September 10, 2013

Benelli Ultralight No. 10802 12 Gauge, $1649

Gun Tests magazine tested two high-dollar 12-gauge shotguns, the Benelli Ultralight Model No. 10802 12 Gauge, $1649; and Remington Model 1100 Sporting No. 25315, $1211, in the February 2013 issue. Here’s an excerpt of that report, used with permission:

Benelli’s super-lightweight shotguns, the Ultralight line, are touted as being the lightest semi-automatic shotguns in production. Because a lighter gun does not always leave a shooter happy after a long day in the field or an afternoon shooting sporting clays, there are good reasons why shooters would prefer a heavier classic model, such as a favorite of many shooters, the Remington Model 1100. The Model 1100 was first manufactured in 1963, and with more than 50 years of production under its belt, it has earned seniority over newcomers like the Ultralight. But, because age is just a number and the new challenges the old every day, our shooters wanted to see for themselves which gun they would buy.

Weight

First, let’s look at some of the ways Benelli shaved pounds to make its lightweight boomstick. The Benelli weighed in at a mere 6.4 pounds on our scale, putting the Model 1100 challenger in a different weight class at 8.4 pounds — a 31% uptick. Part of the reduction came by shortening the Ultralight’s forearm, 9 inches compared to 11.5 inches on the Remington. We initially worried that the shorter forearm would be a problem for a long-armed shooter, but one of our lanky testers handled the Benelli with no problems. With the shortened forearm comes a lower-capacity magazine tube as well, 2+1 in the Ultralight and 4+1 (unplugged) in the Model 1100. For almost all competition shooters and bird hunters, the 1100’s extra capacity is no advantage. Benelli also uses a featherweight aluminum alloy to make the Ultralight’s receiver instead of the steel receiver on the Model 1100. Another weight savings comes from the use of carbon fiber on the raised target rib.

Fit and Finish

Fit and finish on both guns was superb. Walnut woodwork on both was attractive, although, in our opinion, the darker, better figured woodwork on the Model 1100 looked much nicer. Also, the Remington 1100’s exterior displays a high-gloss, smooth, shiny finish on the wood. The Benelli’s matte Weathercoat finish isn’t as showy, but it was still attractive. Elsewhere, both guns feature gold triggers, which offset the dark receiver colors nicely, providing great contrast in those areas of the guns. The Remington’s Light Contour barrel was made of gorgeous high-polish blued steel.

Handling

We became familiar with the two shotguns by dry-shouldering and snap-capping them. One of the first things we noticed was how much lighter the Benelli actually felt, beyond what the scale said. Weighing in at just over 6 pounds and measuring 47.5 inches in length, the Ultralight was very fast to target. The length of pull measured 14.25 inches with a drop at comb of 1.5 inches, a drop at the heel of 2.25 inches, and a drop at toe of 7 inches.

Switching to and from the Model 1100 seemed outrageous. The Sporting felt like swinging around a bazooka, being a longer, heavier gun. It weighed in at 8.4 pounds and measured 49 inches in length. With a length of pull of 14 inches, a 1.5-inch drop at comb, and a drop at heel and toe of 2.25 and 6.9 inches, respectively, the Sporting’s dimensions will fit most people well, as it did our team shooters. how to fit shotguns.

Benelli Ultralight No. 10802 12 Gauge

Our initial forays with the Ultralight had us swinging too far in front of targets — but no worries, we adjusted to the lighter weight and got our timing back.

Choke Tubes and Patterning

The Benelli Ultralight ships with three screw-in Crio choke tubes in Improved Cylinder, Modified, and Full constrictions. The Crio choke tubes are part of Benelli’s trademarked system of freezing both the barrels and the chokes of the shotguns at -300 F. This cryogenic treatment supposedly removes stress left in the barrel after being hammer forged, and those stresses are claimed to cause the barrel to expand or contract unpredictably on firing. We’re skeptical about the value of this treatment for shotgun barrels (and rifle barrels, for that matter), but we also don’t like to run away from data.

The Sporting came with four Remington Extended Stainless tubes in SK, IC, LM, and M constrictions. Installing and removing the Rem chokes was much easier because they didn’t require a wrench like the Benelli did. We patterned the Benelli with the IC choke installed first, and much to our surprise, the Crio marketing rang true.

