Benelli Raffaello Crio 28
An unabashed fan of Benelli’s semi-auto shotguns, Mark Stone finally gets his hands on a gun that’s virtually unique - namely their Raffaello Crio 28 bore
As regular readers will no doubt remember, I’m one of the few who thinks Benelli’s radical new Vinci is the ‘Dog’s Sphericals’ in both looks, conception and implementation. Similarly, when it comes to looks combined with truly awesome ability, nothing comes close to one of Benelli’s inertia driven single-barrelled shotguns. For me there’s just something about them that sets them apart from the rest, the quality of build, all round efficiency and outright performance setting the semi-auto benchmark.
Small is beautiful
Where this Raffaello differs from its slightly larger brethren is that it’s a 28 bore. Apart from that it’s a fully sized Benelli through and through. Combining traditional looks with Benelli’s latest designs, the gun will be delivered to buyers in one of the company’s familiar quirky cases. Inside this they’ll find the usual stock altering shims, a set of Crio flush-fit multi-chokes and key along with a small selection of accessories.
Then of course there’s the Raffaello itself; black metal and dark lacquered walnut that’s been enhanced and treated to provide a lasting resilience along with one of Benelli’s AirCell recoil pads on the butt and discreet yet neatly cut chequering. The feature of all Raffaellos, the black two-piece receiver allows uninterrupted access to the action’s mechanics permitting easy maintenance and the facility to dry and lubricate without the need to resort to tools and longwinded disassembly.
Combining matte and gloss finishes with striations towards the front, this along with a white ‘28’ being the only concession towards ornamentation.
The Vinci features Benelli’s familiar rotating chromed, single-lawed bolt, fixed trigger-blade, small bolt-lock that sits towards the front of the stylised trigger-guard and deeply recessed shell lifter. Even the bolt release located just below the ejection port and cross-bolt safety maintain the Benelli’s almost nocturnal nature, their location more of a presence that an actual physical entity.
Continuing the almost covert theme, the 26” internally chromed barrel that’s held in situ with a facet cut mag cap is topped off with what is rapidly becoming the hallmark of Benelli’s top end shotguns namely a vented, floating 7mm carbon fibre rib complete with an extended high-visibility bead and central silver pip.
Having it large
It’s the first time you hold the 28 bore Raffaello that you gradually appreciate the thought and design that’s gone into manufacturing what has got to be one of the most deft and delicate semi-automatics currently available. With a balance point just in front of the trigger-guard, the gun’s 5lbs 2oz weight sits neutrally between the hands providing the shooter with a shotgun that ostensibly floats onto targets to such a degree that you’ll have to watch out for over leading crossing birds. Almost pistol like to hold and shoot whilst blisteringly quick to swing, the flatness of attitude (unusual for a Benelli since they tend to shoot a tad high), gives this little sub-gauge an almost carbine like attitude, both shotgunners and rifle shooters alike appreciating how this Benelli feels and reacts.
Physically, although seemingly pocket-sized when compared even to the equivalent 20 bore, the stock is still of good, grown-up dimensions with a drop at comb and heel of 1 5/16” and 2 1/8” along with a length of pull measuring 14 5/8” and a break weight of 5lbs exactly all of which mean the gun’s easy to use whilst offering a near ideal view along the rib.
The stock feels good, the radius and angle of the grip combined with the size and design of the fore-end both comfortable whilst emphasizing the Benelli’s superb malleability between the hands. Tried around fifty of Rishton SG’s sporting targets along with a late afternoon stint on crows and magpies, the speed and efficiency of the Benelli was remarkable, even when restricted to just ½ choke since no others had been supplied. My own usual preference for a 28 bore double being ¾ and full.
Where users may find a slight drawback is with ammunition. Bearing in mind that the Raffaello is inertia driven, the cartridges needed to power the system tend to be of the magnum variety, lesser loads failing to cycle the action. However, with the correct cartridges loaded up, in this case Express High Velocity 28 gram 6’s in the chamber, the gun performed flawlessly although these proved to be the very minimum load the gun would happily digest although the Raffaello’s three inch chamber does mean it’ll handle the largest, most potent 28 bore ammo currently available.
That said please don’t let the Raffaello’s preference for heavier loads put you off, especially as the soft rubber recoil pad is almost superfluous given the fact you can hardly feel the gun go off, shattering clays or tumbling corvid about the only physical confirmation that anything’s actually happened. One small point though, when loading the second and third rounds do make sure you’ve pushed them all the way into the magazine until the detent secures them.
The reason why
The various double-barrelled 28 bores have always enjoyed a dedicated following due in the main to their lightness of weight and incredible stopping power. But why a semi-auto? Well I’ll tell you. Over in mainland Europe semi-autos are an accepted game gun unlike over here but just because this diminutive Benelli would cause heart failure should it make an appearance on most English game shoots, as an ultra-light fast handling, three shots on demand crow, squirrel or pigeon gun it probably knows no equal. Likewise, as a clay breaker it’s outstanding, the 28 gauge oft under rated as a potent competition calibre although it forms a regularly used gauge over in America.
Agreed it’s a fraction on the expensive side, £1,865 a more than decent outlay for a semi-auto that would initially seem to be of limited usage and appeal. However, once you’ve shot it a few times I guarantee you’ll start to look or even invent reasons to take it out and shoot it, or insist the rest of the family learn to shoot, so user friendly is it. And whilst Benellis as a whole tend to speak for themselves, once you’ve tried one of the Raffaello 28 bores you’ll discover for yourself just how magical they are, this almost scale model shotgun impressing more and more as each shot is taken… and there are times when it’ll put a 12 bore to shame.
|Name||Benelli Raffaello Crio 28|
|Calibre||28 bore / 3” Chamber|
|Capacity||3 x 28 bore cartridges|
|Barrels||28 inch multi-choke|
All Prices Are Guides Due to the Changes in US & European Exchange Rates