Admittedly, Alessandro is a sensualist and a mondo Benelli enthusiast. His family owns Aldo’s – an Italian restaurant in Baltimore that consistently hovers in the rarefied “best of” stratosphere, and where all the Vitale men are avid wing and clays shooters. Alessandro’s Benelli collection numbers 14 and will hit 15 when his Legacy 28 arrives. He recently returned from dove shooting in Argentina where a couple of 20-gauge Benellis equipped with magazine extensions brought down more than 2,000 glitch-free birds per day. In short, you know precisely where Alessandro stands when it comes to Benellis.
But even other members of the Shotgun Life Peer Review Posse who didn’t wax quite as poetic as Alessandro registered equal enthusiasm for the petite semi-auto.
It’s easy to get all rubbery over the Benelli’s Legacy 28. Aside from the euphoria of shooting it, the gun does possess that rare charisma you associate with a Purdey or Holland & Holland; but instead of costing a king’s ransom the Legacy 28 has an MSRP of $1,989.
The gun’s diminutive size for a semi-auto and its highly polished, engraved receiver pull in the gawkers like a hypnotist’s pendulum (I will buy this gun, I will buy this gun…). And then when you pick it up…
Benelli’s Legacy 28 equipped with the 26-inch barrels (like the one we shot) weighs a surprising 4.9 pounds – that’s compared to 6 pounds for the same shotgun in 20 gauge. It would be hard to challenge Benelli’s claim that the Legacy 28 is the lightest semi-auto available today.
Extending the weight comparison, a 28-gauge Fausti Class with 28-inch barrels tips the scales at 5.8 pounds; a Browning Cynergy Field Gun in 28 gauge with 26-inch barrels weighs 6.2 pounds; and a 28-gauge Caesar Guerini Tempio field gun sporting 26-inch barrels is also 6.2 pounds.
The Fausti, Browning and Caesar Guerini are certainly the embodiments of your classical 28-gauge field guns. The Legacy 28, meanwhile, is a post-modern interpretation of the 28-gauge field gun for upland shooters who revere woodcock, grouse and quail.
Carbon-fiber textures put across the exotica that hook the casual passer-by. Sunlight catches the stippling on the side of the vented rib. The shape of the black end-cap is evocative of a nuclear reactor cooling tower that’s finished with diamond webbing. The oval insert under the pistol grip displays a signature 28 in silver on a field of gloss black. The black, poly-carbon trigger guard featured an attractive swoop that complemented the curvature of the pistol grip and the contour of the checkering that suggested the profile of a bird’s head and neck.
The arrangement of contrasts dazzles the eye. The upper receiver and barrel are polished to a black chrome-moly luster, juxtaposed against the nickel receiver etched with a motif of Renaissance cherub wings and flushing birds. AA-grade satin walnut Weathercoat communicated a premium, hand-crafted sensibility to an otherwise industrial gem.
And, in fact, when we talk about the magnetism of the Legacy 28, perhaps the most subliminal aspect of it is the extraordinary fit of all the parts. The wonder of the Legacy 28 (and other Benelli Legacys) is that the contrast of materials, as exaggerated by the length of the bright semi-auto receiver, can easily highlight flaws in the final assembly. It’s not as if a uniform matte black or camo finish can mask shoddy seam joints. The stock-receiver-trigger guard-barrel-forend fit of the Legacy 28 is the soul of quality and quietly beckons when you first spot it on a gun rack.
Workmanship fully intact, the Legacy 28 is scaled down in all regards as you would expect of any fine, sub-gauge shotgun. Svelte and shapely, one way the Legacy 28 shed poundage is when Benelli decided to cut the 4+1 magazine capacity of the bigger Legacys to 2+1 for its 2¾ inch shells.
The corresponding reduction in bolt mass facilitates lightning-fast cycling of Benelli’s super-durable Inertia Driven system – essentially the DNA of Benelli semi-autos. That means the Legacy 28 shares the design goals with its big brothers: reliability, simplicity, speed and low maintenance.
Benelli’s Inertia Driven operating system is reduced to only three primary parts: the bolt body, the inertia spring and the rotating bolt head. Rather than use expended gases to cycle the action, shotshell residue is trapped in the barrel to power the gun. Likewise, say goodbye to forend hardware like springs, action bar linkage and the gas cylinder. For Benelli owners that translates into a cleaner semi-auto and when the time comes for a quick swab all Benelli’s are easy to take down thanks to their straightforward internals.The Legacy 28 features other patented advancements found across the Benelli semi-auto line-up. Benelli’s trademarked Crio Barrels refer to a cryogenic treatment of -300° F where any imperfections from manufacturing are removed for a smooth bore that resists fouling and ensures shot pattern integrity. In the case of the Legacy 28, barrels are available in 24 and 26 inches.
