A new apex predator is ready to hit the field this year. And it comes in the form of a brand-new bolt-action rifle from one of the world’s most renowned shotgun manufacturers: Benelli.
Yes, you read that right.
The Italian shotgun maker that gave rise to one of the most respected waterfowl shotguns in recent memory (the Super Black Black Eagle, and later SBE II and III models) is making waves at the 2020 Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show this week in Las Vegas by introducing the Lupo, its first entry into the bolt-action rifle market.
“Lupo” means wolf in Italian, and based on specifications, features and experience with the rifle, Benelli’s latest seems to be quite predator-worthy of its given name. The new rifle, which I was able to test in .30-06 Springfield in November, has a three-lug bolt design, a chassis-style frame, a free-floated Crio barrel and an adjustable trigger, among many other features to be addressed below.
For quick details about key features on this new rifle, check out the specifications below. Otherwise, read onward for the detailed first look on Benelli’s new Lupo bolt-action rifle.
- Type: Bolt-action.
- Caliber: 30-06 Springfield (as tested)
- Capacity: 4+1, detachable box magazine
- Barrel: 22 in. (as tested), free-floating Crio, threaded 5/8x24
- Twist Rate: 1:11 in. (as tested)
- Overall Length: 44.625 in.
- Weight: 7 lbs.
- Stock: Black synthetic; Progressive Comfort recoil reduction; adjustable for drop, cast, length of pull, trigger reach; CombTech cheek pad
- Grips: Benelli AirTouch checkering
- Length of Pull: Adjustable, 13.8 in.-14.75 in. (14.2 in.-15.2 in. with optional large Progressive Comfort pad)
- Finish: Black synthetic stock, blued receiver and barrel
- Trigger: Adjustable, 2.2 lbs.-4.4 lbs.
- Sights: None, drilled and tapped receiver, two-piece picatinny rail
- MSRP: $1,699
- Recoil reduction technology on a large-caliber bolt-action rifle with Benelli’s Progressive Comfort system and CombTech cheek pad.
- Incredible level of adjustability to drop, cast, length of pull and trigger reach with Benelli’s Perfect Fitting system of shims, spacers and pads.
- Ergonomic and attractive design engineered to meld with the hands.
- 22-inch Crio free-floated barrel and user-adjustable trigger.
- Upper receiver drilled and tapped,
- Detachable box magazine, fluted profile bolt for more efficient operation and an additional round of capacity.
- Ambidextrous tang-mounted safety.
NEW MOVE, SAME SPIRIT
The move into bolt-action rifles is an interesting development from Benelli, which has been a dominating force for years in the semi-auto shotgun market. But, although surprising, it’s certainly not unprecedented.
The Italian manufacturer has had a semi-auto rifle—the R1 Big Game Series—in its stable of products for more than 15 years. That rifle has historically been more popular in Europe than stateside, but it’s still been available here. The entry into bolt-action rifles also falls well in line with the manufacturer’s recent pattern of expanding into different segments of the market, as it did five years ago in the over/under shotgun market with the 828U.
“Benelli is an innovative company, a technology-driven company” said George Thompson, director of product development for Benelli, in an interview ahead of SHOT Show. “They want to do things differently and better than they’ve ever been done before.” He added, “[Engineers] saw an opportunity for some true innovation there [in bolt-action rifles]—an opportunity to bring a product to market that would satisfy a lot of questions being asked by consumers.”
So, what does a well-known shotgun manufacturer like Benelli bring to a bolt-action rifle build? Well, for starters, the company has used some of its core competencies—technologies, processes and tasks at which they already excel—to innovate in the bolt-action rifle segment.
Think recoil reduction technologies, ergonomics and user adjustability—all while creating an inherently accurate action and rifle capable of consistently printing sub-MOA groups.
TAMING THE BITE
Benelli has been a prominent innovator in the field of recoil reduction for around 15 years after it debuted the integral ComforTech recoil reduction system in its Super Black Eagle II. So, it makes sense that recoil management would be a distinct emphasis area on the Lupo in a segment of the firearms market that doesn’t seem to make recoil reduction a heavy focus.
“Recoil reduction is kind of a big deal,” said Thompson, “and it’s always been baffling to me why nobody’s ever put it into these big-caliber centerfire rifles.”
Benelli’s Lupo comes equipped with a modified version of the manufacturer’s Progressive Comfort recoil reduction system, which was first introduced with the Ethos shotgun back in 2014. The system in the Lupo isn’t identical to that found in the Ethos, given the different demands of the .30-06 cartridge compared to the wide variety of shotgun loads, but it does operate under the same principle, using sets of interlocking fingers which engage with the force of recoil.
