Benelli Ultra Light 12-Gauge Shotgun review

Benelli Ultra Light 12-gauge shotgun

Benelli Ultra Light

I’m not a spring chicken but I’m not dead yet, either. Still, I find lugging a heavy over-under up 2,000 feet of 60% slopes all day a pain in the butt. And the arm, and shoulder. I lift weights and try to keep a little strength going on in this aging body, but my gun was bumming me out.

I like the aesthetics of a nice over-under with some lovely engraving and beautiful wood. They’re fun to shoot and in the right hands can be deadly. But I’d always wondered about the repeaters and one day did a little Internet research on “best chukar gun” and came across the Benelli Ultra Light in some of the forums. The price tag ($1,599 MSRP) nearly ended it then and there, but I kept it in mind. Then I went out for chukar with my trusty over-under and afterward my arm felt like a lead pipe. The next day I traded it in toward the purchase of a Benelli Ultra Light 12-gauge, and have not looked back.

A limit of chukar

Angus, 6 chukar, and my Benelli Ultra Light

This gun gets light primarily by shortening the magazine to accommodate a maximum of three 3″ shells (actually 2 in the magazine, one in the chamber). It saves over a pound for me from my previous gun, which might not sound like much but it makes a big difference. My arm did not hurt after hunting all day with it the first time out.

The action is incredibly quick and, after hundreds of rounds, has never once jammed. It uses Benelli’s patented “Inertia Driven” mechanical action so there’s no gas injection voodoo there. Loading and unloading is intuitive and as simple as any other system I’ve used.

Aside from the weight savings, my favorite thing about the Ultra Light is that it fits me perfectly out of the box (I’m just shy of 6′ tall). It shoulders quickly and swings easily. As it’s my first auto loader I can’t compare it with any other guns, but being able to get three very quick shots off at a rising covey gives me a 50% advantage over my double-barrel gun, and – in one case so far – yielded me three birds with one flush. I couldn’t have done that with my 870 pump or my over-under. But then, you can get a new 870 for under $300…

Benelli Crio Chokes

Chokes and wrench for the Ultra Light

The chokes that came with the Ultra Light are fine for how and what I hunt: Cylinder, Improved Cylinder, and Modified (the latter is what’s almost always in my gun). The Benelli website shows that the Ultra Light guns (which now come in 20-gauge – 5.2 pounds – and a freaky light 28-gauge nudging the scale at a mere 4.9 lbs.) come with Full, Modified, and Improved Cylinder. I’m not sure if they changed the standard choke spec in the last year but if it matters to you which chokes you get with the gun, definitely ask your retailer.

Benelli makes a fuss over their Crio Chokes, which they claim are longer and harder (at least that’s what she said) with an engineered taper that results in much greater pattern consistency and accuracy than other chokes out there. I don’t know enough to validate this or comment on it, other than to say it sure sounds cool and I’ve shot as well or better with this gun than any other shotgun I’ve used.

Dusky grouse, chukar, Brittany

Dusky grouse, chukar, Angus

The gel recoil pad is soft and durable, and nicely dampens the kick, which you feel on this gun because of its lightness. I was experimenting with some of the chukar loads recommended by folks on a forum and when I fired a Kent Ultimate Fast Lead #6 (2-3/4″, 1-3/8 oz., 1475 FPS) I was stunned by the severity of the recoil; seriously overkill, in my opinion, for any upland bird at any time of the year. I’ll stick with my cheap 7-1/2, 1-1/8 oz. shells, which have gotten me lots of chukar, a quite large blue (“dusky”) grouse at long range, and several pheasant at pretty far out, and I barely feel the kick shooting these.

The Ultra Light comes with a respectable owner’s manual, a nicely designed shim kit, and a surprisingly nice plastic case on which you can install a padlock.

UPDATE: See my updated review, Benelli Ultra Light Round Two

Basic Specs

  • Barrel lengths: 24″ and 26″ (I chose the 24″)
  • Overall lengths: 45.5″ and 47.5″
  • Weights: 6.0 and 6.1 pounds (I verified this; mine weighs exactly 6.0 lbs. empty)
  • Magazine capacity: 2+1
  • Shells: 2-3/4″ and 3″
  • Crio chokes: CL, IC, M
  • Sights: Red bar front sight and metal bead mid sight
  • Length of Pull: 14-3/8″
  • Drop at Heel: 2-1/4″
  • Drop at Comb: 1-1/2″
  • Minimum Recommended Load: 3-dram, 1-1/8-oz.
  • Warranty: 5 years to original purchaser from an authorized Benelli distributor
  • MSRP: $1,599

~ by Bob McMichael on January 8, 2012.

2 Responses to “Benelli Ultra Light 12-Gauge Shotgun review”

  1. I am a guy your about age and I love Chukar hunting. Your website is outstanding! I own a Benelli Montefeltro 20 gauge. It holds 5 rounds and does well in places that allow unplugged shotguns. I like light shotguns for chukar hunting. During my youth, I shot a Ithaca model 37 20 gauge(still have it) and killed lots of Chukars in Owyhee county. My grandfather used to own a ranch on McBride, Creek Idaho side on Highway 95. A year or so back, I met a man in Missouri who had a new 12 gauge ultra light, like you have. He told me that older Benelli shotguns could carry a extra shell under the bolt and on top of the carrier. Sure enough I can open the chamber and place a shell under the bolt and in the chamber at the same time. Then fill the magazine for a total of 6 shells. My gun functions perfectly like that. Benelli found out about this neat trick and machined a grove on the bolt underside of their newer shot guns. What it does is cause the floating shell to hang up and stop the shell loading cycle. This older fellow in Missouri shot a lot of skeet, with a Benelli 12 gauge ultra light, 3/4 oz re-loads and sometimes like to shoot double doubles on station 7. He needed his ultra light to hold 4 shells. He said he simple beveled the grove on both sides 45 degrees. This allows the floating shell’s brass to not get hung up in the groove and functions perfectly. He told me some guys also just use good epoxy and simply fill the groove in and smooth it down. I saw your video and noticed a couple of times you sure could have used a 4th shell (don’t we all?). I know you love that gun and if you hadn’t heard this little trick, I thought you might like it! Have fun and remember each day chukar hunting adds two to your life!

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