(This is a reader gun review contest entry, click here for more details.)
By Travis Arnold
Enter stage left, the Benelli Vinci, a gun hyped to revolutionize the shotgun world with its state of the art technology. For months prior to its release, it was shrouded in secrecy and teased to the masses by Benelli’s PR team. All we knew was that it had a fancy case and was a pretty big deal. I certainly fell for their smooth talking, and I jumped at the chance to own this shotgun when my previous gun broke. After four years of chasing ducks, geese, and pheasants through muck, snow, and briar patches, I know this gun like the back of my hand. Was this gun worth the $1400 I paid for it? . . .
What separates the Vinci from previous Benelli shotguns is the “inline” inertia-operated action and the gun’s three-piece design. Its receiver is mated to the barrel; the fore grip, trigger pack, and magazine are all contained in one module and the stock holds everything together.
The action contains all the main components seen in a Super Black Eagle II or M2, only now the bolt return spring is located inside the receiver and in line with the barrel. On the last generation of inertia guns, the bolt return spring was located in the stock. The new system is shorter and allows the stock to be a separate piece from the receiver. Benelli also boasts that this design results in less muzzle climb due to the action’s straight movement.
Let’s face the truth…the Vinci is a funky looking gun. With its radical design and complex geometry, it’s easy to understand why traditional shotgunners would hate its appearance.
I’m not much of a traditionalist, so I welcome the Vinci’s unorthodox look. It’s edgy body and flat black stock reminds me of the F-117 Nighthawk stealth jet. To me the Vinci looks like a mysterious experimental weapon that is never meant to see the light of day, one that strikes its targets with extreme precision and without warning, much like the Nighthawk.
Fit and Finish
Seriously, have you ever heard anyone harp on Benelli’s build quality? I haven’t, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have any complaints. Shortly after buying this gun, I noticed that the fiber-optic front bead sight would rotate loose with prolonged shooting. I ended up having to use red Loctite to get the darned thing to stay in. It was a minor frustration, but I shouldn’t need to do that with a brand new gun.
Other than that small quibble the gun is very nice. The chrome on the inside of the barrel has a mirror finish, and there are no sloppy tool marks on the internals. New out of the box, the synthetic stock was smooth and free of burs, and the bluing on all of the non-chrome surfaces was top notch.
Fast forward four years and the chrome surfaces are shiny as ever. The bluing has held up reasonably well considering the tough life it faces in the duck blind. Rust (gasp!!!) has discolored some of the blued surfaces, but this is inevitable in a hard use duck gun.
One of the added perks of owning an inertia-operated shotgun is the system’s light weight (about 6.7 lbs. unloaded). I often have to walk a mile to my duck blind with decoys on my back, and I very much enjoy the amount of mass that isn’t there. The gun’s low mass is a double edged sword when it comes to recoil though.
If you feed the Vinci any 3-inch shells with an FPS rating over 1450, be prepared to cry many tears and flinch many flinches. I once had an instance where the recoil pinched the inside of my cheek against my braces, giving me a painful gash on the inside of my mouth that got worse with each shot. Luckily I had some gauze to squeeze between the two quarrelsome surfaces that day.
Do yourself a favor and shoot modest loads through your Vinci. Your cheek, shoulder, and wallet will thank you. And don’t put too much faith in the “ComforTech” recoil absorbing chevrons in the stock. They may help slow the impulse of the recoil, but they do not turn this gun into a 20g a. Force = mass times acceleration, and that’s the end of the story.
Since I’ve switched to steel loads slower than 1450 fps, recoil has become a non-issue for me. If you have Magnumitis or are super sensitive to recoil, seek a heavier gun, preferably gas operated.
Oh man does this cat have balance. Due to the lack of a gas piston up front the Vinci has darn near perfect balance – not too much weight on the support arm to fatigue it when shouldered, yet just enough weight to aid in a proper swing. The light weight, excellent weight bias, and smooth butt pad allow this gun to be shouldered lightning quick. Pheasants be afraid, very afraid. Too bad they’re all extinct in Northeast Kansas.
