Benelli (firearms)

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Benelli Armi SpA
Type Firearms manufacturer
Industry Firearms
Founded 1967
Founders Giovanni Benelli[1]
Headquarters Urbino, Italy
Key people Bruno Civolani (inventor of the intertia-driven system)[2][3]
Products Shotguns, rifles
Divisions Benelli USA
Website (international), (USA)

Benelli Armi SpA is an Italian firearm manufacturer founded in 1967, located in Urbino, Italy, best known for high quality shotguns used by military, law enforcement and civilians all over the world. Particularly famous is the Benelli M3 12 gauge, used extensively by American SWAT teams. Benelli Armi was founded in 1967 as an offshoot of the Benelli motorcycle factory that sold motorcycles through Montgomery Ward. Benelli and Benelli USA have been owned by Pietro Beretta SpA since 2000.[4]


The beginning[edit]

The company was established in 1967 by Giovanni Benelli, second born of the Benelli family. In 1911, Giovanni Benelli started a company called Benelli moto with his brother Giuseppe. Several years later at the beginning of the twenties, young Giovanni experimented with gun manufacture and single/handedly fashioned, piece by piece, an external hammer double barrel shotgun. Before long the new Benelli Armi adventure began. Giovanni was aided in his new venture by his brother Filippo and nephew Paolo. Talking about his debut, in 1971 Giovanni said: " With the help of my son-in-law Nardi-Dei and my nephew Paolo Benelli I will now focus on making hunting shotguns at a plant in Urbino and fitted with state-of-the-art machinery. Success is still quite gratifying, as our products have essentially changed the game in this industry. Then again, I have been involved in shotgun manufacture since I was very young (I was the first to use light alloys in automatic guns), developing several patents. Even at 86, I’m still very active. As Chairman of Benelli Armi, I am in charge of the technical supervision of precision mechanics and ballistics, for which I have an innate passion." The breakthrough year was 1941: the Pesaro-based motorcycle plant produced the first 12-gauge semiautomatic with a special light aluminum-based alloy receiver. This shotgun is protected by as many as four patents. Giovanni Benelli also thought of a 16-gauge version of this prototype. The double barrel and semiautomatic models remained prototypes and never made it to production. In truth, though, the moment came just a few years later, more precisely in 1960.

The Sixties and the 121: a new era[edit]

It was in 1960 that the Benelli inertial system was invented, born from an idea of Bologna-born designer and mechanical engineer Bruno Civolani. It was a time of great technological advancement, and Civolani took up the challenge posed by the market. The groundbreaking idea pioneered by Benelli was to leverage mass inertia instead of using a traditional gas operated system. This ensured much faster movement and action. As a very popular commercial claim from the Seventies went, the new shotgun could shoot five rounds in less than a second – it was the fastest semiautomatic in the world. The first model was the 121, which is considered the precursor of many technological innovations to come and the best semiautomatic ever made by many industry experts. The idea convinced the Benellis who shortly thereafter opened a new Benelli Armi plant in Urbino tucked away in a wide valley close to the Fano railway line, blending in perfectly with the renaissance splendor of the Urbino historic center.

The Seventies[edit]

With the introduction of the inertia-driven system, constantly and steadily improved over the years, Benelli took a key role in the evolution of semiautomatic shotguns. The forefather, the 121, in 1978 spawned a new semiautomatic series: the SL80, composed of the 121, 123, the Special 80, and the Extra Lusso. In 1975 the company opened a plant in Spain, which is currently known as BBI (Beretta Benelli Iberica).

The Eighties[edit]

The Eighties were a time of significant changes. The series that made the history and the style of the company were born during this decade. 1983 was the year of the Benelli Montefeltro (named after the famous region between Marche, Emilia Romagna and Tuscany, once ruled by the Duke of Urbino, Federico da Montefeltro). The shotgun Benelli Raffaello, named after painter Raffaello Sanzio, was released in 1987 and embodies the brand's elegance. The Eighties were also a period of radical change. After some turbulent times, in 1983 the family-owned Company was taken over by Beretta Holding. This change of ownership allowed the company to overcome its difficulties and to improve its standards thanks to advanced manufacturing technology.

The Nineties[edit]

In 1992 yet another season opened for the company, with the new Super Black Eagle followed in 1997 by the Centro, an evolution of Super 90. Benelli accomplished yet another important result in 1997. The Urbino plant was fitted with the National test bench, a tool required to validate the shotguns to certify their quality, safety and operation directly on-site. In that same year, the US operation opened under the name Benelli USA.

