Check out the 828U at Benelli: http://www.benelliusa.com/828u-shotgun
Buy one on GunsAmerica: /Benelli + 828U
When a new gun comes my way for a look, the very first thing I want to understand is what’s different about it. After all, if there’s nothing different, better, or at least less expensive, then what’s the point?
In the case of the Benelli 828U over and under shotgun, I think the “what’s different” question is answered by new design approaches to a very old type of gun. Over and under shotguns have been around for quite some time and have changed relatively little over the decades. Cosmetically, the Benelli 828U looks like a slightly more space age take on the classic double, but the under the hood features are what stand out as the unique elements of this shotgun.
The Interesting Features
Let’s walk through some of the features that I think add some uniqueness to the Benelli 828U.
One of the first things you’ll notice is that the rib is made of carbon fiber. You’ll see that telltale fiber pattern on both sides while the top is a non-glare matte black finish. The rib is not a structural part, so why not make it as light as possible? The rib is also easily removable by loosening a small screw just behind the front sight. The standard rib is low, but you can easily swap that out if you like. Up front on the rib, you’ll find a short and small diameter red fiber optic tube. It’s visible, but subtle, and won’t distract your eye too much from the target you’re tracking. There is no center bead, but I imagine with the removable rib design, either Benelli or someone else might offer that configuration at some point.
The opening lever also takes a slightly non-traditional approach. Most over and unders start off with a nicely centered opening lever that moves to the side to open the action. Benelli has apparently decided to favor ergonomics over tradition, so the lever is placed to the far left of the receiver when the barrels are in the closed position. That makes a lot of sense as the lever is much closer to your thumb and therefore much easier to operate. You’ll also notice that it’s curved, again to follow a more natural thumb movement. Who said that lever has to be straight and centered?
Rather than the traditional inset release lever, the fore-end stock is removed with a button on the leading edge of the stock that pushes in towards the receiver. I have to assume this design tweak was done to keep the fore-end stock nice and clean, with checkering all around. There’s nothing to get in the way of your support hand.
When you separate the barrels from the receiver, you’ll notice that the aluminum receiver has a steel locking insert. This allows steel to steel interface between the barrels and receiver, but the use of lighter aluminum on the parts that don’t take that much abuse, like the receiver body itself. It’s another weight-saving idea that intends to maintain durability.
The barrel selector and safety is fairly traditional and intuitive to operate. The single control has an insert that moves side to side to select top or bottom barrel first operation. The visual indicators are brainless (that’s good!) and show a red dot for the barrel that will fire first and a white dot for the second. It’s really simple to understand. The safety pushes forward to go into fire mode. When it’s pulled back, you’ll see an engraved “S” to indicate the shotgun safety is engaged. As a field gun, you’ll also find that the safety engages every time you close the action, so develop your shooting routine habits accordingly.
The extractors and ejectors operate as you would expect. If a shell has been fired, opening the action will launch it several feet backward. Unfired shells are just lifted out of the barrel so you can leave it be to top off the fired barrel or unload completely.
The trigger group is kind of nifty. It’s a modular unit that is self-contained and easily removable provided you carefully follow the instructions. First, remove the barrels. Then, you’ll need to make sure the opening lever is closed (to the left) by pushing a small pin that protrudes into the receiver area. Using the included pin tool, press it into the small hole behind the trigger guard and rotate the trigger group assembly out, rear first. Assembly is the opposite, just be sure that the opening lever is closed and the strikers are cocked before rocking the trigger back in. Oh, I measured the trigger weight and found the lower barrel to be a hair less than four pounds while the upper barrel was right at five pounds.
Choke tubes? You get five in the box: Cylinder, Improved Cylinder, Modified, Improved Modified, and Full. The included choke tubes are flush with the muzzle.
An Interesting Approach to Recoil
The Benelli 828U is a light 12 gauge, weighing in at about 6.5 pounds for the 26-inch barrel gun and 6.6 pounds for the 28-inch barrel gun. Physics is physics, so generally speaking, the lighter the gun, the more you’re going to feel the thump when you pull the trigger. To make the 828U pleasurable to shoot given its low mass, Benelli has implemented a neat recoil system that is almost completely contained within the stock. While mercury inserts and such aren’t new things, the most common approach to taming the recoil beast is the addition of a squishy and shock absorbing recoil pad.
The 828U has a comfortable recoil pad, but that’s not where the most recoil management work is done. Instead, the Progressive Comfort System inside of the wood butt stock is where the recoil dampening parts live. There are three sets of flexible buffers that compress with increasing force. Lighter loads generate enough recoil to cause the stage one buffers to compress and dampen the action. Heavier loads compress the stage one buffers and more rigid stage two buffers, and so on until 3-inch shells compress all three stages. The idea is a system that offers recoil reduction with a variety of load strengths.
In The Box
The box itself is pretty darn nice. It’s a plastic hard case with four latches. Inside of the handle area are two padlock holes so technically, this case is TSA legal for travel. As the box says “Benelli” on it in prominent red letters, I would use a dingier looking travel case to fly. No need to tempt our TSA folks and risk “losing” your very nice shotgun, right?
