Lupo means ‘wolf’ in Italian, and Benelli’s newest wolf is born to hunt
The first order of business upon my recent arrival at a south Texas ranch was to check zero on the newest version of Benelli’s bolt action rifle called the BE.S.T. Lupo. I set up a rest, settled in, and touched off a shot. The point of impact at 100 yards was, happily, precisely where I had left it when zeroing the rifle.
“You’re fresh out of excuses,” said my guide, Shane Smith, of the famous Freer Deer Camp, a one-stop shop for guided hunts, taxidermy, and meat processing in an area that’s famous for growing trophy whitetail bucks. Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate during the three days I had available to hunt. Shane and I hunted hard and saw lots of deer, but the big, mature bucks we knew to be on the ranch were not moving during daylight in the 95-degree heat. Then, on the last day of the hunt, something unexpected happened. A big, beautiful fallow buck stepped out of the thick brush, spotted us, and hesitated.
I didn’t. I’ve wanted a nice fallow buck for a long time, but have never deliberately hunted for one, so the decision was an easy one given the unfavorable hunting conditions. The buck presented only a quartering-on shot, but I had every confidence in the rifle, chambered in 308 Win., and the 175-grain Federal Terminal Ascent load I used for the hunt. At the shot, the 200-pound buck ran 12 yards into the brush and dropped.
The hunt capped off an experience with the rifle that left me more than a little impressed. The Lupo, which means “wolf” in Italian, is born to hunt. When Benelli first introduced the rifle in 2019, they got a lot of things right, combining modern features hunters want in a relatively light package that delivers great accuracy. The rifle uses a chassis-style configuration, in which a free-floated barrel is mated to a steel block in an alloy receiver.
The newest version of the Lupo takes things a step further with a proprietary BE.S.T. finish that’s impervious to the elements. The new model is available in three popular chamberings – 6.5 Creedmoor, 308 Win. and 300 Win. Mag. — and you can have your choice of new AA-grade walnut stocks or synthetic stocks. The synthetic-stocked rifles are available in two new versions: one has an Elevated II camo stock and a matte Labrador Gray BE.S.T. finish on the barrel, and the other wears an Open Country camo stock with a matte BE.S.T. finish.
The finish is a “hybrid” combination of Physical Vapor Deposition and Plasma Enhanced Chemical Vapor Deposition technologies that make the gun impervious to the elements. These processes use electricity, radio frequencies, and plasma in a high-vacuum environment to deposit a solid coating that precisely and uniformly covers the treated parts. Typical deposition processes operate at high temperatures, but Benelli’s engineers found a way to apply the process at a low temperature, maintaining the ballistic properties of the gun’s Crio-treated barrel.
Guns chambered for 308 Win. have 22-inch barrels, while rifles in 6.5 Creedmoor and 300 Win. Mag have 24-inch barrels to maximize velocity from those rounds. The rate of twist is 1:11 for all rifles except for those chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor, which have a faster 1:8 rate of twist. Barrels are threaded (5/8×24) and come with a thread protector in place. With synthetic stocks, rifles chambered in 308 Win. weigh just 6.9 pounds, while all others tip the scales at about 7.1 pounds. The rifle sent to me for testing felt lighter in the hands than it actually is, and I suspect that has much to do with the gun’s advanced ergonomics. It handles nicely and shoulders quickly and instinctively.
One remarkable thing about this rifle’s design is the range of adjustability built into it to allow every shooter to achieve a customized fit. The gun comes with shims that allow for 36 distinct drop and cast stock positions as well as spacers to adjust length of pull from 13.8 inches to 14.75 inches. Further alterations are possible with optional extra-high and standard cheek pad styles and one optional-length butt pad. This adjustability is facilitated by the chassis-style design, which utilizes a separate stock, receiver, and forend. The alloy chassis, in this case, is actually the rifle’s lower receiver. The barrel attaches to the receiver using a steel-barrel extension that pairs with the receiver using a steel recoil lug and action screws.
The rifle employs a two-position tang-mounted safety that takes a bit of pressure to operate, so it’s very unlikely to be accidentally bumped out of position. Inside the upper receiver, you’ll find a one-piece, three-lug, push-feed bolt that cycles with exceptional smoothness. The angled and sculpted bolt handle has a short, 60-degree throw. It doesn’t require an undue amount of pressure to lift the bolt handle and cock the firing pin — and that means you can run this gun fast. The bolt has a strong, wide claw extractor and plunger-style ejector. In testing, the gun performed perfectly while feeding, firing, extracting, and ejecting.
