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Benelli Vince shotgun.

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The shotgunning element of the shooting world is by far the most traditional, and has over the years shown the most resistance to modern materials and designs. Notable efforts like the Armalite AR-17 "Golden Gun" with its plastic stock and gold-anodized exterior or the Winchester Model 59 with its glass-fiber barrel got ahead of the market, and today are no more than collector's items.

Benelli has just released a similarly radical shotgun design, and it will be interesting to see if today's shotgunners welcome it more warmly than their predecessors accepted similar leaps in the past.

Few would dispute that Benelli has in the past 15 years or so gone from a niche manufacturer to a market leader with a reputation for cutting-edge technology. It has pretty much put the recoil-operated shotgun back into the game with its inertia operating system and offers a very extensive line that ranges from ultra-light field guns to the M4 tactical shotgun.

Now, with great fanfare, it has added the Vinci, a rakish and radical new design that combines several technologies foreshadowed in previous Benellis in a package that will excite early adopters everywhere and most likely appall those who think shotgunning reached its apex under Edward VII.

One could quite logically ask exactly why Benelli needs another autoloader, given the great depth of its existing line. Reducing weight and recoil is something of a mania with the Italian maker, and the Vinci combines a variety of weight-and recoil-reducing technologies, some proven, some new. The marketing phrase for the Vinci is "practical speed performance," and all the innovations are aimed at letting the shooter get off fast first and follow-up shots.

As with other Benelli autoloaders with the single exception of the M4, which has a gas assist for reliable operation with night vision devices, the Vinci is recoil-operated by the inertia system. On firing, the bolt carrier effectively moves forward in relation to the bolt head, compressing a very heavy spring. Once compressed, the latter hurls the bolt carrier rearward, rotating the bolt head out of engagement with the barrel extension. After ejection, the recoil spring returns the bolt assembly forward for the next shot.

The beauty of this system is its simplicity and its adaptability to everything from light target loads to 3 1/2-inch magnums. It is no great trick to stuff a Benelli with any combination of shells and blast them off as quickly as possible from the hip; they are almost impossible to jam.

All the parts required for gas operation are rendered unnecessary, meaning that Benellis require relatively little Cleaning by comparison to, say, a Remington 1100. The one drawback is a somewhat sharper recoil sensation, and this was quite evident in Benellis of the 1980s, making them something of an acquired taste.

The Vinci takes the inertia system a step further by moving the recoil spring from the butt and positioning it inside the receiver itself. This allows deletion of the recoil spring tube, which as we will see means greater flexibility in buttstock design.

Benelli styles this design In-Line Inertia Driven, and claims that muzzle jump is reduced because all parts are recoiling on a single axis, rather than on a downward angle as in a conventional shotgun with the recoil spring in the butt.

The bolt carrier telescopes the recoil spring, allowing it to recoil all the way to the rear of the receiver. A guide rod on the left side prevents the bolt carrier from rotating and serves as a support for the ejector.

One of the Vinci's most unusual characteristics is that the barrel is permanently attached to the receiver. If you want multiple barrel lengths, you have to buy multiple receivers, too. As the main reason for changing barrels is to install a slug tube, and one might reasonably want to keep the scope permanently mounted to the receiver, this is probably less of a sacrifice than it seems on the surface.

The Vinci is also unusual in its modular construction, and to tour that, let's start with the gun in its very stylish case. This got almost as much promotion as the gun, and it's diamond-shaped in cross-section, flaring at either end.

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The three main assemblies are nestled in fitted compartments. The barrel/receiver assembly is in the top of the case. When you pull it out, you note immediately there's no conventional ring for the magazine tube and that the receiver itself is essentially tubular and open at the rear.

When disassembling most autoloading shotguns, you pull the bolt out the front of the receiver. That's obviously not possible here, as the barrel is permanently attached. So the bolt assembly removes from the back. You press down on the bolt stop, which is not a lever on the outside but rather a ring at the rear of the bolt assembly. This engages grooves inside the rear of the receiver, and is located by a red "elastic element." The elastic locates the stop by pressing its "fin" into the top receiver grooves.

This is not an especially tight fit, and it need not be. The bolt stop is firmly pressed home by the stock lock ring nut unit when the buttstock is installed.

After pushing down on the bolt stop, pull rearward on the operating handle. The stop and elastic element will pop out the rear of the receiver. With the bolt assembly fully rearward, pull out to remove the handle, which will let the bolt assembly slide out of the receiver.

The bolt assembly will be familiar to anyone who's ever disassembled a Benelli, though it's more cylindrical than in previous guns. Disassembly is exactly the same; pull out the firing pin retaining pin on the left side, being careful to control the firing pin.

When the firing pin is out, you can pull out what most of us would call the cam pin, but which Benelli styles the locking head rotation pin. It is retained by the firing pin, and must be returned to position with its exterior guide parallel to the bore axis for reassembly.

With that pin out, you easily can remove the bolt head and inertia spring, which is as much disassembly as you likely will ever need to do. Reassembly as m reverse order; be sure to orient the rather thick operating handle with its groove over the lower receiver rail. You will need to give the bolt stop a hearty cram to get it in position.

