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...
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.
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