More From SHOT Show 2014 – Benelli Ethos

February 3, 2014

Give me an old-fashioned twice-barrel any old day.  Photo by Holly Heyser.

Give me an old-fashioned twice-barrel any old day. Photo by Holly Heyser.

Somewhere along the lines, I asked if you guys wanted to hear about anything particular while I was at the SHOT Show this year.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get the time on the floor that I’d hoped, and even at the Range Day, I didn’t shoot everything that burned powder… so my coverage was comparatively narrow.  However, someone did ask about the Benelli Ethos.

First, my ad nauseum moment… I am not the biggest fan of semi-automatic hunting guns.  It’s personal taste, primarily, as the old complaints about reliability and maintenance have been (more or less) addressed in the modern variations.  But I don’t much trust them, and there’s just something about the enhanced ability to spray-and-pray that leaves me unenthusiastic about their use for hunting.

But it’s not about me, and autoloaders have become pretty much a staple in the world of waterfowling, as well as amongst turkey hunters.  You’ll even see them in the hands of the occasional upland hunter, although such heretical disregard for tradition and appearances will certainly earn the scowling disapproval of the purist.  The guys who love these guns have made some reasonably solid justifications for the choice.  Of course there’s the fast follow-up shot, but there’s also the fact that the operation of the semi-auto action tends to soften the thumping of those heavy, magnum rounds so popular with the duck, goose, turkey, and pterodactyl hunter.  I mean, seriously, a three and a half inch magnum to kill ducks?  You guys do realize that it’s not self-defense, right?  Maybe if you weren’t touching off artillery rounds you wouldn’t need something to soften the recoil.

But I digress.

In the interest of my reader(s), I am willing to shoot pretty much anything (especially if someone else is buying the ammo), so I found myself at Range Day, standing at the Benelli tent.  With me was my friend, Holly Heyser, the blogger formerly known as NorCal Cazadora.  Holly’s gone and gotten all professional and such, and is now Editor of the California Waterfowl magazine.  She also does some freelance work, and a fairly regular column in Shotgun Life.  And there’s other stuff, but I really didn’t intend to write a whole post about Holly.  The point is, Holly has been deeply bitten by the waterfowling bug (I used to have that disease, but I’m mostly over it now), and she is not a bit put off by shotguns that shoot as fast as you can pull the trigger.  The other point is, with Holly around, we could take pictures of one another shooting… which is much easier than taking selfies while trying to break flying targets.

So the Benelli…

The Ethos is a beautiful gun.  This is something Benelli has always done well, so it’s no surprise there.  Semi-autos have evolved a bit since the humpback Browning or the old Remington 1100, and the Ethos is a sleek, streamlined beauty compared to those old-timers.  It’s also very light, weighing in around six and a half pounds.  Compare that to around eight pounds for the 1100, or over nine pounds in the Browning A-5.  (Browning/Winchester have introduced newer semi-autos to compete in this weight class… but this post isn’t about them right now.)

Holly shooting the Benelli Ethos.As soon as a gun was freed up, I handed it off to Holly and fired up the camera.  Watching her handle the gun, it was easy enough to see she was pretty pleased… despite her professed dedication to her Beretta.  In fact, I think that if the Beretta had been watching her with the Ethos, it would almost certainly have jammed on her next hunt out of pure spite and jealousy.

When Holly finally surrendered the gun, I figured I’d have a go as well.  I hefted the thing in my hands, getting a feel for the weight and balance.  It had just the right amount of both.  Then the guy started giving me shells.

The Benelli Ethos shot distressingly well.  I’m no great shakes as a shotgunner, by any stretch of the imagination, but I broke some clays.  The gun just went where I thought it should go, and it didn’t seem to take much effort at all.  Worst of all, the guy kept feeding me ammo so I had no choice but to keep shooting the damned thing.  I swear, I almost came to like it.

So we were only shooting target loads, but it is worthwhile to mention the gentleness of this 12 gauge shotgun’s recoil.  Compared to my old 311, or even my M37 Featherweight, this was like leaning my shoulder into a feather pillow.  I could imagine a day of dove hunting with this thing, and coming home without so much as a purpling of my shooting arm.  Is such a thing possible?

OK, before I get completely carried away, there are a few more notes of note.  First of all, at this point, the Ethos is only available in a wood stock (AA grade, satin walnut).  I expect the market will drive them to something synthetic and camo-cool, but right now this is what you get.  Personally, of course, I like wood stocks and in my experience under some pretty nasty conditions, they serve just fine.

