To understand where the company is coming from with the 828U, one needs to look at its history. The Benelli brothers came to firearms manufacturing in a roundabout way. They owned the Benelli motorcycle company, which started in Italy in 1911. The concept of a firearms company first came to them in 1940, when they came to the conclusion the future of shotguns lay with the semi-automatic. Then, when Bologna, Italy inventor Bruno Civolani came up with the concept for an inertia-powered shotgun, the Benelli launched their company in 1967 using his design. The resulting Model 121 was the fastest reloading shotgun the world had seen, able to cycle five rounds in less than a second.
Benelli’s mission statement, as described by Andrea Luini, export sales manager for Benelli Armi in Italy, is “to be the most innovative company in our sector. This is a relatively new company and we invest a lot of money in research and development and new technology.”
When the 828U was released as a 12 gauge in 2016, it was obvious that dedication to innovation was seen in the company’s first over/under. The gun is named for UNESCO’s number for Benelli’s hometown of Urbino, and is intended to be a hunting gun.
Owners will notice the difference right out of the box. Typically, a double barrel shotgun is a little stiff and needs a break-in period to loosen up, but not with the 828U. Opening the receiver for the first time, it’s apparent this is not a typical double barrel. Usually the breechblock is part of the receiver. With the 828U, the breechblock is part of the barrels and there is a moveable lock plate where the block is usually found. This eliminates wear on the hinge and receiver, which is where it typically appears.
The action of the gun is different as the norm has been the hammers are cocked and ejectors activated by opening the gun. The 828U performs these functions when the opening lever is moved.
While adjustments to the stock have become the norm with higher-end pump and semi-automatic shotguns, the 828U is the first over and over to provide stock adjustments. It has 40 different adjustments to the cast and drop of the stock.
“That is the only over-and-under you can customize without changing the stock,” Luini said.
It’s also the first double-barrel shotgun with recoil compensation built in from the factory. Benelli’s Progressive Comfort varies the recoil compensation according to the power of the shell by using a series of buffers located in the stock that compress when the shell ignites.
The barrels are cryogenically frozen, spending 24 hours in the freezer at a bone-chilling minus 135 degrees Celsius. This results in longer barrel life and increased ballistic performance with less shot deformation.
Likewise, the Crio chokes are also frozen. Chokes are flush mount and cylinder, improved cylinder, modified, improved modified and full are supplied.
Although it’s a little wider than typical, the tang safety set up isn’t that far out of the norm, with the barrel selector a part of it.
With an aluminum receiver and no mid-rib between the barrels, the 828U is light – weighing only 6½ pounds. Barrels options are 26 to 30 inches. The gun will take both 2¾- and 3-inch shells.
The Sporting Difference
A sporting version of the 828U was introduced to North America in 2019.
Three visual differences are apparent, with the first being the anodized aluminum receiver being replaced with black steel that has “Sporting” emblazed on the gun. The steel receiver adds strength for the extra shells shot through competition guns and adds a little weight in the middle of the gun to further absorb recoil. Flush mount chokes are replaced with extended Crio chokes, again in cylinder, improved cylinder, modified, improved modified and full. The other difference is the removable comb piece is gone. Barrel length choices are 30 and 32 inches.
Shane O’Connell of Benelli North America explains, “The 828U Sport has been created with features based on feedback collected by Benelli from competitive shooters around the world, with the intent of making an over/under model specifically for the clay-target shooting scene. Some features from the original design were kept and many others added such as the balance system and the new integrated sight channel built into the rib.”
Another difference with the sporting version is the inclusion of weights that can be added in the rear of the stock to change the point of balance of the gun.
The rib on the sporting is wider and has a channel that naturally guides the eye to the bead. Choke tubes are replaced with extended tubes to make for quick changes. The trigger can be adjusted forward or back to allow trigger pull to fit the shooter. Although an option isn’t included, the rib is replaceable with a lower version.
Barrels are 30-inch on the sporting model and the gun is heavier at 8.05 pounds.
At the Range
The AA walnut stock, sleek lines and sporting imprinted across the receiver make quite an impression when the gun is put together. My only hiccup with the gun is the one I had was a little trickier to put together than a typical over and under. This became easier after the first time.
The gun fit naturally to the shoulder and pointed beautifully. Several other shooters at the gun club also tried the gun and all agreed it was well balanced and shouldered well.
The 828U is made to shoot with a higher percentage of shot above the point of aim – this is standard for all Benellis as the company finds it aids shooters in connecting with rising clays and hitting waterfowl. Shims allow adjustment of the point of aim.
Recoil was eliminated with the Progressive Comfort system, even when I shot 1⅛-ounce loads.
The wide competitive rib and channel made target acquisition easy. Trigger pull was crisp, with no creep. I tried both modified and full chokes, finding the full choke dusted the targets and the modified or improved modified would be ideal for 16-yard targets.
An unexpected shower while I was at the trap range provided a good test of the checkering and its ability to provide a good grip in less favorable weather. The checkering proved its worth and assurance this gun would be ideal for clay busting no matter what the weather.
Taking the gun to the skeet range provided a good contrast of different shooting disciplines. It became apparent from the way the targets were turned that purchasing another cylinder choke would be ideal if skeet was the regular game shot with the gun. Overall, my impression was the chokes were a little tighter than marked.
The balance point, as set up from the factory, is at the front of the receiver. This worked great on trap. With skeet, I would have preferred a quicker swing of the barrels. One of the advantages of this gun is the weight system in the butt that can be used to adjust the balance. Likewise, Benelli tapped its semi-auto ingenuity for shims that can provide 40 different configurations for cast and pitch.
When Benelli designed the 828U, the company set out to manufacture a sporting gun that set the company apart from the competition. In this it succeeded with a mechanically innovative gun with a strikingly handsome look that is its own.
Jeff Helsdon is a multi-species hunter and angler from Ontario. He was the second person to complete a Canadian slam of turkey hunting, bagging eastern birds and a Merriams in Western Canada. When he's not turkey hunting, Jeff enjoys fishing with his family, especially on Lake Erie and hunting for upland game, waterfowl and deer. His articles have been published on both sides of the border and have won awards from outdoor writer's groups. He is also a field editor for the Ruffed Grouse Society.