Benelli 828U O/U Shotgun First Impressions


As far as I'm concerned, the 828U is Benelli's first truly big mistake and will be a remarkably tragic sales disaster. It is about everything most people don't like about shotguns, all rolled into just one gun, a severely overpriced, ugly gun at that. Clumsy loading, very weak ejection, easily scratched aluminum, high recoil, no center rib on the barrels: it is quite a list of distinctly unappealing features.

It is a big, obvious advance to the rear from several quite enjoyable, thoroughly successful shotguns available today at significantly less dollars. The Benelli 828U retails for $2499.99 in black anodized aluminum, $2999.99 for the nickel finished version. Only 12 gauge 26 inch and 28 inch barrel models are offered. According to Benelli, availability is July, 2015.

While "new," it hardly rises to the level of any advancement over several less costly, far more refined models: not the least of which is the Beretta 686. Added to that you have the 725 Citori, the Cynergy, and Fabarms models that are all at similar to significantly lower price points and have most all of the gauges and configurations already completely covered.

No matter what you do with the addition of a cheap plastic "springy stock thing," it can only help so much. A 6.5 - 6.6 lb. fixed breech 12 gauge is going to kick with heavy field loads and there is no way around it. A gentleman that goes by the handle of CFDoc has well-documented all the weight he added to make his Benelli Ethos comfortably shootable with target loads. For a 1 oz. 1250 fps load, he needed his Benelli Ethos to weigh a little over 7.5 lbs. For the 1-1/8 oz. 1150 fps load, he needed his Ethos to weigh just under 8 lbs.

The same rules apply to the 828U, for it weighs about the same as the Ethos, and has the same “progressive comfort” plastic springy stock thing. The Ethos / 828U "progressive comfort" pad is hardly that: it doesn't work as well as just selecting the proper durometer of the pad for the loads you are going to shoot. It allows really annoying, excessive, face-scraping stock movement even with 1 oz. loads . . . as you can see in the video. The 828U is hopping around violently with far softer 1 ounce loads than I'd ever hunt with.

Adding weight is problematic as well, even if you did like the 828U for whatever incomprehensible reason. How are you going to add weight where it needs it, the receiver? Even adding weight to the forearm makes little sense, for the carbon-fiber rib is sitting on top of the barrels ostensibly to shave weight. It is a high-recoil gun, and physics means that isn't going to change. If weight really is a factor (I appreciate that), you have many options for pheasant-hunting (as used in the 828U ads) for lighter guns that are far more comfortable to shoot (a 6 lb. Benelli M2 20 gauge, which I use heavily) or several 20 gauge gas autos. There are all kinds of slimmer, trimmer, lighter 20 gauge O/Us to consider as well.

The recessed safety is like a rifle thumb-safety, the triggers really don't remotely compare to a 725 Citori, no alloy receiver O/U balances the way I prefer or most folks prefer, and alloy looks distinctly cheap compared to steel. The shims are of very little consolation, for they won't help the basic stock design: at less money than the 828U, you can get adjustable comb O/U models. The hull ejection is anemic compared to several other models as well: the lower barrel failed to eject the spent hull a few times on the 828U examples I was shooting. You can watch that happen yourself on the video as well.

The talk of "durability" is a bit silly (okay, really goofy), for in a hunting lifetime no one is likely to wear out a Citori or a 686. A Beretta Silver Pigeon can currently be had for under $2000, for example. So can a 725 Citori Field and even the 725 Citori Field Feather models are under $2100. Browning has just revamped the Cynergy line and they are even less than that: $1869 MSRP for a 12 gauge Cynergy Field, 20, 28 gauge, and .410 at $1939.

All are not only far more desirable guns, they are significantly less money as well. By any conventional and reasonable standards, both the 725 Citori and the Silver Pigeons are far, far better-looking guns as well. Somebody, somewhere at Benelli must have thought what they were working on made some type of sense. The 828U makes no sense to me at all and I have no idea why anyone would want one compared to the many excellent, well-respected other choices commonly available, that cost a lot less money and have a lot less ugly included as a bonus.

The 828U baffles me. Some might say I'm easily baffled (okay, they might have a point) but the 828U is a close to a manufacturing crime as I've seen in the last few years. I have no idea why anyone would want one at all, much less overpay for an alloy O/U that is so obviously cheap to produce, and not remotely in the same league with so many other shotguns at significantly less dollars . . . including Beretta's own 680 series Silver Pigeon.

Some might be reading this and wonder if Benelli ran over my dog or something. Of course not, for Benelli's get more favorable assessments from me than not, and have for many years. I personally use and appreciate my M2 and my Vinci, and the Vinci is hardly a traditional-looking shotgun. The Affinity is a good example as well, manufactured by Benelli, both a well-made gun and a good value.

In this case, some of the shameless bluster let loose by the Benelli marketing department is insulting. Benelli claims a "stronger, lighter, safer, lighter O/U." Also claimed is a "significant increase in reliability." Perhaps this is good news for owners of all those really dangerous, unreliable Beretta stackbarrels out there? The only claim with actual merit is the part where Benelli claims that this shotgun is built "on imagination." That is just about the only explanation.

Some of the other "features" are bogus: so-called "free-floated" barrels that are attached at the monoblock, the muzzle, with a forearm attached to them. Just what is supposedly floated, and why? It has "pulse ejectors," which is what: Italian for "weak springs," perhaps? It also has allegedly interchangeable ribs that you can't buy, along with supposedly interchangeable barrels that you can't buy, either. None of this makes much sense, or any sense.

If Browning could design a gun for Benelli, the 828U is exactly what they would come up with, for it is going to sell a lot of 725's and Cynergy's. The Benelli 828U is at least a major disappointment, if not a horrible embarrassment. The 828U's weak, problematic hull ejection, vulgar aesthetics, high recoil and annoyingly violent gun movement, topped off with a nosebleed price despite its very cheap build cost, means that it is product condemned to please no one. Violins won't help this one, although the only violin most would play in this case is the world's smallest.

Pure opinion by Randy Wakeman.

Copyright January 24, 2015 by Randy Wakeman. All Rights Reserved.


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