This was partly due to the rifle’s well-designed double-stack polymer magazine, which holds five rounds in all chamberings even though it fits flush with the bottom of the action. I found it exceptionally easy to load either in or out of the gun, and it positioned rounds for flawless feeding into the chamber without damaging bullet tips. One thing I dislike about many modern detachable magazine designs is the fact that it’s often easy for the magazine release to be triggered when moving through thick cover, and that can happen at a most inopportune time.
That won’t happen with the Lupo. The release lever is protected within a recess at the bottom of the stock, and the magazine doesn’t just pop free when you press it. I found that I had to press the lever with one finger while grasping the sides of the magazine and pull it free. That took a bit of getting used to, but the more I worked with the magazine, the more I appreciated the fact that it would be very unlikely to drop out of the action accidentally.
Benelli also did a good job of mitigating felt recoil with a Progressive Comfort recoil reduction system which incorporates three sets of patented interlocking flexible buffers inside the stock that absorb recoil. A soft Combtech cheek pad also helps reduce impact to the cheek. Stippling in the right places provides a sure grip on the rifle’s stock, which has integral, molded-in swivel mounts versus the standard screw-in mounts, and an angled trigger guard that provides ample room for a gloved trigger finger.
The trigger on the Lupo is quite a good one. It’s adjustable within a range of 2.2 pounds to 4.4 pounds. The trigger on my test rifle broke crisply and consistently at an average pull weight of 2 pounds, 4 ounces, and had no trace of creep.
For range testing and my hunt, I mounted a Trijicon AccuPoint 2.5-12.5x42mm scope in Talley scope rings atop the rifle’s pre-installed, two-piece Picatinny rail sections. AccuPoint scopes have become one of my favorites for hunting because they’re extremely rugged, and they have always-available, battery-free illumination that provides an instinctive aiming solution when seconds count. I’m especially fond of the models that have a green illuminated dot at the center of the reticle. It is, simply said, fast.
I didn’t get a chance to conduct full range testing until after my hunt, but I was pleasantly surprised when I did. Many manufacturers promise sub-MOA accuracy, but relatively few can deliver on that promise using a variety of hunting loads versus match loads. The new Lupo did. Even though testing was done on a day when the wind blew 10-17 mph, the rifle produced some eye-popping results. The first load tested was the same one I hunted with – Federal’s 175-grain Terminal Ascent load. It printed a best group measuring just 0.22 inches and 0.63-inch average groups. Results with this load were equally impressive in the field. I shot the big fallow buck quartering on, placing the bullet on the point of the shoulder. The bullet smashed the shoulder, penetrated 30 inches, and was recovered, perfectly mushroomed and with good weight retention, from the offside hide.
Hornady’s 178-grain ELD-X Precision Hunter load wasn’t far behind in the accuracy department, delivering a 0.64-inch best group and 0.75-inch average groups. Federal’s 180-grain Trophy Bonded Tip was no slouch, either. It produced 0.78-inch average groups and a 0.58-inch best group. I expected groups to open up with the last load I tested. It did, but not by much. Hornady’s American Whitetail load, using an old-school 150-grain InterLock bullet, turned in a 0.84-inch best group and average groups measuring just 0.89 inches.
Bullet velocities measured over my CED M2 chronograph ranged from 76 fps to 180 fps slower than factory-stated numbers, but that was expected since most ammo makers use barrels longer than 22 inches to test their rifle ammo.
Remarkably, considering the windy conditions, all four tested hunting loads produced sub-MOA average groups. That got my attention. The Lupo rifle may have refined Italian styling, but this “wolf” is entirely deserving of its name, and with an MSRP of $1,899 for the new camo synthetic-stocked versions, it’s worth every penny.
Benelli BE.S.T. Lupo Rifle
Caliber: 308 Win., as tested
Action Type: Bolt action
Rate of twist: 1-11
Barrel: 22-inch, threaded
Finish: Matte BE.S.T.
Stock: Composite, Open Country camo
Magazine/capacity: Detachable, 5+1
Sights: None, two pre-installed Picatinny rail sections
Overall Length: 44.225 inches, adjustable
Weight: 6.9 pounds