Gun Review: Benelli Legacy 28-Gauge

All set for some clay busting fun!

All set for some clay busting fun!

Teaching new shooters is one of the best things we can do to expand firearm appreciation.  Often times, busting clays can be an exhilarating, fun way to get a new shooter into the sport.  If the shooter is light of build or small of stature, however, a heavy shotgun or heavy recoil can get old quick, and may diminsh their enjoyment or discourage further exploration into shooting sports.  As an introductory teaching tool for such shooters, a shotgun should be relatively uncomplicated, have light recoil, and be lightweight.  Typically with shotguns, the lighter the weight, the heavier the felt recoil.  Not so with the Benelli legacy/ultra-light 28ga.

I recently acquired the 24″ barrel Legacy 28 as a teaching tool.  I had been on the lookout for a good shotgun to introduce new shooters to trap shooting/shotgunning.  I had previously taught people how to shoot with 12 gauges, and noted the formerly discussed issues.  I was already familiar with Benelli’s inertia-driven shotguns, having had a Super Black Eagle since 2003.  I have found Benelli’s inertia system to be extremely reliable, and easy to clean.  Upon the announcement of the their Legacy/Ultralight 28ga., I endeavored to get my hands on one.  Once I handled the shotgun, and felt its incredibly light weight of 5 pounds, I purchased one.  (I would have been happy with the “Ultralight” version, which has a 26″ barrel and no fancy engravings, but none were available at the time)

Cost:

  • Legacy-MSRP $2,039
  • Ultra Light-MSRP $1,799

(Most retailers have them available for $200-$300 less than MSRP)

What is included with the gun:

  • Hard case
  • Cylinder and modified chokes
  • Choke wrench
  • Shim kit
  • Oil
  • Manual

Handling impressions:

Once assembled (Benelli shotguns usually come disassembled in their teardrop-shaped hard case), the shotgun was, as advertised, very light in weight.  Trigger pull averaged at 5.4 pounds over 10 pulls.  The balance of the gun with the 24″ barrel is in the middle of the loading port, in the front 1/3 of the receiver.  Obviously such a light gun will not swing the same as a standard weight O/U, but once you get the “feel” for the gun, it was not a huge issue to overcome for trap shooting.  The checkering on the forend and stock is just right, not too aggressive, and enabled a sure grip on the gun in wet conditions.  The satin walnut stock is also finished with “WeatherCoat” which is Benelli’s weather-resistant coating.  I have used the Ultralight 12ga with this coating in rain and snow, and it held up very nicely with no warping or discoloration.  It’s a good asset to have if you might take this gun for upland game.  Capacity of the gun is 2+1 to keep the weight down.  Such a limited capacity is fine for ranges that have strict rules, or for hunting in places that limit shotgun magazine capacity.  I would, however, like the ability to load more than just 2. Controls on the Legacy were simple, with the cartridge drop lever, bolt release button, and safety all operating crisply without sticking.  The safety is reversible if you wish.  A nice additional feature on the chokes is indentations on the rim of the choke that indicate which choke is in the gun via a quick visual check.  3 indentations for the modified, 5 for the cylinder.

Left hand side engraving

Left hand side engraving

No mistaking this for a 12 gauge

No mistaking this for a 12 gauge

 

All ready to go at the range!

All ready to go at the range!

Shooting impressions:

All shooting was done at the range, since no appropriate seasons have been open to me yet.  Once I got a good stock of ammunition with a few cases of Federal Steel Game and Target in both #6 and #7 shot, I was ready to give this shotgun a try.  (Sadly Federal gold medal 28ga. loads were out of stock) I knew shooting a 28ga. would be a challenge for me, as I only had a lot of practice with 12ga. shotguns.  Shooting through my first box of shells, I noticed that 4 out of 25 failed to feed completely.  Upon further examination, I determined that the bolt and bolt tail needed further lubrication.  Due to the low recoil and low operating mass of the Legacy’s bolt, it did not have the sufficient energy to complete the loading cycle when it was not adequately lubricated.  Upon addressing this problem, I had no further failures to feed or fire for the next 300 rounds.  Busting clays on a “fast” thrower became easier as I practiced more, and after firing 200 rounds with the gun, I was able to post some pretty decent scores.  The light weight and almost non-existent recoil made it easy to hold and shoot for hours.  The only detriment that came up was that the light, thin profile barrel gets hot fast!  I highly recommend using shooting gloves with this gun.  The fore-end is small in diameter, my fingers made contact with the barrel for a moment 20 rounds in, and I felt like a wasp stung me.  Also, the narrow loading port and small shells made loading the gun difficult for those with sausage fingers like mine.  One of the greatest assets of the Legacy was its “pointability”, which made for extremely fast snap-shots as soon as the clays were thrown.  In a few circumstances, I was able to get 2-for-1s out of the launcher.  As far as shotguns go, the Legacy does not “swing” particularly well, having way less momentum at the end of the barrel than a standard 12ga. O/U.

Loads used

Loads used

The mid-bead and fiberoptic sight setup was easy to use, and my eye was able to pickup the sights in many varying light conditions. The low, carbon-fiber vent-rib is certainly appropriate for the aesthetic and application of this shotgun.

