Considering the ambitious, 007-esque "What's In the Box?" promo campaign generated by Benelli USA for its new Vinci shotgun, the gun needed to be good, really good. More importantly, it needed to be different.
And now we know what the hype was all about. Benelli officially unveiled the gun yesterday at noon, but before that NRA Publications was granted an extensive preview. Not unexpectedly the Vinci is a semi-auto 12-gauge that relies heavily on polymer for its manufacture. It sports a 3-inch chamber with a new In-Line Inertia Driven bolt system and excellent, radically styled ergonomics. All that might have been predicted. What makes it so different-and worth the wait-is a revolutionary modular design that may change how future shotguns are built.
Like A Lego ... For Wingshooters
The Vinci breaks down quickly into three modules:
Trigger Group/Forearm Module-essentially a lower receiver, plus a magazine assembly and a polymer fore-end with a one-piece polymer unit containing a fire-control group, as well as the loading port and carrier. This comes as one piece, though the magazine assembly is easily detachable.
In the Vinci, all the elements of the bottom half of a shotgun are a single assembly ride in this polymer lower receiver. The aluminum magazine tube snaps into place from the front of the fore-end. And the bottom of the forward end has a finger groove that gives you the feel of a generous beavertail without the usual bulk.
Barrel/Receiver Module-contains the bolt, a cylindrical steel receiver and the cryogenically treated barrel. The bolt lugs lock into the receiver, not a barrel extension. The key to the Vinci's modularity is a new hanger mounted to the underside of the barrel. A lug on the magazine tube twists into a recess on the front of the hanger, locking the tube and the fore-end assembly into place. There are four lugs protruding outward, two to a side, on the hanger's bottom that lock into an aluminum chassis mounted to the fore-end assembly with corresponding engagement surfaces. This eliminates side-to-side play between the components. There are two coil springs at the bottom rear of the fore-end module that provide tension to keep it snug.
The two-lug, polished-steel bolt-head with its hook extractor on the right side will be immediately familiar to anyone who has ever field-stripped one of the Italian firm's semi-auto guns. And the massive Benelli spring that keeps the bolt closed until pressures from a fired shell have dropped to safe levels is there, too. The back of the bolt-the cylindrical bolt carrier-resembles the back half of an M3 "Grease Gun." The coil recoil spring and its guide rod are positioned at 12 o'clock and are completely self-contained with the cylindrical receiver. The captive recoil spring is positioned on its guide rod between the back of the bolt and a buffer and plate at the rear of the receiver. As the bolt travels rearward the spring is compressed completely within the receiver. There is no tail on the carrier that must compress a spring in the butt. This is the key to the In-Line Inertial system. There are no lugs or recesses indexing or guiding bolt travel; those are imparted by the recoil spring guide rod and the ejector guide rod position at 3 o'clock when viewed from the front. The latter, too, is spring-loaded, and the ejector is a cylinder surrounding the rod with a step in its face that mates with the rear of a shotshell's case head. Nothing protrudes beyond the 8½-inch long receiver, allowing the QuadraFit Buttstock Module to be mounted to the receiver via simple interrupted threads.
QuadraFit Buttstock Module-features improved ComforTech Plus recoil reduction (12 chevron-shaped dampeners), with space for stock shims between the barrel and receiver. Buttstocks can easily be changed by the user; pistol grip or even folding stocks are possible because the recoil spring is in the receiver, not the buttstock.
This modularity makes disassembling the Vinci quicker and easier than any autoloading shotgun I've ever seen-done in about 10 seconds. There are white dots strategically placed on the butt, the receiver below the action port and in the fore-end's take-down button to give you visual clues.
In terms of handling, the Vinci is all Benelli. A semi-automatic needs to swing smoothly, fire every time and place the pattern where I point it-and the Vinci did it in spades. Although its unconventional lines might look ungainly on the rack, it certainly doesn't feel ungainly in the hands. Overall ergonomics and handling are as good as any autoloading shotgun I've ever swung.The Vinci is a risk in some ways, though previous Benelli shotguns laid the groundwork with aggressive styling, extensive use of polymers and evolving modularity. The construction of the Vinci marks a true turning point, but in no way do the changes adversely affect how the gun performs. The revolution is real.