Testfire by Gary Girvan
Make & Model:
Benelli 828U Silver: o/u lightweight game shotgun
12 gauge only
28-inch, multi choke. Chromed bore, 18.4mm diameter. 26-in also available
Ribs & Sights
7mm ventilated carbon-fibre top rib. No side ribs. Single small red fibre-optic bead at muzzle
Aluminium alloy with nickel silver finish
Single selective. Detachable trigger group
Automatic, mounted on top tang, incorporates barrel selector
Adjustable left or right with 3 or 6mm cast at toe
Length of Pull:
375mm (14 ¾-in)
Drop at heal
adjustable from 42.5mm – 65mm in 2.5mm increments
ABS case, manual and parts list, oil bottle, shim kit, 5 choke tubes and wrench, trigger guard assembly tool.
Silver: $5999; Black: $4799
Beretta New Zealand Ltd
Reviewed by Gary Girvan
A Radical New-Look Over/Under Game Gun
Although Benelli have been manufacturing shotguns only since 1967, in that short time they have revolutionised the design of autoloading shotguns. They introduced the inertia-driven concept to autoloaders. The popularity in this country of models like the M2, the Vinci and the Super Black Eagle is evidence of their success.
Their M4 gas-operated auto, which has become the standard military shotgun for many countries, incorporated some radical new concepts. So it was not unexpected that when this company’s creative designers turned their attention to developing an over/under, the result would incorporate some innovative new ideas.
Their first over/under, the 828U, is designed specifically as a lightweight 12-gauge field gun with an aluminium alloy action body. Such a concept is not an unusual one. Lightweight over/unders are very popular, especially in Europe, and most manufacturers’ catalogues will feature at least one such model. But none of them will resemble the 828U. In typically Benelli fashion, their new shotgun is radically different, combining technical innovation with a very distinctive styling. At present, the 828U is offered in two different finishes. The standard gun has a black anodised receiver; Rod & Rifles testfire gun, a more expensive version, has a nickel silver receiver and upgraded wood.
Our testfire 828U had a very eye-catching appearance which caused comment from everyone who saw it. It is not like any other o/u you have seen before. The most immediately striking aspect is the length of its alloy action body. It’s as long as the receiver on an autoloader and its length is accentuated by the bright nickel silver finish with its distinctive style of decoration. Sections of bright finish contrast with curving panels of matt silver. The top panels feature vine and leaf decoration; the bottom panels are given a “fish scale” pattern which is also laser-cut onto the gripping surfaces of the wood instead of conventional chequering. It’s a striking example of what can be achieved with computer and laser technology.
The gun was stocked in a well-figured superior grade of walnut. The pistol grip was well contoured, slim and with an open radius that provided a comfortable grip. Shooting comfort was enhanced by Benelli’s Progressive Comfort recoil pad which compresses to spread the force of the recoil. It is supplemented by a soft black polymer insert let into the comb to protect the cheek. This insert is interchangeable so that different heights of comb will probably be available in the near future. The fore-end had an unusual scalloped appearance at its front where the Anson-style fore-end release is located.
Like me, most shooters who saw and handled the 828U Sliver were impressed by its presentation. However, if its styling is too exuberant for your taste, the standard model with its black anodized receiver is much more subdued in appearance, and with the added bonus of being $1,200 less expensive.
Manufactured by Beretta, the 828’s 28-inch barrels are quality items. Cryogenically treated, and with chromed bores, the barrels are highly polished and blued. Five interchangeable choke tubes are provided: Cylinder, Imp-cyl, Modified, Imp-mod, and Full. Benelli have resisted the current trend for over-bored barrels, instead opting for the standard continental bore diameter of 18.4mm – a move that will suit those who are obliged to use fibre wads for their game shooting.
To save weight, there are no side ribs and the ventilated top rib, 7mm wide, is of carbon fibre with a small red sighting bead at the muzzle end. This rib is interchangeable which suggests that other styles of rib might be offered in future.
Benelli’s design team have taken a long hard look at traditional o/u design and have come up with many technical innovations so that the 828U is as radical on the inside as it is in its outward appearance.
