By Michael Yardley of The Field
Tuesday, 13 July 2010
An ergonimic semi-automatic with official uses.
The Vinci, the latest semi-automatic from Benelli, might be called a bank-robber's gun in some reactionary quarters (though one suspects the thieves would be upmarket techno-villains). Being kinder, if 007 wanted a self-loading shotgun, Q might do much worse than provide a Vinci (which, conveniently,comes in a Bondish gadget box); its sibling, the Benelli M4, is already used by the US Marines and some of our sneaky-beaky types in Afghanistan.
The Vinci is not without a certain radical chic. Its general form pleases the eye. It looks cool in a sleek, minimalist, Georg Jensen sort of way, rather than militaristic. It also handles well. Ergonomics is an overused word but it applies here. You will struggle to find a shotgun that feels much better. The
weight distribution - and it is only 7lb all up - is excellent. The gun is lively and points naturally with a 70cm barrel which equates to just under 28in (but the sighting plane is significantly longer). The fore-end and grip provide first class purchase with rubberised "ComforTouch" surfaces and good shapes.
The gun, which is priced from £1,475, is intriguingly designed. Coming from such a respected maker, it will, no doubt, find its place in chic pigeon hides and on the more fashionable foreshores of the land. It is also absolutely bound to start a conversation if taken to a summer clay-shoot. What's so different? Where to start? How about colour? The plastic stock and fore-end are "Amazonia [lightish] Green". There are black and camouflage options (and "Desert Dune" if you live in the States). It's not conventional, but nor is it garish.
The butt has an interchangeable soft polymer comb, a plug-in recoil pad of similar material (available in several lengths). Most interestingly, though, there is a series of chevrons set diagonally in the butt to absorb more recoil before it hits the shooter. Benelli calls this ComforTech. It offers adjustment for height and cast by means of shims (as well as length via the clever push-fit recoil pad mentioned). You can go left-handed if you need to. A higher comb insert may also become available.
The stock may be removed without tools. Most semi-automatics break down into barrel, fore-end and receiver/stock assemblies. This one doesn't. The first stage of disassembly involves removing the combined fore-end, magazine and trigger unit. This is achieved by depressing a catch at the front of the fore-end and turning a knob which looks like a conventional fastening nut but isn't.
You are left with a barrel, the upper part of the receiver and the rubberised, polymer stock. You can now secure the barrel (squeezed between the thighs, comb up, barrel forward was my favourite method) and twist the barrel/receiver assembly clockwise. The two major assemblies part company in the manner of a take-down rifle built on the interrupted thread system. The Vinci barrel and receiver remain a single unit, though, permanently fixed together. The barrel is screwed into the upper receiver which also carries the bolt and parts of the mechanism when the gun is routinely disassembled. This is, I believe, the first semi-automatic where barrel and receiver are, effectively, a single unit.
Benelli is well known for its operating system. Unlike guns that bleed off gas to cycle the mechanism - such as Berettas - the Benelli works on an inertia principle. The Vinci has a modified version that operates absolutely in line with the barrel axis. The barrel is also free-floating, like that on a target rifle. Everything happens in a straight line, which should reduce muzzle flip and improve functioning.
The inertia mechanism uses a rotating bolt head attached to the main body of the bolt by means of a short, stiff spring. The head locks into the barrel and remains stationary when the gun is fired. The main mass of the bolt, meantime, accelerates forward and compresses the connecting spring. When fully tensioned it accelerates back, causing the bolt head to unlock. A return spring is contained within the receiver. This allows the stock to be detachable.
The hammer-forged barrel is 3in magnum chambered, steel proofed, and stress relieved by cryogenic freezing. The interchangeable chokes are of the long, concealed type. They, too, have been subjected to cryogenic freezing. This reduces stresses and improves the surface finish. Benelli claims that it lessens internal friction and prevents the build-up of lead and plastic residues.
The Vinci pointed and shot well, though recoil, even with lighter loads, was quite heavy. This is probably explained by the gun's relatively low weight. I am sure it would shoot and handle better with a 30in barrel; the 28in would be ideal for a pigeon hide. Inertia-operated guns are not usually as soft to shoot as gas-operated ones, but I favour them for live quarry because of the reliability of their operating mechanism and the balance that the simple design allows. I rate the Vinci highly; it is an extraordinary piece of engineering, genuinely innovative and not ridiculously expensive. Mish Moneypenny, where is my Benelli?
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