Pheasants Forever took out after South Dakota roosters with Benelli’s 828U over/under shotgun. Here’s what we discovered.
By Tom Carpenter
Call me old-school. Call me blue-collar. Call me a shotgun Joe-Sixpack. But I am a pump gun guy through and through.
That’s why, when the folks at Benelli called and said they wanted me to try and shoot some pheasants with an over/under – the relatively new (introduced in 2015) 828U -- I balked. Just a little. But the chance to hunt South Dakota roosters with some fellow ringneck nut cases at Bad River Bucks & Birds
was just too good to pass up.
Even if I had to leave my battle-scarred old 870 crying in the corner.
On the other hand, I was also the perfect candidate to shoot Benelli’s first foray into the over/under market and see what this shotgun was all about. Here’s what I discovered.
Gotta be honest. At first I couldn’t hit much of anything with the 828U. Part if it was having a new gun in hand (I’ll give that some of the blame, couldn’t be user error, right?), and part of it was that the thing just didn’t fit me.
Enter Benelli product manager George Thompson. The 828U comes with a shim set stock adjustment system that provides five different drops so you can bring your head up or down, and four different casts (left and right adjustment) so you can line up your head down the barrel.
We patterned my shooting (should have done that to start), found I was going high, and dropped the stock down at lunchtime to get my head really looking down the barrel. Fortunately, outfitter Brett Waibel has plenty of roosters flying around Bad River, and redemption was at hand. Boy it felt good to smoke the next bird.
Advantage: This would be an ideal gun for young shooters and new shooters. Adjust things as you go, or grow. It’s also just completely “tune-able” for and to an experienced shooter.
I was a little worried about recoil from such a light little gun (more on that later). But I was pleasantly surprised. That’s when Thompson explained the 828U’s Progressive Comfort recoil reduction system– a brilliantly simple, spring-free fold of flexible “leaves” that reside in the stock. You get three leaf sets with the shotgun, for everything from light loads (doves or grouse anyone?) to three-inch magnums (for late-season roosters, or duck-time).
It’s worth noting that this is the same system used in Benelli’s popular Ethos semiautomatic shotgun, which is known for its light recoil.
The stock’s soft cheekpiece also reduces felt recoil. The check piece snaps off, and comes in different sizes to adjust to your face and shooting style.
The 828U is built for efficiency and safety. Even I could figure it out after one quick lesson. The easy-and-quick-to-push safety goes on every time you break open the gun. (Note that this is easily turned off with needle-nose pliers if you want, for sporting clays or skeet.)
It’s a single-trigger gun, and the barrel selector is both easy to use and clearly marked. The trigger is striker-fired, not hammer-fired, for less weight and mass.
It’s also interesting that the gun is cocked when you move the lever to open it … not when the barrels move all the way down. This makes for fewer moving parts and simpler linkage, which means less weight and maintenance. Note for lefties: It’s easy to change out the lever for you.
Finally, once the barrels do open, only the spent shell pops up. The unspent one stays down. This pretty efficient too, from my O/U layman’s perspective.
SIMPLE, LIGHT AND TOUGH
A variety of features combine to make this shotgun carry well on a long day, swing smoothly, and stand up to the elements.
The mono block receiver is machined out of aluminum for lightness. That’s fine by me. Who needs heavy?
On traditional over/unders, the receiver loosens up over time because it absorbs all the shooting pressure. On the 828U, a lockplate absorbs all that recoil and stress. There is zero stress and wear on the receiver, and it should stay nice and tight for a lifetime.
Shooters don’t think about it, but vent ribs add a lot of weight to a shotgun – especially where you don’t need it, on the barrel. The 828U’s carbon fiber rib save precious ounces, and you can replace the standard one with one that’s higher and or wider if need be.
The barrels are cryogenically treated down to -300 degrees F, which means the barrels need less hammer forging (makes them stronger), and the surfaces are silky-smooth inside for better patterns and easier cleaning.
Overall weight? The little 26-inch barrel model I latched onto came in at an honest 6.5 pounds. I’ll tell you that it carried well even at the end of long days. The 28-inch barrel models weigh 6.6 pounds, the 30-inchers 6.7 pounds.
Let’s face it. No shotgun is perfect. But the complaints I heard about the 828U were regarding its appearance. Especially when I posted a picture of it on social media. I guess it just doesn’t live up to the elegant look of other over/under shotguns.
Esthetics are important, yes. Moreso to some folks than others. I was looking at attractive bluing, nice scrollwork on the nickel receiver edition, and a beautiful AA-grade satin walnut stock on every gun.
It’s more the industrial form and nontraditional structure of the shotgun, I guess, that makes some shooters balk. Perhaps the cheekpiece too. But I’d expect that look from a manufacturer known for making some of the most reliable semi-autos in the world.
I get it. It’s important to carry something attractive in the field. The shotgun looks fine to me. But I’ll listen (a little bit) to this issue. Make your own decision. This is a workman’s shotgun.
PRICING AND OPTIONS
A Benelli 828U will run you from $2,499 to $2,999 MSRP, depending on the model and options you choose. The shotgun currently only comes 12 gauge. Barrel lengths vary from 26 to 30 inches. Receiver choices are black adonized, or engraved nickel.
You get a Benelli CRIO choke set which includes Cylinder, Improved Cylinder, Modified, Improved Modified and Full tubes, along with a wrench.
WHY THE NAME?
Interesting factoid. Why “828U?” The shotgun is manufactured in Benelli’s plant in the 15th-century Renaissance town of Urbino, Italy. 828 is, essentially, Urbino’s UNESCO zip code. The U is for Urbino.
The 828U is what you would expect from Benelli – a hardworking, lightweight and low-recoil shotgun. Benelli used everything they know about making shotguns simple, easy to carry all day, and reliable, to create their first over-under. Maybe it’s not beautiful in every way, but the ability to adjust this firearm makes it a fine choice for any shooter looking for a workmanlike shotgun to drop more birds.
It even convinced this old pump gun guy.
Check out more details on the Benelli 828U here