The 828U is loaded with features that set it apart from all other double barrels.
What to know about the new Benelli 828U:
- The new 828U is ultra-lightweight at just 6 1/2 pounds.
- It utilizes Benelli's innovative Progressive Comfort Stock.
- This system has a set of interlocking polymer leaf springs in the stock to reduce recoil.
- Instead of a hinge-and-pin system, the 828U has a free-floating steel locking plate.
- This offers added durability and eliminates the need for a steel receiver, which is heavy.
Since 1967, Benelli, the company that revolutionized autoloading shotgun design with its Inertia Driven system, has sold more than 4 million guns.
Benelli has never let up when it comes to introducing eye-popping, uniquely designed shotguns — the Ethos and Vinci to name a couple of the more recent innovations — but it was the Super Black Eagle that established Benelli as the leader in the waterfowling world. Its ability to reliably cycle 2 ¾-, 3- and 3 ½-inch shells with no adjustment was a game-changer. Today, the SBE is in its third iteration and is as popular as ever.
With this track record of autoloader success, it came as a huge surprise to most shooters when the company introduced its first over-and-under model in 2015. The Benelli 828U is a sleek 12-gauge double barrel that tips the scales at a wispy 6 ½ pounds. One might wonder why Benelli would bother bringing yet another o/u to the upland hunting market, a space that’s pretty crowded with excellent makes and models at all price points. The short answer: Because they could, and because they could do it differently.
The 828U was 5 years in development, according to George Thompson, Benelli’s Director of Product Management. Thompson shared some background about the gun while we hunted at Brett Waibel’s Bad River Bucks & Birds ranch this past October. The central South Dakota setting provided the perfect opportunity to burn several pocketfuls of shells on the prairie’s abundant pheasants, sharptails and prairie chickens.
I’d been wondering about the reason for such a radical departure from Benelli’s autoloader lineup, but as time went on I realized the 828U has more in common with the rest of the Benelli line than one would think.
Lightweight And Simple
To get to that skinny 6 ½-pound weight, the 828U features an aluminum receiver, open mid-rib and carbon-fiber rib. “We like lightweight, and we like simple,” Thompson said. “The inertia system in our other guns allows us to trim weight because there’s no need to accommodate a gas system. Well, in this over-and-under, we found ways to incorporate features that go with that lightweight and simple theme, while still maintaining our core value: reliability.”
The trade-off for an easy-carrying gun is obviously felt when you pull the trigger. We all know lighter guns kick harder, and Benelli has waged a war on recoil since the beginning. The company has offered various ComforTech stock designs over the years, the latest being the ComforTech 3 found in the Super Black Eagle 3. Benelli mitigates recoil in the 828U (and the Ethos) with a Progressive Comfort stock.
“There is no such thing as eliminating recoil, and we don’t claim it (the 828U) is the lightest-kicking gun,” Thompson said. “Our goal was to create a gun that weighs less and kicks the same or less as a heavier gun. We’ve been able to reduce felt recoil by approximately 30 percent with the Progressive Comfort stock.”
As you would expect, the 828U sports a nicely sculpted, cushiony recoil pad, but there’s more to the recoil-reduction strategy. Inside the stock is a removable set of interlocking polymer leaf springs, which compress to absorb recoil. The heavier the shotshell load, the more the springs come into play to take some of the rearward punch out of the shot. To address the fact that perceived recoil has as much to do with the shotgun jumping up into your cheek, the 828U’s stock also has a replaceable air foam pad insert to soak up some more of the kick.
The 828U’s receiver is built in opposition to the way other over-and-unders are designed. Rather than a hinge-and-pin system, which starts to wear from the very first time you open and close the action, the 828U uses a free-floating steel locking plate that seals up tight at four contact points behind the chambers. This eliminates the need for a steel receiver, and it also means that the lock-up will have the same strength and reliability after 10,000 shots as it did on day No. 1.
In The Field
My first introduction to the 828U was a fast one. We went right to the field with no practice shooting beforehand. I opted to use a 28-inch barrel model, the length I tend to prefer on all of my over-and-unders. While the gun is incredibly pleasant to carry, as advertised, and it helped me jump on birds quickly, it did take me a few rooster flushes to get the hang of swinging properly. I was just coming off of a week of grouse and woodcock hunting in Wisconsin where snap-shooting can sometimes be the difference between a hit or no shot at all. It didn’t take me too long to diagnose my misses, and things began shaping up rather quickly after that.
I typically shoot a variety of 1 ¼-ounce loads of No. 4s or 5s on pheasants. On this trip I was using Federal’s Hi-Bird 1 ¼-ounce loads of No. 6s, which have an advertised muzzle velocity of 1,275 feet per second. Although shooting in the field doesn’t typically allow for the same type of analysis you can afford yourself out on the clays range, recoil was mitigated to the point where I didn’t really think about it much, which is how it should be.
Because I just had to try it, I spent one day hunting with a Hi-Bird in the first barrel and a 3-inch, 1 5⁄8-ounce Federal Prairie Storm No. 5 in the second. All of the 828U’s recoil-reducing features are irrelevant when it comes to taming the wallop that a Prairie Storm shell delivers. I think that would be the case in any fixed-breech gun, so I’m not inclined to mark down the new Benelli because of it. (Hey Federal, any chance you could offer Hi-Bird in No. 5? Please?)
Benelli’s 828U is more expensive than a lot of over-and-unders, but it’s also a whole lot more affordable than many of the highly decorated imports that are available. It’s offered with 26-, 28- and 30-inch barrels at a full retail price of $3,000 for the engraved nickel-plated receiver model and $2,500 for the black anodized receiver model.
This article is an excerpt from the January 2018 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.