I was skeptical when the folks from Benelli invited me to take their first-ever over/under shotgun on a high-volume South American bird hunt last year. I didn’t think the lightweight 12-gauge, called the 828U, could take the abuse that thousands of shells can deliver to a gun in a single day. I’ve seen robust semi-autos fall to pieces in the dove fields of Argentina. But even more personally, I wasn’t sure my shoulder was up to the punishment of the daily pounding of spicy dove loads, interspersed with a steady diet of magnum duck loads. After all, the 828U with 28-inch barrels weighs only 6.6 pounds and feels even lighter.
But Benelli was persuasive, so I packed a recoil-absorbing shoulder pad—my hunting buddies call it a “sissy pillow”—to help tame the kick, and I headed to Uruguay’s bird-rich interior to hunt doves, ducks, and perdiz, the so-called false partridge of the pampas.
A First for Benelli
The name Benelli, of course, is synonymous with semi-automatic shotguns. The Italian company’s family of inertia-driven guns includes the versatile M4, M2, Ethos, Super Black Eagle, and Vinci. When Benelli announced it would produce an over/under, brand loyalists sniffed almost as dismissively as connoisseurs of traditional Italian doubles. No way could a stodgy over/under continue the company’s reputation for technologically advanced operation, pronounced the former. No way could a double-barreled Benelli, with its modern styling, perpetuate Italy’s standards for Old World craftsmanship, denounced the latter.
What I discovered in Uruguay is that the 828U is very much a 21st-century over/under. It is elegant, in the same over-the-top way a Baroque castle is elegant, layered with rococo flourishes. And, like other Benellis, it is technologically advanced. The 828U packs more features into what is at heart a simple mechanism than you’d notice from its glammy exterior.
Aft of the cryogenically treated—and distinctively separated—barrels, the Benelli’s steel breech block mates into steel races machined into its weight-saving aluminum receiver. The design contains pressure to the barrels and doesn’t allow it to transfer to the floating bolt face or to the hinge pins, the linkage that is often first to fail on traditional over/under shotguns.
That’s a great attribute for a high-volume shotgun, but my shoulder celebrated the Benelli’s less visible technology: recoil-eating buffers embedded in the stock. The polymer fingers flex in proportion to the directional recoil exerted by charges of different intensity. A light target shotshell might trigger only one level of buffers. A high-brass field load might activate two levels, and a magnum duck…