You can have your gun with a pretty, engraved nickel action, or you can get it simple and anodized.  Both seem almost too pretty for the average duck marsh, but I guess a lot of guns start out that way.  Neither is so flashy that I wouldn’t take them hunting, but the anodized looks a little more utilitarian.  A little TLC will go a long ways toward keeping this thing both beautiful and deadly… and I believe we could all give our guns a little more TLC.

There are a lot more details for the technically minded, but if you really want that sort of thing there are myriad reviews available all over the web, or you can just go to the Benelli website to learn for yourself.  The last detail that I found pertinent, however, was the price tag.  If you have to ask…

So the fact is, the price of quality firearms is going steadily skyward.  I haven’t really been in the market of late, but just from conversations with folks who have, a thousand bucks isn’t going to get you into a new semi-auto these days.  The Benelli Ethos MSRP is right at $2K… a little more for the nickel, and a shade less for the anodized.  I’m guessing you’d do pretty well to pick one up off the store shelf for $1750 or so… depending on your dealer’s connections and profit margins.  That’s a lot of ducats, in my mind, but it seems to be the way of the future present.  I found Beretta, arguably the closest contender in the field, around the same price point.  Remington’s higher-end alternative to the 1100, the Versa-Max, is coming in close as well, with an MSRP around $1730 (depending on features).  On the other hand, Browning’s new A5 and Winchester X3 are coming in a shade under $1500.







8 Responses to “More From SHOT Show 2014 – Benelli Ethos”

  1. JAC on February 3rd, 2014 17:33

    I want one, I think. I also think I better stop dawdling around your blog if I am going to buy one. Back to the saltmines!

  2. More From SHOT Show 2014 – Benelli Ethos | on February 3rd, 2014 21:28

    […] More From SHOT Show 2014 – Benelli Ethos […]

  3. Neil H on February 3rd, 2014 22:07

    Hi, Neil here. Lover of walnut and blued steel. Looks askance at anyone shooting a semi-auto rifle for hunting. Suspicious of any bolt action that isn’t controlled round feed. Still refers to Combat Rock as the Clash’s ‘new’ album.

    I guess I just have to come out with it:

    I shoot a semi-auto shotgun, and it’s pppplastic. Camo. It’s a Franchi. I admit I’ll never truly love it. But it’s south of $1000, never fails to fire, doesn’t need cleaning, and shoots anything from 7/8 oz trap loads up to 3″ magnums. When I switched from right to left handed (long story) it didn’t need a $400 custom fitting. It just works.

    I understand if you feel betrayed.

    I’ve been looking for a decent upland gun/casual skeet gun. Though a nice Beretta over under is near the top of the list, I can’t help but think how much easier it would be to buy a Montefeltro. If it makes you feel better, yes, in blued steel and walnut.

  4. Phillip on February 4th, 2014 11:24

    John, it is a nice gun and I expect you’ll be pretty happy with it. You can shoot anything from 2 3/4″ field loads to 3 1/2″ artillery shells, so it would be pretty versatile… and it’s light enough to be a fun dove or upland gun (if you don’t mind the sneers of the purists).

    Neil, I’m shattered, man! A plastic gun? A semi-auto? I thought we had a connection, brother. But this… oh, the shame and sadness can only be equalled by my derision and scorn. OK, not really. A good gun is a good gun, and the important thing is that it does what YOU want it to do.

    By the way, Ruger has re-introduced the Red Label… you know, for that upland/skeet gun. 😉

  5. doccherry on February 5th, 2014 21:02


    Long time no post. Enjoyed your piece on semiauto shotguns and I, at one time, shared your sentiments re: SA’s being unreliable and a pain in the posterior to keep clean. Boy, has that changed!! I had to sell all my high recoil firearms due to spine surgery [I sold 30 of them, which makes me a Gun Nut of the Highest Order] and I’ve replaced them with more moderate recoil guns. The most powerful rifle I now have is a 30-06, which doesn’t cause any problems for me. But to the point—I bought a Weatherby SA-08 28 gauge Deluxe, which is a semi-auto that weighs 5.5 pounds. It’s gas operated so that cuts down on recoil. The thing is a beauty!!! Now, don’t jump to stereotypes and undercut the 28 gauge because I’ve taken turkey, grouse, francolin, pigeon, quail, etc., with no hiccups at all. Field and Stream did a nice little video on the SA-08 28 gauge [Google it] and the editors were amazed at how well it knocked down everything they shot at. I’ve corresponded with other owners who use it for waterfowl hunting and they have great success with it. I was so happy with it that I bought a 20 gauge SA-08 that is an all-weather job with synthetic stock and parkerized steel. I’ll use that up in Alaska for ptarmigan and in Montana for waterfowl and grouse. It weighs 6 pounds even and a 3″ 20 gauge has the same clout as a 2 3/4 12 gauge. The recoil with a 3″ shell is about the same as a 20 gauge dove load in a pump. [I also bought a brand new Weatherby PA-08 pump in 12 gauge from a guy who needed cash ASAP and I paid 200 bucks for it.]

