Sunday, November 13, 2016

The 828U - My Benelli Family Addition

Those of you who read here regularly know that I am on the shotgun learning curve. You also know that I have an affection for Benelli. My love affair started back when I was first looking to get into 3-Gun, and needed my own shotgun. 

A few years after that, while at SHOT Show, I got to shoot the new Benelli ETHOS. Here was a "classic" looking shotgun that worked and felt exactly like my M2 - meaning that I wouldn't have to learn anything new in order to shoot it. By about a year later, I owned an ETHOS of my own, and started learning to shoot sporting clays.
I even shot my first pheasant with that gun!

Now, this year, I've been shooting more clays than ever before, and have been "jonesing"  for an even more classic shotgun style. Watching some of the other shooters with their over and under guns kept reminding me of my father, and the only one of his guns I ever got to shoot.

What I really wanted was a Benelli 828U - the new design Benelli introduced at SHOT 2015.

But I kept telling myself "Maybe next year", and "You don't need another shotgun". Alas, those of you who know this type of craving, know that there is no such thing as "need" - only "must have".

I fought the craving all summer. But then I signed up for a Ladies Duck Hunt,
and the presidential election turned into a circus side-show. My inner rationalization machine kicked into high gear. My craving heart told my budgeting brain all kinds of whining and wheedling tales, trying to pry open my wallet.

"But the hunt is in JERSEY - wouldn't you have to worry less if you didn't take a semi-auto?"

"But the election - won't guns start flying off the shelves if the election goes badly? And then you won't be able to find one when you want it! - Remember 2013??"

"But it would remind you of your Dad..."

I finally caved to the pressure from within, and made the trip to the big box store three weeks ago - because there were no local shops that carried Benelli.

I LOVE this gun. She really IS beautiful - even with the black anodized receiver. My ETHOS has the gorgeous nickel-plate, and the sales guy tried to steer me in that direction this time as well,  but I decided that if I was going hunting, I didn't want the shiny this time. This was actually a tough decision for my inner girl, because I do like pink and shiny so very much. But learning to appreciate the beautiful woodgrain of the 828U is another homage to my father :-)

My 828U came in a hard case, with padded tartan lining, and included a box with 5 crio  chokes, Benelli oil, and various shims for adjusting drop and cast. I couldn't WAIT to try her out!

Three days after my purchase, I took my new prize on her maiden voyage for three rounds of skeet with some friends. I'm even worse at skeet than I am at sporting clays, but the GUN was awesome! This gun is so light, and so well-balanced, that I could hold it with ONE finger! Despite being lightweight, the 828U didn't seem to have any more recoil than my ETHOS or M2! This had been a concern for me, in switching from semi-auto. But the Progressive-Comfort stock did a spectacular job. 

Another reason I love Benellis - and the 828U was no exception - is that the guns FIT me right out of the box. There are multiple shims with which to adjust drop and cast, but I don't seem to need any of them. The length of pull works for me, and the gun mounts easily.

That isn't to say that I don't have some adjusting to do while I'm working to learn a new "platform".  I have to keep reminding myself to angle the action slightly away from me when breaking it open after taking my shots. The ejectors are brisk, and I almost took a couple hulls to the face the first time - LOL!  But that's just me being used to semi-autos. 

The action itself breaks pretty easily despite being new. (Something that I read is NOT common with other new O/U guns) I'm still learning the workings of shotguns, but I understand that this is due to Benelli's modern redesign, using a steel locking plate, and steel breech block in an aluminum receiver, which changes the stress points and takes some of the stiffness out. I'm not a gunsmith, or engineer, so this is how "I" understood the explanation, but maybe I've got things a bit snarled. In any case, these redesigns make the gun light and easy to break open - even for an O/U newb like me.

The aluminum receiver and carbon fiber rib are also part of Benelli's redesign of this classic shotgun style, and what make the gun so lightweight and pleasant for me to carry around. I'm really going to appreciate this the next time I go on a Ladies Pheasant Hunt.

The safety switch on this gun is in a new location for me. The 828U's safety is located at the top of the receiver - for thumb activation - vs the side button on my ETHOS and M2. I actually kind of like it better on top, if truth be told. The motion on top seems more intuitive to me, and I don't have to do anything else with my trigger finger but be mindful of where it is. The barrel selector switch is incorporated into the safety switch, and is marked in an intuitive way so that even "I" can understand it.

In addition to those first three rounds of skeet, I've since shot two rounds of 100 sporting clays each with the 828U  - with no pain or bruises, and no malfunctions whatsoever. I love the way this gun points, and for some reason I like the way it "sounds" - the solid, satisfying "thunk" when I close the action with shells ready to rock --  and the oddly musical "doop" of the ejected hulls. I don't know if that pleasure means I'm channeling my inner 12 year old's memories, or if there is something genetic about shotguns. Either way, I do know that this gun is DEFINITELY a keeper.
Bring on those ducks!

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