The Two-Thousands: suppliers to the US Marine Corps[edit]

The new millennium opened with welcome news: Benelli won a tender and became suppliers to the US Marine Corps. The Benelli M4 convinced the US special forces thanks to its sturdiness, reliable gas operated system (Argo) and versatility in the most extreme situations. This semiautomatic was actually adopted by the entire army, and complemented the entire combat shotgun range in service. These successful years were marked by several new patents (Comfortech System, Argo, Raffaello Crio), and by the company's 40th anniversary in 2007. A shotgun was specially designed for the Italian market to celebrate the two-million product mark: called Bimillionaire, it is the result of 500 hours of work, high technology and top-level craftsmanship.

Benelli Today[edit]

Over recent years, Benelli has committed its efforts to advanced research, implementing the latest technology and refining its style in order to realize increasingly customized products. The Raffaello Power Bore and Raffaello Black are two semi-automatic shotguns that embody the resulting technical and aesthetic innovations. The 20 gauge M2 now takes its place amongst the numerous new models available to the diversified market of hunters and gun enthusiasts. This is – the first left-handed 20 gauge inertial shotgun, providing an attractive new option for these users.

Production plant and standards[edit]

Benelli still has its headquarters in the Renaissance city of Urbino, in the Marche region of Italy. The plant has been expanded several times and employs up to 280 workers. As many as 3,000 people are involved in the supply chain, making Benelli an important local employer and a key player in the local labor market. The entire Benelli manufacturing process is compliant with the strictest quality assurance standards: ISO 9001 and NATO AQAP 2110. The Quality Management System is certified by the Ministry of Defense (General Directorate for Terrestrial Weaponry). The Environmental Management System (ISO 14001), and the Workplace Health and Safety Standard (OHSAS 18001) certifications testify to the company’s commitment to organizational and operational quality.

Technology and patents[edit]

Inertial system[edit]

The inertial system was designed by the engineer Bruno Civolani as early as 1966, a year before Benelli opened its gates for the first time. The project was set aside for some time, but when it was later developed it marked the beginning of a new era. The idea is to exploit the firearm’s recoil energy to execute the shotgun’s reload movements, with the bolt remaining stationary after firing, only opening when the barrel pressure falls to a safe level. The bolt action is driven by a strong spring, suitably calibrated to perform all the necessary movements to reload the shotgun. Recoil energy is stored in the spring, and then acts to eject the fired cartridge, arm the hammer, feed in a new cartridge, and finally shut the bolt. The groundbreaking novelty of this design was its unprecedented speed of action. The record set in 1969 (a company employee, who was also a hunter, managed to shoot five rounds in less than a second, with 5 journalists recording the time) proved its incredible rapidity. The system also reduced wear, so the firearm required less frequent cleaning. Finally, it was extremely versatile, enabling the same shotgun to fire a wide range of different cartridges.

Vinci Inertia System[edit]

This patented design provides a bolt unit that includes all the necessary functions for a full rearm cycle in a single assembly. The Vinci Inertia System differed from traditional Benelli semi-automatic inertia systems, in that the bolt was housed inside the barrel assembly and provided the entire inertial mass. All parts of the bolt assembly that move relative to the shotgun, displace axially along the barrel assembly. As a result, the gun is better balanced and steadier when shooting, while the clean design ensures extremely reliable operation.

Comfortech System[edit]

Comfortech is the first system in the world capable of absorbing some of the energy produced by a shot. The stock geometry and the specific materials used attenuate the shock before it reaches the shooter's shoulder. It also smoothes out the recoil push for improved shooting performance.

Progressive Comfort[edit]

This new stock system is the technological evolution of the Comfortech System and acts as a shock absorber. Based on the same principles as Comfortech, this system makes the shotgun much more comfortable to use. Progressive Comfort variably absorbs the recoil against the shoulder in response different cartridge load. This invisible system is highly sensitive, thanks to a set of finger elements connected directly to the recoil pad that strain progressively to absorb most of the kinetic energy generated during a shot.


The Auto Regulating Gas Operated System is designed for gas operation of the Argo and M4 models. It consists of a gas operation assembly including a short stroke piston, with the A.R.G.O. located under the barrel, close to the firing chamber, in order to best exploit gas temperature and pressure levels. As the gases released by the barrel expand, the piston is accelerated and hits the bolt's thrust rod with enough force to stop it. This system guarantees shooting accuracy, reliability, and extended firearm life.

