Benelli’s 828 U turns a new corner for the venerable double-barrel
by Brad Fenson
Walking through the waist-deep prairie grasses, I bristled with excitement at the thought of thundering wingbeats exploding at my feet. Prairie chickens are big, robust, and powerful flyers. Flush a flock of educated prairie chickens and they can go rogue, flapping and gliding to put a mile or more between you and their new hiding place.
The dogs leading our charge jumped above the grass to keep track of the hunters and to continue searching for the scent of our quarry. We had worked a half-mile of hills and started down the final slope when one of the dogs bumped a chicken just 20 yards ahead of me. The bird arched out of the grass to immediately catch the wind. As it was ready to disappear over the hillcrest, a load of #5s sent it careening into the cover. At the report of the shotgun, a second bird broke through the tangle of grass and rocketed off in the opposite direction of its buddy. A hard swing took my barrel well out in front of the bird, and I squeezed the trigger. Feathers floated on the breeze, and the dogs raced to retrieve the downed prizes.
Shooting a brace of prairie chickens is a special event. The habitat these birds use as a home range can be extensive and paying attention to all the details is critical. The birds like the sun and will rotate around a hill to stay warm. They hide from the wind and use bowls, depressions, or heavy cover to keep all their senses working and on high alert.
I have used a plethora of shotguns over the years but still equate a good upland hunt with a side-by-side or over-and-under. I had a double stack on the chicken foray described, and shooting a natural double made me as proud as a peacock. Not because I was competing with my hunting partners, but for making two memorable shots that will be etched in my mind forever.
I own several doubles and cut my teeth on ruffed grouse and a 20-gauge side-by-side. The fit and feel have always seemed natural, and the extra weight helps smooth out the swing-and-shoot sequence to stay consistent. The guns are often works of art and are eye-catching to anyone with an affinity for smoothbores.
The one downfall with traditional double shotguns is the recoil. The extra barrel does add weight to the firearm, which helps reduce recoil; however, the stocks are usually finished with a solid butt plate. There is no forgiveness if shooting magnum loads or being blessed with a target-rich environment.
As an avid waterfowler, I’ve learned to appreciate the technology and engineering to reduce recoil. It is impossible to use the action of an over-and-under shotgun to eat up felt recoil. However, pumps and semi-automatic smoothbores have incorporated advancements into the stock and innovative pads to lighten the recoil.
I shoot a Benelli Super Black Eagle 3 (SBE 3) for most of my duck and goose hunting. Knowing that Benelli is an industry leader in recoil management, I couldn’t help but look at the 828 U as an over-and-under with recoil-reducing technology. The futuristic-looking over-and-under uses a Progressive Comfort recoil reduction system. Three sets of interlocking flexible buffers are built into the butt of the shotgun to absorb recoil at different stages dependent on the strength of the shotshell’s load. Many small features add up to comfort for the shooter.
The polymer system includes three sets of fingers, or leaves, within the buttstock. Each has a different elasticity that is activated depending on the shotshell load. The sets of fingers kick in at different levels to maximize recoil reduction. The first set of fingers is flexible for light loads, the second set is slightly stiffer for field loads, and the third set is optimized for heavy magnum loads. There are no parts to change. The shotgun and fingers automatically engage in reducing recoil.
What is “828 U?”
The 828 U has an interesting receiver that makes it look unique compared to other over-and-under shotguns, but what does it mean?
The Benelli shotgun is manufactured in a traditional gun-making plant in the 15th-century Renaissance town of Urbino, Italy, known for its scholars and artisans, which shows through in the creation of quality firearms. The number 828 is Urbino’s UNESCO code, and the U is for Urbino. The shotgun has a unique look and a unique name.
New technology and design in the over-and-under world are worth a look. There is more than meets the eye with this shotgun, which offers features and designs to improve the use and maintenance of the firearm.
Start with the Barrel
The 828 U comes with Flush Crio Chokes in C, IC, M, IM, F, and a wrench for easy installation and removal. Benelli cryogenically treats its Crio shotgun barrels and chokes by freezing the metal to -300°F, relieving the heat, and hammer forging stress. The result is a smooth and uniform surface for wads and shot to travel down. Crio-treated barrels and chokes add strength and durability.
The 828 U uses a hinged, break action with an activation lever on top of the receiver. The triggers reset when the lever is unlocked instead of when the barrels are opened, like traditional models. The result is a smoother, more consistent opening action. The ejector system is contained in the barrel, allowing for a more robust, streamlined receiver with no linkages between the trigger group and the forend.
Fit and Feel
Suppose a shotgun does not fit the shooter. Good luck being on target. The 828 U comes with a shim set stock adjustment system with five different drops so you can bring your head up or down. There are also four different casts for left and right adjustment to correctly line up to look straight down the barrel.
Simplified and Ambidextrous
The push-button, tang-mounted safety activates every time you open the action. A single trigger is used with a barrel selector to ensure you have the right choke and load for changing conditions. The trigger in the 828 U is striker-fired, reducing weight and mass.
The shotgun is cocked when you move the lever to the open position and does not require you to move the barrels down the hinge length. The design has fewer moving parts and uncomplicated linkage, which further reduces weight and maintenance. Left-handed shooters can change out the lever for comfort and convenience.
More than Meets the Eye
The receiver is machined out of aluminum to reduce weight without giving up strength of durability. A lock plate on the receiver absorbs recoil and reduces stress on the action to keep it fitting tight. Another weight saver is the carbon fiber rib that can be replaced for increased height or width.
There are lots of options to find the 828 U model that is perfect for you: hardwood stocks, engraved, nickel-plated receiver, or barrels 26, 28, or 30 inches in length. The lightweight shotguns are available in 12- or 20-gauge configurations. Different models range from 5.9 to 6.7 pounds, making them some of the lightest and easiest to swing after fast-flying food. The 828 U is best described as a work-of-art shotgun that is lightweight, delivers low recoil, provides consistent results, and is easy to maintain.
Fiocchi Golden Series Bismuth
Fiocchi is now producing premium, non-toxic bismuth shotshells. Golden Waterfowl, Goose, and Pheasant Bismuth provide killing velocity paired with greater energy transfer, denser patterns, and extended ranges. Fiocchi uses high density 9.75g/cc bismuth in a precision loaded, moisture resistant, sealed hull that will provide you with the best performance shot after shot.
Golden Waterfowl is available in 12- and 20-gauge, 3-inch, while the Golden Goose comes in 12-gauge 3 ½-inch offerings. The Golden Pheasant Bismuth is available in 12-, 20-, and 16-gauge loads in 2 ¾- and 3-inch options.
ALPS OutdoorZ Upland Game Vest X
Fancy shotguns, flushing birds, and good walking boots are part of the equation for success and comfort when hunting upland game birds, but a well-designed hunting vest completes the ensemble. The ability to comfortably carry different chokes, shotshells and to pack out harvested birds keeps you focused on the hunt.
The Upland Game Vest X from ALPS OutdoorZ has plenty of room for water and snacks and has a large game pocket in the back that unzips for easy cleaning. Two front pockets fit an entire box of shells each. The adjustable waist belt features two flip-down gun rests when you need to use both hands.