I felt my face flush with nervous anticipation as I stepped up to the designated shooting area. Taking a deep breath, I tried to relax while I surveyed the scenery in front of me: a snow-covered cliff overlooking the Missouri River. I checked my stance and bounced slightly, bending my knees. I held the shotgun at low ready. I could feel the eyes of the eight men who were behind me, watching to see how I would shoot.
It’s now or never, I thought, as I yelled, “Pull!” I caught sight of the pair of clays, quickly shouldered the over/under and snapped off two shots, turning both clays into a fine orange powder. “Dusted ‘em!” I heard someone behind me yell.
The gun felt like it was made for me—the perfect balance of light weight and maneuverability, but without much felt recoil. Impressed with how easily my cheek found the comb, my confidence grew. I continued to call for more doubles, and after 10 broken pairs in a row, I threw my last two hulls in the trash bucket and said, “That’ll do!” with a grin. The group laughed, and the next shooter stepped up to take his turn.
I shoved my frozen digits into my jacket pockets, grabbing for my hand warmers. I’m not that good at shooting clays, I thought. This gun is magic.
Either way, I felt thankful I hadn’t made a fool of myself in front of the all-male group of esteemed outdoor writers and Benelli employees invited for the unveiling of Benelli’s 828U over/under.
As I wandered back down the cliff to the lodge at Brown’s Hunting Ranch, my mind raced with anticipation of my first wild pheasant hunt that would take place later that day in Gettysburg, South Dakota. As an uplander who primarily hunts ruffed grouse and woodcock in Michigan’s North Woods, the trip is a check off my “Upland Hunting Bucket List.” I had a feeling the Benelli 828U would help to make it simply perfect.
A first for Benelli
Designed with an open-minded approach, the Benelli 828U (named after the reference code for the physical location of Benelli’s manufacturing facility in Urbino, Italy) is the first over/under shotgun in the history of Benelli’s product line. Sure to excite upland hunting fanatics, it combines style, quality, and technology like no other shotgun before it.
Upon first shouldering the Benelli 828U, you’ll notice the gun is lightweight (6.6 pounds) and balanced, which allows for instinctual point-ability—a key component for reducing fatigue during a long day afield. It’s aesthetically beautiful, boasts clean, sleek lines, and is available in nickel engraved or black anodized models. Both models sport a smooth walnut stock and forearm and elegant checkering on the pistol grip.
Each gun is equipped with Benelli’s patented Progressive Comfort System, assuring felt recoil is manageable, even when shooting “hot” pheasant loads.
Five drop shims and four cast shims are also included, allowing the owner to make fine fit adjustments in 40 different positions. The Benelli 828U also boasts an auto safety with a top/bottom barrel selector.
The aluminum alloy receiver is equipped with a steel locking plate that takes stress off the hinge pins and eliminates any “wiggle” over time, and the steel-on-steel hinge lock up reduces wear. My favorite feature of Benelli 828U is the fact that the tension with which the gun breaks opens is adjustable, allowing the user to specify his or her preference. Once set, it will not “break in” or become loose over time. Do you like your gun to fall open via gravity when you hit the opening lever, but don’t want to wait 10 years until your gun is “broken in?” No problem. Do you like to give your gun a little muscle before your shells eject? That’s doable, too. The bottom line is that once you adjust it to your liking, it stays that way forever.
My second favorite feature? The large gap between the steel locking plate and the barrels allows for quick reloading and eliminates catching of the shells upon insertion. There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to put new shells in quickly, only to realize that you haven’t broken open the gun all the way. The Benelli 828U does away with this annoyance.
The entire trigger grouping (guard and assembly) is easily removed with the push of one pin.
The Benelli 828U’s free-floating Ciro barrels will be available in both 26- and 28-inch lengths. Barrels are interchangeable and equipped with interchangeable fiber optic sights and Ciro choke tubes, as well as a low profile, carbon fiber rib.
The Benelli 828U will be launched this week during SHOT Show on and Benelli is slated to begin deliveries of this fine over/under in May 2015. The nickel engraved model’s MSRP is $2,999, while the black anodized shotgun’s MSRP is $2,499. I’ll be anxiously awaiting the arrival of my dream over/under to arrive.