Benelli SuperNova Tactical 12 Gauge and Aguila MiniShells—Full Review

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Apparently, my editors thought it would be hilarious to let me publish a video about why shotguns are a terrible tactical choice one month, and then send me a tactical shotgun the next month. But at least it is a Benelli, so it isn’t all bad.

The Benelli SuperNova Tactical 12 gauge is a great option for home defense for a good price. Image courtesy of manufacturer.

The model I received for this review is the SuperNova Tactical with a pistol grip and an 18-inch barrel. Trust me, no shotgun with an 18-inch barrel is going duck hunting. So, given that I have publicly stated that a shotgun is my last choice for combat, why am I even doing this review? Well, a couple of reasons. Number 1, I have been guilty of keeping a gauge under my bed, too. Not because I think it is the best choice, but because if it’s a pump, it’s the cheapest gun I own. The optic on my AR costs more than a shotgun, so if something is going to get left out to be potentially burgled, it’s going to be the cheap option. Number 2, I said it was my last choice, and a poor choice for new shooters. I have trained my ass off with a shotgun, that is part of the 3-Gun game. So I am not overly worried about it not running. And number 3, some people aren’t going to have an option of what to run. If your department hands you a shotgun, you get to carry a shotgun. And some of our readers in the less free states are going to have a much easier time getting a 12 gauge than a pistol or rifle. That is pretty much true the world over.

The SuperNova is offered with excellent ghost ring sights.


  • Chambering: 12 Gauge
  • Barrel: 18 inches
  • OA Length: 40 inches
  • Weight: 7.6 pounds
  • Stock: Fixed Pistol Grip
  • Sights: Ghost Ring
  • Action: Pump
  • Finish: Matte black
  • Capacity: 5+1
  • MSRP: Starting at $499

Benelli is generally my first choice in shotguns. I have used the M2 for 3-Gun for almost five years now. Benelli has been synonymous with reliability among hunters and shooters since they opened the doors in 1967. I am sure it helps that they are now under the same umbrella as Beretta, who has been making firearms since 1526. The SuperNova lived up to the reputation I was expecting in every regard.

The stock of the SuperNova has a rather different down swept angle from the receiver to the recoil pad, but it grew on me. I am not sure why they chose this angle, but it didn’t seem to negatively affect how the shotgun pointed. Built into the stock are low profile sling mounts, one on each side. These are well recessed, and solid as the day is long. The pistol grip is rubberized and large, a nice departure from the AK thin grip usually found on a shotgun of this type. The trigger guard is oversized, offering plenty of real estate for the biggest of gloved hands. You aren’t going to get a 1911 trigger in a military grade scattergun, but the trigger in the Benelli is crisp enough for what it does. A bit of take up to a heavy wall, the test model broke at 7 lbs., 3 ounces.

The author tested the SuperNova with the pistol-gripped stock. the manual safety is located in the forward portion of the trigger guard.

The pump action is not exactly 70s vintage WingMaster smooth, but it is a far cry better than most of the similar priced pump guns I have picked up in recent years. Many of them feel like they are running on sandpaper. The Benelli is pretty smooth out of the box, and to be fair I haven’t had this gun long enough to really break it in. The pump is relieved on the far end, where your fingers go, which helps you get a solid grip for running the action quickly. At the end of the pump, built into the barrel, is another sling swivel mount.

The barrel is a smooth bore, though you can buy it with a rifled slug configuration if you like. The tactical model we tested features ghost ring sights, which make longer shots with slugs much easier. For a few dollars more, you can also upgrade the ghost ring sights to tritium.

My only real complaint about the gun is that it ships with a plug in place to limit you to three shots. I am guessing that is to get by with a regulation, but I can’t see a reason the tube shouldn’t have been extended all the way to the end of the barrel. If this was my shotgun, my first phone call would be to Nordic Components to get an extended tube and spring.

Range Time

How did it run? Like a top, and like you would expect from a pump action shotgun. I had no malfunctions in my testing that weren’t shooter induced, like short stroking the pump. After 50 or so rounds, you are no longer having a fun time, but that is par for the course with any shotgun. This did, however, prove to be a great testing platform for the other star of our show, the Aguila MiniShells.

