October 28, 2022
A well-known player in the shotgun world, Benelli turned heads in 2020 when it released its first-ever bolt-action rifle, the Lupo. Lupo translates to “wolf” in Italian and represents the nation’s fiercest predator. Though its looks aren’t necessarily traditional, my experience with the rifle is that it is both highly functional and user-friendly. For 2022, Benelli has released an upgraded Lupo called the BE.S.T (Benelli Surface Treatment) that adds new features and options.
I have some history with this design. I was fortunate enough to be one of a group of writers who traveled to South Africa with the Lupo alongside Benelli employees in 2019, several months before its public launch. Due to the volume of game that we took, through traditional hunting and during a drought-related culling operation, we each got several big game seasons’ worth of experience with the rifles. They held up to hard use and abuse, and each example was reliable and accurate. Like the rest of the group, I was very impressed by the rifles and their performance.
Premium AA-Grade Satin Walnut
The Lupo’s lines are reminiscent of those found on the company’s semiauto shotguns. My own Benelli bird gun is a wood-stocked Montefeltro. Maybe that’s why my first thought when I picked my original synthetic-stocked rifle from the dealer was, “This would look cool with wood furniture.” Maybe it was because they got tired of me asking about it during the Africa trip, but just two years later, Benelli’s new-product team made that wish come true. The BE.S.T. is available with an AA-grade satin walnut buttstock and fore-end. Coupled with the gray lower receiver and the glossy black finish on the rest of the rifle, it’s an attractive setup.
For those seeking a more modern look, the BE.S.T. is also available with a synthetic stock in two Gore Optifade camouflage patterns: Open Country and Elevated II. The wood-stocked version is available in both 6.5 Creedmoor and .300 Win. Mag., and I tested the former. Benelli has always been a company that pushes boundaries in terms of product innovation, making it a market leader in many respects. One such innovation is what it calls the BE.S.T. finish. According to Benelli, BE.S.T. is a hybrid physical vapor deposition and plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition technology. “These two processes utilize electricity, radio frequencies and plasma in a high-vacuum environment to deposit a solid coating that precisely and uniformly covers the treated parts,” the company says.
That’s a fancy way of saying it’s a very hard finish that is highly resistant to corrosion and wear. The fact is, this type of finish is nothing new in industrial areas, but the temperatures traditionally required to apply it were so high they could affect the metallurgy of firearm components—including barrels. Benelli’s innovation was to figure out how to apply this finish using lower temperatures that would not cause any issues with previously heat-treated parts. Hunts in places such as Alaska’s coastal regions can be especially harsh on gear. The basic Lupo models are finished in a satin blue, which isn’t always the best choice for such conditions.
During the company’s testing, a BE.S.T.-finished shotgun barrel was placed in a saltwater bath for three months and showed no sign of rust at the conclusion of the test. Most of us won’t choose to store our firearms in a tank of saltwater, but not having to worry about staying ahead of corrosion during a hunt in rough elements is a real plus. All the steel components of the rifle receive this treatment.
Unlike many of today’s wonder-finishes, BE.S.T. is actually attractive. If I didn’t know otherwise, I would assume the barreled action of this rifle was polished to a high gloss and salt blued. This slick finish also helps the Lupo’s moving parts operate with minimal friction. At this point, the BE.S.T. finish is not being applied inside the barrel. Instead, Benelli chrome-lines the bore to protect it from the elements.
Other than the finish and the stock, the BE.S.T. is a standard Lupo. It uses a three-lug bolt with a 60-degree throw. What appears to be the receiver on the Lupo is actually two components: a steel action and an aluminum chassis. For practical purposes, this rifle has an upper and lower receiver. This section is slim and trim, thanks to some design tricks the company’s engineers implemented.
For one, the bolt is scalloped so cartridges in the magazine can sit as high as possible, eliminating the need for a magazine that is unnecessarily tall. The flush-fit polymer magazine is detachable, but it can also be loaded or topped-off through the ejection port in the manner of a traditional fixed-box magazine. For me, this is an extremely important feature. The bolt body is machined from a single piece of steel, and the dogleg handle is attached securely using two fasteners. The push-feed Lupo uses a beefy extractor and plunger-style ejector. Having fired dozens of rounds through two of these rifles, I’ve experienced zero feeding or extraction/ejection issues.
A unique feature on the Lupo is a bolt that can be disassembled for maintenance in the field without tools. A release lever on the cocking piece allows the user to rotate that component until it can be removed. This is a feature that a hunter never needs until he or she needs it badly! The controls on the Lupo are well thought out and intuitive. The manual safety is located on the tang and is easy to reach for both right- and left-handed shooters. A red cocking indicator sits just above the safety.
