Benelli Ultra Light 20 Gauge Shotgun

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Rays of sunlight glanced off the morning dew covering the ground and caught within the delicate threads of full webs strung among small branches on the edges of the woods. It was deceivingly beautiful. I, along with two others and a guide, hopped out of the Ford pickup and grabbed my shotgun from the bed. Whimpering in excitement, a German Shorthair Pointer ran in short circles in the grass, nearly circling the legs of his owner.

I was one of two grouse virgins on this hunt, a precursor to the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers annual conference. I was both puzzled and surprised when we headed into a small patch of Northern Michigan woods — I fully expected a field. Yes, I should have known better. I’d hunted pheasant a handful of times, but never grouse. Each upland hunt I had been on involved lots of walking and traversing through high fields, following a dog. My arms were always aching by the end of the event, begging to set down the gun that seemed so easy to carry at the beginning.

Grouse hunting is different. Rather than a field, we hunted through a deceptively idyllic patch of woods that soon revealed itself to be more like a mine field. Thank goodness for eye protection. I could hardly make it a foot before picking my way under or around another branch or small tree. Three-inch diameter trees sprung from near everywhere, branches intertangled. I breathed a sigh of relief whenever I saw what I thought was a clear path. I soon discovered no space in the grouse woods is “empty.” Spiderwebs caught in my hair and clothes.

I’m not a wimp. I’ve bellycrawled through a field after wild turkey, emerging with (literally) half a dozen ticks clinging to my scalp. I’ve gutted game myself and tracked blood trails in the dark. Grouse hunting was rough. The birds were fast and the few I saw vanished before I could blink. I never had the chance to mount the gun, I was so busy trying to keep up with hunting party through the jungle. I soon realized I’d turned into the grouse hunting version of Nicholas Cage, using my vertically pointed shotgun to cut through the spiderwebs until I reached the end of the tunnel. Sadly, there was no National Treasure at the end.

I emerged from the experience grouse-less, but amazed. Of all the things that were difficult, the number one thing I dreaded never came. After four hours, my arms weren’t sore. Benelli’s Ultra Light 20-gauge semi-auto shotgun was designed just for this sort of use. This 20-gauge with 24″ barrel was easy to hold and maneuver through the brush and trees. The gun holds two shells in the magazine and one in the chamber, which met Michigan regulations for hunting migratory game birds. The bolt cycled smoothly and quickly; the bolt release required deliberate pressure. The Weathercoat stock with satin Walnut finish held up against light water. Paired with an alloy receiver and carbon fiber rib, the gun weighed approximately 5.2 pounds. Also of note are the included flush Crio chokes (C, IC, M), wrench, hard case, red bar sight, shim kit and integrated inertia-driven system.

Photo Credit: Jedidiah Gaddie

Carrying it was easy, but what about shooting it? After all, I didn’t manage any shots at grouse. I took the gun to a local trap range for continued testing. Despite its light weight, the recoil wasn’t uncomfortable in the slightest. Though not designed for trap and in the hands of a rifle shooter, the gun performed well as long as I remembered to point, not aim.

The 20-gauge model accepts both 2-3/4″ and 3″ shells. Overall, I was most impressed with this shotgun as an upland gun. It was easy to field strip and comfortable to hold and shoot. Standing 5′ 3″, I could wield the gun well, making it a great choice for women, children and smaller-framed shooters. The Benelli Ultra Light isn’t a brand-new offering, but one worth a second look. It is available with a 24″ barrel in 12-gauge and 20-gauge and with a 26″ barrel in 28-gauge. The 24″ models retail for $1,669, while the 26″ model retails for $1,799.