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Benelli Lupo Bolt-Action Rifle with BE.S.T. Finish

The author thinks this new version of the Benelli BE.S.T. Lupo is almost certainly the company's finest bolt-action rifle ever.

Benelli Lupo Bolt-Action Rifle with BE.S.T. Finish

Italy to Argentina—what could be more romantic than taking a fine Italian rifle across the ocean to hunt red stag during the roar in Argentina? I recently had the privilege of doing so with a new, upscale version of Benelli’s Lupo bolt-action rifle.

Benelli’s new BE.S.T. version of the Lupo (Italian for “wolf”) is almost certainly the company’s finest bolt-action rifle ever. It shares the same advanced technology as the standard Lupo models, with the addition of AA-grade walnut stocks and highly polished steel finished in a deep, lustrous blue-black BE.S.T. surface treatment.

By the by, the BE.S.T. finish “…is a hybrid physical vapor deposition (PVD) and plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition (PECVD) technology… [the] process utilizes electricity, radio frequencies, and plasma in a high vacuum environment. This results in a multi-layered surface of diamond-like particles and an exceptionally hard surface that won’t ever rust or corrode.” Rigorous testing—both in-house and independent—has proved the finish to be truly spectacular. As for the BE.S.T. name, it’s a fun play on words: BEnelli Surface Treatment.

Benelli Lupo bolt-action rifle magazine well, magazine and two boxes of .300 Win. Mag. ammo.
The Lupo’s magazine well is generous and aids fast, sure reloads. The sturdy polymer magazine holds four rounds of .300 Win. Mag. ammo.

A few years back, I had the privilege of journeying to Italy for a pre-launch event that showcased the new Lupo. It was shocking—in a good way—in its space-age appearance and advanced ergonomics. The .30-06 version I later evaluated and reviewed in the pages of Shooting Times was the most accurate .30-06 rifle I’ve ever tested.

This year, with the new, refined BE.S.T. version in the pipeline, I received an assignment to travel to Argentina and hunt wild boars, blackbucks, and red stags with the new model. When unboxing the Lupo BE.S.T., I was prepared for the usual European tendency toward extravagance. What I didn’t expect was the subtle refinement possessed by the rifle. And I’ll get to that, but first, let’s review the fundamental design of the Lupo because it’s so different.

The Lupo Up Close

First, it’s worth knowing that the stock isn’t what it seems. Unlike similar-looking traditional rifles with two-piece stocks attached fore and aft, the Lupo has a chassis-type stock. The cylindrical steel action mates with an alloy chassis bed, which is fixed to the fore-end and buttstock. Even though it looks distinctive and classic, the Lupo actually possesses all the advantages of the modern machined-aluminum chassis-type stocks currently so popular in the United States.

Additionally, the bolt is a three-lug design with a short, fast, 60-degree throw. Those lugs lock into a barrel extension, in essence interfacing directly with the barrel breech in typical contemporary European fashion, rather than using the action as a middleman. It’s a very strong system.

A robust 0.18-inch-wide extractor is insetted into one lug. Opposite, a plunger-type ejector is built into the boltface. The two capably haul and heave fired cases from the chamber and out the ejection port.

The bolt features a full-diameter body, the same size as the exterior dimension of the locking lugs. This makes for a very smooth bolt throw—something European rifles are known for. Presumably, what with all the driven-hunting traditions on the Continent, smooth, fast function is prized like long-range accuracy is here in the States.


The bolt handle has a rakish angle, and it is rather flat. It ends in a comfortable football-shaped knob that’s insetted with a small, grippy-rubber oval on the bottom.

Benelli Lupo bolt assembly
The Lupo bolt features a full-diameter body and three locking lugs. The bolt’s body is the same size as the exterior dimension of the locking lugs.

Getting the bolt out of the action initially baffled me, since the lovely wood comb on the buttstock was too high to allow straight-back removal. Then the light bulb in the back of my brain lit up, and I had it: Draw the bolt rearward until it contacts the stop, press the well-polished bolt release on the left side of the action, and rotate the bolt knob 180 degrees up and over so the slanted top of the bolt shroud is now down. Positioned this way, there’s plenty of clearance, and the bolt may be drawn out of the action.

Bolt disassembly for field maintenance is easy—unlikely to be necessary, but easy nonetheless. I won’t go into the process here; you can check it out online in the Lupo manual.

