I grew up on blued steel, wood and leather, I have come to appreciate the positive aspects of polymer pistols like the Glock and Springfield XD. However, my choice of shotgun for 30-plus years in law enforcement has always been Remington’s 870. I have observed first hand the effect a pump gun can have on a suspect when they look down a nickel-sized bore and hear the chilling sound of the pump action being worked. You can’t wear them out and they are exceptionally hard to break.
So, up front, I admit my prejudice toward the 870. With that in mind, it was somewhat of a shock when I read the press release announcing that the Georgia State Patrol, my home state, had awarded a contract to Benelli for 1,000 Benelli Nova shotguns. What is the world coming to?
It was with some curiosity that I requested a Nova in GSP configuration. At first glance, the Nova appears to be a pretty standard pump-action shotgun. The crossbolt safety is at the front of the triggerguard, the slide release is located just in front of the crossbolt safety, and the magazine tube is loaded from the bottom and the empties are ejected from the side. However, this is where the comparison ends. A close examination of the Nova shows that a great deal of thought went into the Nova’s design.
The appearance of the Nova is as futuristic to shotguns as the Steyr AUG was to rifles 20 years ago. The most obvious feature is that the stock and receiver are molded from a singular piece of high-tech polymer. The deep black polymer reduces the overall weight to 6.5 pounds, and makes the Nova significantly more “weatherproof” than the 870. There is a hard rubber recoil pad on the end of the stock to soften the recoil. The grooves in the pistol grip and the sleek profile of the fore-end give the Nova a futuristic appearance. In addition, the fore-end has a deep finger channel on both sides, making it easier to manipulate for those with smaller hands.
The most noticeable mechanical difference is that the head of the bolt has two large locking lugs. The Nova has a rotating bolt design where the bolt locks to the barrel extension. This eliminates the conventional requirement for a strong receiver. The receiver does incorporate a steel housing that is nearly invisible. The housing gives the receiver the needed structural integrity and acts as a foundation should the user decide to drill and tap the receiver for an optic. The GSP version comes with an adjustable rear ghost ring and a post front sight that’s protected by two wings.
3I mentioned that the Benelli has a traditional loading port in the bottom of the receiver. However, the Nova is chambered for 3-1/2-inch shells. This translates into an elongated loading port that’s almost impossible to miss in a stressful situation. From an operational standpoint, the Nova is run like any other pump gun but with one major exception. The Nova has an unique magazine cut-off feature.
To engage the cut-off and lock the magazine feed, the bolt is drawn to the rear slightly and then the cut-off button, located on the bottom of the fore-end, is depressed. This allows the user to selectively feed a specific round through the ejection port and into the chamber. If there is a round in the chamber, it is ejected prior to inserting the new round. This allows the user to transition from buckshot to slugs to a less-lethal round without having to download the magazine.
On the range the Nova shot surprisingly well. The ergonomics of the stock and fore-end made mounting the Nova a natural movement. For the past ten years, my department’s shotgun has been Remington’s 8-pellet reduced-recoil buckshot. Remington was the first company to develop a reduced-recoil load for law enforcement. While slightly reducing velocity to reduce felt recoil, Remington decided to reduce the pellet load from the traditional 9 pellets to 8 pellets.
This allows the pellets to be loaded into a shot cup in a consistent manner. The result is a load that not only shoots easier but patterns significantly tighter. I have tested other loads and continue to come back to Remington as my choice of buckshot in all my shotguns.
From 15 yards, I fired three 8-pellet rounds into a B-27 center target. The results were 12 pellets in the 10-ring and only 3 pellets in the 8-ring. The rounds of a competitor’s standard velocity 9-pellet load resulted in only 8 pellets in the 10-ring and 5 pellets in the 8-ring. From 25 yards, Remington slugs grouped at the point of aim in a 4-inch group.
The Nova is available in both 14- and 18-inch barrels. Due to ATF restrictions, we tested the 18-inch version. Had time allowed, I would have liked to install a Picatinny rail and run the Nova using a red dot optic.
A Benelli representative, Len Lucas, recommends using the Mesa Tactical sidesaddle. This unit has an aluminum body and will not warp. Law enforcement agency price is less than $300, which is significantly less than some of the Nova’s competition.
The Nova is a worthy successor and will serve the Georgia State Patrol and other agencies well. Its unique construction and innovative features offer specific advantages over traditional platforms. In the words of one of Benelli’s trainers, “The greatest benefit of the magazine cut-off is that it gives officers new flexibility to respond to escalating and de-escalating situations, thus allowing for the development of entirely new training techniques that take into account the fluidity of threat response in modern police life. This is beyond simple comfort for the officer. It is a true lifesaver.”
However, the Nova isn’t just for law enforcement. For the sportsman, the Nova offers several tough versions that will withstand the rigors of the duck blind and dove field for many years. Should you be looking for a pump gun, the Nova deserves serious consideration.