June 09, 2020
Quality. Art. Design. History. Precision. Innovation. Family. Passion. Love. These words come to my mind when describing anything Italian, and the same is true for a product bearing the name “Benelli.”
Known for its shotgun innovations, Benelli is a young company by comparison. Formed in 1967 by six brothers who had already met success in manufacturing motorcycles since 1940, the Benellis were fine engineers and fervent hunters. Convinced that the future of hunting shotguns was to be semiautomatic, Benelli set out to transform the industry by hiring Bruno Civolani, inventor of the inertia-driven operating system.
Though today Benelli employs some 270, production is completely automated. You won’t find hand engraving or humans readying packages for shipments. Benelli shotguns and rifles are manufactured on robotics and precision machining that run 24 hours a day, every day of the week with a capacity of producing 1,000 units per day. There are three shifts, and the night shift runs without a single human hand.
Being that Benelli is a technology-driven company, it might seem like a step back to introduce a bolt-action rifle in the year 2020, but when you think about those descriptive words it becomes apparent that the Lupo was designed to be the best bolt-action hunting rifle in esistenza.
Meanings of Names
It wasn’t until I visited Italy late last year that I appreciated the significance of the brand’s naming convention. “Ethos,” for example, is a set of ideas and attitudes associated with a particular group. “Vinci” is Italian for “win” and the last name of Renaissance polymath Leonardo da Vinci. Likewise, “Montefeltro” is a reference to the Italian-Renaissance Duke of Urbino, Federico da Montefeltro.
Located in central Italy, Urbino is also the home to Benelli and an important site during the Renaissance with great credit to the Duke. Urbino is listed as “828 U” on United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) list of World Heritage sites. Benelli’s state-of-the-art factory sits below the sloping hillside beneath the walled city. It has remained virtually unchanged since the 1483 birth of painter and architect, Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, born in Urbino.
The word “Lupo” means “wolf” in Italian, but I found its cultural significance to Benelli in Rome the week prior. The wolf and her suckling twin boys, Romulus and Remus, are the symbols to Rome’s founding and have been an inspiration to Italian artists since. After walking the early Roman roads through the Forum and touring the Colosseum, I came upon the Pantheon. The Pantheon’s large circular domed cella with a portico front is primarily lit inside from natural light through its oculus, an open hole in the ceiling. Among the two kings buried in the Pantheon is the great Raffaello from Urbino.
The Lupo is based on a steel-barreled action mated to an aluminum chassis. The free-floating barrel is uniquely attached with a steel-barrel extension that’s secured to the receiver using the recoil lug and two screws. Underneath, the precision-cut slot accepts a steel recoil lug held within the front of the aluminum chassis. The rigidity of this design, combined with a barrel that’s been Crio treated, produces a barreled action that consistently delivers sub-minute-of-angle (MOA) three-shot groups.
The aluminum chassis is slender and neatly serves as the Lupo’s lower receiver. The detachable magazine well is ideally positioned so that the cartridge is perfectly aligned to the chamber and there’s no risk of damaging a bullet’s tip when pushing the bolt forward.
The magazine carries five rounds in a double-stack configuration in the .30-’06 Springfield and .270 Winchester models, and 4 rounds in the .300 Win. Mag. rifle. The magazine release lever compliments the shape of the floorplate and is ergonomic. When pressed, the magazine feels spring loaded and ejects the mag for fast removal. The magazine’s floorplate is contoured to blend with the curves and lines of the chassis, as well as the forend for maximum comfort.
Atop the heat-treated upper receiver are three sets of drilled-and-tapped holes for mounting optic bases. There are three holes at the rear, two in the middle and three more holes at the front to accept a variety of rails. For example, a combination of four holes will accept commercial, off-the-shelf Remington-pattern bases (both rear) with two screws each. Standard with the Lupo is Benelli’s proprietary steel, two-piece railed bases for the front and rear, each secured by three screws. There will also be a single long aluminum rail that’s attached to the receiver by six screws. Despite the recoil forces experienced while endurance testing the Lupo in .30-’06 and .300 Win. Mag., I observed repeatability when detaching and reattaching Leupold and Nightforce optics to proper torque.
