October 11, 2022
Waterfowler’s pleas for more premium options in sub-gauge shotguns have not fallen upon deaf ears. Benelli answered the call guns-a-blazing earlier this year with the launch of the all-new, 3-inch chambered Super Black Eagle 3 28-gauge.
Benelli’s revered lineage of Super Black Eagle semi-automatic shotguns have met the demands of the most serious waterfowlers across the world for 30 years. In 2019, Benelli launched its wildly successful third generation of the proven inertia-driven scattergun, the Super Black Eagle 3. Since its introduction, the SBE 3 has carried on the SBE legacy of reliability and performance and we can expect nothing less from the newest sub-gauge member of the SBE 3 clan.
New Kid on the Block
The 28-gauge cult has been around for decades but has exponentially gained steam in recent years. From the over-used phrase of my 3-year-old, “But why?” Well, that depends on who you ask. Practically speaking, 28-gauge shotguns are lighter in weight making quick movements in tight quarters a breeze while also enjoying the comforts of nominal recoil. Scientifically speaking, the only benefit a 28-gauge possess over its larger-bored cousins is its knack to produce a shorter shot string. This benefit, however, is worth noting and entertains the notion of many that the 28-gauge packs more punch than it should. However, it is the onslaught of premium non-toxic loads such as bismuth and TSS that have really broadened the horizons for all sub-gauge shotguns. Given the right load, this new 28-gauge shotgun will ethically knock down everything from teal to swans at reasonable distances.
From the inertia driven action to the aluminum receiver, to the ergonomically shaped forearm, Benelli’s SBE 3 28-gauge is quite literally a proportionally scaled-down version of the 12-gauge SBE 3 that so many of us know and love. For reference, the SBE 3 12-gauge with a 26-inch barrel weighs 6.9 lbs. The SBE 3 28-gauge with the same barrel shaves off just over 20% of that weight, tipping the scale at a mere 5.5 lbs. Other features of the SBE 3 28-gauge include a series of shims for shooters to adjust cast and drop to their personal liking.
Field Testing the Benelli SBE 3 28-Gauge Shotgun
Although comfortable to carry, I initially worried that the weight and size reduction would result in an erratic “snappy” feel to the shotgun when shouldered. That sentiment was buried as soon as I got my hands on one. A single swing of the shotgun through a crossing clay target was all it took to realize that Benelli had masterfully distributed the weight of the SBE 3 28-gauge to maximize its shootability. The shotgun felt alive in my hands but composed when acquiring and swinging through the target.
Recoil from a 28-gauge is inherently minimal when compared to its larger-bored relatives, but Benelli‘s Combtech and Comfort Tech 3 technologies dang near eliminate felt recoil in the 28-gauge SBE 3. You can’t truly appreciate the luxury of a light recoiling gun until you have experienced it. Once you do, chances are you will not want to go back to the teeth-rattling scatterguns you have shot for decades.
Unfortunately, by the time I got my hands on one of these sweet little rigs, waterfowl seasons across the country were closed. However, turkey season was in full swing. This is a waterfowl publication, but I figured if this shotgun could take down a gobbler there wouldn’t be a fowl in the sky it couldn’t fold. I won’t bore you with a turkey hunting story but suffice it to say that the SBE 3 28-gauge delivered in spades, rolling a wary tom at 49 yards with 1 3/8 oz. of #9 TSS shot from Apex Ammunition.
With a well-patterned modern steel load, the SBE 3 28-gauge will provide ample knock-down power inside of 35 yards. Using bismuth and TSS loads will extend your effective range beyond that.
Benelli Super Black Eagle 3 28-Gauge Shotgun Specifications
- Type: Inertia-operated semi-auto
- Gauge: 3-inch chambered 28-gauge
- Magazine: 2+1
- Sights: Vent rib with fiber optic red bar front
- Stock: Synthetic and adjustable with supplied shims.
- Weight: 5 lbs. 5 oz
- Barrel Length: 26- or 28-inch
- Overall Length: 47.5 inches with 26-inch barrel
- Trigger Pull: Single 4 lbs. 6 oz average
- Metal Finish: Matte black, Realtree MAX-5, GORE OPTIFADE Timber, Mossy Oak Bottomland
- Accessories: five Crio choke tubes (C, IC, M, IM, F)
- Suggested Retail Price: $1,799 black synthetic, $1,899 camo
The SBE 3 28-gauge comes in either a 26- or 28-inch barrel configuration as well as a variety of finishes including matte black, Realtree MAX-5, GORE Optifade Timber, and Mossy Oak Bottomland. Depending on color, the price for a new SBE 3 28-gauge ranges between $1,799 and $1,899.
It is hard to pinpoint the draw to a 28-gauge, but there is something innately satisfying about folding our feathered adversaries with a sub-gauge scattergun. Whether you are breaking clays, pillow-casing doves, or pursuing our web-footed foes across the country, shotgun aficionados can put their trust in Benelli’s new SBE 3 28-gauge shotgun.