by Frank Miniter - Monday, June 1, 2009
I mean no disrespect to over/under aficionados, but I noticed a curious generational difference in how Benelli's surrealistic SuperSport was received on skeet and sporting clays ranges. The silver-haired gents with the Berettas and Rizzinis shrugged when they saw the SuperSport's carbon-fiber finish, ComforTech recoil-dampening system, ported barrel, gel recoil pad and semi-auto design; whereas the younger shooters-the guides to the courses in particular-begged for chances to swing and shoot the new shotgun Benelli calls a "speed gun."
The SuperSport's ability to change its length of pull (LOP) from 13 ½ to 14 or 14 3/8 inches attracted me. I'm 5 feet 7 inches tall and my LOP is 13 ½ inches. When picking up a standard-size shotgun I sometimes feel like a teenager trying to buy a pair of jeans who can't quite find what he needs in either the boy's or the men's sections. This gun, however, gave me a precise fit without having to pay a stock fitter. I also liked the option of having three different ComforTech Gel Combs to further modify the shotgun to my cheek and shooting style.
Next, like all the waterfowl hunters who shoot the Super Black Eagle II, I was impressed with Benelli's ComforTech recoil-dampening system. Indeed, after 200 clays my shoulder still didn't know I was shooting-and thanks to the fit my cheek didn't look like I'd been eating jabs from Floyd Mayweather Jr. I found the SuperSport to be lively and sweet-swinging, but the lack of punishment certainly helped improve my scores.
Because to really understand anything you have to take it apart-okay, that theory has cost me some expensive electronics, but with mechanical objects it holds-I unscrewed its fore-end and found that there were no O-rings, washers, gas ports or other parts in the magazine tube, as an inertia-operated system doesn't need such trifles. An inertia system, of course, is hardly new to firearms, but it's also true that this shell-cycling system has proven to be almost unstoppable. To cycle the action, gas-operated shotguns rely on pressure siphoned off from gases from the fired shotshell, and in doing so it absorbes some of its energy and reduces recoil; however, gas-cycling guns are dirtier and require those aforementioned O-rings and other parts that can fail, whereas the inertia-recoil system relies on the simple energy of a shell's recoil and a spring.
Benelli boasts that the SuperSport's "ComforTech recoil-dampening system allows the shooter to recover for the critical second shot up to 69 percent faster than with other comparable shotguns." Such marketing claims are impossible to verify or denounce, but the combination of its ComforTech system, smartly shaped gel recoil pad and its back-bored (.733 inch on the 12-gauge), ported barrel did reduce my perceived recoil and seemed to control muzzle climb, which I believe allowed me to get on the second clay faster.
The SuperSport is solid; for example, its receiver, bolt assembly and rotating bolt head are CNC-machined out of solid steel. And it's nimble: Its aluminum body and carbon-fiber stock make this 7.2-pound gun lively-those who say fatigue doesn't eventually affect swing on a sporting clays course are sipping too much testosterone. A light, easy-to-swing shotgun also makes a good grouse gun, so I've taken it out in New York's laurel thickets and found it fast and easy to point.
Now because Benelli claims its SuperSport will function problem-free with any shells from 3-inch magnum duck loads to light skeet loads, I tested this claim by shooting 200 Winchester 1 1/8-ounce, 1200 fps Super Target loads and 200 Remington 1-ounce, 1185 fps Gun Club loads on skeet and sporting clays courses. I never had a cycling issue.
The SuperSport comes with Extended Crio Chokes in C, IC, M, IM and F. "Crio" is short for "cryogenically treated," meaning they-and the barrel-were subjected to temperatures of minus 300 degrees to change the molecular structure of the metal so it'll vibrate predictably and have extra strength. The argument against simply hammer-forging barrels is that the process can leave stresses in the steel that can cause the barrel to vibrate unevenly. Benelli argues that crio barrels fix this problem and improve shot patterns. Sounds good to me, but in the end what sold me was the SuperSport's balance and low recoil. With no springs, rings or a gas cylinder under the fore-end, Benelli's inertia-driven design balances like a fine shotgun should, even if it looks too new-age for some. But then, perhaps those traditionalists with the high-end over/unders would look more favorably upon the SuperSport if I'd toted the model with the A-Grade walnut and satin-luster finish. Despite their persnicketiness, this shotgun's race car looks and performance suit me just fine.
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