The steeply angled triggerguard is integral to the aluminum chassis and generous enough to accept thick-gloved fingers. The trigger is actually attached to the underside of the steel action and is accessible when the lower receiver is removed. Benelli has made it easy to adjust the trigger-pull weight between a 2.2-pound minimum and a 4.4-pound maximum. Guns & Ammo’s sample measured 2 pounds, 11.5 ounces, and felt flawless. A great trigger like this enables us to achieve a rifle’s accuracy potential, as you’ll see.
Behind the action on what I’ll call the “tang,” for lack of a better description, is a sliding safety with a shape that some will find mimics a handgun’s hammer. This approach is ambidextrous and incredibly intuitive. Push it forward to fire and it reveals a red dot underneath. Additionally, with the bolt cocked, a red-tipped indicator protrudes like a turtle’s head out of its shell. Still, the indicator does not extend far enough out to interrupt the sloping lines along the back of the receiver, bolt and to the grip of the stock.
With the bolt removed and a small chromed lever pressed to unlock, the shroud is easily twisted and separated without tools for access to the firing pin and spring. The push-feed bolt body is one piece, chromed for lubricity and features ramped flats that lighten the bolt body and add style. The flats also allow the magazine to sit higher in the receiver for direct feeding and gave designers the opportunity to add one round of capacity to the magazine, versus competing rifles. The bolt head has three lugs for a fast, 60-degree throw. The hardened extractor features a wide claw behind the lip and a plunger-style ejector within the bolt face opposite of the ejection port.
The steel bolt handle contributes to the Lupo’s unique styling with its down-and-out angle. I may be grasping at straws, but when I look at the bolt, I see the nose of Federico da Montefeltro. While touring his palace and studying the art galleries, I learned that he was wounded in battle and lost vision with one eye. Legend has it that he asked the doctor to cut off the top of his nose to improve his peripheral vision. If this were artistic inspiration, it wouldn’t surprise me after seeing Benelli’s engineers work closely with students from the Accademia di Belle Arti di Urbino, the city’s academy of fine art. Regardless from where its shape was inspired, I can assure you that the bolt is quick to cycle.
One important detail that I find sometimes overlooked is the handle’s proximity to the scope. The Lupo’s handle does not come into contact with most scopes having large ocular housings.
Though the Lupo doesn’t come with sights, the bolt shroud is horizontally serrated to break up any reflection when sighting in with the sun at your back. There’s also an index mark at the top that I found useful in aligning the scope’s reticle while mounting.
The Lupo features a separate synthetic stock and forend. The forend and grip are textured with mildly aggressive square divots. Benelli is marketing this texture as “AirTouch,” but I do not understand how touching this texturing is like touching air. Still, the grip is comfortable and there are no sharp edges. It surrounds the frontstrap of the grip handle and leaves the tang smooth. The pattern artistically blends ergonomic contact points with the linear lines and curving contours on the stock and chassis.
The stock’s pistol grip was optimized for the majority of rifle shooters. A statistical analysis of finger lengths was used to develop the ergonomic approach in reaching the trigger. From the wrist to the end of the thumb was found to average 5.64 inches, plus-or-minus .52 inch. The average length from the wrist to the end of the trigger finger measured 7.39 inches, plus or minus .57 inch. Taking all five fingers into account, the grip and forend was then shaped. To perfectly fit the Lupo to an individual, Benelli developed drop shims and spacers that can be installed in any of 36 combinations between the chassis and the stock. Further, the length of pull can be changed with optional recoil pads. The standard length of pull — out of the box — measured 13.8 inches, but longer pads can increase that number to 15.2 inches. In the box, Benelli included two plastic spacers, about a half-inch each, and if you need it longer, there will be a thicker pad (.4-inch thicker) optionally available from Benelli USA. They do not hinder or alter the efficiency of the Progressive Comfort system in any way.
