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- Last updated: 15/12/2016
This month we are putting a Benelli semi-auto through test. It is the Montefeltro model – the least expensive model in the excellent Benelli range at an RRP of £1,375 – and it is equipped with a Comfort-Tech recoil reduction synthetic stock. GMK of Fareham import Benelli along with Beretta and a lot of other famous brands, and before progressing further, I would like to thank Robert Frampton and Malcolm Grendon of that well known firm for helping, as ever, with some of the background research for this article.
The Inertia Principle
The Montefeltro has a one piece receiver unlike some Benellis. First impressions are good, the plain black anodised action is smart, there is an attractive contrast with the grey-silver of the plastic stock. The gun, of course, is built around Benelli’s unusual, ingeniously simple, yet very reliable, inertia action. It does not use vented gas to cycle the action like most semi-automatics. Instead, it uses an inertia principle with the added sophistication of a rotating bolt head. This attached to the main bolt assembly by a short, but stiff, spring.
On firing, the bolt head remains stationary relative to the barrel into which it is locked by its lugs. The main mass of the bolt behind it, however, accelerates a short distance forward. This compresses the powerful spring. Now comes the clever bit. At full tension, this compression causes an acceleration in the opposite direction, an action which also causes the bolt head to unlock. It is all very, very clever. I always am impressed by the Benelli concept. I might also add, that this is in fact, the MK II Benelli system, an earlier one (as still seen in the Premium Plus budget model and the odd Beretta ES100 left on dealers shelves), dispensed with the rotary bolt head which is a later refinement (although I actually have a lot of time for the original design).
It’s all so ingenious in both guises. As the working parts accelerate rearward, the cartridge is extracted and ejected and the assembly of bolt head and bolt are re-energized conventionally by means of spring power to return to battery. As in many semis (but not the Beretta 400 and Xtrema) there is a “rat’s tail” which is hinged to the breech block. It compresses a long coil spring contained in a tube in the stock. Inertia creates the rearwards movement, the sprung rats-tail pushes everything back forward, loading a fresh cartridge.
You have to be impressed by these Benelli guns, the engineering is top notch and the design excellent aesthetically as well, and simple - they are so easy to strip down. The Benelli is advanced in many respects, not just as far as its operating mechanism is concerned. The cryogenically stress-relieved barrel – which is 30” long in the test gun and 3” chambered and fleur de lys steel shot proofed - comes with five, long, ‘Crio’ chokes. Benelli claim patterning advantages for both. I have not subjected the claims to serious ballistic comparison tests, but my subjective impression is that the Benellis throw excellent patterns, noticeably better than the average.
The stock is based on the ‘ComforTech System’ as discussed. The specification is almost as intriguing as the action. First there is a sophisticated polymer recoil pad which is ergonomically shaped, available in different lengths and in right and left handed versions, and, best of all, may simply be plugged in and out of the plastic stock. As with most Benellis, there are shims which allow for alteration to drop and cast. There is an interchangeable polymer comb piece too.
The most unusual thing about the butt though is that it is moulded with what is effectively a split diagonally from the heel to a point just behind the palm swelled pistol grip. Connecting the two bits are a series of polymer chevrons which flex and help to absorb recoil. It is most unusual to encounter a stock which is actually designed to flex on recoil (although most do to a much smaller degree). The question is does this unusual system actually help to absorb recoil? My tests – and more anon – suggest that it does.
The Benellis are lighter than many other semis and better for it when used as field guns. I often shoot semi-automatics – I admit to having something of a passion for them. My usual guns these days are a clutch of Beretta 303s and a Winchester SX3. How did this Benelli perform compared to these? Well, the first thing to be noted is that the Benelli is an inertia operated gun rather a gas operated one. To me, there is usually just a little more felt recoil in the inertia guns, but this one was one of the softest of its type that I have shot. It was pleasant to shoot, fast cycling, and reliable on all loads even 24 grams (provided they were 70mm cases). The Montefeltro definitely points and swings well. The stock shapes were good and the quality of finish and design excellent. It’s a first class repeater and I would happily advise buying one if you want a stylish semi-automatic for the field that will not break the bank.
My thanks to Lyalvale Express for supplying the cartridges uses in this test.