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Verona challenge shotgun.


Italian autoloaders like Benelli and Franchi have often had a distinctive lively feel in contrast to more stolid American standbys like the Remington 1100. Whether you liked that depended on whether you liked the quick but flighty Italian style or preferred the smooth follow-through of American guns.

You now can have a little of both in the Verona Challenge, imported by Legacy Sports Int'l. It's 100% Italian, but with a chunky profile and smooth-swinging feel that's more domestic.

Verona shotguns are made by F. lli. Pietta (F. lli is short for fratelli or "brothers"), which is better known in this country for its reproduction arms like percussion and Single Action Army Colts. The importer is Legacy Sports International, whose mainstay is Howa rifles.


While earlier Veronas made in Turkey and imported by PMC were gas-operated with a conventional tilting locking block, the Challenge uses a modified Benelli-style inertia system. The benefits of this are so obvious that Italian and Turkish makers are adopting it steadily, though each maker seems to have its own variation on the theme.

In the case of the Verona, the recoil spring, referred to in the manual as the "recovery" Spring, is in the fore-end around the magazine tube rather than in the buttstock or, as in the new Benelli Vinci model, in the receiver itself.

Dual operating rods connect to a relatively heavy sleeve at the front. It passes into a ring you could be excused for calling a gas ring.

You especially could be excused for it if you remove the "reduction bush" from inside it and note the two gas ports coming from the barrel. The reduction bush takes up the space occupied by the piston in a gas-operated gun, correctly locating the ring on the magazine tube and at the same time blocking gas exit from the barrel.

The bolt itself will be familiar to any Benelli owner and works the same way. On firing, recoil drives the bolt head rearward against a spring inside the bolt carrier. The compressed spring then hurls the bolt carrier rearward; the cam pin rotates the two-legged bolt head out of engagement with the barrel extension, allowing the bolt assembly to move fully rearward, ejecting the spent hull.


This system has proven exceptionally reliable, with the only significant complaint against it being that the recoil sensation is sharper than gas-operated guns. Benelli has answered this with a variety of interesting recoil-reduction strategies.

The price for locating the recoil spring in the fore-end is that it requires clearance, meaning the fore-end itself must be larger. If you are coming from an 1100 or other gas-operated gun, you'll never notice the difference. If you've been shooting a Benelli Montefeltro, you'll feel it right away.


No Italian repeating shotgun is complete without a magazine cutoff mechanism. These range from completely unobtrusive (the Benelli Nova, for example) to quite annoying. Italian law requires repeaters to be as readily cleared for crossing fences and other obstacles as a break-open gun.

The Challenge comes down on the unobtrusive side; the cutoff is a small button at the left front of the trigger guard. The instructions advise the user to "press resolutely the cutoff" until it blocks the magazine tube, preventing another round from being ejected onto the lifter.

After successfully scaling the fence, you can return the shell to the chamber through the ejection port; press the bolt release at the left front of the receiver and go on your way. A shot releases the cutoff.


My guess is that most American shooters will simply ignore the cutoff, though in truth it comes in handy when hunting from a vehicle where loading and unloading can be tedious.

Cutoff use is even more unlikely in the arena Where this gun will probably get most use, sporting clays competition. The receiver is electroless nickel plated, which implies the range rather than the field. It also is cut away for tip-off scope mounts, again an unlikely use for this gun, but I guess you could mount an Aimpoint, wrap the assembly in camo tape and go after turkey.


Only 28-inch barrels are available, and it's hard to see why you might want a longer one, given the gun's 49 1/4-inch overall length. The 20-gauge version comes with a 26-inch barrel.

The 7mm ventilated rib is straight-sided and fitted with a fiber-optic bead at the front. Inside diameter of the chrome-lined bore was .725", and it's proofed for steel shot. Five choke tubes ranging from cylinder to full choke were provided and they appeared to be on the Beretta pattern, though the instructions caution against using anything other than Pietta-made tubes.