This personalized fit system is reminiscent of Benelli’s Ethos and 828 U. Like those shotguns, the stock is a housing that also carries Benelli’s ComforTech interchangeable comb system and Progressive Comfort recoil reduction system. ComforTech gel comb inserts cushion your cheek during recoil. (Fun fact: The Super Black Eagle III and the Lupo use the same comb pieces.) They are smooth enough to slide your face along the comb for increased comfort or eye relief. Three comb heights are available including the standard that’s in line with the stock, the raised comb and the extra-high comb that helps a shooter get behind a high-mounted scope with a large objective.
The Progressive Comfort recoil-reduction system is the same interlocking, flexible buffer concept as the one that appears in the Ethos and 828 U. However, it has been refined for the Lupo. Shooting the Lupo in .30-’06 Springfield felt like shooting the rifle in .308 Win. Shooting .300 Win. Mag. was akin to shooting one in .30-’06. As a result, there was less muzzle rise and the recoil signature felt linear. The Lupo’s stock adjustability and comfort is a significant advancement for rifle design.
At The Range
During the exclusive product unveil in Urbino, Benelli advertised that this rifle would easily shoot sub-MOA with three shots. Evaluating two rifles chambered in .30-’06, I was in the company of NRA’s American Rifleman Editor-in-Chief Mark Keefe; Chris Agnes and Joseph von Benedikt of Guns & Ammo; Steve Comus, Safari; and Steve Scott from Sporting Classics. I witnessed these rifles comfortably fit a variety of shooters as half-MOA groups appeared over and over at 100 meters. Each sang praise of the Lupo. Comus even managed an impressive three-shot group measuring just less than .4 inch! My best group measured .452 inch using Federal Gold Medal loaded with 168-grain Sierra MatchKing. Velocity is advertised at 2,700 feet per second (fps), but a chronograph was not available to confirm.
After returning home, I received the first Lupo in the United States to complete this evaluation, which was chambered in .300 Win. Mag. Shooting additional loads, my best three-shot group measured .678 inch using Hornady SuperFormance 180-grain SST. Other loads from Federal, Remington and Winchester produced similar results.
I think that Benelli’s sub-MOA accuracy statement is conservative. I contacted them and suggested that they offer a 3/4-MOA accuracy guarantee with the Lupo because I believe these rifles are entirely capable of that (or better) when paired with quality ammo. This is one of the most accurate out-of-the-box hunting rifles G&A has encountered. And it should be! The suggested retail price of the Lupo is $1,699, which places it between the budget category and the high-end custom segment.
However, the Lupo will ship in a new carton box made of recyclable material. To me, it looks like a cardboard box lined with corrugated cardboard. Though the box is light and robust, it looks like a shipping carton. This may have a negative effect with existing Benelli shotgun owners familiar with Benelli’s current stylish gun cases that are worth storing and transporting the gun in. Lucky for Benelli, most consumers won’t see the box until after first impressions are made across the dealer’s counter.
The chassis concept will make this platform amendable for the future. Besides the accuracy and great trigger, the stock’s adjustability and comfort are why the Benelli Lupo deserves consideration. It embodies every quality for which Italy is regarded for while being accurate and distinctively modern.
- Type: Bolt action
- Cartridge: .300 Win. Mag. (tested)
- Capacity: 5 rds.
- Barrel Length: 24 in. (tested)
- Overall Length: 44.69 in.
- Weight: 7 lbs., 4 oz. (tested)
- Stock: Synthetic; ComforTech; Progressive Comfort
- Grip: AirTouch texture
- Length of Pull: Adj., 13.8 in. to 15.2 in.
- Finish: Blued and chrome (steel); anodized (aluminum)
- Sights: None
- Trigger: 2 lbs., 11.5 oz. (tested)
- Safety: Two-position selector
- MSRP: $1,700
- Manufacturer: Benelli, 800-264-4962, benelliusa.com
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