The angle and design of the stock and system have also been optimized for rifle shooters, with reduced muzzle flip and optimal weight balance. Interestingly enough, according to Thompson, the Progressive Comfort system actually works better and is more efficient on centerfire rifles in .30 caliber and larger than it is on shotguns.
In further pursuit of shooting comfort and recoil reduction, Benelli has also placed a CombTech Cheek Pad on the Lupo. Different versions of this cheek pad are available to suit a variety of different shooters’ needs.
LIKE A GLOVE
Another key area that Benelli focused on with the new Lupo was in designing a rifle with a truly customizable fit that still looks and feels similar to a traditional hunting rifle. That means lots of adjustability across the rifle and overall a fairly ergonomic design compatible with many users.
To that end, Benelli has incorporated its Perfect Fitting system, which allows for an assortment of drop, cast and length-of-pull adjustments. With this system, there are almost 40 unique positions for shooters to choose from, and, of course, there are the different variations of the aforementioned CombTech cheek pad.
But there’s more.
In addition to these measures, Benelli has included the ability to adjust trigger reach length—again, through its Perfect Fitting system—with various spacers that can be added between the stock and trigger guard assembly. These adjustments are designed to put your finger exactly where it needs to be for the most effective, efficient and comfortable trigger press.
This wouldn’t be possible without the modular chassis-style approach Benelli took when designing the rifle. One interesting point to note about trigger reach spacers is that Benelli worked with a university in Urbino, where the Italian manufacturer is headquartered, to conduct research on finger length measurements.
Through this process they were able to effectively develop spacers for this system to create a perfect fit for roughly 90 percent of the total population, according to Thompson. In short, a lot of time and effort went into making sure this rifle would fit—or could fit with the right adjustments—the vast majority of the shooting populace.
Add in Benelli’s AirTouch texturing on portions of the forend and grip where the hands will be, as well as a grip handle profile optimized for rifle shooters, and you can easily see that comfort, control and fit were cornerstones with this design.
“[The Lupo] had to be accurate,” Thompson said, “which our gun is superbly accurate, but a bigger piece of that is, we want not just the gun to be accurate, but also the person using the gun to be accurate. And we believe that managing that recoil and having the gun fit them properly is going to make them shoot the gun more accurately and ultimately be more successful and happier with the product.”
Of course, recoil reduction technology, good ergonomics and custom-fitting capabilities mean little if the rifle and its action aren’t accurate and consistent. The Lupo, at least in my experience, is.
The rifle’s chassis-style frame weds a heat-treated, hardened steel upper receiver with a steel block mounted inside an aluminum alloy lower receiver, according to Thompson. He suggests this makes it perhaps one of the most rock-solid bedding systems out there.
This paired with the 22-inch Crio barrel and crisp, user-adjustable trigger (2.2 to 4.4 pounds) yields ample accuracy. In my time with the rifle, I’ve seen it consistently remain a sub-MOA shooter.
The bolt itself has a special fluted profile, which, in addition to looking cool, also serves functional purposes. Namely, Thompson said, it allows for a more effective alignment with the chamber as rounds are being stripped off the detachable magazine, and thus, improved reliability. It also permits Benelli to add an extra round of capacity, Thompson added.
Speaking of the magazine, Benelli seems to have devised a good one with its Lupo. Engineers set out to design a detachable magazine that was easy to load/unload detached or from the top with the magazine inserted, and pop out freely and easily, but snap into place firmly and definitively, and—above all else—it works no matter what. Benelli appears to have checked all these boxes, at least based on my experiences with using the magazine. I’ve used magazines in other rifles in the past that were either a pain to load from the top or that were somewhat temperamental in how they had to be inserted. Neither of these were issues with the Lupo.
The decision to utilize a three-lug bolt also makes perfect sense. Three-lug designs have been tremendously popular in recent years with rifle manufacturers because they can be made more affordably (which is passed on to consumers), and they offer a shorter, 60-degree bolt throw, which means quicker operation and cycling in most cases. Another nice feature with the bolt system (though certainly not an essential) is that the bolt shroud can be disassembled without any kind of tool, so it’s easy to disassemble, inspect and clean if needed.
So, ultimately, a rigid and accurate action, a precision barrel and clean and crisp adjustable trigger pair with Benelli’s impressive recoil reduction and custom-fitting technologies to produce a rifle that conforms at an advanced level with the user. It puts great accuracy potential in the shooter’s hands and then refines the fit and felt recoil of the rifle to make the user more comfortable, and therefore, hopefully more accurate.
For more information, visit benelliusa.com.