Whenever I hear the word Benelli, I think of shotguns, and I‘ll bet you do, too. I’m talking rugged, reliable semi-autos used by military and law enforcement agencies wordwide, as well as competitive shooters and, of course, hunters.
On every dove shoot I’ve made in Argentina the rental guns were always either Benellis or Berettas (Beretta owns Benelli), because according to the many outfitters down there, they are the guns that best stand up to the hundreds of rounds per day routinely put through them. So when this Italian gunmaker rolled out a new bolt-action centerfire rifle, it caught my attention.
Called the Lupo (that’s Italian for wolf) it’s a chassis-type rifle…but doesn’t look like one. In fact, other than its racy styling that Italians do so well, it looks pretty much like your typical synthetic-stocked bolt-action.
Borrowing from AR lexicon, Benelli uses the term lower receiver to describe what looks like part of the stock, which if it were not for the seam line behind the trigger guard, it would in fact look like a one-piece stock.
What we have then is an aluminum alloy lower receiver to which a separate buttstock and forend are attached. With the upper receiver being mated to the alloy chassis, it ensures consistent bedding dynamics, i. e., no “wandering zero.” Combined with a cryogenically stress-relieved barrel, Benelli guarantees sub-MOA accuracy for the Lupo.
Despite its unique features the Lupo could not be more mainstream. I say that because Benelli is the 9th European gun manufacturer to introduce a fat bolt, tri-lug rifle within the last 15 years. In other words, the heart of the rifle — the bolt and the number and location of the locking lugs – is the same as that of Ruger’s American, Winchester’s XPR, Mauser’s M18, Franchi’s Momentum, et al.
There is, however, a unique twist to the Lupo’s bolt in that metal is removed from its mid section, which both lightens it and reduces friction, making the bolt glide incredibly smoothly. And because it’s of tri-lug design, bolt rotation (handle lift) is shorter than with a Mauser-type action. A two-position tang safety blocks trigger movement but does not lock the bolt.
Other noteworthy features are the adjustability of the buttstock and a superb detachable magazine. The latter is of a unitized polycarbonate with integral feed lips. Unlike most DMs, this one stores cartridges in a staggered column, which gives it a five-round capacity in standard calibers, yet it fits absolutely flush with the bottom of the lower receiver. Another great feature is that it can be charged through the ejection port without having to remove it, something that can’t be said of most other DMs.
As for the buttstock, using the various shims and spacers that come with the gun (along with pre-installed Weaver-type bases), it can be raised, lowered, cast right or left. If that were not enough adjustment, the rubber comb can be replaced with optional Medium and High iterations.
The example sent us for T&E was chambered in good ol’ .30-06, one of three being offered initially; the others being .270 Win. and .300 Win. Mag. Out of the box it weighed 7 lbs., 3 oz.; with a Bushnell Elite Tactical LRTSi 4.5-18×44 scope in Warne steel QD lever rings, it weighed 9 lbs., 5 oz.
Three of the four loads tested punched at least one sub-MOA 3-shot group out of five. One of the four proved to be highly accurate and amazingly consistent in that the difference between the largest and smallest group among the five fired was a mere .140-inch, resulting in a 15-shot average of .85-inch! Pretty impressive for a sporter-weight hunting rifle!
The Lupo carries an MSRP of $1,699, which is a bit pricey in light of the fact there are several fat bolt, tri-lug rifles out there, both European and American, selling for less than half that. It is, however, a very nice rifle with features not found on other tri-lugs. www.benelliusa.com–Jon R. Sundra