The buttstock and fore-end are of a walnut we safely can assume is Turkish, with a satin finish. Checkering is at 18 lines per inch in a modernistic pattern that coordinates with the shape of the plastic trigger guard.

The black rubber recoil pad is smooth on its back and tapered in at the top for fast gun-mounting. Like most Italian autoloaders, the Challenge is provided with a shim kit placed between receiver and buttstock that allows drop at heel to be adjusted to 50mm (1.96 inches), 55mm (2.16 inches) or 63mm (2.48 inches). The instructions suggest having this done at your authorized dealer, but I needed only a recoil pad screwdriver and a 17mm socket to get it done. The buttstock is ambidextrous in the sense there is no cast-on or -off.

Disassembly is perfectly conventional. Ensure the magazine tube and chamber are empty. With the bolt open, turn off the magazine tube cap. A threaded rod inside reduces magazine capacity to two. If you're after doves in Mexico, you can turn it out and have four-round magazine capacity.

Slide the fore-end forward and off the magazine tube. Then slide the barrel out of the receiver. Press the bolt release and allow the bolt assembly to move forward under control. Pull the bolt handle out to the right while keeping the bolt assembly under control. Drive the trigger pins out to allow trigger removal.

No further disassembly is required; the bolt appears to be pinned to the operating rod assembly. Reassembly is in reverse order. Be sure the bolt carrier is in its proper place on the operating rod assembly. If it's not. you'll never get the bolt handle reinstalled.


I patterned the Challenge with results shown in the accompanying table and function-fired it with with Kent, NobelSport, Remington and Wolf ammunition. Function was erratic with NobelSport 7/8-ounce loads that are primarily intended for double guns. Otherwise, it was flawless.

Patterning was with Kent FITASC loads that drive a 1-ounce load at 1450 fps, and recoil was quite snappy. In fact, I found it more annoying than 3-inch Wolf steel loads. With more conventional amino, the Challenge was perfectly comfortable to shoot.

Results on the pattern board showed a distinct tendency to shoot to the left, which I attributed to the rather thick buttstock. Shims are available to give the butt some cast-off, and I would avail myself of one were this my gun.

The leftward impact point made no difference whatever on clay targets: results were excellent with two different shooters wielding the Challenge. The improved cylinder tube produced very wide, even patterns that got the job done even given the off center impact point. The Kent amino made up for its zesty comeback with very authoritative target breaks. If you enjoy hard breaks enough to put up with the kick, this load may be for you. I'll keep it strictly for battues and other hard-to-break targets myself.

The Verona Challenge, then, is a reliable and stylish medium-priced autoloader that will appeal to the user who finds other Italian autos too whippy for his taste and likes a shotgun with rugged American good looks.

Verona Challenge


[] = point of aim Kent Cartridge Velocity FITASC 1 ounce No. 8 @ 1450 fps Pellet count 411

Average of 10 shots at 40 yards 21 1/4" inner circle: 87

30" outer ring: 65

Total: 152 (37%)

Verona Challenge Shotgun

Manufacturer: F. LLI. Pietta, Brescia Italy

Importer: Legacy Sports International, 4750 Longley Lane, Suite 208, Dept. SGN, Reno, Nev. 89502

Type: Semi-Auto Shotgun

Gauge: 12, 3-inch (tested) 20, 3-inch 12, 3 1/2-inch (synthetic stock only)

Magazine Capacity: 4

Weight: 7 pounds

Overall Length: 49 1/4 inches

Barrel Length: 28 inches

Length of Pull: 14 inches

Drop at Heel: 2 inches

Drop at Comb: 1/2 inches

Trigger Pull: 5 pounds

Accessories: Choke Tubes--

Full, .684"

Improve Modified, .690"

Modified, .750"

Improved Cylinder, .716"

Cylinder, .728"
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Title Annotation:SGN on Shotguns
Author:Hunnicutt, Robert W.
Publication:Shotgun News
Article Type:Product/service evaluation
Date:Jul 1, 2009
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