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Next, take the buttstock and align its interrupted threads with the openings in the receiver threads. You start it 90[degrees] to the right with a white dot aligned with the top of the receiver, then turn it home. A serrated molding at the top of the pistol grip should align with the centerline of the receiver.

The buttstock is Benelli's Comfortech Plus style. It has 10 recoil-absorbing chevrons, with two other irregularly-shaped recoil-absorbing rubber sections. These are designed to give gradually under recoil, allowing the stock actually to shorten slightly. The sidewalls of the receiver also are flexible enough to flex outward, further dampening recoil.

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The comb has a flexible insert that is designed both to absorb recoil and slip easily against the face, while the buttpad has a curved spine designed to fit the shoulder.

The lack of a recoil tube means the pistol grip can have a rather sharp curve that places the hand closer to the trigger. In place of checkering is a sort of corrugated surface called V-Grip at 10 lines per inch.

Under the stock lock ring unit is the picturesquely named drop-deviation plate, which performs both the familiar function of regulating drop and cast and also serving as the rear mounting point for the lower receiver. That job means it's steel rather than plastic.

To change plates, turn out the stock lock ring unit with a 13mm open-head wrench. Remove the installed plate and pick one of the three other supplied plates. These regulate drop to 50mm (1.96 inches), 55mm (2.16 inches), 60mm (2.36 inches) or 65mm (2.55 inches). Each is slightly tapered left to right, allowing cast-off or cast-on. If you want zero cast, get out a file.

Since the buttstock is so easily removed, Benelli obviously has the Opportunity to offer a variety of other designs like pistol grips, folding stocks, etc.

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What those of us weaned on AR-15s would call the lower receiver is called by Benelli the "gun carriage," bringing back memories of the French 75. This quite large plastic unit includes the trigger assembly, the shell stops and lifter assembly, as well as the magazine tube.

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To install it, insert the plunger at its rear into rite hole at the bottom of the drop deviation plate. Align the white dot below the ejection port with the semicircular notch just above the bolt release, which the instructions call the cartridge stop latch.

The window at the bottom front of the fore-end should show a white dot. With the butt well supported, press the "gun carriage" all the way to the rear and then rotate the magazine tube plug clockwise until the catch pops out. The lower is now securely wedged into place, and on my sample, was completely rattle-free.

The trigger is secured by a single pin that passes through the axis of the hammer and lifter. Drive it out and the trigger lifts up at the rear and out of the carriage. Be sure to depress the front end of the cartridge stop latch while doing this.

The trigger is unusual in that the hammer spring lies all the way to the rear and is connected by a stirrup arrangement. The hammer has two notches: one catches the disconnector if the trigger is not released after firing and the other engages the sear. The hammer drops from the disconnector to the sear as pressure on the trigger blade is relaxed. A window in the plastic trigger body makes it easy to see the sear engagement.

A crossbolt safety at the front of the trigger guard blocks sear movement. If there's a way to change it for left-hand operation, it wasn't immediately apparent to me.

The shell-handling system has some new complications that will probably be ignored by most readers of this magazine, but nonetheless are ingenious. The cartridge drop lever that most Benelli users would look for on the right side of the receiver is here positioned right behind the loading port. It is well protected from inadvertent contact.

Its operation is relatively easy to understand. If you retract and release the bolt, the lifter remains slightly elevated, pointing at the front toward the magazine tube. This prevents a shell from emerging from the magazine and allows easy loading through the ejection port.

Want to load from the magazine? Press the cartridge drop lever, which allows a shell to pop out of the magazine onto the lifter. Retracting and releasing the bolt chambers it. This method also allows easy crossing of fences and other obstacles with the Vinci safely unloaded.

The cartridge stop latch below the ejection port has serrated buttons at either end. The front end serves as the bolt release. The rear end activates the shell stop at the right rear of the magazine and allows safe magazine unloading.

To unload, clear the shell in the chamber. Then invert the gun and press down on the lifter. Press the rear end of the cartridge stop to release in turn each shell from the magazine.

One can argue that all this is needless Italian over-engineering, but anyone who's been on a dove hunt has a story of some eager beaver heedlessly clearing an autoloader by cycling shells through the chamber, usually with the safety off. Whether that type can be trained to use a system like the Vinci's is debatable, but at least it's there for the attempt.

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The Vinci can be had at the moment in two barrel lengths, 26 and 28 inches. A 30-inch barrel would make it look like a trap gun. The sample gun's chrome-plated bore had an inside diameter of .725".

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Five chrome-plated choke tubes are provided, ranging from cylinder to full. The improved modified and full tubes are not recommended for steel shot, and probably wouldn't give much in the way of patterns if used with it. Benelli offers special extended tubes for turkey hunting and long-range waterfowling.

The tubes are quite long at 2 3/4 inches, and have a conical-parallel internal configuration. The parallel at the muzzle end is thought to stabilize the wad, improving pattern performance.

Both barrel and choke tubes are cryogenically treated by freezing to -300[degrees] F. Benelli claims this both reduces stresses induced in manufacturing and gives a smooth internal surface that requires less cleaning.