The interior is lined with a traditional green, blue, red and yellow tartan pattern. That surprised me, as I see a “Scottish” look, but I do like it, and the tartan fabric is well padded underneath. The case is customized with plastic support pieces to store the barrel and stock assemblies in their respective places. You’ll also find a large plastic box inside which holds three extra choke tubes, a bottle of Benelli gun oil, and the drop and cast shim parts.
Custom Fit, Out of the Box
Shotguns actually do have sights, and you do “aim” a shotgun. The front sight is, of course, the bead or fiber-optic tube. The rear sight is your dominant eyeball. When I say you actually do “aim” a shotgun, I mean it literally. Yes, your eyes are focused on the target, and not the “sights” but since your rear sight is actually your eye, this action is in fact just like aiming anything else, only different.
If shotguns weren’t aimed, then it wouldn’t make any difference at all how your face, and dominant eyeball, interact with the shotgun stock. But it does. In fact, the consistent “fit” of a shotgun to your face is the most important success factor to hitting moving targets. Since your eye is the rear sight, it absolutely, positively, has to be mounted on the gun in the exact same place every time you bring it to shoulder. Since shotguns like the Benell 828U are mass produced, and all of us are different shapes, there has to be a reasonable way to adjust the stock to make sure it fits each shotgun owner perfectly.
One way is to hire expensive English guys to use steam and bending tools to wrestle the stock of your gun into the perfect shape so it lines up properly with your eye. The easier and far less expensive way is to use shims to make adjustments to drop and cast. Drop is just what it sounds like. It’s the vertical measurement of the comb of the butt relative to the barrel. Cast is more of a “windage” or left / right adjustment. The net effect of drop and cast adjustments on a shotgun is that the stock will angle up or down, and side to side, relative to the receiver, based on your physical size and shape. Of course, it’s up to the shooter to mount the shotgun exactly the same way every single time. That’s part of the skill element and one of the reasons why few ever hit all the birds or clay targets.
Benelli solves the drop and cast adjustment problem with a series of five drop and four cast shims that fit between the stock and receiver. By inserting these in various combinations, you can get 40 different adjustments to the stock fit. By all means, take advantage and spend the time fitting this gun to yourself. I like to close my eyes, then mount the gun normally. Once mounted, open your eyes and check alignment with the barrel. Ideally, assuming your dominant eye is on the same side as you mount the shotgun, you should be looking down the top of the barrel without actually seeing the top surface. If you see the matte top surface of the rib, your eye is too high relative to the bore and you’ll need to adjust accordingly, and vice versa. A similar test will show you any required cast adjustment. If you have to tilt your head sideways to line up, then you’re working too hard and can take advantage of the cast shims.
The 828U also uses Benelli’s QuadraFit system to allow for length of pull and comb height adjustments. While the drop shims address the downward angle of the stock, the QuadraFit comb is removable and replaceable. You will have to order a comb of different height separately. The comb only appears to be permanent as there are no visible screw holes – you remove it via an angled screw accessible from inside the rear of the stock.
Out of the box, this gun has a 14 3/8-inch length of pull, 2 1/8-inch drop at heel and 1 1/2-inch drop at comb.
Shooting the 828U
By necessity, we’re going to have to get into a bit of personal opinion here, as shooting performance of a shotgun is largely related to subjective feel. To me, this is a great field gun. By field, I don’t in any way mean “lesser.” I mean that quite literally. It’s designed to be really, really light to carry on activities like upland hunts, and it is. Physics being physics, you’re going to pay a recoil price for light weight, and you do with the Benelli 828U. I shot a number of #7 1/2 and #8 shot loads, all in 2 3/4-inch shells. Shot weight ranged from 7/8-ounces to 1 1/8-ounces so the dram equivalents ranged from 2 3/4 to 3 1/4. You can definitely feel the recoil. The Progressive Comfort system definitely makes a difference, but you’ll still know you fired this gun. The replaceable comb is also a big help. At first touch, it feels like it’s made of firm plastic, but when you push on it, it acts more like a firm rubber material. It definitely makes a difference in comfort on your cheek bone.
I tested the 28-inch barrel model, and it mounts beautifully. The recoil pad portion of the Progressive Comfort system has a well-rounded top, so the gun doesn’t get caught up on clothing when bringing it to shoulder. Swing was effortless and smooth, as I would have expected from a gun like this. The balance point is pretty much right on the hinge on the bottom of the receiver.
This is a gun with which I would love to hunt. Carrying and pulling the trigger 10 or 20 times a day would be a joy. Shooting in a 200 target trap competition, maybe not so much, but that’s not the 828U’s primary purpose.
You can order the Benelli 828U with either an engraved nickel receiver or the black anodized version shown here. Both receiver treatments are available with 26 or 28-inch barrels. The nickel gun retails for $2,999 while the black anodized retails for $2,499.
Check out the 828U at Benelli: http://www.benelliusa.com/828u-shotgun
Buy one on GunsAmerica: /Benelli + 828U