Benelli auto-loading shotgun: The first model of the legendary shotgun

by Eric Sof

Benelli Auto-loading shotguns

The Benelli auto-loading shotgun looks like any other automatic shotgun, but underneath the skin is a most unusual mechanism, much different from the usual long-recoil system pioneered by Browning and copied by almost everybody since then. It is well-known in Europe, but it deserved closer inspection when it became a newcomer to the United States and the Benelli auto-loading shotgun.


The breech bolt of the Benelli auto-loading shotgun is a two-part unit, the two being separated by a coil spring. Attached to the bolt head is a locking bar that trails beneath the bolt assembly and drops into a recess in the receiver to hold the breech closed during firing. When the shot is fired, the recoil drives the gun backward; the bolt body’s inertia causes it to remain stationary in space so that it moves forward in relation to the rest of the gun.

This compresses the spring and also holds the locking bar firmly down. This movement occupies the time during which the shot charge passes up the barrel and leaves the muzzle so that by the time the spring is fully compressed and the bolt body has stopped moving, breech pressure has dropped to a safe level. Now the spring reasserts itself, forces the bolt body back, and lifts the locking bar from its recess.

The complete bolt is not free to be driven back by the residual pressure inside the chamber, extracting and ejecting the spent case. The bolt’s movement compresses a return spring and cocks the gun, after which the spring drives the bolt back, loading the next cartridge, the locking bar drops into place, and the gun is ready again.

An interesting bonus of this system is that if cartridges with different loadings are used, the recoil force changes and the relative compression of the bolt spring. An automated effect gives the fractionally more significant delay in opening heavier charges.

Overall finish

The Benelli is well-finished, with an aluminum lower section to the receiver, a steel upper section, and well-checkered walnut stock and fore-end. The steel parts are highly polished and well blued, while the aluminum portion of the receiver is finished in matching black. The Benelli auto-loading shotgun handles well and delivers a good pattern. Various choices of choke are available in the two barrel lengths.

Technical specifications

Manufacturer: Benelli Armi SpA, I-61029, Urbino, Italy
Type: recoil-operated auto-loader
Gauge: 12 or 20
Barrel: 25.6 in (650 mm), 27.6 in (700 mm)
Weight: 7 lbs (3.18 kg) (12-gauge, 27.6 in barrel)
Magazine capacity: 3 or 4 rounds
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