Shotgun Review: Benelli Nova | Field & Stream

Sliding actions still have a strong follower among duck hunters and a certain place in the drum of a waterfowl. Even those who prefer a semi-auto as their main weapon, need a pump for the days when the weather will drown a truck – or on a hunt where you really do not care what happens to your weapon. Pumps can abuse. Our duck weapon test included the strong, affordable, unusual Benelli Nova among the most standard offerings from Remington, Mossberg and Browning.

Nova is unique in several ways, starting with the fact that it is Italian. Pump guns have always been an almost strict preoccupation of Americans. We invented the pump gun in the 1880s. We perfected it several times – first with the Winchester Model 12, later with the Remington 870. We fired pumps, fired clay, used them to defend the house, and took them to war. Americans love pumps because they are strong, reliable, work in any weather and do not cost much. The pumps fit us.

Europeans, in general, have always seen pumps with indifference or even contempt, which made the Italian-made Benelli Nova even more surprising when it debuted in 2001.

When Benelli decided to make a pump, they did it in the typical Benelli way: They made a pump different from any pump anyone had ever seen. The stock and receiver were a single piece of polymer, which was unheard of. It had a typical Benelli concept-car style. Nova remains special today, but 20 years ago it seemed like it was back from the future. I had one of the early Novas, which a friend called the “Darth Vader gun” for its black finish and menacing appearance.

Unlike other Benellites, Nova was free and caught among waterfowl. Some of them always wanted to have a Benelli and now they could afford one. Some wanted a gun that looked different. Anyone who bought a Nova for durability and smooth hitting.

The Nova originally debuted as a 3-inch 12-inch shotgun, and now has tactical models, as well as a 20-gauge, and a Super Nova – a 3-inch 12-gauge shotgun that retains Nova’s aggressive style but has a stock and traditional two-part receiver.

Benelli Nova nuts and bolts

Benelli Nova is a reliable hunting weapon for duck hunting

Features of Benelli Nova

  • Meter: 3 1/2-inch 12 (tested); 3 inches 20
  • Action: PUMP
  • Capacity: 4 + 1
  • Choking: Air-mounted chokes IC, M, F
  • Barrels: 28 inches, ribbed scales, red front vertebra
  • Barrel length: 24, 26 and 28 inch barrels (tested).
  • Finish: Black (tested), kamo available
  • Length: 48 ç inches
  • Towing length: 13.7 inches
  • Trigger pull: 7.14 pounds
  • Overall weight: 7.7 pounds

Benelli introduced the Nova in the mid-1990s. It was created for law enforcement initially before hunting models were developed for the US market. The stock and receiver with a piece of Nova distinguish it from any shotgun ever produced. The unit is formed around a steel cage that reinforces the frame without adding excess weight. Like Benell’s famous weapons of inertia, the Nova has a spinning bolt. Since the rotary bolt locks directly into the barrel, it requires neither a barrel extension nor a steel receiver, which is one reason Nova may have its own polymer stock / receiver. The other advantage of rotary bolts is that they contribute to an extremely excellent and fast pump blow. Combine it with a bottom that extends to the front of the receiver, where it is easy for anyone to ride the bike, and you get a very smooth pump.

Nova had some other unique features. It was the first hunting weapon to include a rotating peg with a sling molded into stock, which is now commonplace. There was also a magazine switch button at the bottom of the front. Push and work the slide, and the shell in the room is pulled out and the other two shells remain in the caricature tube. This is a useful feature if you want to quickly drop the goose load — or if you just want to open the action to keep the gun safe while crossing a fence or obstacle. A nipple on the top of the cartridge cap was doubled as a punch to pull out the trigger group pins so you can disassemble the gun in the field if necessary.

How we tested Nova

We tested the Nova in the coffee clouds at the Pintail Hunting Club in the morning and shot it at the Lodge Clay Range. We tested the gun for both hitting points and to see what the 35-yard hunting load pattern was like. We weighed, measured and checked the pull of the trigger. Our test weapon fired slightly up and recorded a 66 percent model with federal numbers 3 inches, 1 ¼ ounce, no. 2, with a modified choke, which is about what you should expect from that choke / load combination. The weapon weighed 7.7 pounds, and that weight is a good thing in a fixed holster that otherwise offers no bounce reduction. A large amount also makes it easy to fire a weapon like the Nova. The trigger was broken at 7.14 pounds, which is on the heavy side, but a definite improvement over my old Nova (one of the very early ones) that had a trigger close to 10 pounds.

Benelli Nova modeling sheet
We modeled the Nova at 35 yards. Stephen Maturen

In addition to the tests we did at the Pintail Hunting Club, I owned and shot that early Nova as my main duck weapon for a few years, and drove it to hunt turkeys once or twice as well. Over the years I had it, I threw it in the mud and, on one occasion, over several large pieces of cliff. That fall would have eroded or injured any other weapon. Nova removed her shoulders and it was no worse for consumption, except for a slight redness on the street in the plastic receiver.

