The Super Vinci

Benelli’s self-loader delivers

Some people think journalists should be totally objective, while others firmly believe that’s impossible. The Benelli Super Vinci proved to be a test of both gun and journalist.

The Super Vinci is the latest in a long line of Benelli semi-automatic shotguns designed around a relatively simple, lightweight and supposedly foolproof “inertia-driven” action. In Benelli-speak this means recoil-operated.

Recoil-operated shotguns normally have two advantages over gas-operated shotguns: cleanliness and reliability. Powder fouling is limited to the inside of the barrel, rather than being spread throughout the gas system, allowing the gun to keep running longer. Plus, recoil-operated shotguns tend to be less picky about the ammo they shoot.

The reliability of Benellis is almost legendary in the hunting fields. A friend named Claude is a very avid waterfowler, hunting a lot every season in the fields and bayous along the lower Mississippi River. Once he and a friend dug a pit blind in a big field, and came back before dawn the next day to put out some decoys and shoot some ducks.

Rain had fallen all night and there were several inches of water in the bottom of the pit. Theoretically this didn’t matter much, because Claude and his friend wore hip boots and their Labs sat between them on a crude bench, but while the humans were putting out the decoys the dogs knocked Claude’s Benelli into the bottom of the pit. After fishing it out of the mud, Claude opened the action and sloshed the shotgun around in the water for a minute or so, then held it up to let it drain. He shot ducks all morning with no malfunctions of any kind.

The chokes all patterned where the shotgun looked.

Gas Guns

On the other hand, gas-operated shotguns tend to have lighter felt recoil, thanks to the gas system spreading out the recoil impulse. This can be handy when shooting 3-1/2″ magnums throughout a good morning of waterfowl shooting, or just shooting once at a turkey when sitting with your back against a big oak tree.

Over the past decade many manufacturers have tried to tame the kick of recoil-operated guns, mostly with high-tech stocks and recoil pads. These efforts have definitely been successful, though some hunters still prefer gas guns when shooting heavy waterfowl loads.

I’ve had my own adventures with various autoloading shotguns since the appearance of the 3-1/2″ 12-gauge shell. Many 12-gauge owners like to use their shotgun for everything from doves to geese, but it’s difficult for an autoloader to handle every 12-gauge shell from 1-ounce dove loads to 3-1/2″ magnums. One gas-operated shotgun supposedly took care of this with a self-adjusting system that changed the amount of gas “leaked” to the piston. It worked fine until I took it on a spring snow-goose hunt in South Dakota with some 3-1/2″ Bismuth loads using 1-7/8 ounces of shot. The gun didn’t like those much, failing to feed them about half the time. I had to buy some steel-shot ammo locally, and despite the improvements in steel it still doesn’t work like heavier shot.

After the trip I sent the shotgun back to the manufacturer, asking that it be fixed. Instead they sent me another gun, saying it worked fine. It did great with heavy 3-1/2″ loads—but didn’t function reliably with standard 1-1/4-ounce field loads. So I sold the blasted thing and bought a Spanish 10-gauge side-by-side that went bang every time its triggers were pulled, even on sub-zero mornings in Montana.

Yeah, yeah, the 10-gauge is supposed to be dead, but in my experience it still makes high-flying ducks and geese suddenly dead—and a 10-1/2 pound shotgun reduces recoil the old-fashioned way. So there! I feel a lot better now, with some theoretical objectivity stripped away.


The fine balance and relatively light weight of the Super Vinci made it relatively easy to bust a clay bird—then bust the biggest piece.

A Kit?

While talking with the boys from Benelli we’d mutually decided the test-gun would be a Realtree camo Super Vinci, but opening the rectangular plastic case was still a bit of a shock. Much of the gun was plastic, and the parts didn’t fit together like a double-barreled shotgun.

The directions made it sound very easy, but the Quadrafit buttstock at first refused to twist onto the rear of the action. This problem was eventually solved by holding the buttstock between my knees while twisting the action with both hands. Another “bigger hammer” technique turned out to be necessary when fitting the fore-end to the barrel. This time bouncing the recoil pad firmly on the floor, while simultaneously twisting the plastic fore-end latch, eventually forced the Super Vinci together.

Once the collection of modular parts was transformed into a shotgun, everything went smoothly. Amazingly, the shotgun weighed exactly the 6.9 pounds listed in Benelli’s specifications. This was the second test shotgun in a row that didn’t weigh the typical 1/2-pound more than advertised, and both happened to be Italian. Perhaps other shotgun manufacturers should order their scales from Italy.

One end of the choke wrench is a thread cleaner.

The stock comes with molded-in sling swivel studs on the fore-end.

Broad Spectrum Reliability

Seven pounds may seem a little light for an all-around 12-gauge, but several boxes of ammo didn’t hurt my shoulder at all. The loads included Kent Fasteel 3-1/2″ ammo and hyper-velocity Federal BlackCloud 3″ shells, along with a selection of 2-3/4″ lead loads holding anywhere from 1, to 1-1/4 ounces of shot. All fed and ejected perfectly, even with the trigger pulled as fast as possible. The 3-1/2″ Kent loads did force the non-objective tester to take a step backward when torching off three in under two seconds, but the ComfortTech Plus recoil pad prevented any bruising. (Even the conservative gun industry appears to have been overrun with NewSpeak compound words, no doubt due to required courses in 21st-century marketing schools.)

