Just when you begin to think that everything in the world of shotgunning has been explored, done and in many cases redone, a new product comes along that has the potential to get your scattergun juices flowing. In this case, that award goes to Benelli for its innovative new Ethos 28-gauge semi-auto—the first 3-inch magnum of its kind.
My first look at this new addition to the shotgun world came at the 2016 SHOT Show in Las Vegas, but as is often the case, there was a considerable gap between those first prototype Benellis and actually being able to lay my hands on one for testing. Several months after that show, though, the Benelli Ethos finally arrived, and while I was anxious to get started dirtying its bore, I had to wait for shells.
Because Benelli’s expertise obviously lies in the design and manufacture of firearms and not ammunition, the company chose to partner with Fiocchi Ammunition in order to produce the new 3-inch magnum ammo. But after a considerable delay, I finally got my hands on a box of rounds for testing in the new shotgun.
A Case For the 28
Benelli has been producing 12- and 20-gauge Ethos semi-auto shotguns for a few years, but this innovative 3-inch-chambered 28 gauge is new. The traditional 28 gauge has essentially been kept alive over the years largely because it’s one of the four gauges shot in four-gun skeet competitions. However, in recent years, other shooters have come to appreciate this fine gauge for other applications. In fact, 2¾-inch, 28-gauge shells are nearly on par performance-wise with the capabilities of the more popular 20 gauge. As such, many bird hunters have taken a real liking to the 28 for use on the smaller bird species, such as quail, partridge, doves, etc. I myself frequently choose to use a 28 gauge for this type of hunting over clumsier-feeling 12 gauges.
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Of course, even though the Benelli Ethos is chambered for the new 3-inch shells, like other 3-inch-chambered shotguns, it can also fire the standard 2¾-inch loads. No adjustment is necessary to switch from shell to shell, which is a nice feature. While most shotshell ammo manufacturers produce 2¾-inch, 28-gauge shells, at this time only Fiocchi is making the 3-inch ammo. Whether or not other companies will rise to the occasion and begin offering their own 3-inch shells is anyone’s guess right now, but the current shells coming from Fiocchi are loaded with about a quarter-ounce more shot that the standard 2¾-inch ammo is typically loaded with. With the shot charge weighing 1 ounce, that translates into a 25-percent increase in knockdown power and 20-percent more pellets on target at 35 yards, which gives you a real edge for late-season hunting when the feathers are the heaviest and the shots are frequently the longest.
At the heart of the Benelli Ethos is its Inertia-Driven System, which was originally developed in 1967. With this design having only three primary parts—the bolt body, inertia spring and rotating bolt head—it is cleaner operating, easier to clean and capable of being built lighter than most gas-operated systems. But the advantages in this Benelli aren’t just limited to its action design. One of the really great features I found was the ability for shooters to customize the Ethos’ features to fit their personal needs. The stock comb height, the length of pull and even the height of the barrel rib are all adjustable, allowing the shooter to precisely match the Ethos to his or her body type and personal preferences. And the interchangeable, screw-in Benelli Crio choke tubes allow users to easily select the shot density pattern that best matches whatever type of shooting they will be participating in.
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Unlike most shotguns that come with a metal rib that has most often been soldered to the top of the barrel, the Ethos has an interchangeable
ventilated rib made of carbon fiber. This design allows you to adjust the rib’s height or replace it if it should become damaged or you prefer another style of rib. The carbon-fiber material is lightweight, durable and blends nicely into the features and appearance of the shotgun. Aesthetically, I found the interwoven appearance along the side of the rib to be quite pleasing and added a degree of class to the shotgun. The fiber-optic front sight is also easily interchangeable without the need for any tools. Three different color inserts—red, green and yellow—are included with the shotgun.
The patented recoil system built into the Ethos’ stock incorporates three sets of interlocking fingers, each of which has a different elasticity. The first set of fingers is very flexible for light loads, the second set is a bit stiffer for field loads and the third set is optimized for heavy magnum ammunition like the 3-inchers. As reported by the factory, the stock design reduces the felt recoil by about 42 percent.
I must confess to being a bit obsessed and fanatical about the triggers I choose to use, and for that reason I soon found myself checking the Benelli trigger over very carefully, analyzing it for slop and creep, but found none. I then checked the pull weight using my Lyman trigger pull gauge and found it averaged 5.44 pounds for five pulls.