At the patterning station, we used Winchester AA Target Loads (2.75 inch, 1-ounce shotcharge, No. 7 1/2 shot) to shoot HunterJohn Clay Pigeon & Sporting Clays Shotgun Pattern Targets. Rather than starting with the shotgun mounted and aiming at the bullseye, we start in the down-gun position, then mount the shotgun smoothly and on a regular pace to fire three patterning shots. This also exposes how the shotgun points. The Ultralight put more lead on the target than the Remington and in a much tighter center grouping. The Benelli produced almost a 50/50 split both horizontally and vertically. The 1-ounce AA shotshells contain about 350 pellets, so the projected IC density should have been about 45% (158 pellets) of shot in a 30-inch circle at 40 yards. The Ultralight put 183 impacts (51%) in a very even pattern, with only four clays (according to the shadow clay-target images) not being broken over three targets.

When we patterned the Model 1100, we were expecting similar results, but the patterning on the Model 1100 was way off. While it put more lead on the target with 202 total pellets (57%, or what we would expect from a Modified constriction), the 1100’s dispersion over the 30-inch circle wasn’t what we were expecting. We found 80 of the 202 pellets were in the lower left quadrant of the target, with another 62 in the lower right quadrant. Or in other words, 71% of the shotcharge was in the lower half of the pattern, which generally would only be an advantage on falling targets. Also, we noted seven missed birds inside the patterns.

In The Field

To prove the guns on moving targets, we headed over to American Shooting Centers in Houston to shoot Wobble Trap and 5 Stand. On moving targets, the Ultralight took some getting used to because we had a tendency to overcorrect or swing through targets too much because the gun was so light. After the first stand, things started to come together. We were able to adjust to the gun’s light weight and had no problem the rest of the day. The red-bar sight of the Benelli made it easy to put the barrel ahead of the target, and we generally didn’t notice our eyes focusing on the sight instead of the target.

Benelli Ultralight No. 10802 12 Gauge

The red bar front sight was easy to see against any sky conditions. It sat atop a carbon-fiber rib that was scored to reduce glare. The flush-fit choke tubes weren’t as handy as the competition extended chokes on the Remington.

The Benelli Ultralight is powered by the Inertia Driven system instead of the gas system used in the Remington Model 1100. The Inertia Driven system is a much simpler mechanism. As Benelli describes it, when the trigger is pulled, every part of the shotgun moves rearward, except the bolt body. The curved track in the bolt body, which is moving forward, presses against the locking head pin, turning the bolt tighter into the barrel extension. At the same time, the inertia spring is compressed between bolt head and body. The cartridge drop lever moves, allowing a shell to move from the magazine to the carrier. Near the end of the recoil cycle, chamber pressure drops to a safe level and the gun’s rearward motion slows. The inertia spring then thrusts the bolt assembly rearward, unlocking the bolt head, and extracting the spent shell. As the empty shell leaves the receiver, the energy of the moving bolt assembly re-cocks the hammer and compresses the recoil spring. The recoil spring thrusts the bolt assembly forward, lifting the new shell into position and chambering a fresh cartridge. All of this takes place in a fraction of a second, and the gun is ready to fire again.

Benelli claims the Inertia Driven system offers quite a few advantages over the gas system. They say their gun is more reliable because it does not require adjusting for different loads, but we didn’t have any issue changing loads with the Remington, either. Benelli says its shotguns run cleaner because the gas, smoke, and burnt powder stay in the barrel instead of being pushed back in to the gun’s body. During our shooting, we found this to be true. Cleanup of the barrel, chokes, and internal components was a snap because those parts weren’t very dirty. Benelli also claims the ID-system is more reliable because it has only three parts: the bolt body, the inertia spring, and the rotating bolt head. We didn’t experience failures with either gun, but the Benelli was obviously lighter, and the action accounts for some of the weight savings.

