A Take on Benelli "Inertia" Black Eagles

By Randy Wakeman

Benelli Super Black Eagles and related shotguns (Super 90, Montefeltro, Franchi "Inertia Driven" I-12, Stoeger 2000) in the United States all hail from the same place as Beretta's, Accoceek Maryland. All are marketed by the same "Beretta USA" organization.

Touted as "inertia actions," they are more correctly short recoil actions. However badly Sir Isaac Newton is misquoted for marketing purposes, the bolt is unlocked and the empty hull is ejected by the rearward thrust against the bolt face. A spring closes the bolt and feeds the next round for you. That's pretty much all there is to it.

It is a bit amusing to watch Beretta tout their Extrema II's great reliability, and attempt to retain the idea that Super Black Eagles are almost as reliable, or more reliable, depending on what piece of ad-rag is being read at the same time. The Franchi I-12 is apparently wonderfully reliable as well, according to the same marketing machine. Credit "Benelli" for amazingly effective marketing.

I've found the Benelli Black Eagles to be surprisingly hard kickers, which is perhaps they are rarely used for sporting clay, trap, or skeet. The Benelli's I've tested have also been plagued by rough triggers, and the 20 gauge M1 Super 90's are too light and whippy to allow me a smooth swing.

Yet, despite the ridiculous over-pricing of Super Black Eagle product (I can't see where they cost that much more to make compared to their own Nova pump) they have achieved a wide following in waterfowl hunting. You might get the impression that I'm not particularly thrilled with $1250 SBE II, much less the need to shoot 3-1/2" shells through them. Well, I'm not.

Today's no-tox loads such as Hevi-Shot and the new Winchester Xtended range loads have mooted the need for 3-1/2 in. chambers in 12 gauge guns in much the same way as the 3-1/2 in. 12 gauge itself killed off the temporary re-appearance of the 10 gauge.

Aesthetically vulgar compared to many other shotguns and horrifically over-priced, I believe that most sportsmen will have a much more enjoyable time with smoother, softer shooting gas autos or a far better crafted used A-5 rather than going the Benelli inertia route.

Much hay has been made of the fast-cycling time of the Benelli action. Speed shooter Patrick Flanigan became the first person in recorded history to throw 11 clay targets into the air and break each one with an individual shot before any hit the ground on July 6, 2005, using a Winchester Super X-2. Flanigan's testing showed that not only was the Winchester Super X-2 the world's fastest cycling shotgun, but even the Browning A-5 handily out-cycled the Benelli. Cycle time is hardly a factor in the field, but fast recovery from recoil for the next bird certainly can be.

By all means, if at all possible, test fire a shotgun before buying; there is little substitute for that. If you really are sold on short recoil actions, you might want to check out the Franchi I-12, 3-in. semi-auto. The Franchi I-12 will do anything an SBE-II will do for you, at half the price. Even the folks at Beretta USA are unlikely to tell you the Franchi I-12 is not an excellent value.

Note: A complete review of the Benelli Super Black Eagle shotguns by Eric Pittman can be found on the Product Review Page.

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Copyright 2006, 2012 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.