    I used to be a died-in-the-wool side by side guy, but that is changing rapidly, about as rapidly as you can get off shots 2 and 3 from a good SA.

    On another note, the 30-06 that I have is a Ruger American that I picked up 2 days ago. It is one of the least expensive [not cheap] rifles you can buy. I paid under $400 for it including shipping to Hawaii and sales tax. Tang safety, cocking indicator, adjustable crisp trigger, metal bedding blocks, rotary magazine, and the thing shot 3/4″ to 1″ groups with several handloads, right out of the box. That’s my new wild bull rifle.

    I really lucked out. A friend who is an FFL got me a “Forever Pass” to shoot pigeons [wild, just like bandtails] at a huge dairy here on the Big Island. There are thousands of the things eating the corn and cattle feed and we set up decoys and shoot up a storm. It’s typical to shoot 100+ times in an afternoon. I keep about 10-12 of them and cook the breasts wrapped in bacon. Taste exactly like a whitewing dove only twice the size. Lots of pigs, too, and I carry an M1 carbine for the short shots and a scoped Swedish mauser 6.5×55 for the longer shots. We go on Sundays about twice a month and I never had more fun hunting in my life.

    Life is good.

    Aloha from the Big Island and I greatly appreciate your efforts in maintaining this blog.


  6. Phillip on February 6th, 2014 11:05

    Heya, Bruce! Good to hear from you again, amigo.

    RE: your points about semi-autos, I think you’re dead on. Like I said, most of the jamming and maintenance issues of the old days are pretty much history… although I still hold to the theory that less moving parts is always better than lots of moving parts. But it’s a matter of degree, I suppose. And speaking of degree, the reduction in recoil is always a benefit when we start talking about spine injuries. I think the sub-gauge shotguns are way underrated, especially with quality ammo in the hands of a conscientious hunter. My only problem with the 28ga is learning to swing it. Most of them, including that Weatherby SA-08, just feel so light that I tend to stick it out there and shoot, rather than swinging like I do with the heavier barrels of a 20 or 12 ga. It’s nothing that couldn’t be remedied with a little work at the skeet thrower, though.

    And 20ga… my first shotgun was a 20ga pump, and I used it with good success for everything I hunted, from squirrels and rabbits, to doves and quail, to waterfowl and whitetail. I will confess that, even with lead shot, I had a harder time knocking down bluebills on the big water than the guys using 12ga guns. Nevertheless, I hunted with that gun for years and if I had the wherewithal, I’d probably pick up a nice SxS 20 (like the Cabela’s new Dickinson) and put the 311 and M37 back in the safe.

    Congrats on the pigeon hunting spot. That sounds like a great way to keep some bird meat on the table and keep your wingshooting up to speed as well. I would love to hear more about your success with the M1 .30cal on pigs. I know most of the polynesian pigs aren’t generally that big, but it seems like an interesting choice of a caliber that’s known to be on the “light” side, even for its originally intended use.

    Great to hear you’re doing well. Don’t be a stranger.

  7. JAC on February 6th, 2014 10:54

    Like FDR, I welcome their hatred.

  8. Bruce Cherry on February 6th, 2014 19:58

    The M1 carbine is very much underrated, in my opinion. I use rather hot handloads and get the muzzle energy up to slightly over 1200 foot pounds, the minimum in Hawaii for hunting mammals. The over the counter ammo comes in at about 980 foot pounds and the bullet most commonly used is a Hornady designed for deep penetration. The muzzle energy is about the same as a really stout 44 mag load in a handgun and at 50 yards the 30 cal has the same energy as a stout 357 mag at the muzzle. It’s a dinky little thing and weighs less than 5 pounds. Very, very easy to carry thru the jungle where long shots are 50 yards or less. Will give you a report when I shoot a pig. And yes, the Polynesian pigs weigh about 120 pounds on average and the largest boar I’ve ever seen probably weighed about 250. I can shoot 3″ groups, offhand, at 50 yards, which may not seem like a big deal to a bench rest shooter, but for pig hunting in the jungle that is more than accurate enough.

    The anti-hunting people are really hitting us hard here on the Big Island. They want to fence off all hunting areas, kill the sheep, goats, and pigs by means of aerial shooting, and then allow only hikers and birdwatchers in. They have already succeeded in some areas and they have several more lawsuits pending. Hunting is a huge part of the Native Hawaiian heritage, but the Sierra Club [Earth Justice now] and PETA have said, publicly, that Hawaiians should buy their meat at Costco, just like everyone else. Very, very frustrating.