Review: Benelli 828U Shotgun

    I’ve always liked the design, looks, handling, and shootability of Benelli shotguns.  My first hunting shotgun was a Benelli.  I’ve busted many clays and brought home a few “in-flight meals” with that shotgun over the years.  I also have gotten a lot of use out of their Ultralight, M2, M3, and Legacy shotguns.  I was surprised, however to find out that Benelli, long known for inertia and gas operated semi auto guns, was going to be producing a break-open shotgun.  This project became known as the 828U.  I did not get to try one at SHOT 2015,  but one of my fellow range members acquired one last summer and I was able to try it out.  Though it is a bit different in feel and operation than more traditional break-open designs, I came away with a positive impression and finally acquired one of my own.

    Specs at a Glance:

    • Barrel length as tested: 26″
    • Overall length as tested: 43.25″
    • Weight: 6.5lbs
    • Trigger pull weight (on my example): 5lbs 12oz top barrel, 5lbs bottom barrel
    • 3″ Chambers
    • MSRP: $2499 for anodized receiver, $2999 for engraved receiver (I found my anodized one for significantly less, street price)

    Distinguished Design

    The Benelli 828U differs from its’ break-open brethren in several ways.  The most notable difference is that   the 828 features a floating steel breech block within its’ aluminum receiver.  The breech block interfaces with recesses and lugs within the receiver and monoblock on closing of the action.  It does absorb the stresses of recoil quite well on its’ own, allowing for a very lightweight receiver shell.  Another advantage of this design is that, if one uses a break open shotgun enough, the action may loosen to some degree.  With the 828U, fixing this issue will be as easy as replacing the breech block.  The 828 also does not cock due to the barrels swinging down of the barrels upon opening of the action.  Pressing the action lever to the right is actually what cocks the gun.

    Steel breech block

    another view of the breech block

    Cocking Lever

    The 828’s tangless receiver gives it the unique ability to be the only break-open shotgun that is user adjustable for drop and cast.  There are 2 possible drop plates, 5 possible drop shims, and four cast shims for a total of 40 possible permutations!  No “fittings” needed here.

    Rounding out the ergonomic innovations are two zones that aid in recoil mitigation, helpful for long shooting sessions with a rather light gun.  The first is a soft, recoil-absorbing polymer cheekpiece that can be swapped out for better cheek to stock fit. The second, imbedded into the butt of the stock, is Benelli’s “Progressive Comfort” system.  Before any readers remind me to leave politics out of this, let me explain that “Progressive Comfort” refers to the polymer buffers that flex and interlock to soak up recoil, not to the fact that Joe Biden might recommend you purchase this particular sort of gun for shooting through one’s door.

    buttstock recoil pad

    cheek pad

    The fore-end of the 828U doesn’t contain any mechanisms necessary for the function of the shotgun, and is easily removable by depressing a small button at it’s front.  The fore-end and pistol grip feature fish-scale checkering in the satin walnut wood that is pleasant to hold, and permits a secure and comfortable grip.  The shotgun balances directly at the hinge point and is quite easy to carry and shoulder.

    very nice checkering

    fore-end release button

    The trigger module is also removable, making cleaning and servicing a breeze.  Another nice feature is one can have a choice as to automatic activation of the safety upon re-cocking of the strikers.  Don’t like having to click the safety off during frenetic dove hunts or long strings of trap or skeet?  No problem.  Simply remove one spring steel clip that pressures the auto safety lever to deactivate this feature.

    removing the trigger module with the provided tool

    Trigger module

    The carbon-fiber vent rib features a hi-viz red fiber optic front sight.  If one doesn’t care for a rib above the barrel, it is easily removed via a screw.

    On the Case

    In keeping with the 828U’s overall theme of blending the traditional with the new and innovative, the 828U features possibly my favorite factory case of any shotgun I’ve personally seen.  At first glance from the exterior, it seems to be just another mundane grey plastic case for a broken-down shotgun.  Upon opening, however, it features soft felt plaid lining for the shotgun itself, and a very nice closed compartment for the chokes (The 828U comes with 5 of Benelli’s flush-fit Crio Chokes), choke wrench, oil bottle, shims, trigger module release tool, and the manuals.  The result is a case that, while nice and plush on the inside, can take the abuse of rattling around a truck bed without one feeling bad about scratching wood or damaging fine leather.  The only thing that threw me for a loop the first time I opened it up is that unlike 90% of the cases out there, the case latches hinge on the bottom half of the case.

    accessory box

    Chokes, shims, plates, oil and tools

    At the Range

    Though I haven’t had an opportunity to take the 828U hunting as of yet, I put about 300 shells through the gun at my local trap range.  I immediately appreciated the 828U’s light weight and great balance, which made a 200-round string easy to accomplish without tiring.  Initially, however, I had some issues with the ejector for the top barrel.  Shells would extract, but I would have about one failure to eject per box of shells with 4 different kinds of shells.  The 828U’s ejectors are impulse activated, and I was worried that perhaps there was an issue with the top barrel in this respect.  It was a rather cold, snowy spring morning, however, so I thought maybe the oil put on the shotgun at the factory was not up to the task in such cold temperatures.  I used some M-Pro 7 oil on the ejector rod and it fixed the problem immediately.  Shells do eject very positively, and land about 3 yards to the rear.

    Shells are easy to hand extract due to the cut out at the top of the barrel

    Some shotguns take me a while to get proficient with, as their swing, shouldering, and pointing take some getting used to.  I was lucky that, out of the box, the 828U fit me quite well.  I was busting clays consistently in no time using the improved modified and modified chokes.  The trigger pull was quite nice and crisp for a shotgun and never felt like a hinderance.  Likewise, the safety was very easy to deactivate when I was ready to shoot and clicked positively in and out of position.  I’ve found “tang mounted” (though the 828U doesn’t have a tang) safeties on other break open shotguns in the same price range to be either too loose and wobbly, or rather stubborn to use.   The barrel selector also was of top quality and functionality.

    Safety and barrel selector

    I appreciated the recoil mitigation measures in such a light shotgun.  With no action to move or gases to redirect, some manually operated shotguns can have rather high recoil.  With the 828U, however, my cheek never felt like it was getting smacked, and there was no bruise on my shoulder after 200 rounds straight.  That was even with some heavier hunting loads mixed in.

    Having used Crio chokes for over 15 years, patterning revealed what I already assumed.  Though pellet density with Benelli’s Crio chokes is somewhat less in the bottom half of the outer ring, there are no blank spots or inconsistencies.  If I missed a clay, it was my own damn fault, not the fault of the chokes.

    Overall Impression:

    The 828U is an excellent break-open shotgun that melds the traditional with the new and innovative.  It features unique functions, excellent ergonomics, light weight, and customizable fit and function by the end user.  The 828U is an excellent shotgun and I look forward to hunting and busting clays with it in the future.    If you do decide that this is the O/U shotgun for you, you won’t be disappointed.

    Pros:

    • Light weight
    • Loaded with features that usually come in much more expensive over/unders
    • Great trigger module
    • Well balanced
    • Excellent case
    • Excellent recoil mitigation
    • User customizable for fit

    Cons:

    • More expensive than entry level O/U shotguns from Browning, CZ, and Beretta
    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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