December 07, 2023
They say no one builds a chassis like the Italians. They’re talking about cars, of course, but it applies to guns as well, and Benelli is well known as the maker of sporty, performance-oriented shotguns—and more recently rifles, too.
The company’s good-looking R1 autoloader is well regarded, and more recently Benelli introduced its first bolt-action centerfire: the Lupo, which means wolf in Italian. Also well regarded—and well liked by our reviewer Brad Fitzpatrick in his May/June 2020 RifleShooter article—the Lupo was initially offered in .270 Win., .30-06 and .300 Win. Mag. Now the rifle is available in three terrific short-action calibers: .243 Win., 6.5 Creedmoor and .308 Win.
I chose to review the .308 version, and I’ll tell you right up front it was love at first sight. I’d never actually handled a Lupo before this one arrived, and while I’m definitely a gun traditionalist, the look and feel of the rifle hit me right off.
Normally, I don’t start out a review concentrating on the stock, but I’m going to here. While the stock is a black synthetic (a camo version is planned for 2022), it has racy, sexy lines—particularly the angled trigger guard. But looks aren’t everything, and the thing that impressed me most when I shouldered the rifle was the wrist.
The Lupo’s wrist is thin, which I prefer, and at least for me, its angle allows an easy reach to the trigger and, more importantly, it positions my trigger finger so it doesn’t drag on the stock. If your finger is contacting the stock as you squeeze, you’re imparting gun-disturbing movement during the process. The Lupo’s design prevents this.
The wrist also flares toward the base, and for me it naturally produces a consistent hand position regardless of whether I’m shooting from prone, standing or sitting/kneeling. And the checkering is excellent. Too often on synthetic stocks the pressed checkering is relatively smooth. The Lupo’s checkering, which Benelli calls AirTouch, is basically a grid pattern as opposed to raised diamonds, and it’s definitely one of the grippiest textures I’ve felt on a synthetic rifle stock. Your hand isn’t going to slip on this one, even in the rain.
Panels of this same texture are found on the fore-end, which is just the right width and has a roomy channel for your fingers. The fore-end is a separate piece and is attached to the alloy chassis with a large Allen-head bolt. It has a molded-in hole for a sling swivel at the very front. There’s also a pre-drilled hole for a traditional sling swivel stud, which is not provided. Working from the inside of the fore-end, pop out the rubber cover cap and then install the stud of your choice.
These are the characteristics that jumped out at me right away, but there’s a whole lot more to the Lupo’s stock than meets the eye. As a shotgun company, Benelli knows the importance of stock fit, and the stock is innovative in that it allows the shooter to adjust a number of dimensions.
It comes with neutral drop and with no cast—which is what I prefer and how I tested the rifle—but shims are provided to change both of these aspects.
First, remove the recoil pad using a Phillips screwdriver, lightly greased so as not to mess up the rubber. Remove the “comfort kit,” also with a Phillips screwdriver. You might consider a fatter screwdriver here because the drive recess is somewhat larger.
To remove the stock, use a 13mm socket on a six-inch extension to remove the nut. There are two washers behind it, but don’t worry if you get them out of order when they come out because the manual has a good diagram.
The key to changing cast and drop is the stock locking plates. The plate that comes installed has the stock bolt hole centered laterally; the one you use to change cast has the hole off-center. The locking plates have lettered teeth on either side, and these letters correspond to the various shims.
If you want to change the drop but leave the cast unchanged, use the locking plate with the centered hole, then choose the drop shim of your choice. Drop values for each shim are listed in a chart in the manual, and they range from 40mm to 55mm; the “K” plate that comes installed—neutral drop—is 50mm.
Line up the corresponding letter on the locking plate’s teeth with the arrow found on the interior of the stock. For instance, if you’re going with the “H” shim, the “H” on the locking plate lines up with the arrow. I fashioned a tool out of 19-gauge steel wire, bending a small hook on the end, which made getting the locking plate in the right place a bit easier. Those savvier than I am will likely figure out a better trick, because it still took me a bit of fiddling and patience to get the locking plate in place.
