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Shotgun Review: Benelli ETHOS Cordoba BE.S.T. Shotgun

The outstanding Benelli Cordoba shotgun is back in the lineup, this time with the company's groundbreaking BE.S.T. surface treatment.

Shotgun Review: Benelli ETHOS Cordoba BE.S.T. Shotgun

The rugged ETHOS Cordoba is designed to excel in the most punishing of hunting conditions and now comes equipped with Benelli's bulletproof BE.S.T. technology. (Photo By: Brad Fitzpatrick)

Five years ago, I spent an afternoon dove hunting with a friend and we both were shooting Benelli guns: I had my 20-gauge Montefeltro, Joe his 20-gauge Benelli Cordoba. I was impressed with my friend’s gun, and I thought it might be nice to add a Cordoba to my shotgun collection.

Years passed, and so did the Cordoba. It disappeared from Benelli’s catalog a few years ago, and I was sorry to see it go. I suspected that if I ever wanted to own one of those guns—and I very much did—I’d have to scour the used gun market waiting for some poor fool to let go of their Cordoba.

I won’t have to get my Cordoba from the used gun market though, because these guns are back in production. Today’s Cordoba guns are notably different than the gun that my friend was carrying that day. The new Cordoba model is even better than the original.

The Details

Cordoba shotguns are named for the Cordoba Province in Argentina, the center of the high-volume dove hunting universe. Hunters in Cordoba expect to fire their guns hundreds or even thousands of times a day at the millions of doves that darken the Argentine sky. Cordoba is hallowed ground for wingshooters, and it’s a proving ground for shotguns.

Unlike the previous Cordoba model, the new version is based on the ETHOS. In terms of operation, the ETHOS works the same as earlier Benelli inertia guns. There is, however, one minor but significant change to the ETHOS’ inertia system versus previous models. The ETHOS features a ball detent system which forces the bolt head to rotate into battery. This ensures that the rotating bolt head locks in place, even when the bolt is gingerly lowered into position, and prevents the “Benelli click.” The other key feature that first appeared on the ETHOS shotgun is a two-piece carrier latch and beveled loading port which makes for easier and faster loading.

Benelli EHOTS Cordoba BE.S.T. Shotgun
The ETHOS Cordoba is easy and fast to load shells into the magazine. (Photo By: Brad Fitzpatrick

The new ETHOS Cordoba receives Benelli’s BE.S.T. surface treatment which combines the properties of PVD and PECVD coatings to provide a uniform, ultra-durable treatment that can be applied at lower temperatures than traditional plasma deposition. Benelli’s engineers have been working on the process for many years, and now that they’ve got the right recipe there are no other surface treatments that can match BE.S.T. It’s extremely corrosion and abrasion resistant, it improves lubricity, and it doesn’t chip or flake. Benelli believes so strongly in this treatment that they warranty BE.S.T. parts (the barrel, receiver, etc.) for 25 years on top of the 10-year warranty that already covers the firearm.

“The Cordoba is designed to be a rugged model that can take a beating and continue to perform,” says George Thompson, Benelli’s director of product management. “At the same time, it’s built to be comfortable to shoot at high volume, hence being named after the dove capital of the world.”

All ETHOS Cordoba BE.S.T. guns come standard with a synthetic stock featuring Benelli’s Comfort Tech 3 stocks. Comfort Tech 3 utilizes chevrons inside the stock that compress when the gun is fired and act as a cushion to absorb much of the rearward recoil impact. High volume shooting means lots of trigger time. A couple hundred shells fired in a single morning can be unpleasant, and a couple thousand shots over the course of the day unbearable. Of course, not all Cordoba shotguns will end up in the dove fields of Argentina, but the Comfort Tech 3 system helps reduce recoil impact during long days on the clays course or when shooting heavy waterfowl magnums. One feature found on the original Cordoba that hasn’t made its way to the new version is GripTight, the synthetic overcoating that gave the stock a tacky surface for improved grip. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Throughout the testing and all my times shooting various Benelli guns without GripTight, I’ve never found them particularly hard to hang on to.

Benelli EHOTS Cordoba BE.S.T. Shotgun
The 28-gauge ETHOS Cordoba weighs in at just 5.4 pounds, making it an ideal gun to carry across the uplands. (Photo courtesy of Benelli USA

“The ETHOS Cordoba is built using our newest Inertia operating system which has been updated in several ways to reduce the minimum load requirement, and improve reliability,” says Thompson. “We pair this with the longer four-round magazine to increase capacity, but also intentionally to add a little weight for balance, swing, and recoil reduction. We then use barrel porting to reduce muzzle flip and allow faster follow up shots. These models represent everything that Benelli stands for: quality, performance, comfort, and technology adding up to total reliability.”

Benelli Cordoba shotguns come in 12-, 20- and 28-gauge. The 12-gauge model comes with your choice of 28 or 30-inch barrels, and both the 20- and 28-inch versions feature 28-inch pipes. All ETHOS Cordoba BE.S.T. shotguns comes with ported barrels, five extended Crio choke tubes (C, IC, M, IM, F), a Shell View window that allows you to see how many shells are in the magazine tube, and a Broadway style channeled rib with silver mid and fiber optic red front beads. Weights range from 5.4 to 7 pounds, and magazine capacity is 4+1 for the 12- and 20-gauge and 2+1 for the 28-gauge. MSRP for all four ETHOS Cordoba BE.S.T. models is $2,349.

