More From SHOT Show 2014 – Benelli Ethos
February 3, 2014
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.)
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.