To change the cast, use the locking plate with the off-center hole. For right-hand cast, the “DX” side of the locking plate should be visible when you look down into the stock. For left-hand cast, it’s the “SX” side.
With the locking plate positioned where you want it, simply pop the appropriate shims between the stock and the receiver. At this point you can also modify the reach to trigger by adding an additional 1mm flat shim.
Changing length of pull is straightforward. The gun comes with two 12.5mm spacers, and the appropriate-length screws for both options are provided—as are two Progressive Comfort spacers to accommodate whatever length change increment you chose.
What is Progressive Comfort? Initially developed for shotguns and modified for the Lupo, it’s a recoil-reduction device featuring three sets of interlocking fingers of polymer, each set with a different elasticity.
These sets act based on how heavy your given load is. If you’re shooting a lighter-recoiling caliber or load, the first set of very flexible fingers compresses to reduce recoil. A heavier recoil force brings the second, stiffer set of fingers into play, and at max recoil force the third and stoutest set of fingers springs into action.
You can’t see any of this because it’s internal, but with the stock components disassembled, if you squeeze the Progressive Comfort unit, you can feel it compress to give you at least a basic idea of how it functions. This system is complemented by a soft recoil pad that’s scalloped so it stays put in your shoulder.
But wait—there’s more! The comb features Benelli’s Combtech cheek pad, a soft, recoil-absorbing synthetic insert. It’s another feature borrowed from the shotgun side, and it’s a big plus because it reduces the amount of recoil transmitted to your cheek, a significant component of felt recoil.
The gun comes with a straight Combtech comb insert, but if you want a higher one to use with your scope, the company sells a raised version on its website for $100.
The Lupo’s action is a round-bottom design. Unlike most actions, the rear action screw is located on the top of the tang and is accessed with the bolt removed. The forward screw is in the traditional bottom spot forward of the magazine well, and it’s captured. Benelli provides a Torx wrench to remove the screws.
The trigger is adjustable, but the pull on this one as it came from the factory was two pounds, three ounces, so I didn’t mess with it. If that’s not to your liking, pull the barreled action from the stock, and the trigger adjustment screw is easily accessed. A wrench for this is also provided.
The 22-inch hammer-forged barrel is cryogenically treated. This relieves stresses introduced by the hammer-forging process and also aligns the metal’s grains for a smoother bore surface. Smoother is better, both for accuracy and cleaning.
The muzzle is threaded 5/8x24, and the thread protector has a small hole in it in case you need extra leverage for loosening or tightening with something like a small punch.
The rifle’s chassis is an aluminum alloy to keep weight down, and the gun tips the scales a hair under seven pounds. A steel recoil lug in the chassis matches up with a slot in the hardened steel barrel extension. The ejection port is partially enclosed, and two two-slot Picatinny rail sections are mounted at the top for attaching a scope.
It’s kind of hard to wax poetic about a rifle’s bolt, but the Lupo’s three-lug fat bolt is almost a work of art. The body is bright and shiny, with cool scalloped cuts around its midsection. A cut in the left side matches up with the bolt release lever. “Benelli Bolt System” is engraved in the top.
The one-piece bolt handle is unique, recalling gullwing car door as much as anything else. The knob is smooth and somewhat elongated.
The bolt is easily disassembled without tools. There’s a release lever cut into the shroud. Simply press the lever and turn as indicated to unlock the bolt and remove the striker and spring for cleaning. Reassembly is simple, although you’ll need to press the bolt on something solid to compress the spring.
Sliding tang safeties are typically ho-hum affairs, but Benelli’s designers paid attention to this two-position job. Instead of a flat button, it has a serrated hump that’s easy to feel and easy to place on Fire or Safe. The amount of force it takes to operate is Goldilocks-right. You can work the bolt when the rifle is on Safe—without any bolt-release “switch” to mess with. That’s the way I like it.