The biggest surprise turned out to be the gun’s superb balance. The goal of sophisticated shotgun makers for well over a century has been “liveliness.” A really well-balanced double-gun comes to the shoulder and swings almost effortlessly. This is due to light barrels and a slim buttstock that place much of the gun’s weight between the shooter’s hands. At the same time, the light barrels are made long enough to swing smoothly, exactly how long depending on the shotgun’s gauge and overall weight.

British and European gunmakers have known how to do this with double guns for a long time, and some American and Asian manufacturers are getting pretty good at it—but it was really weird to find this liveliness in a camouflage semi-auto with a stock made of wonder-polymers.

This liveliness isn’t totally a matter of balance, because the slim grip and splinter fore-end of a double-barreled “game gun” also have much to do with the nifty feel. Another advantage of Benelli’s inertia-action is that the fore-end can be made relatively slim, since it doesn’t have to hold any of the shotgun’s machinery other than the tube magazine. Plastic also makes it possible for the pistol grip to be relatively thin, especially when compared to guns with mass-milled chunks of cheap walnut almost as thick as 2×4’s. (Incidentally, I usually don’t read the marketing spiels of test guns before the shooting, but did visit the Benelli website after the tests and found the fine balance mentioned. Reading this beforehand might have resulted in a hearty laugh—but they weren’t lying.)


The buttstock twists onto the rear of the action.

Versatile Fit

The gun fit me very well out of the box, but even if it hadn’t, the buttstock dimensions could have been easily changed. These days many hunting shotguns have adjustable buttstocks, something once almost totally limited to target guns. The Super Vinci comes with four different metal washers made to fit between the buttstock and rear of the action, altering cast and drop. If necessary, you can also order different recoil pads and cheekpieces, or even change the entire buttstock.

I played around with the washers after the test-shooting was done. They worked—and the buttstock twisted back on more easily after each disassembly. The “standard” washer results in a drop at comb of 1-1/2″ and drop at heel of 2-1/2″, with a length of pull of 14″.

The buttstock and fore-end also include molded-in holes for detachable sling swivels. Sling attachments are common on European shotguns, an addition the shotgun manufacturers in other parts of the world would do well to emulate. Americans seem allergic to slings on all but turkey guns, but a sling comes in very handy in other kinds of hunting. I’ve used one many times while climbing chukar cliffs, or when hiking back to the pickup with a limit of birds in my vest.

The trigger was also a pleasure, breaking pretty cleanly at an average of 3 pounds, 14 ounces. Many shooters consider the trigger pull on a shotgun unimportant, but good wingshooting requires a trigger that goes off when your subconscious says, “Go!” This is particularly important in a light shotgun, the reason the wingshooters of Victorian England worked out a basic formula: A shotgun’s trigger pull should be about half the weight of the gun itself. The Super Vinci’s trigger came very close to this ideal, and combined with the fine balance made shooting clay birds easy, even when I tried to dust the biggest piece after the initial break.

The rear of the triggerguard of the Super Vince has been reconfigured from the original Vinci’s long slope, which tended to whack the shooter’s middle finger. The guard on the Super Vinci is shortened and squared off, hence much less likely to cause pain.

Instead of the standard package of three choke-tubes provided by most manufacturers, the Super Vinci comes with five, marked Cylinder, Improved-Cylinder, Modified, Improved-Modified and Full.

The bore itself measured .726″, tighter than most American 12-gauge bores but common in European guns, supposedly allowing the gun to handle traditional ammo with felt and cardboard wads. (Such ammo is still produced in other parts of the world, and is even starting to come back here, since the wads break down much more quickly than plastic wads.)

The chokes provided constrictions of .003″, .010″, .022″, .028″ and .040″, and all shot to the same basic place, centered right around where the shotgun pointed. The chokes are longer and tapered more gently than many other screw-in chokes, helping any ammo pattern more evenly. Only the three most-open chokes are rated for steel shot, but extended, tighter-bored chokes are available as an additional option.

Eventually all the features of the Super Vinci overcame the non-objectivity of the tester. It’s a very good gun, and would especially be a very good choice for any hunter desiring an all-around 12-gauge for everything from doves to geese.

Super Vinci
Maker: Benelli Armi Spa, Italy
Importer: Benelli USA
901 Eighth St., Pocomoke, MD 21851

(800) 264-4962,

Action type: Inertia-driven autoloader
Gauge: 12
Choke tubes: C, IC, M, IM, F
Capacity: 3
Barrel Length: 26″
Overall Length: 48-1/2″
Weight: 6.9 pounds
Finish: Realtree camouflage
Sight: Red fiber-optic bead
Length of pull: 14″
Drop at comb: 1-1/2″
Drop at heel: 2-1/2″

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