Benelli Super Black Eagle III
When the Super Black Eagle III by Benelli came out in a special turkey configuration, I thought, “Just another high-priced scattergun that would do about as well as several dozen others.”
However, my mind changed when
I was selected to field test this gun and write my opinions on the special SBE III by the famous Italian gunmaker.
Because the SBE III uses the time-proven Inertia Drive System®, the shotgun requires less attention given to it when cleaning. This is because there are less components in the system. The major components are simply the bolt body, the inertia spring and the rotating bolt head. Less parts also means less lubrication needed as well. The Inertia Drive System® is touted as producing less recoil also. But when I began firing 3.5" shells through this fairly lightweight 12-gauge semi-auto, I was more than just a little skeptical about that claim of less recoil.
This Performance Shop Special Edition SBE III is a 3.5" Magnum turkey-taker right out of the box. These guns are zeroed in at the factory with the use of the Burris HUD Red Dot system. Benelli provides a printout of the exact patterns produced by the shotgun at several different distances. The receiver of the SBE III is drilled and tapped to accept Weaver bases which, in turn, will accept just about anything ever offered in the manner of a sighting system known to man.
Even with the factory custom touches, I intended to take the gun into the field and see for myself what this very high-end autoloader would do to a turkey downrange or perhaps a coyote or deer. If you are buying a shotgun at this price point, it had better do more than send a round or two at a fanned-out gobbler. Flexibility is the keyword in this situation. The burning question was simply how well can this 12-gauge platform perform on anything that is a ground-based target.
In terms of basic nomenclature, the SBE III is designed with a chamber that will accept shells from 2¾" to 3.5" with a 23" barrel long forcing cone and barrel ports for muzzle bounce control. The pattern of the ports was recognizable, as I have been designing gas port systems for over 25 years in my Metro Gun™, sub-sonic gunning systems.
The barrel of the SBE III Performance Shop Edition Turkey gun is treated with the well-known Benelli Crio treatment where the barrel material is frozen in very low temperatures for a number of hours to cure the barrel metal. What this does in simple terms is to relieve the barrel metal of deviations that cause irregular vibrations in the metal under recoil. It also helps to maintain the molecular health of the barrel and, thus, produces more uniform patterns. The action of the Benelli SBE III is as smooth as glass owed partly to the hand-polish work done by the folks at the Benelli Performance Shop. The controls are instantly responsive and designed for use with gloves or heavy, cold weather gear.
The exterior bronze/brown finish on the SBE III is similar to a fine surface sealant treatment, smooth and very even in terms of its application on the metal. I am seeing more of this type of metal surface treatment in particular on field guns, as it seems our old friend the standard blue finish is going the way of the dinosaur. The SBE III was allowed to set out in the elements on two occasions. Both occasions included snow. Particular attention was paid to seeing if the elements affected the finish at all. No adverse effects were observed. The camouflage pattern used on the shotgun is by Mossy Oak. This test also included observing any wear on the edges of the surfaces, as this is common among field-used firearms. After six weeks of hauling the shotgun around, including actual hunts, the tough finish did not seem to be affected in the least.
The SBE III uses a Rob Roberts custom-designed turkey choke. The choke selection is large enough to be able to take care of any type of load and situation in the field. During testing, I found the Extra Full choke when used with a new Federal Cartridge upland steel shot load in #7 obliterated a turkey head/neck target at 40 yards. This somewhat light load by Federal in non-toxic shot hit the target with 24 pellets on the bird’s head and upper neck. This adds up to a sure kill every time.
Table A Test Patterns
Load Range Choke Hit Count
Hevi-Shot® Dead Coyote, 3.5", 1 5/8 oz. T 45 yards MXX 20 vitals. Full body coyote
Federal Upland: 2¾", 1 1/8 oz. #7 steel 40 yards .665 (.724 bore) 24 hits head/neck turkey
Federal Prem Tungsten 3" BB 1 1/8 oz. 40 yards MXX 76% 30" circle.
Hevi 13 ( Hevi-Shot®) 3" 1¾ oz. #6 40 yards .665 51 hits head/neck turkey
Kent Ultimate Diamond Shot 3" 2 oz. #5 40 yards .665 39 hits head/neck turkey
Federal Top Gun Target. 2¾" 1 oz. #8 40 yards .665 48 hits head/neck turkey
Backridge 2¾" 1¼ oz. ITX #6 40 yards .665 34 hits head/neck turkey
Backridge 2¾" 1¼ oz. ITX #5 40 yards .665 30 hits head/neck turkey
Triple Beard 3" 5,6,7, Hevi-Shot® (lead) 1¾ oz. 40 yards *.665 (Hevi-Shot®) 57 head/neck
Triple Beard 3" 5,6,7, Lead 40 yards .665 48 head neck
Green Ammo 3" 1¼ oz. #3 steel 40 yards Full 28 head/neck
**Kyle Smith TSS #5 Pure Tungsten 50 yards MXX 14 head/neck
Kent 3" 1¼ oz. #3 steel 40 yards MXX 19 head/neck
Kent 3" 1 1/8 oz. BB steel 40 yards MXX 50 hits coyote
*Aftermarket Hevi-Shot® High-Performance Turkey Choke.
** Kyle Smith Tungsten Development R&D Test Load.
*** Lead testing here at 3,000 ft. above sea level. Temp 68 F, Wind 4 mph full value left to right, benchrest accuracy over sand bags, Sights: HUD Red Dot. Zero on at 40 centered.
Notes: Payload control very positive and good solid hit to target returns. Note: 3.5" loads were blistering regarding recoil.
Test-firing with the use of the Burris FastFire 2 HUD Red Dot consisted of shooting both heavy buckshot, turkey loads from Kent Cartridge, ITX loads from Backridge and Hevi-Shot® Triple Beard. Also included in the testing were standard trap loads for work within 25 yards. Why would I include a trap load in a gun of this type? Because you would be amazed at how many gobblers have died by a trap load within the circle of my hunting friends when utilizing close-range shooting tactics and good calling techniques.
With pistol-grip stock, the Benelli SBE III mounts fast and accurate on targets. The balance of the system provides for accurate placement of either a small shot, buckshot or slugs. I was very close to the same precision of placement on the targets from the offhand mode as from the bench when patterning.
Overall, the Benelli SBE III Performance Shop Turkey Edition presented no problems with functioning or shot placement. It was fast handling with a balance point right on the money.
See the Benelli SBE III Performance Shop Turkey Edition at your local full-line Benelli dealer or better yet check out the dealers in this issue of Shotgun Sports magazine who carry the Benelli line of guns. The new SBE III Turkey Edition carries an MSRP of $3,399. Make your best deal and be sure to tell them you read about the Benelli SBE III Performance Shop Turkey Edition in your favorite shotgun magazine, Shotgun Sports. SS
L.P. Brezny has worked in research and development in the shooting industry for 39 years. He developed and marketed the first sub-sonic shotgun and shotshell — The Hastings Metro Gun™ System (www.metrogun.com or 605-787-6321) — and was the first to measure shotshell pellets in real time at target distances, building ballistic tables demonstrating shotshell load performance and chronographing systems that are still in use today. He also developed the Dead Ringer® high-performance waterfowl/upland choke-tube system. L.P. has been writing for various shooting publications for over 34 years.