same length was Eley VIP Steel plus Eley Alphamax+ 3in (76mm) magnum. I did not have any 31/2in (89mm) cartridges in stock but, having a stiff shoulder, was not too unhappy at forgoing that pleasure.
The trigger-pull, in common with most pump-action shotguns, is fairly long but on this Benelli SuperNova 12-bore it proved to be quite smooth and something one could certainly live with. The push button “shell stop” worked faultlessly in its role as a magazine cut-off and as for the ejection of empty cases, it was a treat to see them cleanly thrown to one side. Point of aim was with the target centre just on the tip of the foresight bead and the three chokes provided with this gun of improved, half and three- quarter choke, all threw acceptable patterns with any of the cartridges used.
How does the Benelli SuperNova 12-bore measure up?
Construction: Technically interesting and well made.
Handling: A bit deliberate, but a shorter barrel is available for quicker movement.
Finish: A good no-frills finish that appears to be quite durable.
Fit: Spacers are supplied to get a good fit.
Value: Good value for what is an upmarket pump-action.
The technical aspects of the Benelli SuperNova 12-bore are probably not of great interest to the user; it is results that count. However, it is the technology that has gone into this pump-action shotgun that has a direct bearing on both durability and performance. I feel this gun is a cut above what we have come to expect in the past from pump-actions. Add into that the daring styling coupled with some very practical features and overall it is quite
a package at a reasonable price.