• Ken Perrotte

A Benelli LUPO, Steiner Predator 4 Scope and Hornady 200-Grain ELD-X Ammo a Sweet Trio


Steve Skold with Woodland caribou and Benelli LUPO

When three shooters can pick up a previously unfamiliar firearm and, except for minimal diopter tweaks to focus eyes to the scope’s reticle, shoot half-inch groups at 100 yards or consistently ring small steel plates at 300 yards, that gun, scope and ammo combo is a winner.


That’s the experience we enjoyed with a Benelli LUPO chambered in .300 Win. Mag., a new Steiner Predator 4 scope and Hornady’s 200-grain ELD-X Precision Hunter ammunition that was being set up for an October 2021 Newfoundland moose hunt with Arluk Outfitters.


The LUPO is Benelli’s first bolt-action, chassis-style rifle. It debuted in January 2020 and carries an MSRP of $1,699. This stylish, well-designed gun – all the way down to the integrated swivel mounts, angular features, flush-mount, double-stack magazine and sculpted, 60-degree-throw bolt -- befits the Benelli name.


Of paramount concern was having a rifle that would hold up well in the often-harsh weather conditions hunters can experience in the Newfoundland autumn. "Reliability in harsh conditions is a key consideration,” says Timothy Joseph, Benelli USA’s vice president of marketing. “We know many of our customers hunt in extreme locations where the firearm is the key to success or failure on what might be the hunt of a lifetime. Our firearms are designed and tested to function in those environments and conditions.”


Steve Skold, a Safari Club International past president from 2019-2020 both planned to take LUPOs chambered in .300 Win. Mag. on the hunt. I picked up my rifle at Virginia’s Green Top Sporting Goods where Firearms Manager Mike Norman mounted and bore-sighted the Steiner optic. Benelli includes a two-piece Picatinny Rail mount which make things easier (and cheaper) for the rifle’s new owner.

We zeroed the rifle with just a couple shots and, from there, it was a matter of tweaking the elevation to get the group about 2 inches high at 100 yards. The ballistic calculations for the Hornady ammunition, notes that, zeroed 1.6 inches high at 100 yards through a 24-inch barrel, the ammunition is dead on at 200 and about 6.9 inches low at 300. At 400 yards, the drop is 19.8 inches. My goal was to be able to shoot point blank out to 300 without worrying about any compensation. A lot of exceptionally skilled shooters, folks with a lot more experience than me tested the rifle and scope at the range and walked away impressed.

Accurate

Benelli guarantees sub-MOA accuracy. The rifle delivers. Joseph says he believes “an almost magical combination” of design innovations contribute to that accuracy. First, he cited the quality, threaded barrel, which is free-floating and cryogenically treated to -300 degrees Fahrenheit. Freezing has long been touted as a way to wring extra accuracy from a barrel.

Joseph also credits the ergonomics of the stock.


“The gun just seems to nestle right into your shoulder without having to fuss with it,” Joseph says. “The adjustable trigger is well-positioned and crisp. And all those features are adjustable to your preferences. Shims come with the gun to adjust the cast and drop out of the box. Benelli took this important feature of our shotgun design and incorporated it into the LUPO. The result is a gun that can be adjusted to your specs…essentially a custom-fitting gun without the time and expense of having custom work done.


“We’ve all shot rifles that require your body to adjust to the gun once it gets to your shoulder,” Joseph continues. “That process takes precious seconds away from making your shot and can make the difference between filling your freezer or going home to find a recipe for tag soup. Benelli’s goal was to make the rifle fit the shooter and they considered a lot of body dynamics when they designed the LUPO.”


Patented recoil-reduction features also contribute to accuracy. The rifle only weighs about 7 pounds, not a lot for a magnum .300. I’ve often added sorbothane pads to the comb of some heavy magnums since the hardest kicking guns have detached tooth crowns on my upper right jaw. Not fun.


Benelli tackles that facial impact with the Combtech System, essentially a punishment-absorbing soft pad built directly into the stock comb to absorb and reduce the force transferred to your cheek. The LUPO also employs the patented, built-in Progressive Comfort system, modified from Benelli’s shotguns. It features sets of of interlacing fingers that flex, absorbing much of the recoil before it reaches the shoulder.


“Between the rifle fitting extremely well and its ability to absorb some of that felt recoil, the shooter can concentrate on the target and not drift toward an anticipation of recoil,” Joseph says. “I’ve used this rifle in .30.06 and .300 Win. Mag. on a variety of game in the U.S. and Africa and unlike other rifles I’ve owned previously, the LUPO takes a great deal of that recoil anticipation out of the picture. The combined result of all of these features for me is more confidence in my shot.”


Joseph says the recoil reduction varies by caliber and load, but the reduction in felt recoil is approximately 25-30% less. “I was actually surprised by the first few shots I made with the LUPO during the design and testing phase. I remember thinking about the crisp trigger break for a split second before I thought, ‘Wow! That recoil is a lot less than I expected,’” Joseph says.

Steiner Predator 4 Scope

Steiner Optics is a Benelli partner and the new Predator 4 scope (just available in October 2021) made for a superb match-up with the .300 LUPO. We put a 2.5-10x42 model on the rifle. It also is available in two other models ranging to 16 and 24 magnification.


Steiner promotes the scope as having “best-in-class clarity” and the scope did offer superb contrast with crisp detail across a variety of light and weather conditions. All three models feature a second focal plane with an easily adjusted, illuminated E3 reticle sporting 11 brightness levels (5 day/6 night). The reticle is calibrated with ballistic holdover compensation for traditional, magnum, and varmint loads out to 400 yards. The E3 reticle has 5 MPH and 10 MPH crosswind reference marks and bullet drop compensation holdover marks along the lower vertical cross hair for every 100-yard increment.