Our Team Said: The recoil on the Ultralight was astonishingly low for such a light gun. For most of our team, there was not a perceivable difference between the two guns, and after shooting all afternoon, no one’s shoulder was bruised or banged up. However, at the end of the day, smaller-framed testers compared the Ultralight’s recoil to being “punched in the arm by a fifth grader” all day. Apart from the astonishing difference that 2 pounds can mean even on a trap course, the Model 1100 lived up to its name. We shot with it all day, and it was the reliable workhorse that it has become known as. We didn’t have any misfeeds or failures to eject. Some members of our team even preferred the Remington Model 1100 because of its familiarity and because the heavier gun was easier to swing through with while shooting. The Remington Model 1100 also features a Sporting Clays-style rubber buttpad, something that we would have liked to see on the Benelli. All in, our team would buy the Benelli Ultralight ahead of the Remington 1100 Sporting for general shooting chores, including a light amount of various shotgun games. For heavy-duty target shooting only, we’d give the nod to the Sporting because that’s what it was made for.

Comments (4)

Condescending? Its spelled with a "s" before the "c" but no matter I understood what you wrote. I prefer the word "opinionated" as was used to describe the dean of American gun writers Jack O'Connor. My opinionated view comes from 50 years of actual field experience. I cannot ignore this. I know what works and what does not work as well. Therefore I do not "prefer" "I know", And its 10 times stronger when it comes to the worthlessness of ultra-light rifles, especially with very short barrels. Now of course there are exceptions to the rules. If you are a handicapped person due to an accident then you may have no choice but to use a custom built or altered gun. Otherwise my life's experiences stand firm.

Posted by: wild romanian | September 17, 2013 1:19 PM    Report this comment

WOW! I am witnessing a real gun fight. LOL

Posted by: Cecil B | September 13, 2013 8:18 PM    Report this comment

Wild Romanian. Here you go again. You fail to take the logically stronger position of "In my experience". Or even "I prefer". No. With you it is often the condecending "know it all" sweeping generalization. "Ultra light rifles and shotguns have always been a bad idea period. If you are not physically fit to handle a 7 1/2 lb or heavier weapon see a doctor first before attempting hunting or even competition. Light weight shotguns are even a draw back in hunting." Wow..did you come down the Mountain with Moses? Are your eternal truths etched in stone like the 10 commandments too? Now to be fair. The laws of physics dictate that heavier guns tend to soak up recoil and "swing" with greater momentum. I, however, personally like the versitility of light guns for hiking/hunting in the field. Lumping light rifles in with shotguns makes little sense to me. The whole "steady follow through" argument goes away with scoped rifles in the field. You really get into trouble when you go on to pontificate about the relative merits of "recoil" (Inertia spring drive) vs. Gas systems. You got every point exactly incorrect. The Benelli and Berretta both use the proven ID system. Both are faster, lighter and more reliable than gas. Fewer parts, cleaner, and yes..lighter. The ID system absorbs more recoil as the writers noted. For a demo on Inertia Drive, I recommend that you goole "berretta Extrema II" and see the the Berretta Pros video demo.

Posted by: OregonGreg | September 13, 2013 2:33 PM    Report this comment

Ultra light rifles and shotguns have always been a bad idea period. If you are not physically fit to handle a 7 1/2 lb or heavier weapon see a doctor first before attempting hunting or even competition. Light weight shotguns are even a draw back in hunting. Follow through is paramount when swinging a shotgun no matter how close or at what angle the object is. Too light a gun will increase the weapons likely hood of not swinging long enough during the act of firing resulting in the shot going behind the target. Lighter guns also kick harder and lighter guns usually have shorter barrels which increase muzzle blast and even flash on overcast days resulting more of a likelihood of a miss. In life there is always a midway balance. Too light and you miss and too heavy and you miss as well. Seven and one half pounds is about right for the shotgun for upland game. A heavier shotgun can be used in a duck blind. Recoil operated guns also kick more than gas operated guns period and more kick means more of chance you will flinch and miss a shot. Recoil guns are also slower in function as well, they reload themselves slower and the longer the movement of the action and gun is the more likely you will again flinch or disrupt your swing and follow through. I have never read a report by a gun writer that has discovered this, do they actually compete with shotguns, sometimes a really wonder about this.

True, recoil guns get less dirty but gas guns will go as much as 200 rounds even when soaked in oil and grease which is plenty of millage if the gun is only used for hunting. Competition of course is another story. Here the gas gun is king but It must be kept clean to be reliable because of all the ammo one is putting through it in such a short period of time.

Posted by: wild romanian | September 12, 2013 5:16 PM    Report this comment

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