May 2016

28-Gauge Showdown: Benelli, Franchi and Weatherby Face Off

Benelli’s Legacy is a special gun for the special shooter. The Instinct L from Franchi may be the pro’s choice, but the economical Weatherby SA-08 is our ultimate go-to sub-gauge.

28-Gauge Showdown: Benelli, Franchi and Weatherby Face Off

The $899 Weatherby SA-08 Deluxe was the one gun we all thought we’d buy. It had big-gun handling, and it seemed that we could do anything wanted to with the gun. It fit a lot of different people and transmitted the least felt recoil of our test guns. At American Shooting Centers in Houston, we put more lead downrange with the Weatherby SA-08 because it was the most comfortable to shoot, and everyone shot it well.

In our May 2015 evaluation of 28-gauge shotguns, we focused on a pair of gas-operated semi-automatics and found both the Legacy Sports Pointer and the Beretta Excel shotgun had a lot to offer. Our intention was to follow up with two or three more gas-op 28-gauge autoloaders, but we ran into a problem. The actual number of 28-gauge shotguns of any description currently being produced is relatively small. So for anyone looking to buy a 28-gauge shotgun, they will need to widen their search and consider not just the gas-operated semi-automatics, but also recoil-operated semi-autos and over-under shotguns as well. That is just what we did when setting up shotguns for this test. 

Our representative gas-operated shotgun was the Turkish-made $899 Weatherby SA-08 Deluxe. The Weatherby was actually scheduled for our 2015 evaluation, but a manufacturer’s recall prevented us from acquiring one. The Weatherby in this year’s test was an updated post-recall shotgun.

Next, Benelli is famous for its recoil-operated semi-automatic shotguns, but the company has adopted a term they feel is a more-accurate description — inertia driven, which may indeed offer a more suitable description of how it operates. That is the action in the $2039 Benelli Legacy tested here, one of the more refined semi-automatic shotguns available today.

To round out the crew, we chose the $1,699 Franchi Instinct L, an over/under shotgun that is still light, despite having two barrels. Both the Benelli and the Franchi were made in Italy, and, not surprisingly, they are both owned by Beretta.

Our testing procedure began with patterning each shotgun from a distance of 25 yards with a Modified choke installed. Since the Franchi had two barrels and order of fire was interchangeable upon command, we patterned each barrel as though it were two different shotguns, changing to the Modified choke for each pattern. Three shots were fired on the target to give us a true reading of pattern spread and point of impact.

All three guns accepted 2¾-inch shells, and our three test loads were each rated at 1200 fps carrying ¾ ounce shot charges. The Estate Super Sport Competition Target load held No. 7 ½ shot. Our Fiocchi 28GT8 load delivered No. 8s, and the Winchester ammunition was loaded with No. 9s.

The second phase of our tests was more fun than patterning, beginning at the self-pull stations at American Shooting Centers in Houston. From there we moved to ASC’s skeet ranges. Here’s what we learned about the shotguns on the range.

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