The New Super Black Eagle 3 Brings
An Enhanced Comfort Level
By Holt Bodinson
Few guns achieve cult status overnight, but the introduction of Benelli’s Super Black Eagle to the American market changed it all in 1991. A remarkable tour-de-force by Benelli, the Super Black Eagle gave the American hunting community their first semi-automatic shotgun chambered for the wickedly lethal, 12-gauge, 3-1/2-inch magnum shell and its simple, inertia drive action readily digested 2-3/4-inch and 3-inch magnum hulls as well.
The Super Black Eagle was also stylish, as most Italian shotguns are, light and expensive. Priced at around $1,000, an unheard-of sum for a semi-auto shotgun in 1991, the American hunting community couldn’t get enough Super Black Eagles. The gun’s many virtues were spoken about in hushed, reverent tones in the duck blinds and turkey woods across America. The demand was so great there was overnight a black market for Black Eagles. Sharp dealers made a killing with prices soaring well above $1,000. Investors were buying them up for future retirement income. It was a mad, mad time.
Now, 26 years later, the latest of the breed, the Benelli Super Black Eagle 3, is more refined and stylish than ever. Its reputation is intact—it’s still rated as the shotgun to beat when it comes to utter reliability in the field under the worst possible circumstances. Drop it overboard, drag it through the dirt and the mud, freeze it, don’t clean it and the Super Black Eagle still manages to come up shooting. It’s a mechanical gem in the world of firearms.
The heart and soul, the very secret of the Super Black Eagle’s success is Benelli’s inertia drive system, which—conceptually—dates back to US patent 954,546 of April 12, 1910. The inventor was Axel Sjogren of Stockholm, Sweden. Sjogren’s design was brilliant and incorporated the principles upon which later inertia drive systems would be built, but his shotguns failed to gain a market share. The Europeans clung to their doubles and the Americans, to their Brownings, that is, until Benelli successfully re-engineered the inertia drive system.
Benelli’s system is noted for its simplicity since there are only four primary parts—the bolt body, rotating bolt head, inertia spring and return spring. It’s noted for its speed, for its cleanliness, since it’s not tapping off gas and accumulating carbon, and for its versatility, since it can handle without adjustment every combination from light 2-3/4-inch field loads to 3-1/2-inch magnums. The inertia system is also lightweight, making Benelli the source of some of the lightest, most streamlined and best balanced semi-auto shotguns in the world.
Benelli’s Super Black Eagle 3 improves the shooter’s comfort when full-power
loads are utilized. The camo finish blends well when chosen for your typical
hunting terrain. Italian gunmakers have a flair for design as evidenced by
the flowing lines on the fore-end.
In the off-season, the Super Black Eagle 3 can readily double as a varmint caller’s go-to gun.
Measured on my Sunbeam scale, the new Super Black Eagle 3 with a 26-inch barrel weighs exactly 7 pounds. When shouldered, it feels lighter. Benelli has controlled weight by using a bolt that locks into the barrel extension, thereby facilitating the use of a largely aluminum receiver, plus the stocks are synthetic and pleasingly stylish and slim. While controlling weight, Benelli has also maintained the exceptional balance of the Super Black Eagle, limiting its magazine capacity to 2 shells. That’s it! No 4 or 5 up the pipe! Whether you’re hunting upland game or waterfowl, you’re hunting with a 2+1 gun.
One of the greatest improvements Benelli has made in the Super Black Eagle since 1991 has been in the area of reducing felt recoil to the shooter. Shooting 3-1/2-inch magnum loads in the early Super Black Eagles was an awakening, and slightly painful experience, particularly for shooters with high cheekbones.
