March 05, 2019
By Steve Gash
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Benelli offers a wide range of firearms, and the company’s very popular Ethos semiautomatic shotgun is justifiably famous. When introduced just a few years ago, it was a groundbreaking design, and today it is offered in several gauges, styles, and variations. Now Benelli has produced another delectable version of the gun called the Ethos Sport that is, as the name implies, intended for sporting clays shooters.
Before I get to the aesthetics of the Ethos Sport, let’s review the multitude of ingenious engineering features that make it exceptional.
An Engineering Dream
Like all Ethos models, the new Sport has Benelli’s innovative Inertia Driven System that is simplicity itself. It is composed of just three main parts: the bolt body, the inertia spring, and the bolt head. The Inertia Driven System is reliable and fast. Upon firing, the discharging shotshell pushes back on the rotating bolt head, compressing the inertia spring. This unlocks the lugs on the bolt head from the barrel extension, and the bolt and fired shell move rearward together. At the end of the bolt’s travel, the case hits the ejector, and the empty is ejected. A spring in the stock pushes the bolt forward, picking up and chambering a fresh shell, and locking the bolt head into the barrel extension.
Powder gases and residue never enter the gun’s action, so an Ethos stays clean much longer than other designs. This means more trouble-free shooting and less cleaning and maintenance. That’s important for sporting clays shooters who may shoot thousands of rounds in a month—or in a week.
This type of action is extremely strong. The lugs on the rotating bolt head lock into the barrel extension for a solid steel-to-steel lockup, and they unlock in a wink upon firing. Also, since the action’s three main parts have a smaller mass, the cycling of the action is extremely fast, considerably faster than other systems. Thus, the Inertia Driven System action results in a lighter-weight, well-balanced shotgun that the shooter can swing with ease over a long day’s shooting.
The Ethos Sport is offered in 12, 20, and 28 gauges and comes with 28- and 30-inch barrels. (The 12-gauge Ethos Sport I received had the 30-inch barrel.) The gun comes with a set of five extended choke tubes: Full, Improved Modified, Modified, Improved Cylinder, and Cylinder. Each tube is clearly marked with its choke constriction, which is a boon to the “choke-tube-switching” shooter in a match. The supplied wrench makes removal and installation of choke tubes a snap. Plus, one end of the wrench has threads on it so you can clean any accumulated crud from a choke tube’s threads while the choke is in the barrel’s muzzle. I think that’s a really nice feature. When installed, the choke tube extends out the muzzle about 0.75 inch.
The Ethos Sport’s barrel is cryogenically treated through Benelli’s Crio System to -300 degrees Fahrenheit. Benelli says this relieves all the stresses caused by hammer-forging the barrel and makes the surface of the bore even-grained and slicker. This offers less resistance to the wad and makes the barrel easier to clean. Most importantly, this makes the barrel’s pattern better. Benelli says this treatment puts “13.2 percent more pellets on target.”
The Ethos Sport is designed as the ultimate clays target gun, so the barrel is ported to vent powder gases and reduce recoil. There are 12 ports on each side of the barrel, and each port measures 0.10 inch in diameter. Ports are said to increase the noise level, but if they did, I didn’t notice it.
The replaceable ventilated rib is 0.375 inch wide with a 0.155-inch sighting channel down its center. This channel has what look like waves sculpted into the bottom of the groove, presumably to better reduce glare. I think they look really cool. The mid-rib sight is a 0.06-inch metal bead.
The action is slick and efficient and is designed to function with all manner of 2¾- and 3-inch loads without adjustment or changing any parts. It even reliably cycles the light 7/8-ounce target loads I tested.
The receiver is nickel-plated and has a beveled loading port for faster loading, a redesigned shell carrier, and a two-part carrier latch that smoothly guides the shell into the magazine. The trigger group can be removed for cleaning by pushing out a single retaining pin.
To lock the bolt back after unloading the gun, the cartridge drop lever must be activated. This button has been redesigned to angle outward slightly for easier operation and is marked with a red dot. The trigger pull on my gun averaged 6 pounds, 1/2 ounce, which is a little heavy, but it was crisp and without a lot of travel, so it felt good when shooting the gun.
A Real Looker
Like every Ethos model, the Sport is a real looker. Benelli went all out on the stock and forearm, crafting them of AA-grade fancy European walnut with an ultra-smooth satin finish. The wood on my test gun was excellent, well figured with nice grain and plenty of dark streaks running through it, augmented by precisely executed checkering in all the right places. The pistol grip has the futuristic Benelli “B” laser-cut on its base.
The buttstock has Benelli’s excellent Progressive Comfort recoil-reduction system that really works. Instead of the standard “firm” recoil pad found on most guns, the Ethos Sport’s system has three sets of interlocking flexible buffers that absorb recoil at different stages of the firing cycle, depending on the strength of the shotshell’s load—the greater the kick, the greater the recoil reduction.
When a light load is fired, the first set of buffers compresses to absorb recoil. The discharge of a heavy field load compresses the pad enough to engage the second set of buffers. A 3-inch magnum load activates the third set of buffers, providing an extra cushion for the increased recoil. After shooting the gun quite a bit with a variety of loads, I can report that it has light felt recoil.
Also mitigating recoil is the semisoft black rubber ComforTech cheekpiece on the comb that softens the blow to the shooter’s cheek. This is important because, as we all know, if the shooter raises his or her head at the shot, it’s a guaranteed miss. This pad is pretty high-tech and is available in three heights. Benelli used Computer-Aided Engineering to make the precise calculations required to achieve the desired result and says this special comb pad reduces felt recoil by about 48 percent.
The Benelli engineers seem to have thought of everything. The gun comes with a set of spacers so drop and cast can be adjusted for the individual shooter’s needs. Plus, the length-of-pull can be adjusted with optional ComforTech recoil pads.
Shoots as Good as It Looks
Okay, the Ethos Sport looks great, but how does it shoot? In a word: great. There were no bird seasons open when I tested the Ethos Sport, but I shot it on skeet, sporting clays, and targets thrown by my Do All Outdoors trap in the back pasture.
As long as I got the leads right, the gun seemed to track the clays like radar and crushed the target. I used the Improved Cylinder choke tube, but the more open Cylinder tube would have probably been better at close ranges. The action cycled with every load I tried, including some 7/8-ounce handloads made for an over-under shotgun that had a velocity of just 1,188 fps.
Overall, recoil seemed light for a gun that weighs only 6 pounds, 10 ounces—even with the full-strength Federal Gold Medal Grand loads with 11/8 ounces of shot at 1,245 fps. Over the course of firing hundreds of rounds, there was not a single malfunction of any kind. I have often voiced my dislike of long barrels, but I must admit that the 30-inch barrel of the Ethos Sport swung smoothly, was not muzzle heavy, and shot well. And the action stayed clean as a whistle over many rounds.
I know the Ethos Sport is primarily meant for a clays course, but after a shooter becomes familiar with the way it shoots, I can’t think of any reason not to follow a fine pointer through the uplands and whack a brace of quail, partridge, or whatever else is in season. For the multi-discipline wingshooter who wants a beautiful, ultra-modern semiautomatic shotgun that is low maintenance, handles quick as a wink, and never hiccups, the Ethos Sport is a good candidate. (I wouldn’t haul it out to a muddy duck blind, but that’s just me. If you are so inclined, it would certainly be up to the task.) The fact that the gun handles everything from super-light loads to 3-inch magnums adds a lot to its versatility.