The new 28-gauge Benelli Ethos is a lightweight shotgun with power above its weight class, making it a great option for the serious upland hunter.
“Looks like they’re locked up again,” said Scott, our guide for the day, as he motioned forward with his head. Up ahead, Heidi, a veteran German Shorthaired Pointer (GSP), was rooted in place, clipped tail rigid in the air, front leg bent and nose straight as an arrow pointing at the edge of a tall grass patch, where yet another pheasant was surely hunkered down. Behind her was Fox, another GSP, also locked up and honoring Heidi’s point.
I was on the left side of the patch and the dogs when Scott motioned for me and another hunter to our right to move closer. After we approached, Scott had one of the Labs we were hunting with move in to flush the bird. It didn’t take much of the Lab’s lumbering antics for the bird to decide it was time to get out of Dodge.
In a rush of commotion, the pheasant flushed from the grass and made a beeline to the left. It was the perfect shot opportunity for me, and I quickly shouldered my gun, drew down on the bird and shot, making sure to swing through. The bird (my third from this one pass) dropped immediately, shedding some feathers on its way down. A few short seconds later the dogs had retrieved it, and on we went.
This was a common occurrence over three days of hunting at Pheasant Bonanza in Tekamah, Nebraska, in late October with Benelli’s Ethos 28-gauge shotgun. In fact, it was so common that those three days of hunting may have spoiled me forever.
Smaller Goes Bigger
Debuting at the 2016 SHOT Show, the Ethos 28-gauge was an expansion of the manufacturer’s already popular Ethos shotgun line, which included 12- and 20-gauge models. The new gun brought the innovative—and stylish—Ethos design to an even lighter, 28-gauge platform.
Benelli’s decision to introduce a 28-gauge offering was an interesting one in and of itself. The 28-gauge shotgun is relatively rare in comparison to 12- and 20-gauges, which tend to see the bulk of field use, and ammo can sometimes be difficult to find. This can be especially true for suitable field loads. Target loads are often more available due to the 28-gauge’s frequent use in skeet shooting. What made this new 28-gauge Ethos even more intriguing, however, was Benelli’s choice to have the gun feature a 3-inch chamber instead of one of the typical 2¾-inch length.
The concept seems to make sense. A bigger chamber translates to a bigger shell, which can equate to more shot, increased velocity, et cetera. The one caveat to this, of course, is that you have to have an ammo manufacturer that produces 3-inch 28-gauge shells, and at the time, none of the major manufacturers had been. That’s why Benelli worked with Fiocchi to develop some 3-inch high-velocity field loads. The Fiocchi loads we used on the hunt contained 1 ounce of No. 5 lead shot and were cruising along at 1,300 fps.
So does the extra quarter inch matter? I was initially skeptical before the hunt, but after having used these shells for three days and dropping a slew of birds with them—some at pretty fair distances—I have to say, I’m a believer. I saw other writers knock down pheasants at distances approaching 60 yards, and I myself dropped one at what I’d estimate as close to 50 yards. Truly impressive for a 28-gauge. But more on the new Fiocchi shells later.
New Size, Same Great Ethos
The Ethos 28-gauge is an incredibly lightweight, smooth-swinging game gun. Weighing just a touch more than 5 pounds, it’s a real treat to carry all day through the field. And, because it’s a 28-gauge, that lightness doesn’t punish you once it’s time to shoot. I actually think I brought down more birds than I could have with my standard Benelli M2 Field 12-gauge because my follow-up shots were more accurate due to the reduced recoil.
Benelli’s newest Ethos points and swings naturally, and like the previous models, it’s also a looker. The AA Grade satin walnut stock and forend and elegant, engraved nickel-plated receiver are certainly eye-catching. While this graceful design may keep avid waterfowl hunters from tossing the Ethos in their duck blind, the gun’s svelte feel and sophisticated appearance are perfectly suited for upland hunters. It was also a perfect complement to the classy upland gear provided by Banded for our hunt.
In addition to being incredibly stylish, much of the Ethos’ design is also highly functional. The gun utilizes the same great Progressive Comfort recoil reduction system found on previous Ethos models, which makes for easier follow-up shots.
It also features an enlarged bolt release, an outward-angled cartridge drop lever and an ergonomic trigger guard and safety for gloved users. Similarly, its Easy-Loading system uses a beveled loading port, redesigned carrier and a two-part carrier latch for simpler loading. One other nice feature that was brought to my attention on the hunt was the ability to quickly unload shells using a button inside the loading port. Previously, a shooter would’ve had to manually cycle and eject each shell through the ejection port.
Of course, this new Ethos also incorporates Benelli’s dependable and clean Inertia Driven operating system. This design has proven itself as inherently reliable over the years, and it certainly did so again during the course of our hunt.
The Ethos uses the same Crio choke tubes found on other Benelli shotguns, which I’ve always found to be very good. It also comes equipped with three interchangeable fiber optic front sights for use in any lighting condition a shooter might face in the field.
Benelli made a bold decision by bringing out a 28-gauge model of its Ethos shotgun, especially with a 3-inch chamber. The 28-gauge has typically occupied a sort of niche in the shotgun world, being more limited to target shooting and hunting smaller game birds while the larger gauges see the lion’s share of use. However, if what I experienced during the fabulous hunt at Pheasant Bonanza is any indication, the Ethos 28-gauge has a huge potential for success with upland hunters.
It can certainly hold its own against the 12-, 16- and 20-gauges in the pheasant fields when using those 3-inch Fiocchi high-velocity loads. During three days of hunting, I believe our group of six averaged around 100 birds or more each day, with all of them falling prey to the 28-gauge Ethos. So, in short, the gun definitely has what it takes to get the job done.
At $2,199, its price is a little steep for some hunters. However, for those looking for a lightweight 28-gauge field shotgun that looks incredible and can reliably bring down upland game, Benelli’s new Ethos is hard to beat.
Benelli Ethos 28
Type: Semi-auto, Inertia-Driven
Gauge: 28 Ga.
Chamber: 3 in.
Receiver: Nickel plated engraved
Stock: AA Grade satin walnut
Buttstock: Progressive Comfort recoil reduction system
Barrel: 26 in.
Overall Length: 47 in.
Length of Pull: 14 3/8 in.
Weight: 5.3 lbs.
Sights: Interchangeable fiber optic (red, yellow, green)
Manufacturer: Benelli USA
This article is an excerpt from the January 2017 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.