Rifle of the Year: Benelli USA Lupo
Of the myriad rifles introduced and tested by your American Rifleman, Benelli USA and its Lupo rifle earn the top honor for 2021 as Rifle of the Year. The announcement came in 2020 that the Italian shotgun maker planned to distribute a platform on the American market that would be distinctly different than previous guns offered, a manually operated, repeating rifle called the Lupo.
Fans of the Italian maker’s prestige shotguns will recognize the stylish lines of the Lupo rifle, but if you dig deeper, Benelli’s engineering DNA is apparent in the ingenious double-deck receiver that bears resemblance to the upper/lower structure found in AR-type rifles. The design boasts greater shot-to-shot consistency than traditionally mating a barreled action directly to stock material.
In his cover story about the Benelli Lupo subtitled “A Lone-Wolf Approach To A High-Tech Bolt Gun” (September 2020, p. 50), Editor Emeritus John Zent wrote of the Italian company’s latest offering, “Unlike many newcomers that have focused on heavy-barreled, tactical-stocked, 1,000-yd. tack-drivers, Benelli decided to do more than put its stamp on an established template. Instead, it has gone all-in on a well-balanced 7-lb. sporter that emphasizes handling ergonomics, complemented by fresh, modern styling.”
To test the extreme capabilities of Benelli’s Lupo American Rifleman employed Andy Massimilian and his keen eyes to attend Outdoor Solutions Corp. (OSC) Long Range School with the Italian-made bolt action. Massimilian opined, “In what I thought was the most impressive demonstration of wind calling of the class, instructor Ryan Pettis read mirage at two places downrange to give me a dead on accurate 1.5-m.o.a. correction on an 800-yard target. Looking through the spotting scope after two near perfect shots …”
“The action is slick, relatively quiet, and has a 60-degree bolt throw for more rapid cycling. I found the stock contours make the rifle comfortable to shoulder and carry afield, but they’re not ideal by any means for the benchrest shooting that we did at the onset and conclusion of the course; Not surprising, given its intended use. Like most Benelli shotgun barrels, the Lupo’s barrel is cryogenically treated, which can improve accuracy and is free-floated. The trigger can be set between 2.2 to 4.4 lbs., and mine broke cleanly and consistently at a weight that seemed just under 4 lbs.,” Massimilian explained.
Noting its two-piece receiver, smooth-gliding, three-lug bolt and hammer-forged barrel, Zent recounted his field and accuracy testing with the Lupo—the former resulting in the successful harvest of a whitetail buck that fell to a close-in snap shot in a Nebraska cornfield and the latter recording sub-minute-of-angle, five-shot groups with three different .30-‘06 Sprg. hunting loads. “With Benelli playing a key role, yet another renaissance is taking place, but like so much of present-day Italian art, it’s neither ornamental nor rooted in the past, but instead is manifested through industrial design, where the goal is to create works of functional beauty, ranging from architecture and furniture, to Ferraris and firearms. The genius occurs when stylistic elements directly contribute to enhanced performance,” wrote Zent.
No doubt that success was aided by the gun’s Progressive Comfort recoil pad system and a shim and spacer set that boasts “Perfect Fitting.” Such features and capabilities—expressed in unique styling, modular design, excellent ergonomics and fine accuracy—made the Benelli Lupo more than deserving of the title Rifle Of The Year.
Are you interested in more Lupo content? Watch American Rifleman staff editors shoot and discuss the Benelli USA Lupo rifle live on the range in this NRA Gun of the Week video.
So what does it take to make the cut?
The winners are selected by a seven-member committee consisting of editors, graphic designers and veteran NRA Publications staff, representing more than a century of collective experience in the shooting and hunting industry. The criteria required to qualify for consideration of a Golden Bullseye Award include being: introduced and available to consumers prior to the selection of the Golden Bullseye Awards; used/tested by a staff member or regular contributor to the magazine and/or affiliated media; reliable in the field, meeting or exceeding the evaluator’s expectations; innovative in design and function; readily perceived as a value to the purchaser; and styled in a manner befitting the shooting and hunting industry and, perhaps more importantly, its enthusiasts.