Over/Under shotguns pretty much rule the roost these days, as illustrated by virtually dozens of makes and models available from all over the world. Some are, to put it graciously, of questionable quality and aesthetics, while others are well-made and highly serviceable. Most of the better arms are from Europe, and in fact, many of the models sold in the U.S. are from across the pond.
Guns from Italy justifiably rank in the top tier of the class, and Benelli shotguns are of this cloth. Benelli is owned by the Beretta Holding Group, as are Beretta, Franchi, Stoeger, and other brands.
Benelli’s headquarters is located in Urbina, Italy. The company started as a motorcycle company, and in 1967 launched the firearms business. In 2017, Benelli celebrated its 50th Anniversary.
If you review Benelli’s track record, their motto could easily be described as “innovation, not imitation,” and their core value is “reliability, period.” For example, Benelli pretty much stood the shotgun world on its head with the revolutionary Super Black Eagle semi-auto that cycled 2¾, 3, and 3½-inch shells interchangeably, without any adjustment.
Never one to rest on its laurels, in 2015 Benelli introduced its first over/under shotgun, called the 828U. The 828U was under development for five years before its introduction, and has a host of unique features that set it apart from other O/Us.
Last October, I hunted wild pheasants at the Bad River Bucks & Birds Ranch near Draper, South Dakota. There I hunted several days with an 828U and got to know the gun well. It is a terrific field gun, light and handy, and with it I took daily limits of pheasants.
Benelli’s Director of Product Management, George Thompson, was there to explain the gun’s innovative features and how they work. Thompson pointed out that no one can eliminate recoil—Sir Isaac Newton was right, after all. So, the 828U was not designed to be the lightest gun out there, but to kick the same or less than a heavier gun. The 828U is light, at just 6½ pounds, so you’d think that this wispy 12-gauge would kick the stuffing out of the shooter, but Benelli’s engineers built in special features to prevent felt recoil.
The 828U has what Benelli describes as the “Progressive Comfort Stock.” The recoil pad is comfortably soft to modulate recoil, but there’s a catch. Inside the pad are interlocking leaf springs that compress to absorb recoil. The heavier the load, the more the springs interact to soak up recoil. And, as any seasoned scattergunner knows, a big part of recoil is when the comb comes up and smacks your cheek. To minimize this, the 828U cheekpiece has a replaceable Air Foam pad that cushions your face. Benelli says that they subjectively estimate the felt-recoil reduction at around 30 percent.
Barrel & Receiver
The 828U comes with 26, 28, or 30-inch barrels that have three-inch chambers. The bores and chambers are chrome-plated and have been Cryogenically treated to -300 degrees. The gun comes with five Benelli-pattern, screw-in flush-fit choke tubes in full, improved modified, modified, improved cylinder, and cylinder constrictions. Additional specialty tubes are available. The tubes are also Cryo-treated. The carbon-fiber ventilated rib is replaceable, and has a red fiber-optic front sight. The absence of mid-ribs saves a little weight and promotes faster barrel cooling.
The 828U’s receiver is what really sets it apart from the crowd. It is made of a sturdy aluminum alloy, but it could really be made of almost anything, since it is merely a place to put parts. The unique locking system places absolutely zero stress on the receiver or hinge trunions. Instead, all of the pressure created upon firing a shell is totally contained within the barrel and chamber. This is accomplished with a locking plate that slides up into four points of contact at the chamber end of the barrels as you close the gun. It is so ingenious that you might wonder why no one thought of it sooner, and it means that the lock up will be as solid and strong after many thousands of rounds as it was for the first shot. It is a terrific feature. Plus, the trunions are replaceable.
The gun’s automatic ejectors are “Impulse Activated,” and have fewer parts than other designs. Get this: There is a hole and a piston in each chamber. When a shell is fired, pressure from the expanding case wall pushes on the piston, and that causes the ejector to kick out the empty. If you snap the gun on an empty chamber, the ejector won’t pop up. Talk about innovation.
You can even adjust how the gun opens when you push the top lever over, from “flop open” to “open with some resistance.” Also, the 828U comes in a true left-handed version, and there’s a compact model.
The 828U can be had with two receiver finishes. One is black-anodized, and the other is nickel-plated and engraved. Both are attractive, but I was personally drawn to the black-anodized finish, as it just looked elegant and befitting a gun of this quality.
The trigger pulls are terrific—averaging about 5½ pounds—and crisp, with almost no creep. The default setting of the tang safety is automatic. As we all know, this will eventually lead to a lost bird in a match. However, the trigger group is easily removable. By taking out a small spring, the trigger is now manual.
The 828U’s stock is of AA-grade Turkish walnut, and has a nice satin finish. The gun comes with a shim kit that allows users to adjust length of pull, pitch and drop, cast-off, and comb height.
There’s an old saying in the realm of guns: “If you buy junk, it’s always junk. But if you buy quality, it’s always worth money.” There is no denying that the 828U is a superb machine, well-made and crafted to last a lifetime.