Crio System[edit]

Cryogenic treatment is mainly used in the aerospace and surgical tool industries. It is applied to the barrels and chokes of Benelli rifles by inserting the components into special refrigerated cells. The Crio System ensures lower, more even vibration and expansion when shooting. As specifically regards the choke, this technique prevents the lead shot from straining due to clustering.

Concept and design[edit]

The concepts derive from a masterly combination of tradition and innovation, which is then transformed into prototypes that develop the original visionary ideas into concrete forms for production. Semi-automatics like the Raffaello epitomize the perfect combination of aesthetics and technology achieved by our company. Our use of natural leather, carefully selected colors, surface finishes, and lightening hole patterns make Benelli shotguns a flawless combination of high-quality craftsmanship and state-of-art chemistry and mechanics. Emanuele Tabasso defined the Benelli concept as follows: "We start from a basic principle: ingenuity is all about simplicity. You need to start with this. Secondly, you need to train it. This requires an appropriate environment, one that will encourage that questioning, curious, forward-looking attitude that is the mark of true genius. For what is genius but the ability to see what others fail to perceive, and then make it visible for everyone?”


Benelli is a leading semi-automatic firearm manufacturer offering a range of over 90 models, which includes the Argo semi-automatic carbine, several handguns, and a compressed air pistol.


Benelli M4 Super 90 (M1014 combat shotgun)

Many Benelli shotguns utilize a unique inertia operating system developed by Bruno Civolani.[3] In 1999 Benelli introduced the Benelli M4 Super 90, an unusual gas operated semi-automatic shotgun intended for military and law enforcement use.

The Benelli Super Black Eagle, a favorite of waterfowlers, was one of the first semi-automatic shotguns capable of firing the 2.75, 3, and 3.5 inch shotgun shells. The Benelli Nova (pump action), M1 Super 90, and a customized M2 Field were used by Tom Knapp during his shooting exhibitions wherein he frequently shot down several hand-thrown clay targets while still in mid-air, setting a world record in October 2004 when he destroyed 10 such targets with 10 shots in 2.0 seconds, with all the targets still airborne.


Target pistols[edit]


Air pistols[edit]

Francesco Bruno with the Benelli Kite pre-charged Olympic class air pistol.

Submachine guns[edit]

Limited Editions[edit]

1981 was the debut year of the first limited edition series. Benelli issued prestige models to celebrate anniversaries and special occasions. The first shotgun of this kind was issued on the five-hundredth anniversary of Federico da Montefeltro's death. It was aptly named "Federico Duca di Urbino". Of the 11 items made, one was donated to the King of Spain. 1992 was the turn of the "Colombo", produced in a limited run of one thousand items and dedicated to the discovery of America. Three years later, in 1995, Benelli paid homage to the Renaissance period with a semi-automatic that celebrated this golden age for Urbino, featuring the Duchy’s crest engraved in the action casing. The company's thirtieth anniversary was celebrated with the "Giubileo" model. In 1998 Duke Federico was again center stage, with his unmistakable profile engraved on the semi-automatic named after him. 1999 was the year of the "Millionaire", made to celebrate one million semi-automatics produced by the company. In 2007, the same concept inspired the "Bi-millionaire", celebrating 40 years in the business and two million models produced. In 2004 Benelli decided to honor the football legend Roberto Baggio. Designed to celebrate the incredible career of the "Sacred Ponytail", the "Baggio" bears engravings of the champion's defining moments. The "Dynamic" was another limited edition model made in 350 items and in 12 and 20 gauge versions. Other limited-run models include the "ArgoE Limited edition" carbine, the "Super Black Eagle II", and the 12 or 20 gauge "Raffaello Arabesque".



The original bond between Benelli Armi and Benelli Moto is clearly visible in the logo. In the early years, the shotguns and advertising campaigns bore the lion and wreath logo. Over the following years the brand logo was radically changed, not once but twice, in response to the growing independence of the two branches. In 1989 the stylized semi-automatic shotgun figure became the symbol of the company and its products. In its latest version, the background has been changed to red.