Benelli ETHOS Cordoba BE.S.T. Specifications

  • Action Type: Inertia-operated semiauto
  • Gauge: 12-, 20-, 28- (tested)
  • Stock: Black synthetic, Comfort Tech 3 and Combtech
  • Finish: Benelli BE.S.T. surface treatment
  • Weight: 5.4 lbs. (tested).
  • Barrel Length: 28-in. ported
  • Overall Length: 49-in.
  • Capacity:4+1, 2+1 (tested)r
  • Chokes: 5 Crio (C, IC, M, IM, F) extended
  • Suggested Retail Price: $2,349
  • Website:
Benelli EHOTS Cordoba BE.S.T. Shotgun
The popular Cordoba shotgun is back and even better with greater reliability for high-volume shooters. (Photo By: Brad Fitzpatrick

At the Range

I chose to test the ETHOS Cordoba BE.S.T. in 28-gauge. At 5.4 pounds, it’s light enough for high-elevation wild bird hunts, and the balance point is centered right at the bolt handle. The 28-gauge Cordoba features a 3-inch chamber. That’s not new to this model (the original ETHOS 28-gauge handles 3-inch shells), but surprisingly, few shotgun makers have jumped on board with the concept of 3-inch 28-gauge, which is strange given the advent of ultra-dense shot material like TSS. Fiocchi makes a number of different 3-inch 28-gauge shells that will work in the Cordoba.

Breaking clay targets with the ETHOS Cordoba BE.S.T. 28-gauge is great fun. Recoil is virtually nil, even with one-ounce loads, and the muzzle barely rises while firing. After an initial strip down and cleaning/lubrication (a painless process—like its Inertia-Driven brethren, part of the ETHOS Cordoba’s charm lies in its simplicity), I fired everything from ¾-ounce target loads to one-ounce field loads through the Cordoba without problems. The revised ball-and-detent inertia design that has made its way into the ETHOS makes it virtually impossible to lower the bolt without rotating the gun into battery. “Benelli click,” be gone.

Initially, I didn’t consider the Shell View feature to be particularly practical, but after shooting this gun for awhile one becomes accustomed to rotating the gun to quickly assess how many shots are left in the mag tube. I think during the frenzy of the dove season opener, having the ability to quickly determine how many shells are in place would be a real benefit.

The ETHOS Cordoba’s trigger averaged 5.2 pounds for 10 tests, better than most of its rivals. I’m particularly fond of the gun’s shallow grip angle and the dot-textured pistol grip texturing. The stock features Benelli’s Combtech, a soft-touch comb insert that’s much gentler on the shooter’s face than traditional plastics. Combtech is a welcome addition when shooting clays and upland birds, but for high-volume shooting it’s essential. An aching cheek is one of the first injuries to sideline an Argentine dove hunter, and tired arms (ever mount a heavy 12-gauge 1,200 times a day?) and sore shoulders round out the list of reasons why many high-volume dove hunters sit out the afternoon shoot by day two or three. The 5.4-pound Benelli with Combtech and Comfort Tech 3 improves shooter comfort as the bird counter clicks away.

Oversized controls are the hottest trend in shotguns. The Benelli has a comfortable large bolt handle and bolt release but (thankfully) spares us the oversized, industrial-looking controls found on some other shotguns. The Cordoba is pleasantly simple to use when wearing gloved hands, and the oversized mag well and groove in the front of the trigger guard make it easy to load multiple shells.

The Cordoba’s soft, dense recoil pad features a rounded heel that won’t hang up on your shooting vest while mounting the gun. Benelli includes drop and cast shim kits with each of these guns, and I recommend taking the time to ensure that you have a proper fit. The outsized operator’s manual offers clear instruction on how to change drop and cast (in no fewer than eight languages), so I won’t go into detail here other than to say the process is simple and straightforward.

Benelli EHOTS Cordoba BE.S.T. Shotgun
The ETHOS Cordoba is comfortable and balanced when mounting and swinging on target. (Photo By: Brad Fitzpatrick

Once I had the correct cast and drop shims in place, I tested the Cordoba on the target range and found that it shot 54 percent high and 46 percent low at 40 yards with a 30-inch target using Fiocchi’s 2 ¾-inch, ¾-ounce load of 7 ½ shot and modified choke (an average of 73 pellets in the upper half of the target and 135 total pellet strikes). Overall point of impact was slightly to the left: based on an average of five test targets 57 percent of the pellets were on the left half of the 30-inch circle.

As much as I like this gun overall—and it’s certainly one of my favorite guns I’ve tested during my tenure at GUN DOG—I could do without the ported barrel. Porting reduces muzzle lift some and adds a measure of style, but I don’t know that the reduction in muzzle rise offsets the increase in volume. Most of my shooting will be at wild birds and on the clays course, and the porting won’t be as valuable to me as it would to someone who regularly hunts Central and South America.

Would I let my own personal issue with ports dissuade me from owning this gun? Absolutely not. I love 28-gauge shotguns, but it takes dedicated effort to make a reliable semiauto 28. The ETHOS Cordoba is a good one, perhaps even the best. Balance point is superb, reliability is unfailing with a full range of target and field loads, and the BE.S.T. surface treatment makes this gun—pardon the pun—bulletproof.

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