New for 2020, the Benelli Lupo stands out from the horde of recent bolt-action introductions simply by the fact that its maker is so successful—at designing and building shotguns. But does that translate to the hunting-rifle category? Does that track record matter with a simple turnbolt that doesn’t rely on the ingenious intertia-drive system that makes Benelli semi-auto smoothbores so highly regarded?
Certainly the Lupo—Italian for wolf—will have to prove itself as capable as its smoothbore brandmates, but what does matter is that it comes from the same engineering shop, the same designers and the same manufacturing plant that many consider the world’s most technologically advanced. After hatching the idea about five years ago, the development team has produced a bolt gun whose style is distinctly fresh and modern, but was actually driven by handling ergonomics.
At 7 lbs. even, the Lupo is a bit lighter and sleeker than its competitors, housed in a black synthetic stock shaped so that the shooter’s hands wrap around gripping areas for optimum stability and comfort. The trigger sits high in an oddly canted integral guard, a distinctive look that also minimizes strain on the shooter’s wrist. But for a small indentation, the five-round-capacity detachable box magazine extends the line of the fore-end.
Fitted inside the buttstock is a rifle version of Benelli’s Progressive Comfort onboard recoil reduction system that uses interlocking buffers to soak up rearward thrust before it smacks one’s shoulder, and the harder the kick, the more the buffers are pressed into service. Also catering to shooter comfort is the crushable, interchangeable Combtech cheekpad that ensures perfect, natural sight alignment.
Both features were co-opted from deployment in Benelli shotguns where they have been hailed as genuine breakthroughs in recoil management. The stock also is sold with a variety of shims and spacers that help owners personalize the fit to their stature and preferences, what the company calls Perfect Fitting.
Forward-thinking Benelli engineering is evident the rifle’s unique two-piece receiver. Rather than relying on the traditional construct, the Lupo consists of a heat-treated steel upper receiver cradled within an aluminum chassis (or lower receiver). In part, this helps to slenderize the Lupo, but more importantly it provides a rigid, impervious platform that promotes shot-to-shot consistency.
The upper connects to the 22” or 24” Crio-treated barrels threaded at the muzzle. With three locking lugs, the bolt stroke is short, quick and smooth-running. Its handle doglegs away from the stock and ends in an easy-to-grip oblong orb. The ambidextrous safety is a rounded toggle housed just behind the upper’s rearmost curve. It is conveniently placed for thumb operation and in the off position reveals a bright red indicator dot.
Also installed is what the maker calls its Perfect Shot Trigger, which can be owner-set to break between 2.2 and 4.4 lbs., and to break very crisply according to all who have fired the rifle. Owners will likewise appreciate how easily the bolt disassembles without tools for deep cleaning.
This year’s models will be offered in .270 Win., .30-’06 Sprng. and .300 Win. Mag., and additional calibers are planned for 2021. We don’t have confirmed MSRPs just yet, but expect them to be in the $1,500 range. At that level, buyers will want to be assured of top-notch performance. There will be doubters, just like there were when the Super Black Eagle and other Benelli scatterguns first hit the market.
However, no one can doubt now that those innovative, shooter-friendly models reset the shotgun category, and while nothing is assured, the Lupo possesses every bit as much thoughtful innovation and all the practical performance features one could want.