The trigger is user-adjustable from 2.2 to 4.4 pounds. Out of the box, the trigger on my sample broke at a crisp 2.9 pounds. The magazine release sits at the forward edge of the detachable box and is actuated by a rearward pull. The bolt stop sits on the nine o’clock side of the receiver. Barrels on the Lupo are cold-hammer-forged and cryogenically treated. Barrels are threaded 5/8x24 and fitted with a near-seamless thread protector. The barrel is secured to the action via an oversize nut.
Hammer-forged barrels have a reputation for long life, but there is another important benefit to this manufacturing method. I’ve learned through building my own rifles that the alignment between the bore and the chamber is an extremely critical factor in achieving maximum accuracy. Because the hammer-forging process forms both the rifling and the chamber in the same series of operations, they will be perfectly aligned as long as the mandrel is correctly made. This is no doubt one of the keys to the Lupo’s excellent accuracy.
There is another factor at play as well. For a variety of reasons, rifles with two-piece stocks rarely have reputations for shooting tight groups. The Lupo is built with an aluminum chassis that ensures that the fore-end is securely free-floated from the barrel. As I mentioned, this chassis actually forms the lower portion of the receiver and extends forward under the stock. This system gives the bedding rigidity and consistency, which are two keys to repeatable accuracy.
The stock on my test rifle had attractive figure and a well-executed satin finish. A high comb helps ensure the shooter’s eye aligns with an optic. Textured AirTouch panels are located on the pistol grip and fore-end. The Lupo BE.S.T.’s stock is adjustable for length of pull from 13.8 to 14.75 inches, using included spacers, and an optional large recoil pad is available that extends that to 15.2 inches. Drop and cast can also be adjusted to 36 different positions to accommodate the shooter. Spacers can even be used to customize the finger’s reach length on the trigger.
The Progressive Comfort recoil system allows the recoil pad to “give” during recoil, which does a great job of making the Lupo comfortable to shoot—especially in the 6.5 Creedmoor chambering. For the record, this system also worked very well on the .30-06 version I tested previously. Three sling swivel inlets are included, allowing for both a sling and bipod to be mounted to the fore-end. Studs were not installed on the test rifle; instead, the inlets were fit with removable polymer plugs.
The Lupo’s action is drilled and tapped for scope mounting and, additionally, comes with two Picatinny rail sections installed. Mounting an optic was simple and fast. I tested the BE.S.T. Lupo on a hot summer day, using three different 6.5 Creedmoor loads. Accuracy was excellent, especially when the barrel was given time to cool off. If I let the bore get too hot, one out of three shots would usually be a flier—but still under one m.o.a. Recoil was extremely light.
Overall, I’m a big fan of the Lupo for general big game hunting. Depending on the type of hunting you engage in and the chambering you choose, this is a rifle that would be suitable for 90 percent of the hunts one might embark on. At just over seven pounds, it strikes a nice balance weight-wise. The Lupo is plenty portable without giving up performance when it comes to making shots in field positions. The controls are well thought out and functional, the rifle’s recoil is minimal, and its accuracy is very good.
I’ll readily admit that from an aesthetics standpoint the original Lupo was a bit too modern for my tastes. Still, I grew to love the rifle based on how it performed in the field. What it lacked in form it made up for in function. To me, the walnut-stocked BE.S.T. Lupo is a much more attractive rifle, one that might enjoy broader market appeal.
When Benelli made its way into the bolt-action market, it went all out. The Lupo is a well-designed, carefully engineered and well-built rifle worthy of the Benelli brand name. The BE.S.T. Lupo takes that design a step further with a high-quality modern finish and both wood-stocked and camouflage options. These are simply accurate, reliable and functional rifles with a bit of Italian flare.
Benelli BE.S.T. Lupo Specs
- Type: Bolt-action, centerfire
- Caliber: 6.5 Creedmoor (tested), .300 Win. Mag.
- Barrel: 24 in., 1:8 twist, threaded 5/8x24
- Overall Length: 46.2 in.
- Weight: 7 lbs., 1.6 oz.
- Stock: AA-grade satin walnut; adjustable length of pull, drop, cast
- Finish: BE.S.T. PVD/PECVD hybrid
- Trigger: Single stage adjustable, 2.9 lb. pull (measured)
- Sights: None; drilled and tapped for scope; Picatinny bases installed
- Safties: Two-position tang
- MSRP: $2,199
- Manufacturer: Benelli USA