Recommended


Like a few other European designs, the Lupo action does not have an on-board recoil lug. Rather, it’s machined with a slot that fits over a robust steel crossbar imbedded into the chassis.

My rifle is chambered for .300 Winchester Magnum, and its stout polymer magazine holds four rounds of ammo. I’m a big fan of this magazine. Finger the well-protected release in the nose of the magazine to drop it out of the action. An internal spring will pop it partway out, easing the process.

With the magazine removed, the bottom of the chassis/stock’s midriff shows a yawning mouth, gaping wide and begging for a fresh magazine. This serves two purposes. It provides an instant visual that lets hunters know the status of their tool, and it enables fast, fumble-free insertion of the magazine.

As I wrote in my review of the standard Lupo, the magazine is probably the easiest detachable box magazine I’ve ever loaded. Plus, it features a double-stack bullet divider up front and internal shoulders for the cartridges inside to position against, which protects projectile noses from cracking against the front of the magazine during recoil.

Benelli’s Lupo trigger is unique in that it’s adjustable for pull weight and position. The advertised weight range is 2.2 to 4.4 pounds. The reach from the grip is adjustable via “trigger-reach spacers.”

Aft of the action is the only feature of the Lupo BE.S.T. that I believe does not live up to Benelli’s reputation for aesthetic perfection and to functional demands. It’s the safety. Located in the traditional spot for a tang safety, it’s an injection-molded polymer part recessed into a slot hewed into that lovely wood. To my eye, it’s out of place on such a fine rifle.

Benelli Lupo buttstock with Benelli Progressive Comfort pad and a high comb
The Lupo’s well-designed buttstock sports Benelli’s Progressive Comfort pad and a high comb that supports a consistent cheek weld. The grip angle and trigger position are engineered to eliminate torque in the shooting-hand wrist.

As for function, the safety works as intended, preventing the rifle from firing when engaged. However, the bulbous end that protrudes rearward is too big, and on several occasions I inadvertently bumped it to the “Fire” position when carrying at the high ready and when shifting the rifle to the African carry position across my shoulder.

Up front, the barrel is understated and elegant. Cryogenic stress-relieving treatment optimizes accuracy. The barrel is free-floated in the fore-end, thanks to the chassis-type stock system. Well-cut muzzle threads with a pitch of 5/8-24 make it easy to install a suppressor or a muzzle brake.

At one turn every 11 inches, the rifling is slower than one might anticipate based on modern trends toward long, high-ballistic-coefficient bullets. The most advanced of such projectiles require faster-than-traditional twists to stabilize, but as it turns out, this Lupo shoots Hornady’s 200-grain ELD-X bullets just fine.

The rifle’s racy fore-end features just a bit of checkering-like texture that’s laser-cut into the rear sides and deep, comfortable finger grooves down each side. They enable a very secure grasp. A swivel stud just shy of the tip makes attaching a sling easy.

Aft, the buttstock features Lamborghini-like lines. A high cheekrest makes for a consistent, comfortable cheek weld. Tasteful texture at the grip makes the rifle easy to hold whether your hand is sweaty or near numb with cold. And Benelli’s Progressive Comfort pad takes the bite out of recoil.

In a very nice feature that all too few hunters will take advantage of, the Lupo BE.S.T. comes with stock shims—much like Benelli shotguns—that are slightly tapered in various degrees. They fit between the wood stock and the alloy chassis midsection, and they enable the rifle’s owner to fine-tune fit to personal perfection by adjusting cast and drop. Additionally, recoil-pad spacers allow the shooter to increase or decrease length of pull for ideal fit.

The author with an old red stag he took with a Benelli BE.S.T. Lupo
The BE.S.T. Lupo was up to the challenge of hunting in the Argentinian bush. Joseph dropped this gnarly, old red stag with one shot from about 220 yards.

In the Field

I received the .300 Win. Mag. Lupo BE.S.T. test rifle during a freight-train procession of heavy snowstorms. With departure dates looming, I mounted a lovely Zeiss Conquest V4 4-16X 44mm riflescope with exposed dial-up turrets and an SFP-MOA reticle. Each Lupo BE.S.T. comes factory-mounted with rail-type two-piece bases, so installing the scope was simple.

With no time to waste, I tested loads. Hornady’s Precision Hunter ammo with 200-grain ELD-X bullets shot slightly better than the 178-grain version in my particular rifle, plus I prefer the heavier bullet for use on large, tough game, such as red stags and wild boars.

