December 2012

28-Gauge Semiautomatics: Benelli UL Outduels the 1100

A new Italian kid on the block, billed as the lightest semiauto shotgun on the market, is pitted against a venerable veteran in a head-to-head test of two soft-shooting dove-and-clay smokepoles.

New and improved are common phrases bounced around in the shotgun market as a promotional effort meant to inspire shooters into rushing through the doors of their nearest firearms dealer with cash in hand. Sometimes the advertising rings true, and other times the buyer is left disappointed. With one of the latest new and improved offerings — the Benelli Ultra Light model billed as the lightest semiautomatic shotgun on the market — the Gun Tests team followed the example of the great state of Missouri and asked the Benelli to “Show Me” how good it was.

We selected a 28-gauge version of the Ultra Light with a price tag of $1,760 and matched the new kid on the block against a 28-gauge version of one of the most venerable semiautomatics in the country — a used Remington Model 1100 picked up for $1,300.

In addition to the price difference, the two 28s are poles apart in offering a sub-gauge platform for wingshooting and busting clay targets. The Benelli is more than 2 pounds lighter than the Remington; features an Inertia Recoil system rather than the gas-operated Model 1100 to reduce shoulder shock; and boasts of a new cryogenically treated barrel and chokes for cleaner shooting and tighter patterns.

In support of the Remington are more than 40 years of service to 28-gauge shooters on both clay target ranges and dove or quail fields as the best-selling semiautomatic in America. More than 4 million of the Model 1100s have been sold — a testament to the shotgun’s popularity.

We put the two shotguns through their paces on some South Texas mourning dove hunts and a few sessions of sporting clays to see how the youngster fared against the veteran, and to see how the Benelli lived up to its new and improved advertising.

Test ammunition included Winchester AA Super Sporting Clays loads of 3/4 ounce of No. 71/2 shot with an average muzzle velocity of 1300 fps; Rio Game Loads with 1 ounce of No. 71/2 shot and an average muzzle velocity of 1200 fps; and B&P Target loads with 3/4 ounce of No. 71/2 shot with an average muzzle velocity of 1280 fps. The Winchesters were used for clays and patterning, while the Rios and B&Ps were the dove loads of choice.

We patterned each of the shotguns with Improved Cylinder and Modified chokes and fired the Winchester ammunition at a 30-inch circle set up 30 yards downrange. The results were as advertised by Benelli, with the Ultra Light producing denser, more uniform pellet strikes with both chokes.

With both chokes, the Benelli punched 233 holes in the 30-inch pattern (the average number of pellets in the Winchester shells was 270) and the improved cylinder pattern had only two 3-inch holes between hits. The modified choke left only four 3-inch holes, mainly in the outside of the circle with a very solid pattern in the 20-inch center of the target. A very acceptable 50-50 pattern, with an equal number of hits above and below the center of the target, was produced by both chokes.

In the Remington testing, the improved cylinder choke also produced 233 hits, but with six 3-inch holes all over the pattern; and the modified results were even worse with 249 hits and seven 3-inch holes. On the plus side, the Remington also spread out the hits in a 50-50 pattern.

Concerning the recoil factor, no semiautomatic 28 gauge worth its salt will smack the shooter’s shoulder with the authority of a larger 20 gauge or 12 gauge. Both of these shotguns were a pleasure to shoot, with little felt recoil from either model. At best, the recoil factor was a tie between the new lightweight Benelli and the heavier veteran Remington.

With this knowledge and confirmation of the Benelli’s advertising under our belts, we took the two 28s into the field for some quality time with birds and clays. Here is what we found on the ranges:

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