Most double guns with aluminium alloy frames have some sort of reinforcing strip of steel or titanium set into the face of the standing breech to protect it from the stresses of firing. This Benelli takes a very different approach. A free-floating steel locking plate replaces the conventional standing breech. The barrels lock onto this at two places when the gun is closed to provide steel-on-steel strength for the aluminium receiver. This locking plate contains the spring-loaded firing pins. Steel inserts are set into the receiver in crucial areas of stress such as the replaceable hinge stubs so that the whole assembly combines the lightness of aluminium with the strength of steel. This locking plate is one of the reasons that the receiver is so long.
The other reason is that the back of the receiver is designed to accommodate shims that adjust the height and cast of the stock. We are used to having this feature on autoloaders, but to my knowledge, this is the first time that it has been offered on a double gun. And it’s not just a gesture; it’s a very strong point. The shim kit provides 10 different drop-at heel- dimensions from 42.5mm to 65mm in increments of 2.5mm.Cast for left or right handers is offered with a choice of 3 or 6mm cast at toe. This remarkable degree of adjustment offers the shooter a real opportunity to tailor the stock to individual requirements and eliminates the need in most cases to have the stock bent to fit. I understand that recoil pads of different thicknesses will become available to adjust the length of pull which, on the testfire gun, was 375mm – 14 ¾ inches.
The trigger group is removable – a feature normally found only on much more expensive shotguns. Once you get the knack of it using the tool supplied, it’s a simple operation and very useful if you have to give the gun a thorough clean after having been caught in a downpour, for example. The trigger is inertia set, the recoil of the first shot setting the sear for the second. Unusually, the strikers are set by the top lever rather than by cocking rods set into the action floor and this accounts for the way in which this curved lever sits well to the left of the centre line when the action is closed.
To achieve fast lock times, the firing pins located in the locking plate are activated by linear strikers rather than the more usual pivoting hammers. Appropriately for a field gun, the safety is automatic. If this does not suit, the safety can easily be converted to manual by any competent gunsmith simply by removing a spring clip located near the top of the trigger group. The safety button itself is a large one, wide and flat, and easy to operate. It also incorporates the barrel selector.
Even the ejection system is a brand new one. The ejectors are powered by long external springs mounted between the barrels. The chamber of each barrel has a small piston which protrudes very slightly into the chamber. When the barrel is fired, the cartridge case expands and depresses this piston which activates the ejector when the gun is opened. Our tests showed that this system is a very powerful one and worked consistently, no matter how weak or powerful the shell was.
This shotgun seems to me to be ideally suited for its intended purpose as an upland game gun and is a superb example of this specialised type of gun. Weighing only 6 ½ pounds, it’s a true lightweight which would be very comfortable to carry over a long day’s hunt. Although I was able to test it only on the range, I was able to assess its handling qualities on a wide range of targets designed to simulate field situations. I enjoyed its fast-handling quality. The point of balance is right on the trunnions so that its balance lies between the hands and the gun responds admirably to quick driven targets, yet it has enough weight out front to handle longer crossing targets with aplomb.
The price you pay for light weight of course is increased recoil. That’s inevitable. Benelli’s recoil-reducing systems go some way towards softening the felt effects of recoil, but they are still noticeable. After firing 50 rounds of 28-gram target ammunition at a Sporting Clays event, I was beginning to feel the cumulative effects of recoil and switched back to my heavier competition gun. On a day’s pheasant hunting where you don’t expect to fire many shots, this is not an issue. Although this Benelli is not designed for sustained firing of heavy loads, in an effort to simulate feral pigeon shooting, I fired 25 rounds of RC’s game load, 32 grams #6 lead, over the space of 30 minutes. I was certainly aware of the recoil but found the experience manageable, especially considering that in the heat of real action as opposed to simulated field, you are less aware of the effects of recoil. But although the 828U is chambered for 3-inch shells, I wasn’t tempted to put any high-velocity magnum steel loads through it.
In judging this shotgun, you have to keep in mind that it is not designed to be an all-purpose gun. It is not intended for clay target competition nor for serious waterfowling. At a pinch it could serve in these roles if you were prepared to tolerate the recoil. But as an upland game gun it excels. I would happily adopt this as my pheasant gun. Weighing less than my current 20 gauge, it combines the handling qualities of a 20 with the ballistic superiority of a 12.
This is not an inexpensive shotgun, but the quality of its design and manufacture justify the price. It comes with a full range of accessories including a very well-designed ABS carry case with compartments for all accessories, clips for the choke tubes and even a space for the handbook. This handbook is a model of its type. It gives detailed instructions for all procedures and includes a handy exploded diagram and list of parts
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