On the Retay Arms Inertia Plus Action

As most know, the “inertia” shotgun action is the specific recoil-operated action designed by Bruno Civolani. It entails a split bolt, with a spring that compresses when the shotgun moves rearward, and as the spring decompresses it drags the bolt back towards the buttstock to cycle the action. The mainspring in the buttstock operates the shell elevator, feeding the next cartridge, and pushes the bolt back into battery. It was, according to the patent filed in 1967, a “gun with a floating breech bolt.”

Bruno Civolani shopped his design around the industry, then called the kinematic action, but there were no takers. Finally, the fledgling Benelli Brothers (in the firearms sense) who wanted to enter the shotgun market, bought the Civolani patent and the first guns appeared around 1969. Benelli was in trouble by the late 1990s, and Beretta acquired them in 2000. Beretta includes Beretta USA, Franchi, SAKO, Stoeger, Tikka, Uberti, and Burris Optics.

There are advantages to the Civolani action.

  1. Less Maintenance than many Gas Operated Systems

    No question, with no gas system to clean, the Civolani action requires less cleaning. No gas pistons to break, no gas linkages, no wear to a magazine tube.

  2. Lighter Weight than many Gas Operated Systems

    Twenty gauge gas guns (B-80 alloy, Beretta 303, Browning Gold / Silver) are 6-1/4 lbs., or so. My M2 is 6 lbs. on the nose, the same with the Franchi Affinity. The weight difference is more pronounced in 12 gauge, for the most part. A Versa-Max is around 8 lbs., the lighter Maxus is under 7 lbs., but the new “Browning” A5 is just over 6-1/2 lbs. The Benelli Ultra-Light I reviewed came in at 6 lbs., 3 ounces.

With no action bars under the forearm, inertia guns can have slimmer forearms quite easily, although (Benelli Vinci) they don't necessarily have to. They also don't have to be exceptionally light, as a 26 inch barrel Weatherby Element Waterfowl, as tested, comes in at 7-1/4 lbs., a full half pound heavier than the more spritely gas-operated Fabarm L4S.

They also don't have to be reliable, as was the case with early Stoegers, the Franchi I-12, and the nasty Breda Xanthos Damasco that I was sent for review. The longstanding problems with Benelli-branded product include the “Benelli Click” and the “Benelli Thumb.” The 20 gauges, in particular, are often painfully stiff to load. You can't cheat Mother Nature, either, for a shotgun that is too light (Benelli Ultra-Light) is too brutal to shoot for any length of time with 1-1/8 oz. loads and no bargain with 1 oz. loads, either.

You might think, nearly 50 years later, that the basic bugs of the Civolani action would have been addressed. It largely hasn't happened, for the stiff loading still exists, and the “Benelli Click” hasn't been universally fixed, not even close. Who doesn't want a reliable autoloader that is easy to load? Benelli did finally address the click, but only in two models: the Ethos and the SBE3. That does nothing for the three million or so pre-existing inertia gun owners out there. The nickel Ethos retails for $2099, the plastic SBE3 retails for $1999 and . . . doesn't shoot to point of aim. Here it is, four years later after the launch of the Ethos, and we have obvious planned obsolensce: both the obsolescence of desirability and the obsolescence of function. All Stoeger models, all Franchi models, and all other three inch chambered Benelli models have been left to wither on the vine. All, apparently, in the hope of selling a few more over-priced Ethos models. It isn't only Microsoft and Apple that want to make money selling a combination of bug-fixes and upgrades, to make a major understatement.

Throwing out two thousand dollars at retail to address a fundamental reliability issue is no one's version of a bargain. The spring-loaded ball detent system introduced in the Ethos in 2014 works well, it is called the “Easy Locking System,” but the Ethos also had reliability issues due to the shell latch. None of this does a thing for those that are stuck with a standard Benelli, Franchi, Stoeger, or any one of the copies out there from the Browning A5 to the Weatherby Element. That is what we call “a shame” in Illinois. If you want to try to use an Ethos bolt on another Benelli, MGW will sell you one for $576 and you are on your own, although reportedly some three-gun competitors have been biting this pricey bullet.

The Inertia Plus Action is very clever, direct, robust design that simply extends the channel that the floating bolt head rides in, adding a simple inline spring. It is a better, simpler design than the ball detent approach of Benelli and costs essentially the same to manufacture. It has ended up as very nice benefit to every consumer's wallet: better reliability, better performance, yet not a single cent of up-charge to the new Masai Mara owner.


I enjoy pheasant hunting with my Benelli M2 20 gauge. Walking briskly over uneven terrain, the gun is a rattle-trap, the bolt clacking up and down. If I try to ease the bolt closed, the gun jams. You can push as hard as you wish on the bolt handle, but the bolt will not go into battery. Now you know why I would love to see a Masai Mara in 20 gauge.

Original Retay Action: the bolt also will have a false stop when easing it shut, but unlike the Benelli, you can push it closed without a full retract and slam.

Retay Inertia Plus: no false stop, the bolt always goes into battery, and no Benelli Click. The Retay Inertia Plus action is the first affordable, obvious, and substantial improvement to the Bruno Civolani action in 50 years.

Retay Inertia Plus action at the top of the image, standard Retay inertia action at the bottom.

The Inertia Plus Action is a direct, effortless drop-in replacement for the standard Retay Inertia action. It took me all of 25 seconds to change mine out. When the decision was made to have the Retay Inertia Plus action as standard equipment for all Retay USA shotguns shipped in 2018, there was no price increase at all for the upgrade. As a matter of fact, Retay Arms quickly shipped crates of new Inertia Plus actions to importer Chris Handy to update the Masai Mara inventory he had just received.

If Retay Arms keeps this up, Benelli is going to be in big trouble . . . and just about every other inertia gun manufacturer will be as well.

Note: Retay Masai Mara models are now being brought over in quantity to the United States, all with Inertia Plus actions. Chris Handy of Retay USA, chris@thomasferney.com , can keep you posted on availability.  Chris can also be reached at 1 (919)-617-1821 . Additional dealers are being added constantly as well.

Copyright 2018 by Randy Wakeman. All Rights Reserved.



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