Over the years the firearms made by the Urbino-based company have appeared in numerous films. The Benelli M1 Super 90, a smooth bore semi-automatic known for its incredible power, featured in “2 Fast 2 Furious” by John Singleton, a 2003 film and part of a long, very popular film saga. The same weapon appeared in "Face/Off", featuring Nicolas Cage and John Travolta, "Predator 2", the sequel to the popular movie featuring Schwarzenegger and directed by Stephen Hopkins, "Street Kings" with Keanu Reeves, "Alien Nation" (which inspired a television series), "L.A. Takedown”, “Marked for Death”, “The Getaway”, and also “The Dark Knight” (2008), the sequel to “Batman Begins” and winner of two Academy Awards. In 1995, the Benelli MP95E pistol appeared in "Batman Forever".

Benelli's small semi-automatic B76 has also appeared on the silver screen in "Double Team" and "Black Out". Different weapon, different genre: in 1990, the M3 appeared in "Robocop 2". Eight years later, the same gun was selected for "Blade", and its film career was not yet over. Benelli shotguns have appeared in "Eraser", "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" (2005), featuring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, and Steven Seagal's "Attack Force".

The parade continues with the M4 model, which appeared in the 2006 movie "Miami Vice", starring Jamie Foxx and, after several other appearances, in "Killers", featuring Ashton Kutcher. The Benelli Nova, a hunting shotgun which is often used by Law Enforcement Agencies, seems to have a certain showbiz appeal, and was selected to appear in the action movie "Fast & Furious 6" in 2013.


Benelli have a longstanding history in videogames. In 1998, the M1 was chosen for "Jurassic Park: Trespasser" developed by Dream Works Interactive. Other models are also featured in "Rainbow Six", "Global Operation", "Combat Arms", "Aliens: Colonial Marines", "Resident Evil", and "Resident Evil 2", which inspired the popular movie franchise of the same name.


Benelli Armi is strongly committed to sport shooting. The Benelli team shooters have achieved outstanding results in several disciplines. In 2012 the Russian athlete Alexei Klimov beat the Olympic record in London, and won gold over four consecutive years (2008 to 2011) in the World 25 meter rapid fire cup, shooting a Benelli MP 90 S WC pistol. Kira Mozgalova won a gold medal at the Munich 2010 World Cup. Jasna Sekaric, pluri-gold medalist at the World Cup, won silver at Sidney 2000, and bronze at the 2013 Mediterranean Games in Turkey. The Benelli team also includes Luigi Silvestroni, the Italian shotgun team champion for the Limited Pump category since 1998 and pluri-gold medalist at the European Championship (Manual category); Paolo Zambai, winner of twenty gold or silver medals; Davide Cerrato, 3rd in the standard team category at the Debrecen world championship; Bruno La Bruna, Italian champion for the 12 gauge Modif Shotgun category in 2013; Alberto Cardinali, longstanding champion and gold-medalist at the 2003 Italian Championship; Dino Briganti and Giancarlo Iori, Benelli athletes in the special disability category and ex-aequo gold medalists at the 2010 Italian championship shooting the MP 90s pistol. Other athletes in the Benelli team include Francesca Cartoni, Mariana Quintanilla, and Massimo Ciccioli.


The celebrities who have associated their names with the Company include Tom Knapp, a true legend for trick shooting fans, especially in the USA. This three-time world champion has collaborated with Benelli for many years as a testimonial for the Italian brand. Benelli’s current global testimonial is Renato Lamera, holder of the world record for dynamic clay target shooting, and widely acclaimed for his spectacular style. As Renato says: "Trick shooting is extreme shooting and can promote and spread the passion for clay target shooting." Raniero Testa has been a testimonial and record holder with Benelli Vinci.

Awards and sponsorships[edit]

Premio Benelli Arte[edit]

In 2010 Benelli Armi, in collaboration with the Academy of Fine Arts of Urbino, established the Premio Benelli Arte art prize,. The contest is open to Academy students and graduates from the three previous years with the winner receiving a cash prize. In 2014, for the fifth edition, participants were asked to create an artwork for the renovation of a portion of the plant, and the chosen theme was “excellence”.

Premio De Industria[edit]

For a number of years Benelli has supported the Premio De Industria art prize. The initiative is also supported by other companies and is organized by the Municipal Authority of Fermignano (Pesaro-Urbino). The prize is awarded to the best work of art made from industrial scrap. The projects are exhibited during the process of creation and after completion.

Other sponsorships[edit]

In 2014 Benelli sponsored the Urbino Press Award, an annual prize for US reporters.


External links[edit]