Upland bird hunters will love Benelli’s semi-auto ultra light
Those of us addicted to the flush of upland game birds tend to wear out a lot of shoe leather. While a great pair of boots sits high on my list of upland hunting gear, a lightweight, quick-on-point shotgun trumps everything. It’s all about weight. After an exhausting day of traversing everything from weedy fencerows to brier-infested creek bottoms, an eight-pound shotgun can feel and swing like a bazooka by sundown. So, light and fast is where it’s at. Even better is a shotgun that can double as a run-and-gun turkey gun. Enter Benelli’s Ultra Light, touted as the “upland hunter’s dream.”
Benelli says the Ultra Light is the world’s lightest semi-auto shotgun, and they just might be right—the 26-inch barrelled 12-gauge model weighs just 6.1 pounds, thanks to several modifications. The most notable is the receiver, which utilizes a feather-weight alloy instead of steel. Benelli also shortened the forearm, added a carbon-fibre ventilated rib rather than a steel one, and reduced the size of the magazine from the standard unplugged four-plus-one to two-plus-one.
While these features keep the weight to a minimum, Benelli did not otherwise skimp on the guts of this gun. The Ultra light is powered by the very reliable Inertia Driven operating system, which consists of just three main parts: the bolt body, an inertia spring, and a rotating bolt head. This system runs cleaner than gas-operated guns, as it pushes all the gases, smoke and burnt powder down the barrel instead of venting it back onto the body of the gun.
The Ultra Light also doesn’t forgo strength, with steel locking lugs that lock directly into the barrel. This creates a steel-to-steel lock that becomes even tighter when firing. Other notable features include the Crio-treated barrel and chokes, a shim kit offering both drop and cast adjustability, a WeatherCoat-finished walnut stock, and a red bar front sight. Finally, the Ultra Light comes complete with a standard hard case and three chokes.
From my perspective, an upland bird gun requires a wood stock, and the higher the grade of wood, the better. My test model’s wooden stock was decent, but I wouldn’t consider it outstanding. The WeatherCoat finish may have contributed to its less than showy finish, but it was still very attractive. The checkering, as expected, was flawless, as was the anodized black and gloss-blue finish on the receiver and barrel, respectively. The gold trigger also added a bit of flare, offset against the dark receiver.
When shouldering the gun, I first noted was just how light it felt in my hands. Indeed, on my postal scale it weighed in at just a couple of ounces more than its advertised factory weight of 6.1 pounds. When combined with the perfect fit, this made for effortless quick-on-point target acquisition. When you have a 12-gauge with an inertia action, however, there is inevitably a price to pay in the form of increased recoil.
I first tested the Ultra Light on the trap range using a modified choke, shooting at 20 clays with target loads and five clays with standard upland loads. I hit 19 of the first 20 clays, with a few only broken, not smoked. After refocussing, I pulverized the last five clays with the upland loads.
Next, I patterned four full-choked premium turkey loads at 40 yards using Birchwood Casey turkey splatter targets. While all four loads delivered lethal 40-yard performance, I could hardly believe the devastation left behind by the Winchester Long Beard XR—the target looked as though it had been hit by a load of #8 shot at 20 yards, rather than #5 at 40 yards. I counted 114 hits, with 103 in the upper body and 11 in the head and neck. With a well-placed shot, no turkey would be able to escape this load out to 50 yards, and even beyond. Unquestionably, this lightweight shotgun can do it all, yet still feel light and nimble in the hand.