The ergonomics of this gun are where the majority of my frustrations lie. The safety switch is small, hard to depress, and too far forward in front of the trigger guard for my tastes. Cold weather gloves and numb hands only exacerbate this problem. Likewise, the rear of the trigger guard protrudes too far to the rear. When using heavy 3-inch loads, this portion of the trigger guard will smack your middle finger’s knuckle with the force of a thousand wombats.
In order to work around this problem I’ve had to move my fire-control hand down to where my pinky rests on the bottom edge of the pistol grip, thus maximizing the distance between the trigger guard and my knuckle. Of course, this technique also maximizes the distance my trigger finger has to travel in order to actuate the safety. Now when I’m out hunting I carry the gun with my hand high up on the grip and my trigger finger on the safety. Once a target appears, I actuate the safety and slide my hand down the grip until I have the necessary clearance for my knuckle. This is a hassle I wish I did not have to deal with.
Not all of the ergonomic features are bad though. I especially like the feel of the unorthodox “V-Grip” ridges on the gripping surfaces. The beveled magazine loading port is also really nice, as I can load shells into this gun pretty fast.
The charging handle is also a home run. It features a notch on its bottom side that rides on the lower edge of the ejection port, thus making it IMPOSSIBLE for the handle to come out unintentionally. I had this problem with my previous gun (a TriStar Viper semi-auto – NOT recommended), so the charging handle design is one of my favorite features of the Vinci. Bravo Benelli.
I’m no trigger snob when it comes to shotguns, but if I was I would still like the trigger on this gun. It is a single stage with a crisp pull that is not too heavy. I could imagine that the trigger on this gun could work well for turkey or slug hunting where precision shots are required – not that I want to shoot slugs through this gun anytime soon.
Ease of Use
Standard semi-auto hunting shotgun user controls apply here. They’re all stupidly easy to use with exception of the cartridge stop latch (and the safety, as mentioned before). You use this button if you have a loaded magazine and want to unload it without having to cycle the shells through the action.
This function is built in with the bolt release: press down on the forward portion to release the bolt, or pull back with your fingernail on the tip of the rear portion without pushing the button too far down whilst reciting the alphabet backwards and hopping on your left foot and the cartridge stop will release. Okay that little part about the alphabet was a bit of an exaggeration, but that button should be more intuitive to use on a gun that costs this much. Ideally, I should only have to press it down like any other button. I went an embarrassingly long time before figuring out how to use the button properly. It works well, but by golly it was tricky to figure out. Unacceptable Benelli, shame on you.
One other gripe I have about this gun is the use of choke tubes that are flush with the muzzle – a practice not unique to Benelli. When I’m out hunting and need to change choke tubes, the last thing I want to have to do is use a choke tube wrench. Extended choke tubes should be standard on any gun that is specifically designed for waterfowl hunting. Fewer tools means fewer things I have to keep track of in the blind.
As for cleaning, inertia guns don’t need to be cleaned very often. Just lightly oil the internals and shoot. No carbon deposits need to be scraped away – as is the case with some gas guns. All of the gas and carbon goes out the barrel.
Ease of disassembly/assembly
The gun is quite easy to disassemble. Simply twist the magazine cap to pull off the lower receiver, and then twist the barrel to separate the stock from the upper receiver and barrel. Push down on the end of the bolt assembly, slide it back, pull the charging handle out and viola, the rest is smooth sailing.
Assembly can be tricky though. The lower receiver is held in place by spring tension. When the gun was new, those springs were VERY hard to depress, which made putting this gun together a swearing contest. Once those springs wear in, the gun goes together very easily. With exception to the magazine and trigger group, no tools are needed for disassembly.
