The Ethos combines the reliability of the proven inertia operating system with light recoil and fast handling, all necessities when a rooster bolts from a cornrow or bobwhites whir out of a honeysuckle tangle.
Last spring, I had the opportunity to shoot the Ethos at clay targets and pheasants in Italy. Sleek in appearance, the inertia operating system was developed by a Danish gunsmith named Christian Sjörgren in 1903. Called the “Normal,” it’s an odd name, but one that reflected the simplicity of the system.
When a Benelli is fired, the mass of the breech bolt remains stationary while a carefully calibrated spring pushes against the rotating bolt head, forcing it into tighter engagement with its matching cuts in the barrel extension.
By the time the gun fully recoils against the shooter’s shoulder the shot has cleared the barrel and, aided by the spring, the bolt begins to move rearward, rotating the bolt head out of engagement, ejecting the fired hull and picking up a fresh round from the magazine—all in milliseconds. Benellis are very clean-shooting guns.
Of course inertia-driven shotguns come with one distinct disadvantage: recoil. Although most upland hunters shoot 2¾-inch loads, the Ethos is chambered for 3-inch shells too. Many are familiar with Benelli’s recoil-killing ComforTech stock with its collapsible chevrons that absorb much of the recoil.
But because of the Ethos’ wooden stock and forend, the ComforTech system didn’t fit with its aesthetics. So Benelli engineers and designers developed a new, somewhat similar Progressive Comfort System concealed within the buttstock.
The PCS resembles a tree consisting of a center and two branches. All are constructed of a flexible plastic and the two outer branches’ leaves interweave with those in the center. They all work together to provide a flexible interlocked shock absorber, and according to Benelli, provide a 50 percent reduction in felt recoil from their ComforTech system.
The 1-ounce loads we shot resulted in mild felt recoil. Benelli’s Dynamic Inertia System is also tuned to shoot and reliably cycle light loads, including ⅞-ounce shells. If you have concerns over the durability of the plastic leaves, Benelli’s engineers put 100,000 rounds through the gun without failure.
Other new features include fast loading, which derives from an improved and redesigned two-part carrier latch, and the loading port is beveled. The bolt release itself has a newly designed detent that ensures positive lock up, and the bolt handle is larger. The magazine cap is both longer and incorporates a spring-loaded synthetic plunger that ensures against seizing should the wooden forend swell.
The wooden stock is adjustable to a 15-inch length of pull with spacers and should a shorter pull than the out-of-the-box 14⅜ inches be necessary, the stock can be cut to 13¾ inches without disturbing the PCS. In addition, the stock’s comb features an insert of soft synthetic recoil-absorbing material that prevents the transfer of vibration from the shooter’s cheek and inner ear at the shot. These inserts are interchangeable to provide adjustment for drop.
The Crio barrels—bored to the standard .725 inches—and chokes are cryogenically treated, i.e. frozen. The result is a realignment of the steel molecules of the barrels and chokes that produce more even patterns due to more stable and predictable barrel flex and vibration.
The vented ribs are made of carbon fiber to further reduce weight. Furthermore, they are interchangeable to fit differing shooting requirements—field, sporting clays, etc.—and in the event of damage, can be easily replaced.
Each Ethos cones with three quick-change fiber-optic front beads (red, green and yellow). Below the barrel is a newly shaped and sleeker forend for better ergonomic feel and forward hand control.
The receivers are tastefully engraved by Giovanelli. The high-strength aluminum receivers of the Ethos for the U.S. market will be anodized black or nickel-plated.
Of course the test of any shotgun is in the field. One afternoon we were taken to a nearby range where to shoot sporting clay-style targets. There the guns handled very well, and even though numerous rounds were shot with this very light shotgun, recoil was indeed mild.
The following day we went to one of Italy’s hunting clubs where we hunted pheasants. There, too, the Ethos was up to the challenge of birds flushed out of short grass and in timber thickets.
For those hunters who prefer semi-automatics for upland gamebirds, the Ethos promises much, and delivers even more.
Manufacturer: Benelli, www.benelliusa.com
Action: Inertia-driven semi-auto
Safety: Cross-bolt trigger blocking in rear of guard
Barrel: Crio steel, carbon-fiber vent rib
Chokes: Crio Cyl., IC, Mod., IM, Full
Sights: Quick-change fiber-optic beads (red, green and yellow)
Stock: Oil-finished AA-grade European walnut
Length of Pull: 13¾ to 15 inches
Drop at Comb: 1½ inches
Drop at Heel: 2¼ inches, stock adjustable for drop and cast
Overall Length: 47½ inches
Weight: 6½ pounds
Finish: Anodized or nickel-plated receiver with blued barrel.
MSRP: $1,999 (anodized); $2,199 (nickel-plated)