Cryo treatment was something of a craze in this country 10 or 15 years back, but public enthusiasm seems to have ebbed. Benelli is sticking with it, and has lots of tables and graphs to demonstrate its benefits.

The barrel is topped by a stepped .22" ventilated rib with a fiber optic front bead and steel center bead.

I patterned the Vinci with results shown in the accompanying table, and function-fired it with a variety of Federal, Kent, NobelSport and Wolf ammunition. There were no failures of any kind.

The Vinci also got a lengthy workout in the hands of Joseph Von Benedikt, the new editor of Shooting Times, at a Gil Ash shooting school. Ash took measurements, of the lanky scribe and promptly adjusted the Vinci for maximum drop and Cast-off, and added a slip-on recoil pad that extended pull length to 15 1/4 inches, an outlandish-sounding figure, but one that suited JVB perfectly.

Soon, despite a previous career spent almost entirely in shooting rifles, he was breaking clays by the dozen with complete assurance. He had no trouble catching the fastest targets, even though he was swinging a gun more than 50 inches long. If you have tended to think that the shim kits supplied with Italian autoloaders are no more than a sales gimmick, think again.

The point was driven home at the pattern board, where the gun had a distinct tendency to hit to the left. Taking a hard stare at the beads, I noted the front bead was indeed to the left of the middle one. Placing my cheek farther back on the stock mitigated this, as you would expect With the shim set for maximum cast-off. I immediately saw why Ash had specified the slip-on recoil pad.

Benelli's senior U.S. leadership has made many a trip to the dove fields of Argentina, where shooting several cases a day is the rule, not the exception, and those experiences show in the Vinci.

The loading port is comfortably beveled for those furious firing sessions. If you've ever been in a hot dove corner with a Browning Auto-5, you know how much skin you can lose jamming more shells down the magazine

spout.

All controls are large and easy to find without looking. The shape of the trigger guard helps guide the fingers toward the cartridge drop lever and safety button.

It looks weird, but there is no question the Comfortech stock soaks up recoil more effectively than anything out there. Shooting 3-inch steel loads on the pattern board is normally a grim prospect. I still wouldn't call it recreation with the Vinci, but neither was it drudgery.

The only place I found the gun came up short was the unloading function of the cartridge latch. This wouldn't work at all with some kinds of ammo, and required a mighty push even when it did work. It might be some break-in is required there. It works best when the gun is held upright and the latch is operated with a finger.

Otherwise, I found the Vinci a fast-handling, light-kicking, if very long, shotgun. I'd like to try it with a 26-inch or even 24-inch barrel. The camo patterns being offered indicate it's being marketed toward the waterfowler, so Long Tom barrels are probably what the intended purchaser wants.

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Speaking of waterfowling, one question everyone seems to ask about this gun is why it wasn't offered in 3 1/2-inch 12-gauge. The Super Black Eagle has been a hugely successful gun, and remains king of the Benelli line. My guess is that Benelli sees no need to cut into SBE sales by offering the less expensive Vinci in 3 1/2-inch configuration.

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I once read a piece in which a writer said that automobiles made in recent years would never be collectible because, while you can restore a Model T Ford with traditional metalworking and painting skills, modern cars are full of injection-molded parts that will be difficult or impossible to recreate years in the future.

That's certainly the case with the Vinci. Lots of critical components are plastic parts that won't be repairable by traditional gunsmithing techniques. On the other hand, they also probably will outlast most any owner.

So if you are interested in leaving a collectible for your great-grandson, choose a Benelli Montefeltro with a walnut stock. If you're concerned solely with bagging the maximum number of birds with maximum speed and comfort next season, pick the Vinci.

Benelli Vinci

Modified Tube

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* = point of aim

Wolf Waterfowl Steel

Max-1 1/4-4

Average of 10 shots at 40 yards

21 1/4" inner circle: 106

30" outer ring: 48

Total: 154 (64%)

Benelli Vinci

Manufacturer: Benelli Armi, S.p.A., Urbino, Italy

Importer Benelli USA, 17603 Indian Head Hwy., Dept. SGN, Accokeek, Md., 20607
Type: Semi-automatic shotgun
Gauge: 12, 3-inch
Magazine Capacity: 3
Weight: 7 pounds
Overall Length: 49 3/4 inches
Barrel Length: 28 inches (tested),
 26 inches
Length of Pull: 13 3/4 inches
Drop at Heel: 2 inches
Drop at Comb: 1 5/8 inches
Trigger Pull: 5 pounds
Accessories: Cylinder (.727"),
 Improved Cylinder (.718"),
 Modified (.705"),
 Improved Modified (.695"),
 Full Choke (.684") tubes,
 Wrench/thread cleaner,
 Shim kit, Fitted case.
Price: $1,479 (camo), $1,379 (black)
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Title Annotation:SGN ON SHOTGUNS
Author:Hunnicutt, Robert W.
Publication:Shotgun News
Article Type:Product/service evaluation
Date:Aug 1, 2009
Words:3044
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