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Mike Yardley puts the black actioned Benelli 828U over-and-under to the test... how did it get on?
Model: 828U black action over-and-under
Barrels: 28” (26 and 30” options)
Chambers: 3” (76mm) steel shot proofed
Multichokes: Yes, 5 ‘Crio’ chokes supplied
Rib: 7mm (carbon fibre)
Weight: just under 6 ½ lbs
RRP: £2,125 (silver actioned gun £2,500)
*The stylish, modern, looks
*The technical effort put into a very innovative design
WE DON’T LIKE
* The trigger pulls
WE ARE NOT QUITE SURE ABOUT
* The cocking mechanism
The issue primarily on my mind, as I took the sub 6 ½ pound 828 out on the well-appointed layouts of the Atkin, Grant & Lang ground, was recoil. I shouldn’t have worried so much. With my normal test load – Lyalvale Express 24g HV – the 828 shot fine, as it did with HV 28g. It was significantly softer and much more pleasant to use than its 26” barrelled sibling proved to be the year before last. That 2” of extra barrel length really seemed to make a big difference. I still find 28” a bit short, but I connected with the birds consistently. I would suspect that the new 30” gun may be even better. The only criticism I might make of the Benelli now is that the trigger pulls did not feel especially refined – they were rather heavy and not especially crisp. This is, nevertheless, a chassis which clearly has a great deal of development potential. How interesting it would be to see a 32” gun that takes advantage of all this technology to achieve something light-weight but really pointable! Meantime, you can only applaud Benelli for the design and engineering effort put in this project. It shows that first impressions can sometimes be deceptive.
The 828 is an impressive piece of industrial engineering, built around an action which has as much in common with most semi-automatics as the traditional over-and-unders. The receiver is essentially an aluminium envelope which allows for a steel breech-piece to lock into the steel of the barrel, like most alloy action repeaters. The base of this L-shaped component incorporates a slot into which a shallow lug, machined into the rear of the monobloc, locks. There are stud pins for hinging in the usual manner near the knuckle but they are not under pressure when the gun is fired, so the hinge is only there to open and close the gun; it is not a stress point. The bolts at the top of the action – which are conical and look rather like those on a Beretta – are not really load-bearing either; they merely locate the barrels and action together. It’s all rather clever. Cocking of the hammers is achieved via the top-lever as noted. The trigger group is detachable, in the manner of many repeaters, for cleaning or servicing.
This month’s test looks at a gun we first saw in Sporting Shooter a year or two back – the radically designed, very modernistic Benelli 828. The last one we saw had a silver-finished action and 26” barrels and weighed in (remarkably) at 6¼lbs. Frankly, I was not that fond of it. It was certainly very light, but the felt recoil was excessive and the looks did not really appeal to me as a traditionalist. Now, on a recent visit to Atkin, Grant & Lang’s ground I was interested to see a slightly different 828, with a plain black action and 28” barrels. I thought it only fair to give it another go.
Let me say straight away that first impressions were much better. I immediately liked the un-engraved black anodised (alloy) action. This finish seemed to suit the gun particularly well and bring out what one might call its ‘curves’ (although the other style of brighter decoration is still available and this is, in fact, the cheaper model). The decoration wasn’t busy – on the contrary, it was understated and elegant. There was a pleasant contrast with the quite light-coloured woodwork. My previous comment that the styling looked like ‘Dan Dare meets Dyson’ no longer held true. The new action finish made all the difference to my eye. I have always liked simple, unfussy decoration on machine-made guns.
When bringing this Benelli up to face and shoulder it feels more controllable with the 28” tubes, and I am told a 30” model is now available too. The grip, which has a modest palm swell, is comfortable and feels secure, if a little tightly radiused for a game gun. The size is just right but it could be a little deeper to accommodate large hands, in my opinion. The plainly figured stock and quite angular fore-end, which has a button release at its front, feels comfortable too. Both grip and fore-end have a laser-applied ‘fish scale’ chequering which provides good purchase. The butt has a high-tech recoil pad and a ‘rubber’ comb insert, which is available in a higher option too.
The 828 comes with assorted shims and plates which, theoretically, allow for 46 stock adjustments. There are 3mm and 6mm shims for cast adjustment (right- and left-handed), different drops and the possibility of a 10mm longer pad (as well as a shorter stock option if requested on a new gun). The standard length of pull is 375mm with 55mm drop at heel. The plastic shims at the head of the stock work like those on Beretta and Benelli semi-automatics; ditto the steel plates to the rear. The recoil ‘pad’ is actually part of quite a sophisticated recoil dampening system which Benelli calls ‘Progressive Comfort’. Behind the pad, within the butt, there are a number of interlocking plastic wings which absorb recoil on firing. Thus there is more movement, or compression, of the pad on firing than is typical.
The gun is still very lively in the hands, weighing in at just under 6lbs 7oz overall. This is achieved by means of the alloy action and dispensing with side-ribs and using a slightly stepped carbon-fibre rib for sighting. The latter presents a good picture to the eye, and looks attractive, but I am always a little wary of the longevity of non-steel components on guns. Call me old-fashioned! There is a red fibre-optic front sight; again, my preference is for plain metal, although this one is good for its type. The barrels are 3” chambered, steel shot proofed, and equipped with longer style Benelli ‘Crio’ multi-chokes (Benelli claims cryogenic freezing of barrel and chokes reduces friction, thus improving patterns).
When you break the 828 it is immediately apparent that it is not the usual drop-action double. The long, slim, rather beautifully shaped top-lever operates easily initially, as does the wider than average safety thumb-piece cum barrel selector. As the gun opens, you notice the hinging, chromed-steel breech-face. One is also aware of the mechanics functioning rather more than in a conventional design, probably because the top-lever is cocking the hammers as well. It is not just the action design that is novel, the ejection mechanism is most unusual too. It is based on a ‘pulse system’ where there is a bleed hole in each chamber allowing for increased air pressure upon firing, which trips the ejectors via a small plunder, which itself activates a cam on the ejector slide.
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