How the weapon worked

Handling and Ergonomics

Novas always treated me well, and this was no exception. It’s an easy-to-shoot weapon, and this long shape allows me to take the short grip with my front hand that I prefer. It also makes the gun easy to pump. And, like all Nova, this one cyclone like butter. You are barely aware of hitting the front and the gun is refilled and ready to fire again.

The heavy trigger never bothered me, except when I got the turkey hunting gun, when I still managed to fill a label with it. However, you may not like the heavy pull if you are sensitive to the triggers. What I did not like about the Nova ergonomics was the small safety button on the front of the trigger guard. I don’t remember the button ever cost me a hit, but I was worried I couldn’t find it with my finger all the time.

Workmanship and Aesthetics

Even 20 years later, Nova still looks contemporary, not dated, although some guns have copied her appearance. Although the Nova lines are not for every taste, I like the way it looks – although you could argue that the plastic receiver is a bit bulky. It is difficult to comment on the “mastery” of a weapon that is barely touched by the human hand in the factory. But, like all Benellis, it is a well-crafted weapon, with the exception of the slide release, which is a stamped part with free appearance. Also, the front knocks. Many people complain about the noisy end of Nova. My feeling was always that everything close enough to hear the raging end was already close enough to shoot, so I never considered it.


To me, the Nova is a weapon dedicated to waterfowl. With its weight, its durable plastic cover and its 3. Inch chamber, it fits straight into the blind. There is also an optional stock mounted return reducer that you can add for serious 3 magn inch magnum shooting. I used mine for turkeys, with magnetic views fixed to the ribs, and it shipped the goods, though it would not be my first choice due to pulling the trigger. A Nova would work for pheasant hunting if you didn’t have to worry about weight, and I always liked to shoot skeletons with mine because of the smooth stroke and arm that allowed me to hold it the same way I hold a gun objective. The Nova can serve as a home defense weapon, albeit long enough, or you can purchase the tactical model.

Also, the Nova is not a versatile weapon in the sense that you can not do much for it if the weapon does not fit you out of the box. Synthetic stocks are hard to lengthen or shorten, and the one-piece stock / receiver design means there is no way Nova can be merged. Either it suits you or it does not suit you.


We had no functional problems with the Nova, and mine worked well for years — although I eventually had some problems with its magazine sole. And, as I mentioned, I threw mine into the big rocks. He jumped, crashed and continued to function. The Nova is a stable and reliable weapon. Although it is made to be abused, if you take that abuse to the extreme and break the stock, you are stuck, as the stock and receiver are one piece, and you will have to use new weapons. If this bothers you, move on to Super Nova.


At $ 449, the Nova is not the cheapest pump in the world, but it is close by. And it is a weapon with a proven history. What she may lack in dexterity as a comprehensive weapon, she compensates with her toughness and ability to shoot. If the one-piece stock bothers you, it’s only $ 110 more to switch to Super Nova, which has a stock that can be replaced or squeezed, and the ComforTech system that reduces returns, all for $ 110 more.

What makes Benelli Nova better

What Nova does best is hunt ducks and geese. It is a powerful, non-trivial weapon, with some unusual features like the cut-out button on the front and the bulletproof (or at least, tear-resistant) receiver. Set for 3-inch shells, if you want to shoot them, it is a weapon you can take on any waterfowl hunt and not be shot. With its very smooth cycling action, it is easy to take subsequent pictures as well. And, I have always liked steering for skate practice, though I would not shoot it in the race.

What makes Nova worse

Nova is a heavy weapon and not the best choice to get into the mountains. Trigger pull does not completely disqualify for turkeys, and there is a 24-inch barrel model that would work in the woods, but would not be my first choice. The steel-reinforced plastic receiver is not perforated and knocked, but can be made by a gunsmith. And, if you spoil your stock, which would require some work, you are out of luck. Replacing it is tantamount to buying a new weapon, as the stock / receiver is the part with the serial number engraved on it and you will need to purchase it through a licensed dealer.

Final Thoughts

Nova made a fuss when it was first introduced with its unique design and lines. It has continued to settle as an excellent choice on a low-cost pump to compete with the 870 and Mossberg 500. If imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, remember that Remington offered a 3-inch pump gun armed entirely of plastic. , barrels and all, called 887. From the inside, Remington executives called the 887 “Nova Killer” but the Nova is still around and pompous, and the 887 is long gone. The Nova – the heavy trigger, the vibrating front and everything – still makes an excellent choice in a stable and affordable duck weapon.

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