Benelli’s proprietary solutions, worked out over the last 13 years, are called “Comfort Tech 3” and “Combtech.” I’ll let Benelli explain it: “By splitting the stock diagonally and utilizing shock-absorbing chevrons, the entire stock was essentially turned into a recoil pad. The chevron size and location has been optimized on Comfort Tech 3. Furthermore, Benelli engineers have developed a new cheek comb pad, Combtech, which greatly reduces facial impact and vibrations.” After shooting 3-1/2-inch, 2-ounce lead loads in the new Super Black Eagle 3, I’ll give the Benelli engineers two thumbs up. I’ve been shooting Super Black Eagles for two decades, and Benelli has truly mastered felt-recoil moderation technology in the new model.
Factory supplied with the gun are 5 choke tubes and a complete set of stock shims for drop and cast adjustments. As supplied, the length-of-pull measures 14-3/8-inch. Accessory pads are available from Benelli for both left- and right-hand models offering LOP’s of 13-7/8 and 14-3/4-inch.
To run the Super Black Eagle 3 through some functional field trials, I first loaded it with Winchester AA XTRA-Lite target loads consisting of 1 ounce of 7.5’s. Frankly, I was expecting some trouble with the light 1-ounce loads in the inertia drive system. I was wrong. The Super Black Eagle just ate them up and spit them out.
Next, some Federal Gold Medal Grand loads featuring 1-1/8 ounces of 7.5’s. No digestive problems there either.
The next three tests were run as typical hunting scenarios to check the Super Black Eagle 3’s ability to deliver killing patterns. Test 1: A turkey at 30 yards using a 3-1/2-inch Winchester Supreme, maximum, high-velocity turkey load consisting of 2 ounces of No. 4 lead shot with a Full choke tube. Believe me, this is the “Hammer of Thor” load for turkeys. It’s downright devastating and not to be shot with your shoulder snuggled up against an old oak tree. Just be sure to hold onto this 7-pound gun.
Predators beware! The Super Black Eagle 3 is equally at home in the field as it is
in the duck blind (above, left). Winchester’s 2-ounce load of No. 4 lead shot is the
“Mother of All Bombs” on turkeys (below).
Test 2: A crossing duck at 40 yards using a 3-inch Remington Nitro-Steel load consisting of 1-1/4 ounces of steel No. 2 shot with a velocity of 1,450 fps through an extended, steel-compliant Modified choke tube. In terms of felt recoil, it’s a pussycat, but look at the killing pattern.
Test 3: A coyote at 40 yards using a 3-1/2-inch Winchester Super-X buckshot load consisting of unplated No. 4 buck through a Full choke tube. For vermin, this is my all-time favorite “calling load.” With 54 pellets, each having a diameter of 0.24-inch, it’s a pelt getter.
The targets speak for themselves and illustrate the results of combining modern ammunition with a precision shotgun. These are all first-shot targets as well!
And now for the rest of the story.
I just had to ask Benelli the origin of the name, “Black Eagle.” Benelli is based in Urbino, Italy. First Lord, then later, the Duke of Urbino, Federico da Montefeltro (1422-1482) is still revered as the “People’s Duke.” He was an enlightened ruler of Urbino during the period of the Italian Renaissance. The Duke’s coat-of-arms depicts four black eagles.
There you have it—a superior performing shotgun with a royal Italian lineage.
SUPER BLACK EAGLE 3
MAKER: Benelli Armi, Spa, Urbino, Italy
IMPORTER: Benelli USA,
17603 Indian Head Hwy.,
Accokeek, MD 20607,
(301) 283-6981, www.benelliusa.com
ACTION: Benelli inertia system, semi-automatic,
CALIBER: 12 gauge, 2-3/4, 3, 3-1/2-inch,
CAPACITY: 2+1, CHOKE: 5 tubes supplied. C, IC, M, IM, F,
BARREL LENGTH: 26 or 28 inches,
OVERALL LENGTH: 47.5 to 49.5 inches,
WEIGHT: 7 pounds,
FINISH: Realtree Max-5 camouflage (pictured), black, MossyOak Bottonland, Gore Optifade Timber,
SIGHTS: Red fiber optic front, mid-rib metal bead, receiver drilled and tapped for optic mounts,
PRICE: $1,899, $1,999