Benelli inertia-driven shotguns have earned an extraordinary reputation for reliability among virtually every subset of shotgunner in the United States—waterfowler, clays shooter, tactical types, upland gunners, even deer hunters—every type of smoothbore operator save one, the smallbore aficionado.
Up until now you could have a Benelli in any gauge you wanted…as long as it was 12 or 20. But now the Legacy, the company’s upscale showpiece, has been scaled and sculpted down to 28 gauge.
The company specs list the weight at a shockingly low 4.9 pounds, but I believe that figure applies to the 24-inch-barreled version. Our 26-inch-barreled test gun weighed a hair over five pounds—still more (or, rather, less) than enough to back up Benelli’s “world’s lightest autoloader” claim.
The obvious question, of course, is “How’d they do it?” Well, besides the obvious weight reduction stemming from a scaled-down action and short, slimmed-down barrel, there’s the alloy receiver and carbon-fiber barrel rib. Then there’s the shortened magazine. Here, it’s a real unplugged two-plus-one capacity (other larger members of the Legacy lineup are all four plus one).
Subgauge addicts are going to want to lay hands on this one (if you listen carefully you’ll already be able to hear cries for the 28 gauge won’t compete with the .410 in the utility gun niche, it’s considerably more effective .410 followup). While the 28 gauge won’t compete with the .410 in the utility gun niche, it’s considerably more effective on upland game. And with its acid-etched game scenes on that silver receiver, satin walnut and blued barrel, there’s no mistaking it for anything other than an upscale gun. The only jarring note, to me, is that red-bar front sight.
Shooting Times’ Joseph von Benedikt was the first guy I know to get any hands-on experience with the Legacy 28 in the field, and he was very successful with it on a Texas bobwhite hunt. Joseph, a disciple of Gil and Vicki Ash’s OSP Shooting School, dispenses with sustained lead. Instead he tracks the bird by matching its momentum with his whole body as the gun comes up from the low position, inserting the muzzle into he lead and firing the split second the gun is mounted.
My experience, along with that of Shotgun News editor Bob Hunnicutt, took place at a skeet range. There we discovered that shooting an extremely lightweight gun in the conventional “pull through the bird until the lead looks right” method isn’t all that easy at first. On the first round we did okay on stations 1 and 7 and fairly miserably on stations 3, 4 and 5.
In short, OK on a quick “cover the bird and shoot” scenario, a no-go on anything requiring a sustained lead and/or mental gymnastics. Bob and I both agreed that the difficulty was that the gun couldn’t generate enough weight-dependent momentum to keep moving; we were shooting behind everything.
Whenever we overcompensated—trying to muscle the little 28 through the bird—things got jerky. Achieving a consistent swing speed with this one requires a bit of practice. In all fairness, however, neither of us had shot skeet in an unconscionably long time. However, we managed to get the hang of things by the third round.
Our out-of-the-box new gun cycled Winchester AA Target Loads (2.5 drams, ⅞ ounces of No. 8s) flawlessly through about 200 rounds, as expected. After we were done on the skeet range, Bob checked the Modified tube on a 30-yard patterning target and found it to be well in spec.
The appeal of the Legacy 28 is obvious. It’s easy to carry and has no recoil to speak of and elegant good looks. As nice as it is, however, it’s obviously not an entry-level gun. It’s too costly for that, and it takes time to learn to hit with it. And it wouldn’t be our choice for a dedicated clay target tool. But for an experienced shotgunner who’s obliged to cover a lot of rugged terrain, it would make a terrific little upland gun.