The Crio process is also applied to the chokes, allowing for a slick finish and precise graduation of constriction. Benelli claims that its Crio Chokes improve patterns by up to 13.2% as measured by density and uniformity. Only two flush Crio Chokes are packaged with the Legacy 28: modified and improved cylinder. At this point, Benelli doesn’t offer additional chokes for the Legacy 28 yet, although a full line of accessory chokes will be available in September, according to the company.
The wood is finished with Benelli’s element-resistant WeatherCoat – the stock topped with an “AirCell” recoil pad for minimum slip and maximum recoil absorption.
An assortment of shims provide personalized adjustment for cast and height –standard fare these days for nearly all semi-autos.
Unusual for a field gun, however, is the bead arrangement. Center beads are generally associated with clays guns, making the Legacy 28 a natural cross-over save for skeet where wider chokes would make for a more satisfying score (except for Alessandro). We also liked the front red fluorescent bead.
For this little gun, though, the big question remains: How does it shoot?
It was too early for wing shooting in our neck of the woods so the Shotgun Life Posse wrung out the Legacy 28 on skeet, sporting clays and 5-stand.
The obvious concern is handling. Sub-gauge shotguns are notorious for whippy swings and run-away mounts. The balance point of the Legacy 28 is about 18 inches forward of the recoil pad. With an overall length of 47½ inches, of which 8¾ is receiver, this placed the balance point at about the rearmost of the bottom port. That put the central mass of the Legacy 28 mid-way between your forend hand and trigger finger. The result was neutral handling. Better yet, the slender forend comfortably rested between the fleshy part of your thumb and fingers, giving the shooter plenty of control for a managed swing.
Trigger pull on our Legacy 28 averaged 6.2 pounds. We’ve shot break-open subgauge shotguns with a pulls of 6+ pounds and they created a tendency to yank down the front of the gun in order to gain enough leverage upon pulling the trigger. Not the case here. We would attribute the superior performance of the Legacy 28 trigger to its short, crisp pull.
There was one particular quality about the Legacy 28 that everyone in the Peer Review Posse agreed on: the gun is a lot of fun to shoot. The Legacy 28 defied convention is so many ways that it rewarded you with the kind of guilty pleasure you feel after finishing the astonishing tiramisu in Alessandro’s restaurant.
Now that we’ve come to know the Legacy 28 on clays, we’re eagerly awaiting bird season. The notion that clays make good practice for birds is certainly true, except with birds there are no lookers. Keeping that distinction in mind, we’re expecting that the Legacy 28 to really shine over dogs where instinct and control reign supreme. The sheer liveliness of the Legacy 28 is bound to make it an impressive bird gun. Stay tuned…
In the meantime, let’s see what the Shotgun Life Peer Review Posse has to say about the Benelli Legacy 28:
Profession: Mechanical engineer
Gun of Choice: Beretta 687 Extra Grade
- It’s a very nice gun.
- It’s light compared to my normal gun and I don’t consider that to be a bad thing.
- The inertia mechanism is crisper – not as soft as a gas mechanism – but the action was smooth and positive.
- It handled well.
- It would be an excellent field gun for small upland birds.
- I’m not crazy about the shiny finish on the receiver. It’s not a classic finish and I’m a classic gun kind of guy. However, the fit and execution was excellent. There were no defects in the plating. The wood fit the metal very well. It seems to be a quality gun.
- The butt stock pattern felt good. It was comfortable.
- The forend seemed a little slim at first, but it was very comfortable to shoot.
Profession: Mechanical Engineer
Gun of Choice: Beretta 680
- I didn’t know the gun went off – it has super-light recoil.
- Great sight picture, very clear.
- The weight is phenomenal.
- It has the pattern of a 28 gauge, the weight of a .410 and the recoil of a .22.
- I liked the short pull of the trigger.
- I don’t like the location of the safety. I’d put it forward of the trigger guard.
- It’s a beautiful gun. The wood looks good too.
- The forend has a nice contour. Your fingers fit well around it.
Profession: Electrical contractor
Gun of Choice: Franchi 12 gauge
- I loved it.
- When I brought it up, it was right on target, right where I wanted it to be.
- The action was smooth.
- It swings great.
Profession: Vice President of Credit Risk
Gun of Choice: Beretta 687
- Very light and easy handling.
- It had good pointability and it was easy to see the targets.
- It was easy to swing, especially for fast moving targets. It had easy target acquisition.
- Superior balance.
- The fit and finish were beautiful.
- It cycled well – no hesitation.
- It’s a perfect, little 28 gauge.
Gun of Choice: Benelli
- It’s like a true Italian woman standing in the room, your eyes immediately turn to it on the gun rack.
- It’s a Benelli, so you have the true workings of a work horse with a rugged elegance.
- No felt recoil. It will definitely show up in Argentina where you shoot 2000 rounds a day, and you’ll never feel it.
- There’s zero muzzle climb.
- It swings too good, making the average shooter feel invincible.
- It’s lightweight, has no recoil, you can shoot it all day.
Irwin Greenstein is Publisher of Shotgun Life. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Benelli web site (click on the Upland tab for information about the Legacy 28).