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Benelli SBE II TE Shotgun Review

by Steve Gash   |  December 24th, 2010 1
The Benelli Super Black Eagle II has earned an enviable reputation since its introduction. This unique semiautomatic has a minimum number of parts, contributing to its remarkable functional reliability and ease of maintenance.
The heart of its design is its sophisticated, yet simple inertia system. The bolt has a rotating head that has two locking lugs. When the gun is fired, recoil moves the inert breech bolt forward about .16 inch, and that compresses the inertia spring between the bolt head and the bolt proper.Compression of this spring overcomes the inertia of the bolt and forces the bolt backward. At the end of its travel, the fired case is ejected and the hammer is cocked. The slight delay of the start of bolt travel allows the shot to exit the barrel and pressure to drop. It’s significant that this feature also allows the use of a wide variety of loads without adjustment. The SBE II digests virtually all standard 2¾-inch 12-gauge loads, plus 3- and 3½-inch magnums. After ejection, a spring in the buttstock shoves the bolt forward, picking up and chambering another cartridge in the conventional manner.The chrome-lined barrels of all Benelli shotguns are proof-tested in Brescia, Italy, to a pressure of 19,571 psi (at mean sea level). This is roughly double the pressure of shotshells, so it provides an ample safety margin.A new SBE II variant, the Benelli Performance Shop SBE II Turkey Edition, has about every nuance any dyed-in-the-wool gobbler hunter could want.

The SBE II TE is decked out in Realtee APG Camo. Two buttstocks are provided: the flexible ComforTech and the SteadyGrip. The ComforTech sports a rather traditional pistol grip, while the SteadyGrip has a more AR-type grip that is very comfortable in the hand. Both have soft ComforTech recoil pads and are adjustable for drop and cast with the supplied shims. A sling swivel stud is provided on the fore-end cap. The ComforTech stock has a molded-in hole for a QD swivel, but the SteadyGrip has a slot that goes all the way through the stock for sling attachment.

The crossbolt safety behind the trigger clicks off and on quietly and easily. The trigger is as good as some rifles I’ve tested. With minimal takeup, little overtravel and a pull weight of less than four pounds, it’s a delight.

All TE barrels are customized by smoothbore specialist Rob Roberts of Rob Roberts Custom Gun Works and Gobbler Guns. Roberts is well known for tweaking turkey guns, so this is a significant upgrade. He polishes the barrel mirror-bright and lengthens the forcing cone. Both help patterns and make cleaning easier. The barrel also has recoil-reducing ports near the muzzle that are formed by electrical discharge rather than drilling to prevent internal burrs and stress in the barrel.

Each TE comes with the nifty Burris FastFire II red-dot sight mounted on a one-piece Weaver-style base (also camouflaged). For the traditionalist, a red fiber optic front sight and metal middle bead are provided on the gun. Roberts also sights in the FastFire on each TE and supplies a raft of paperwork that shows the points of impact and number of pellets in 10-, 20- and 30-inch circles with a preferred load–a nice touch.

The SBE II TE comes with an extra-full turkey choke tube that has an ID of .665 inch. My test gun patterned best out to 50 yards with this tube and Federal Premium three-inch ammo with 1⅝ ounces of Heavyweight No. 7 shot. In fact, this setup shoots so tight, it’s easy to miss a gobbler’s head at close range, so the utility of the Burris FastFire sight quickly becomes apparent. A full complement of five choke tubes (C, IC, M, IM and F) is also included.

As with any autoloader, ammo plays a big role in functioning. The gun is not finicky about its diet as long as the shell you feed it imparts enough energy to kick-start the action into motion, meaning that the action requires a minimum recoil impulse. The SBE II takes 2¾-, 3- or 3½-inch shells, but the minimum load recommended for proper functioning is the three-dram equivalent with 1⅛ ounces of shot, and I found this to be correct in my testing. I ran several representative loads over the chronograph, and the results are shown in the accompanying chart. This data suggests that in the SBE II, a shot charge of 1⅛ ounces needs a velocity of about 1,170 to 1,180 fps for 100 percent functioning–essentially, the standard three-dram equivalent load, just as stated in the Benelli manual.

These speeds with 1⅛ ounces of shot are easy to duplicate with handloads. After trying a few combinations, I settled on 22.2 grains of Green Dot with 1⅛ ounces of 7½s. This gave a velocity of 1,180 fps, a low standard deviation and perfect functioning.

While this SBE II TE is designed to whack a gobbler at any reasonable range, with the simple switch of ammo, choke tube or perhaps the buttstock, the gun’s ready for almost any task.

Also as part of my review, I installed the Improved Cylinder tube and took the gun to the Ozark Shooters Complex near Branson, Missouri, to wring it out on a challenging sporting clays course. I did get a few strange looks as I hoisted the 24-inch-barreled camo gun with its optical sight to the line, but a few shattered targets soon quieted the skeptics. No, I did not run ‘em (I never do at this course), but I did hit enough to convince me that the Benelli engineers are on to something. The SBE never hiccuped with Federal factory loads or my handloads. The targets were convincingly crushed, and after a brief learning curve I found that the Burris FastFire II sight was terrific for applying exactly the right amount of lead.

My overall impression after shooting the SBE is most favorable. The trigger is fantastic, and the optical sight, while somewhat unconventional on clays, works well there and in the field.

Yes, the gun is a bit pricey, but all the custom features that come standard soften the blow somewhat. What matters is performance, and in that regard the Benelli Super Black Eagle II Turkey Edition proved its mettle on turkeys and clay pigeons. It’s a versatile package that any shotgunner should consider as an addition to his battery.

With a simple switch of choke tube and ammo, the SBE was right at home on the sporting clays field.

  • Richard

    When hunting water fowl I wear heavy clothing and have trouble getting the SB11 on the sholder can any one tell me where to buy a butt plate to reduise length of stock I realize there will be no shock asorber

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