Now, the scope does not have a “zero stop turret” – something many shooters like, especially shooters who may be inclined to test the limits of their skills and their equipment. Once you’ve set and locked in your zero at a chosen distance – say 150 yards – you can, as desired, make elevation adjustments in the field to compensate for the bullet drop at longer ranges, likely ranges where your confidence level estimating holdover is iffy. If your bullet performance at substantial range is judged sufficient for the job, you adjust the crosshairs elevation up to the target. In the heat of the moment, though, you may not remember exactly how many clicks you adjusted upward, making a return to the original zero a potential problem, one that could end up requiring a re-zeroing of the rifle. With a zero-stop turret, original zero is mechanically locked in. You reverse the elevation until it physically stops at your original zero.


All of that really doesn’t mean a lot to me. Maybe I’m an increasing anachronism, but my goal is to always try to take a shot at a game animal inside 300 yards, ideally as close as I can get. I’m no sniper -- never will be. Wind drift out at long distance can be a funky thing that turns a lung shot through the ribs into a gut shot and a lost, albeit dead, animal. I know. The longest shot I ever made on a big game animal was a 464-yard shot at a pronghorn antelope. It was “almost” a clean kill. I recovered the animal but missing the key vitals by a few inches caused an extended situation I don’t care to repeat.


That’s a perhaps belabored point as to why any scope that gives me good, clear glass and an opportunity to zero such that I can, basically, point blank aim out to 200-300 yards, with a little holdover up to 400, is fine with me. With the Steiner Predator 4, zeroing two inches high at 100 yards gave me the exact capability I desired.


Speaking of hunting situations, I love the scope’s illuminated reticle feature. For some hunters, having that speck of light can help you focus in on bullet placement while trying to ignore the antlers or other feature that might be competing with your ability to focus and execute a quality shot. After all, making clean, quality, ethical shots is paramount to every hunter.


The scope weighs about a pound and a half and carries an MSRP of $1,099.

LUPO Likes ELD-X

Our sub-MOA groups were informed by Joseph’s own hunting experiences, taking the LUPO twice to Africa and once to New Mexico for elk. He said the gun really likes Hornady’s 200-grain ELD-X Precision Ammunition. His first Africa trip was a media hunt in South Africa in 2019 just prior the rifle launched. Eight participants took 52 animals in eight days using the LUPO in 30.06.


I also used Hornady ammo on a late June 2021 African safari, with the 250-grain GMX load performing superbly on smaller antelope species. For cape buffalo and sable, I had 300-grain DGX cartridges in my rifle. Every shot was a one-shot kill. Good stuff!


Of his 2019 trip, Joseph said, “Most of our shot opportunities were under 300 yards, but once the rifle showed its capabilities, we had an excellent marksman and ballistics expert drop a springbok in its tracks at 575 yards. I took a sable, roan, blue wildebeest and two impala on that trip.”


On his second African trip, a personal safari to Namibia this year, Joseph took a LUPO in .300 Win Mag. “The outfitter and location were excellent and in ten days I took eleven very good animals including a kudu, warthog, red hartebeest, black wildebeest, impala, waterbuck, red lechwe, zebra, springbok, gemsbok and eland,” he says. “Distances were 160 yards to 280 yards and none of the animals went more than 50 yards after the shot.”


In between Africa trips, Joseph and Safari Club International’s Steve Comus trekked to New Mexico for elk, with both shooting .300 Win Mag. Rifles. Each took 6x6 bulls on public land.

“I made my shot on a trotting elk just before it could get into the timber at 160 yards. Steve made an amazing extreme uphill shot at over 550 yards to drop his,” Joseph says. “Again, our confidence in the LUPO helped us tag out.”

No argument here on both the accuracy and knockdown power of the Hornady cartridge. The 200-grain ELD-X was a one-shot proposition at 180 yards, flipping a 1,000-pound moose – likely DOA before it hit the ground. The ammunition also boasts best-in­class performance when it comes to the ballistic coefficient. Why? The bullet has a “Heat Shield” tip designed to defy the effects of aerodynamic heating and retain its shape over its entire trajectory. The bullet is designed for solid weight retention and penetration at high or low velocity impacts.


Availability

The LUPO is made entirely at Benelli’s factory in Urbino, Italy. Joseph says production demands are affecting most manufacturers this year, but Benelli has been able to keep new product flowing steadily into the market.


“Our factories abroad and our warehouse in Maryland have expanded their work force and shifts in an attempt to keep up,” Joseph says. “In spite of that, we continue to run as fast as we can to keep product flowing out to our customers. We’re sending out shipments from our warehouse daily. The LUPO—and many of our other firearms—are available on dealer racks. The trick is that the assortments and availability vary widely from dealer to dealer.”

Parting Shot

Confidence in a rifle, scope, ammunition combo can translate to hunters making more assured decisions in those scant moments in the field when success might hinge on a rapidly executed shot. The equipment is proven to work well; it’s up to the hunter to fulfill his or her end of the bargain. In that regard, this Benelli-Steiner-Hornady combo is utterly lethal.


Joseph sums it up, noting, “In my role here at Benelli USA, I have the fun job of putting great guns in shooter’s hands and seeing their faces for the first time after they shoot. When it comes to the LUPO, in almost every case after that first shot or two, that face has a big, wide grin.”


That’s the report on the equipment. We’ll cover the Newfoundland hunting adventure in a subsequent post. Note: A shorter version of this review appeared in The Hunting Wire.