Our local Benelli importer managed to get one, just one, sample 828 and he was kind enough to let me gain some hands on familiarity with it.
It is an unusual Over Under, but not as unusual as some others I have held. The sleek lines reminded me of the Swedish Flodman, which coincidentally was the inspiration for the pulse ejectors of the 828.
The 828 ejectors are actuated directly by the cartridge via ports in the chamber, thus doing away with the conventional ejector actuators.
The outstanding design feature of the 828 that struck me is the avoidance of subassembly interconnection. The ejectors are not actuated by the tumblers via ejector actuators. The tumblers (hammers) are cocked by the opening lever, not by cocking rods pushed down by the forend. The stock is held by a single stockbolt and does not intrude into the action, its angle is regulated by an interchangeable shim, as in modern autos and pumps. Having each system independent simplifies the overall design.
The forend iron provides adjustment for the friction exercises on the action knuckle.
Other shotguns have incorporated some of these features in the past. The Swedish Flodman is a lever cocker with gas actuated ejectors. The Ljuitc has a unitary action body. Shims were used in the old Kromson OU. As far as I can tell the 828 is the first OU to incorporate these features in a single OU.
The massive steel breech shield engages the barrels via an underlug.
Some early negative comments on the 828 were perhaps made in haste by people who did not see the above features, or saw them and did not rate their significance. I rate the lack of interconnectivity as a plus and here is why:
The barrel recesses are engaged by conical bolts protruding from the breech face.
The linking of sub assemblies, like the ejectors in the forend linked via actuators with the hammers, imposed the timing of parts and complexity into shotgun design. Yes, the industry has gained plenty of experience with the intricacies of timing, on the other hand these intricacies involve skilled fitting, even in this CNC driven age, and up the cost. If these intricacies can be avoided without compromising the basic requirements of the OU, that would seem to be a good thing. Gunsmiths will confirm that most double shotgun problems have their roots in mistiming of subassemblies.
The steel breech shield seen from the front.
The 828 manages to avoid the intricacies of interconnectedness and still retain ease of handling and overall ease of use. It is a lever cocker but without the usual stiff action of the top lever encounteres in lever cockers. The top lever can be operated easily via thumb pressure even when cocking both tumblers. The forend friction on the action body is minimal, primarily because there are no ejectors to actuate or tumblers to cock when opening the 828. Additionally the friction of the forend on the action knuckle is adjustable via a screw in the forend iron. On the sample I handled this friction setting was low enough to make the 828 a self opener since the tumblers were already cocked by the top lever and the barrels free to fall open under their own weight.
Stock adjusting shims enable the user to fit the 828 to his body and style of shooting.
Doing away with the mid ribs and having an interchangeable, superlight carbon fiber top rib yields a nicely balanced, fast handling OU. The 828 ranks above average in pointability in my opinion. Add to this the easily regulated stock, via the shims, and the 828 can yield bespoke gun fit. And this personalised fit is achieveable with simple tools, fast and at no cost.
The barrel selector is sited on the safety, positive and very easy to manipulate.
As with other shim adjusted stocks, there is no parallel provision for pitch adjustment. It is impossible to change the angle of a stock and not affect the pitch angle. But that is a detail that can be put right at minimal cost to the owner thanks to the easily removable recoil pad. A wedge plate under the pad can fix the pitch at the desired angle.
Using this simple factory supplied tool the trigger group is released from the receiver.
Most of the above is doable because of one feature that the 828 draws from the Ljuitc: the unitary action body. The unitary action body allows the stock fit via shims, as well as the easily deachable trigger group, along with a low profile. I suspect that the unitary action is especially suitable to aluminum alloy construction.
The trigger group is compact, and contains the firing, opening and single trigger systems.
A flat breechpiece locks the barrels, interposing a large steel surface for the cartridge heads to push against, as well as an equally large steel surface to distribute the pressure on the alloy breech. Other makers have introduced steel or titanium dovetailed breech faces. The 828 provides about double the surface area of those dovetails, so it provides more protection for the relatively soft alloy breech. Where necessary, as on the barrel trunnions and locking pins, steel is used.
The 828 is striker fired, with the tumblers travelling in a straight line and the firing pins hitting the primers squarely, not at an angle.
The overall feel of the 828 is different. It does not have the vaultlike lockup of a conventional high quality OU. But it is not a tinny gun. The closest sensation that springs to mind when closing the 828 is the the feel of the lockup of the breech bolt of an auto, something not unexpected from a manufacturer of autos!
The single trigger is the familiar inertia system.
What if…. is a game impossible to resist when handling a new design. What if the action body had been steel, was one such thought. Steel would mean less bulk, and a more elegant shape, though slightly more weight, which would take the sub three kilo 828 to about 3.15 kilos, but still within the light to medium class of OU. Such thoughts inevitably lead to conjecture about OU design in general. If the 828 sells well there will be imitators. If there is a following then the benefits of a unitary action body and independent sub assemblies that work with no interconnecting linkages might inspire some makers to go down that road. I wonder how long it will be before we see some prestigious names offering all steel actioned monocoque receivers and lever cocking actions with quick detachable trigger groups.
Looking down at the cylindrical tumbler of the upper barrel. The simplicity of the firing system offers a striking contrast to the traditional systems.
In between the two tumbler-strikers is the locking bolt that acts on the two pins. The spring can be pushed back by finger pressure, which explains the ease of opening of the 828.
The trigger group replaced and locked into place with a positive click.