I saw the Mini Shells several years ago, but I had no idea who made them, and I kind of had lost interest in shotguns in general. Two months ago I was using Aguila rifle ammo in an AR test, and they sent me a catalog as well. Imagine my surprise when MiniShells were on page 1. I knew I had to have some for this upcoming SuperNova review. Aguila sent us buckshot, slugs, and #7 loads.

The author tried Aguila MiniShells with the Benelli SuperNova during the testing.

The slugs are a 7/8th ounce size, which is more than plenty for home defense purposes. In testing, they chronographed slower than a standard slug, but still fast enough to count. If a slug that size at 900 feet per second won’t kill it, you have problems. The buckshot is the real strange one in this equation though. Rather than cram less pellets in, Aguila opted for two different sizes of pellets in the same shell. This works quite well, and produced an acceptable pattern at home defense range. The #7’s I can’t see much use for, unless you are training a new shooter. In that case, you have premade reduced recoil rounds ready to go. I did enjoy shooting mine on steel at relatively close range, something you should only do with birdshot.

Did they work? That is the big question. In the SuperNova at least, they ran fine. The only time I had any issues was when I ran the pump softly. Shotguns were meant to run 2¾-inch shells at a minimum, so dropping the shell to 1¾-inch gives you lots of room for issues. But when I ran the pump at speed, I had zero problems.

The SuperNova features a rotating bolt that locks directly into the steel barrel extension.

All in all, this was a pretty solid package. Its longer barreled brethren would be perfect for duck hunting, but this one is fine for under the bed, or blasting the hinges off the door at your local crackhouse, depending on the user.

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To purchase on, click this link:

About the author: Clay Martin is a former Marine and Green Beret, retiring out of 3rd Special Forces Group. He is a multi-decade and -service sniper, as well as 3-Gun competitor and Master ranked shooter in USPSA Production. In addition to writing about guns, he is the author of “Last Son of The War God,” a novel about shooting people that deserve it. You can also follow him on twitter, @offthe_res or his website,

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  • Jim Hovater June 21, 2018, 4:21 pm

    When I was an LEO I carried my personal Benelli M1 Super90 on duty. It was loaded with Reduced Recoil 00 buckshot backed up with 1-oz Brenneke slugs. But I also had a box of #6 birdshot in my ‘war bag’ for the occasional injured/rabid animal I might have need to dispatch. Birdshot was a better option inside city limits than buckshot, slugs, or my handgun for such.

  • Davy February 14, 2017, 12:32 pm

    I was more interested to see the number of cycles the min-shells went through and how many doubled up. I have an older 1300 Defender (OK, I have three….) and after the min-shells doubled ONCE I have been spooked by them. Before that, they cycled just fine. Perhaps I just got sloppy on the slide action.

    Oh, and of course a 30 year old shotgun cycles smoother than a brand new one. Isn’t that the goal of the modern gunsmith? Smooth out a new firearm to function as smoothly as one that is worn in? Labor costs money, more so than ever. So the manufacturer saves on labor and then you add it back in when you go to the gunsmith (Rossi lever action rifles are a fine example).

  • richard sharpe February 13, 2017, 7:23 pm

    i think it is time for a test on just the Aguila shells

  • fREEPORT56 February 13, 2017, 1:39 pm

    I own both the Nova in Marine Coat and the SuperNova, desert camo with pistol grip. Never had an issue with locking up or other failures. I am anal about cleaning and lubing them. Rather than oil I use grease on the bolt and get a smooth run out of it. Both pumps are great.

  • 2AF February 13, 2017, 11:23 am

    Those minishells are impossible to find. I thought Aguila, or others, might step up production on these, since they are known to run in the KSG and other guns (I think it’s 14+1 in the KSG). I have been looking all around, but they are always out of stock. It seems like they made them, nothing ran them, and now that guns will run them, they haven’t figured out there is a big demand. If you know an online seller who has stock, please post it here!


    • gary n. February 13, 2017, 12:43 pm has the 7and a halfs.