The gun comes with an accuracy certificate and a representation of a group the rifle shot—in this case, 0.75 m.o.a. with Federal’s Gold Medal 168-grain load. That was impressive, but not as impressive as the results I got at the bench. Results are shown in the accompanying chart.
Shooting the gun from standing and sitting confirmed my first impressions of how well the rifle handles. It’s also a really comfortable gun, thanks to the Progressive Comfort technology, good recoil pad and certainly the Combtech cheek pad.
Just for fun, I shot two five-shot sitting groups at a relatively quick pace without sticks or a sling, and all 10 shots landed in a four-inch square at 100 yards. That speaks to the gun’s excellent balance and terrific trigger. The bolt works slick and sure, and there were no hang-ups.
Notice I said two five-shot groups. That’s right; unlike some competing rifles, the Lupo’s synthetic magazine holds five rounds. Sure, I want to get the job done with one shot, but I like to have plenty of follow-up rounds if things go sideways. With some of the single-column mags out there that hold only three rounds…well, it’s not enough for my peace of mind—especially if the situation dictates hunting with an empty chamber.
Some folks will no doubt object to the price, and I get it. There are a lot of good-shooting synthetic-stocked rifles costing less than half the Lupo’s $1,700 price tag.
But this gun isn’t just “good shooting.” I looked back at my past reviews, and as near as I can tell, the Lupo is the most accurate I’ve ever tested. Not just factory rifles, mind you, but also custom and semi-custom guns as well. And the Benelli Lupo accomplished this level of accuracy with both “soft” traditional cup-and-core bullets like the InterLock and Core-Lokt as well as hard, tough bullets like the Trophy Bonded.
Throw in its good looks, great handling and terrific trigger, and it’s a stand-out rifle. And in a caliber like the .308, it’s ready to tackle practically every big game animal on the planet—and do it in style.
BENELLI LUPO SPECIFICATIONS
- TYPE: Three-lug fat-bolt centerfire
- CALIBER: .243 Win.; 6.5 Creedmoor; .270 Win., .308 (tested); .30-06; .300 Win. Mag.
- CAPACITY: 5+1 (as tested)
- BARREL: 22 in. (as tested) Crio, 1:11 twist, threaded 5/8x24
- OVERALL LENGTH: 44.2 in.
- WEIGHT: 6.9 lb.
- STOCK: Black synthetic adjustable for length of pull, drop and cast; Progressive Comfort recoil system; Combtech cheek pad
- SIGHTS: None; two-piece Picatinny rail attached
- SAFETY: Non-bolt-blocking two-position tang
- PRICE: $1,699
- MANUFACTURER: Benelli USA, BenelliUSA.com
Crimson Trace Brushline Pro
The company best known for handgun and rifle lasers is also in the scope business, and if the new Brushline 4-16x42mm is any indication, Crimson Trace’s optics people know what they’re doing.
Built on a one-inch aerospace aluminum tube, it is a second-focal-plane scope with side-adjustable parallax. Overall length is 13.5 inches, with a mountable tube length of six inches. Lenses are fully multicoated.
Adjustments are 1/4 m.o.a., and the capped turrets feature O-rings to seal out moisture. They’re also easily resettable by pulling up and rotating, and the turrets are clearly numbered so you know where you are in terms of rotation.
Both the power ring and the parallax adjustment move with just the right amount of tension: easy enough to move but not so easy they’ll change when you don’t want them to.
The Brushline Pro BDC reticle recalls the old Nikon design, with a plain intersection and a series of diamonds underneath on the vertical wire for holdover. Instead of the same-size diamonds Nikon used, which I always found visually confusing, the Brushline Pro employs diamonds of progressively smaller size. I think it’s an instinctive setup, and I look forward to spending some time afield with it.
Overall, there’s a lot to like about this scope, and for a suggested retail price of only $429, I don’t see how you could go wrong.