The modernist semi-au­to­matic Benelli Raf­faello Power Bore gets road-tested – and proves to be an in­ter­est­ing piece of kit

Does the Benelli Raf­faello Power Bore’s com­bi­na­tion of mod­ernistic styling with well-proven in­ter­nals prove to be a win­ning for­mula? Mike Yard­ley tests the gun to find out...

Sporting Shooter - - The Marketplace - WITH MIKE YARD­LEY

This month’s test gun is a Benelli Raf­faello Power Bore semi-auto, one of an ex­ten­sive range of Benel­lis brought in by GMK. It is a modernist gun with some in­ter­est­ing fea­tures, as one ex­pects from this rel­a­tively young, dy­namic firm.

The Power Bore is built around the Benelli in­er­tia sys­tem, rather than the gas-op­er­ated plan seen in most modern sport­ing shot­guns. It has won many ad­vo­cates be­cause it is both re­li­able and eas­ier to clean than a typ­i­cal gas gun. There are sig­nif­i­cantly fewer work­ing parts than in a gas gun.

In­er­tia guns don’t typ­i­cally like light loads, though, and their per­ceived re­coil may be a lit­tle greater. Many seem to think the qual­ity and per­for­mance of the Benelli out­weigh these con­sid­er­a­tions. I have cer­tainly used Benel­lis many times for hunt­ing pur­poses – and I’m a fan.

Gen­er­ally, I would say they show their max­i­mum ad­van­tage as field guns, and, in my opin­ion, the mech­a­nism, as we have seen it thus far, is less well suited to tar­get shoot­ing. A Benelli would prob­a­bly be the first gun I would pick up to shoot live quarry abroad, though, and they would be ideal on the marsh or in a hide as they are tough, well-en­gi­neered pieces of kit.

The test Power Bore, mean­while, is a sleek de­sign with a two-tone re­ceiver, the main body of which is al­loy. Qual­ity of fin­ish is A1. The stock shapes and wood gen­er­ally im­press too – the tim­ber was of sur­pris­ingly good qual­ity – with a cou­ple of quib­bles. The gun has a pleas­ing, stream­lined look without look­ing too modern. Out of the box, the stock is a bit short (just over 14¼") and a bit low in the comb. It is easy to ad­dress this though as the stock is sup­plied with shims that can be used to re­duce drop and add or re­duce cast. The grip is nice but quite tightly ra­diused and has a slight palm swell to ei­ther side. The stock may also be raised with an af­ter­mar­ket higher comb. I also espe­cially liked the good shape of the well-rounded butt-sole.

Re­coil re­duc­tion, more­over, is specif­i­cally ad­dressed in the test gun by adopt­ing what Benelli call the ‘Pro­gres­sive Com­fort Sys­tem’ – a re­coil re­ducer in­cor­po­rated into the high-tech re­coil pad and largely hid­den in the stock. Es­sen­tially, it is a re­coil-ab­sorb­ing mech­a­nism built be­hind the re­coil pad it­self. Poly­mer vanes ab­sorb re­coil in the man­ner of some tele­scop­ing hy­draulic re­coil re­duc­tion mech­a­nisms. It is all very neat and does not dis­turb the lines of the gun or add much weight to it (the test gun weighed just over 6lb – very light for a 12-bore semi). The re­coil sys­tem takes greater ef­fect as the load in­creases.

An­other in­ter­est­ing as­pect of this new model is the tight bore which is com­bined with a deep-drilled, cryo­geni­cally stress-re­lieved bar­rel and chokes. The back-to-the-fu­ture bar­rel bore is be­tween 18.3 and 18.4mm – nar­row by modern

‘A Benelli would be the gun I would pick up to shoot live quarry abroad, and they are ideal on the marsh or in a hide as they are tough pieces of kit’

stan­dards (but typ­i­cal of old bores). I won’t give the game away too much yet, suf­fice to say that I think this as­pect of the gun is more than ad­ver­tis­ing hype. Benelli notes that it “guar­an­tees su­pe­rior per­for­mance, higher shot ve­loc­i­ties, greater ac­cu­racy and im­proved pen­e­tra­tion”. Not sure about im­proved ac­cu­racy but, I’d prob­a­bly go along with the rest.

The bar­rel also has a rel­a­tively nar­row car­bon-fi­bre sight­ing rib. It is fit­ted with a cen­tre bead and a translu­cent rod type front sight (which is quite bright). The car­bon rib helps to keep weight down for­ward – though my pref­er­ence would al­ways be for steel as I just find it’s tougher and longer last­ing than any­thing else.

Nev­er­the­less, the rib here is very nicely done and would come into its own on longer-bar­relled guns (Beretta em­ploys them on some of its range now as well). The bead might also be use­ful in fad­ing light when wildfowling.

Tech­ni­cal

The Raf­faello Power Bore, an in­er­tia-ac­tion gun as noted, utilises the usual Benelli ro­tat­ing bolt-head at­tached to the main body of the bolt by means of a short, stiff spring. This en­gages into the bar­rel in the man­ner of a ri­fle bolt and is locked at the mo­ment the gun is fired.

The main mass of the bolt be­hind it, how­ever, ac­cel­er­ates very rapidly for­ward to­wards it com­press­ing the con­nect­ing spring. When it is fully ten­sioned, it whizzes back, un­lock­ing the bolt-head.

In­ter­est­ingly, Beretta adopted ro­tat­ing bolts into their mag­num gas guns hav­ing ac­quired Benelli. Ear­lier Benelli in­er­tia-ac­tion guns – the SL80 and 121 – did not em­ploy a ro­tat­ing bolt.

I like both the Benelli in­er­tia sys­tems (and the Beretta gas guns for that mat­ter). You may still see the orig­i­nal Benelli sys­tem em­ployed in their re­cently dis­con­tin­ued Es­sen­tial model and the older Beretta ES100 (not to men­tion the ex­cel­lent all­steel-ac­tion Breda Ermes 2000).

The Pro­gres­sive Com­fort Sys­tem does a good job of re­duc­ing felt re­coil without dis­rupt­ing the Benelli’s sleek lines

The trig­ger was re­li­able and con­sis­tent, but the pull weight was a lit­tle higher than Michael prefers

In­er­tia guns tend to pre­fer punchier loads and al­lied to the tighter Power Bore bar­rel gave im­pres­sive kills

The Benelli’s in­er­tia-ac­tion utilises a ro­tat­ing bolt-head. The ac­tion is in­cred­i­bly re­li­able and easy to main­tain

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