When Benelli introduced its 828U over-under at the 2015 Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show (SHOT Show) some wondered if it wasn’t a gun too far. How wrong they were. The company’s newest variant is the 828U Sport, a version purpose-made for clay shooting. However, don’t lose sight of the fact that sporting clays is a sport designed to simulate shooting flying and running game, so the 828U Sport is equally at home in the field.
In fact, it might be even better on the hunt since the stock can be adjusted through 40 variations of comb drop and cast on or off, and a shotgun that shoots where you look is a killer. This feature is unique to the 828U over-under, as no other manufacturer offers a stock-adjustable over-under, which is accomplished by the rear of the action projecting a slight bit beyond the trigger guard—retaining the lines of the receiver while allowing the shims to be inserted.
While we’re talking about the stock, the Sport includes a set of tungsten balancing weights that are stacked inside the butt, allowing the shooter to change the handling to his or her particular taste. The AA-grade walnut has a matte oil-finished appearance, and the pistol grip and fore-end are carved in a fish-scale pattern as opposed to traditional diamond-point checkering. The fore-end is removed using an Anson-style rod, which we feel is the easiest to use fore-end latching system.
The action contains many innovations, the primary being Benelli’s Steel Locking System that moves the strain of ignition away from the hinge. Using the typical Italian design, the barrels pivot on trunnions in the bottom front of the action that mate with matching cuts on the bottom front of the monobloc.
We found that in assembling the barrels to the action they needed to be at nearly a right angle to the receiver to perfectly align the cuts and trunnions. The selective ejectors lie along the side of the barrels, hence none of their mechanism is in the fore-end. They use long coil springs to kick out fired shells or to raise the unfired cartridges for easy removal.
Lying at the rear of the action is a vertical steel plate Benelli calls its Lock Plate System, with a curved notch at the base that engages a lip on the rear bottom of the barrels. It is this plate, machined to fully cover the breech end of the barrels when in battery, that receives the forces of firing upon ignition, minimizing the strain imparted onto the receiver itself.
The actual lockup is by way of a pair of cylindrical studs that project from the breechface above the locking plate and engage holes on each side at the top of the barrels. It’s the same locking system currently used by the great Boss & Co. and on many fine Italian over-under shotguns.
The action is opened by a traditional lever that is faintly checkered on the left side. It swings to the right, and about 80 percent through the stroke meets fairly stiff resistance that is felt until the breech unlocks. The Italian-style safety, with a barrel selector, is mounted on top of the rear tang. One nice feature is that the two barrels are indicated on the selector with recessed dots, with the first barrel to be fired highlighted in red, with the second in white.
The trigger assembly is removable for cleaning and lubrication by means of a supplied wire tool. It can be inserted into a hole just to the rear of the trigger guard—the tool is specifically contoured to follow the shape of the rear of the guard—and upward pressure will release the trigger assembly. In addition, using the supplied 1.5-mm Allen wrench, the positioning of the trigger can be adjusted either forward or backward to best position it to fit the shooter’s finger length.
The 828U Sport’s 30" barrels (32" also available) are separated for all but the first five inches of their lengths and at the muzzle to provide increased cooling surfaces and, perhaps more importantly, lighter barrels for faster response to feathered or clay targets. The carbon-fiber ventilated rib is striated on both sides and topped with a white, Bradley-style front sight. Topping the very precisely bored (0.722", bottom; 0.723", top) barrels are 3½" screw-in choke tubes of which the last 3/4" extends beyond the muzzle. The chokes use a series of notches to delineate their constrictions.
At the patterning board shooting Estate Cartridge’s 1-oz., No. 7½ target loads from 40 yds., the improved cylinder and modified chokes produced 47 percent and 57 percent patterns, respectively, which are excellent results for use against either clay or real pigeons. The 828U may have been a departure at the time for Benelli, but we’ve found the design to be an innovative one, worthy of its rather upscale price tag—and the changes made to the Sport result in an even more versatile and competition-ready over-under.