This gun does its job when it comes to removing flying objects from the sky. The sensation of the action cycling a new round as I watch my target tumble to the earth is what I would miss most about this gun were I to sell it today. I’ve absolutely dominated pheasants with the Vinci, and many gadwalls and greenheads have fallen to its fire as well.
From the pattern tests I’ve done with this gun, I’ve experienced no blown patterns or holes. I would only get new chokes for the mere purpose of having extended choke tubes. The gun shoots a little high, but it’s not enough to use the added shim kit for me. I simply modified my shooting style a little bit, and have had no issue hitting targets since.
I’ve experienced five failures to feed with this gun, and they all occurred during the break-in period. Benelli advises in the user manual to shoot 75 to 100 rounds of “standard hunting cartridges” before the gun can be considered ready to cycle light loads reliably. The ammo I was using at the time was 2¾ inch, 1 1/8 oz. #4 shot, 1365 FPS, PMC steel. Those rounds aren’t exactly fire breathing, so the malfunctions were to be expected.
I’ve shot roughly 550 rounds through this gun since, and I haven’t experienced any more malfunctions. Potential buyers should note that the bolt must slam forward with enough force to rotate the bolt head into its locked position. Otherwise, the gun will produce light primer strikes. This Italian likes it rough, so don’t be soft with the action!
Benelli made the mistake of serializing the barrel instead of the lower, so you’re forced to buy a whole new gun if you want a slug-slinging or home defense Vinci. It’s a shame, too. The three piece design lends itself well to modularity. If Benelli really wanted to, this gun could be as modular as Mossberg’s FLEX system. That is why the Vinci is more evolutionary than a revolutionary.
If the lower was the serialized part, I could buy multiple barrels, stocks, and different-sized magazines relatively easily. I could then interchange those parts in seconds and have a true do-it-all shotgun. That could’ve revolutionized the shotgun world four years ago. Alas, Mossberg capitalized on Benelli’s failure and launched their own FLEX system. Now the Vinci is just a gimmick gun that just so happens to have a good operating system. If I were in the market for a new inertia-operated gun, I would pass on the Vinci and seek greener pastures.
Chamber: 2 & ¾ and 3 inch, 12 guage
Barrel: 24 inch ventilated rib with fiber optic front bead and metal mid bead
Weight: 6.7 lbs
Ratings (Out of five stars):
Ergonomics: * * *
I took away two stars for the rear trigger guard that busts knuckles. Otherwise, the Vinci feels very solid in hand and is a joy to carry out in the field.
Controls: * * *
I gave the Vinci only three stars here because the safety is difficult to actuate and the cartridge stop latch is not intuitive to use.
Reliability: * * * * *
Since Benelli states that there is a break-in period, I can’t dock them reliability points for the FTFs I had during that time. I haven’t had any malfunctions outside of those first 100 rounds.
Accuracy: * * * * *
It is easy to point, and the choke tubes pattern quite nicely.
Customization: * * *
Ha! Good luck with this one. Some aftermarket companies make magazine extensions for the Vinci, but other than slings and choke tubes, market support looks average. Speaking of slings, make sure your sling swivel will fit the Vinci’s oversized sling loops. My Avery sling barely fits. I gave this category three stars since the owner can dial the gun in with the included shim kit and has the option to buy different sized butt pads and cheek pieces. The receiver is also drilled and tapped for optics if you’re into that sort of thing.
Overall: * * *
I’m a perfectionist, and this gun nags at that fact every time I take it out. I can’t help but be bugged that this gun is just a few notches short of being truly great. With that said, I feel that the Vinci is worth $1,000 as is. If Benelli wanted a four star gun worth $1,400, they would modify the safety button and rear trigger guard. Wait…didn’t they do that with the Super Vinci? Furthermore, if Benelli wanted a five star gun, they would serialize the lower receiver, offer multiple stocks and barrels, and they would fix the cartridge stop latch in addition to the safety and trigger guard.