Front fiber-optic

Front fiber-optic

I did take the opportunity to have both experienced and novice shooters try the Legacy, and to teach new shooters as my stated purpose for this gun.  Experienced shooters appreciated the light weight.  Novice shooters took quickly to the easy controls, light weight, low recoil, and no need to manually cycle the gun between shots.  It was definitely easier teaching someone to shoot shotguns with the Legacy than with a 12ga., since it did not induce any flinching or tire them out.

I did pattern the “crio” chokes with the #6 and #7 steel shot.  There were no visible “blank spots” and both chokes displayed a pretty uniform pattern with both loads.

One thing to note:  Benelli inertia bolts can be “bumped” back out of battery, or fail to go fully into battery if eased forward, as shown below.  If one is hunting, one would be wise to check the bolt before attempting to pull the trigger.  There won’t be an out of battery detonation, as the bolt needs to rotate fully into the barrel extension in order for the firing pin to be driven forward, but one could lose an opportunity to harvest game.  Personally, I have never had this issue while hunting or using Benelli shotguns in the field, but some people have complained about it.  It’s an easy fix to check the bolt once in a while if one is worried about this being an issue.

Bolt not fully into battery

Bolt not fully into battery

Bolt fully closed and ready to fire

Bolt fully closed and ready to fire

Cleaning/Disassembly:

Cleaning an inertia-driven shotgun is extremely simple.  After a typical range session, boresnake the barrel, and you’re good to go.  If you’ve been operating the gun in dirtier conditions, however, breakdown of a Benelli is easy.  After unloading and checking the chamber, unscrew the magazine cap.  Then, pull the fore-end and barrel forward.  You then can easily pull out the bolt and bolt tail for cleaning, as well as cleaning the trigger group.  There is no gas piston to clean like with other semiauto shotgun designs. All the powder/residue/fouling is pretty much contained to the barrel.

Pros:

  • Lightest weight autoloading shotgun available
  • Extremely low recoil
  • Clean-shooting, easy to clean and maintain
  • Good looking shotgun for the price (if you’re into that sort of thing)

Cons:

  • Barrel heats up quickly
  • Doesn’t “swing” well
  • Not a great fit for large hands/fingers
  • Potentially high cost of 28ga. if one doesn’t “shop around”

In short, the Benelli Legacy/Ultralight 28ga. is a great option if you are teaching new shotgunners, or if you yourself are looking for an extremely light, reliable, low-recoil autoloader for busting clays or upland hunting.

Thanks to Aaron Hughston Shooting School and Tamarack Sports for technical assistance



Rusty S.

Having always had a passion for firearms, Rusty S. has had experience in gunsmithing, firearms retail, hunting, competitive shooting, range construction, as an IDPA certified range safety officer and a certified instructor. He has received military, law enforcement, and private training in the use of firearms. He is fortunate enough to have access to class 3 weaponry as well.


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  • Hammy Hamster

    Great review and it’s nice to see someone reviewing a high-end shotgun besides the typically shill gun magazine review.

    With that being said there are a few things that need to be addressed:
    -This gun is designed for upland game hunting and upland game hunting only. Any use outside these design perimeters shouldn’t be held against the design (low magazine capacity for example).
    -24″ barrel guns swing way worse than the standard 26″ or 28″ barrel.
    -If you own a 28 gauge you are invested enough into the hobby to enough to afford the ammo ($11 a box for premium hunting ammo, the horror!).
    -The only other common semi auto 28 gauges besides this one are the Beretta A400, Remington 1100 (why bother for the price and the vastly outdated design), and Weatherby SA08 (best bang for the buck). Why I bring this up is that for the price they are charging, it isn’t outlandish for the price they are asking compared to other offerings.

    • Rusty S.

      Thanks for the input. The low magazine capacity on this particular model was primarily motivated (per Benelli) by the desire to shave weight. That being said, you’re right, I shouldn’t hold it against the design.

    • Jeff

      Here (MS), any capacity shotgun is legal for upland game hunting, except for migratory birds (doves). So, yes I would hold the low magazine capacity against it.

    • Gabe

      I was gonna ask how this would stack up to the Weatherby SA08 as I know that is a great 28 gauge and around the same weight. Also the SA08 has a 5+1 capacity. It seems some brands are just absent from this blog at times.

      • Rusty S.

        Unfortunately the SA-08 28 gauge shotguns were recalled due to the guns discharging upon chambering of a shell without the trigger being pulled. The Weatherby “Element” 28 is closer to the Benelli, being inertia operated as well.

  • Isaac Arnold

    I have had one of these for several years. It came with cylinder and modified choke tubes, I purchased an improved tube from Benelli, I prefer it. I ordinarily shoot 3/4 ounce loads, shot size 7 1/2, 8 and 9. I have never had a failure, though I keep it lubed and I always clean it after shooting. If light is what you are looking for, get one of these. I had to get used to it, it swings differently than most other shotguns the shooter may be used to shooting, because of the light weight. It is a very handsome shotgun, if you are hunting with a group of guys it will stand out. I love it for dove, quail and chukar. With 1 ounce Hevi Shot (or similar) loads it would work for teal over decoys.