    • Arion February 13, 2017, 11:14 pm

      Its nice to see another pump that works well with the Mini Shells. My KSG ran them perfectly with 12 in each tube. My 1300 works ok with them. Apparently both the 870 and 500/590s will not cycle them. My 1300 has a 18″ Vang Comp’ed barrel and can shoot clays at 16 yard trap with the 7 1/2 shells.

    • Jim Hovater June 21, 2018, 4:24 pm

      My local LGS, ‘The Pawn Shop’, in Muscle Shoals, AL stocks them.

  • Will February 13, 2017, 10:53 am

    I have the Nova with the same stock but have always had problems with it. Reading online I found that others have the same difficulties. Finally gave up and put it away. The issue is locking up after the shot, can’t move the slide to open the bolt and eject. Something with the rotary bolt breech lock that works SO WELL with the M2 and SBE doesn’t seem to work so well with a pump.

    I kinda like the #8 shot for home defense. It doesn’t penetrate drywall as readily. Also, doctors can fix holes but they can’t fix hamburger.

    • Phil February 13, 2017, 12:21 pm

      Number 1 buckshot is the minimum size shot for penetrating the 12 inch gelatin standard. Birdshot is better than nothing, but odds are good that it will only create a nasty flesh wound and not a deadly hit. I’d rather be dealing with the coroner than the doctor in a defense situation.

      • Jim Hovater June 21, 2018, 4:26 pm

        I’ve taken to loading up my home defense shotguns with #4 ‘Turkey Loads’.

  • Mike February 13, 2017, 10:48 am

    Wow! Benalli’s been around since 1967. That’s like ancient man What a tool… Winchester, Remington, etc. have been around a lot longer and are just as or more reliable. I’d rather have a Winchester 1300 12 ga. Speed Pump 18″ Defender with a Hogue 12′ LOP stock over a Benalli any day, all day. As for your Aquila mini shells, screw that b.s. Chamber a 2 3/4″ if you’re worried about capacity.

    • Mike February 13, 2017, 1:29 pm

      It’s Benelli”, and if you have a chance to own one, you’ll know why they’re better than Winchester or Remington

      • Arion February 13, 2017, 11:09 pm

        If you haven’t shot a broken in 1300 or an older Wingmaster, you have no idea what you’re talking about. If I could only own one firearm, it would be my 1300 Defender with a Vang Comp’ed barrel. No failures in over 10k rounds and its the smoothest shotgun I’ve ever handled.

  • Stan d. Upnow February 13, 2017, 9:22 am

    Would have been nice if you went into the function of the gun a little more. Like, how was the recoil compared to other pumps, how easily was the gun in handling, and did it mount quickly with minimal adjustment for sight alignment, etc.
    Also, would have been most appropriate to test the patterns on those mini-shells at various ranges. You didn’t seem to take issue with the much lower chronographed velocity, compared to the claimed velocity. If Aguila is claiming 1250fps and you’re getting 900fps(for slugs), I consider that a Big deal. A little better, but still way off for buckshot at 1100fps(tested) and 1200fps(claimed).
    Good work on dissecting the two sizes and weighing for comparison.

  • Mark February 13, 2017, 9:06 am

    It’s hard to see the utility in having a “cheap” under the bed shotgun that costs $500. One could buy a Stevens 12gauge that has the same specs and reliably and even looks almost exactly the same for $150.

    • Stan d. Upnow February 13, 2017, 9:45 am

      If you’re not paying for gee-gaws or a “name,” there’s usually a good reason why a gun will cost 3+ times a competitor. Usually that relates to country of manufacture, quality of fit & finish, quality of materials, and features.
      The Stevens gun you’re referencing is hardly the equal of the Benelli in any regard, except perhaps general physical dimensions.
      A Savage(who imports the Stevens from CHINA) spokesman, honestly represents the Stevens as a no-frills gun that is not meant to compete with higher-grade guns.
      How did you determine that both guns were equally reliable?

    • Mike February 13, 2017, 1:31 pm

      Simply because a gun goes “bang” does not make it the same gun, quality of materials, fit and finish, smooth action, all add to the reliability of a good firearm. There IS a difference.

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