Last steps to make the rifle hunt-ready were to fit an adapter for my favorite quick-detach Spartan Javelin bipod and install an M19 Red Kettle sling, then take a few wraps of electrical tape around the barrel just shy of the muzzle. In case of rain, I’d always have tape on hand to cover the muzzle.

Traveling into Argentina with firearms is harder than any other place I’ve been, but when testing and writing about new products, it’s necessary. The country is beautiful and historic and huge. In the north of the La Pampa province, we stalked red stags among old-growth trees and brush thickets so dense you sometimes couldn’t see 10 yards.

On the evening of day three of the Argentina hunt, a trio of wonderful red stags crossed a burn, some 220 yards distant. “The last,” whispered my guide. Steady over three-legged shooting sticks, I glued the crosshairs to his shoulder and pressed the trigger. The welcome sound of a bullet impacting vitals followed.

We found the old stag just 14 steps from where the bullet impacted. Bright, frothy lung blood painted the hip-high grasses and led to where he’d dropped. My bullet had taken him on the X, resulting in a fast, clean kill.

Unbelievable mass and points aplenty graced the stag’s antlers. He was ancient, past his prime enough that his beam length had shortened, but it seemed to have all transferred into mass.

During the six-day hunt I also managed to take a good blackbuck with a quartering-to shot from 132 yards and a wild boar—hunted at night the way the Argentinians do—with a bullet through the head from about 40 yards. The Lupo BE.S.T. was proving worthy of its name.

Target with .300 Win. Mag. ammo.
The new .300 Win. Mag. Lupo BE.S.T. was accurate. Three out of the four factory loads testfired averaged around or under one MOA.

Benelli VP of Marketing and Product Development Tim Joseph managed to take a thumper of an Asiatic buffalo. Some 20 to 30 percent larger than a Cape buffalo, but slightly less belligerent, these animals present a challenge to a bullet. Tim chose to hunt with the outfitter’s .300 Win. Mag. handloads topped with Barnes 180-grain TTSX bullets. Three perfect shots to the vitals from about 100 yards did the trick.

Back home after the hunt, with the record snowpack melting off in rivers that eroded roads and flooded homes, I made my way to the shooting range to establish the Lupo’s accuracy potential with several more factory loads. For protocol, I fired three consecutive three-shot groups with each different loading for average, allowing the rifle to cool between groups.

Of the four factory loads, only one averaged over an inch at 100 yards—and it was just 1.32 inches. Still very acceptable. Top honors went to Nosler’s 180-grain E-Tip, which averaged 0.77 inch. That’s darn good for factory ammo through what is, after all, a production-class rifle.

Although it’s a small thing, one of my favorite features about the Lupo is its ability to hold four .300 Win. Mag. cartridges in the magazine, plus one up the spout. While testing, I filled the magazine full and often added one over the top into the chamber, just to ascertain how smoothly and reliably the rifle functioned through a full payload of cartridges. Never did I encounter a malfunction of any kind.

Lupo rifles are engineered with a very modern approach to ergonomics. Yes, they look different. They are different. Grip angles, trigger positioning, bolt handle shape…everything is optimized for comfort and to minimize joint torque and the resulting tremor-inducing muscle stress.

As a result, Lupo rifles balance beautifully, about like you’d expect from the country that engineers Ferrari and Lamborghini cars. Beauty combined with function.

I’m nearing a half-century old, and to my eye the most beautiful bolt-action rifles ever built are typified by Rigby’s Highland Stalker, Winchester’s prewar Model 70 Super Grade, and the like. The Lupo’s very modern aesthetics register to my eye as excellent and applaudable, but then I’m a bit old-fashioned. However, I’d be willing to place a small wager that in another half-century, this Lupo BE.S.T. will be heralded as an example of this era’s finest.

Benelli Lupo BE.S.T. Accuracy and Velocity Chart

Lupo BE.S.T. Specifications

  • Manufacturer: Benelli; benelliusa.com
  • Type: Bolt-action repeater
  • Caliber: .300 Win. Mag.
  • Magazine Capacity: 4 rounds
  • Barrel: 24 in.
  • Overall Length: 46.6 in.
  • Weight, Empty: 7.1 lbs.
  • Stock: AA-grade walnut
  • Length of Pull: 13.8 to 14.75 in.
  • Finish: BE.S.T. barrel and action, satinwood
  • Sights: None
  • Trigger: 2.25-lb. pull (as tested)
  • Safety: Two-position
  • MSRP: $2,199

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