No Affiliation With Benelli
I would like to start off this Benelli R1 review by stating that I am not affiliated with Benelli in any way, I bought this gun with my own money. This review is based on the +/- 100 miles I lugged the gun while tracking whitetails in the nastiest conditions of Maine’s northern forests during the 2019 deer season. Because of the good feedback from the Benelli Supernova Review, I decided to keep a similar format in this post.
Tracking Whitetail Bucks In The Big Woods of Maine
When tracking bucks in the Northwoods of Maine it is common to walk 10 miles per day. After 10 miles of walking with a gun in your hand, you notice every pro and con of your firearm ergonomically. Those pros and cons are what I will be going over in this review.
I understand that only a small portion of hunters track deer in the Northwoods of New England so even though my experience with the gun has been while tracking, the points I cover in this post will be beneficial if you’re a tracker, stand hunter, or anything in-between.
In the last few years, I have started tracking bucks in the snowy conditions of the big woods of Maine and New Hampshire. Hunting deer in these conditions requires a special kind of rifle. My 30-06 bolt action with a scope just wasn’t up to the challenge. Snow would congregate on top of the bolt. Then when attempting to rack another round after a shot, snow would fall into the chamber and would jam.
Also, the safety would freeze in place, and the scope would fill with snow. When this caused me to miss an opportunity at a buck I knew I wasn’t going to let that happen again. Additionally, a bolt action is much too slow in my opinion for tracking. For these reasons, I wanted to upgrade to a gun that was fast and reliable.
Tracking Whitetails Requires a Specific Rifle
The traditional gun for tracking bucks in New England is the Remington 760 carbine or the newer 7600 carbine. These guns are known for being compact, agile, and reliable in the thick cover and snowy conditions of the Northwoods. But with the advances in semi-auto technology, I felt a manufacturer with a good reputation would have a semi-auto rifle that could handle the elements and be faster with follow-up shots than the pump-action Remington 7600’s. After researching and comparing different rifle manufacturers and weighing the pros and cons of each I finally settled on the Benelli R1. With their good reputation and my experience using their shotguns, it seemed like a natural fit.
For tracking, the ideal gun is lightweight, has fast target acquisition, be snow, ice, and evergreen needle-proof. It is not uncommon to travel 10 miles a day. After walking 10 miles a day, or 100’s of miles in during the season the last thing you want is a rifle malfunction when you finally get your chance. I go into detail on the Benelli R1’s performance in these tough, snowy, winter Maine conditions. These are the conditions under which I tested this Benelli R1 review.
Benelli R1 Price
The first thing I’m curious about when buying a new gun is price, so in this Benelli R1 review, that’s what we’ll start with. On the Benelli website, the price of the R1 ranges from 1,149$ to 1,349$. The 30-06 synthetic version came in at 1349$ which is a fairly expensive rifle. I’ve noticed similar pricing at other gun shops. I’ve noticed slightly better pricing on Gunbroker.com.
Benelli R1 Fit and Feel
Fit and feel is the most important aspect of buying a new gun whether it’s a rifle or shotgun. For this reason, this Benelli R1 review covers this extensively. To achieve the proper fit you should be able to close your eyes, bring the stock to your face, then open your eyes and be able to see perfectly down the sights without needing to make any adjustments.
If you can’t do this with your rifle then your accuracy and quick shooting capabilities will suffer. It does not matter how much a gun costs if you can’t shoulder your gun and have it come to your face naturally then you should not be using that gun. Fortunately, the fit and feel of the R1 is superb. However, I had to make some adjustments to get my perfect fit.
Benelli R1 Stock Shim Kit
With the R1, gone are the days of spending money on a gunsmith to have them do some quirky adjustment to your new gun so you can see down the barrel properly. A fantastic feature of the R1 (and all Benelli guns) is that the stock can be adjusted to fit anyone.
The R1 comes with shims that can be placed where the stock and receiver meet. The shims allow you to adjust the angle of the stock up, down, left and right (drop and cast) until it fits your face perfectly. Having the option to adjust the cast allows left handed shooters to achieve a great fit as well.
In my opinion, this is a huge win for Benelli and is something that lacked in other rifles on the market. To learn how to adjust drop and cast take a look at this Explanatory Video for the Super Black Eagle III (the process is the same). I had to drop the stock down just a little in order to get my perfect fit.
In addition to the shim kit, the comb height can be adjusted on the R1. This could be especially helpful if you decide to put a scope on your gun. Extra comb height will enable you to get a little extra facelift off your stock so your scope comes to your eye effortlessly.
Benelli Recoil Pad
The original recoil pad that comes with the R1 is nice. However, my length of pull is much longer than what the R1 comes in off the shelf (13 5/8 inches). I found this out because every time I shot the recoil would shove the back of my thumb into my nose.
To alleviate this, I had to purchase an expensive Benelli recoil pad to replace the stock recoil pad so I could get my 14 3/8 inch length of pull. That being said, with the new recoil pad the R1 fits me extremely well.
When I bought the R1 I failed to realize how the gun would carry. In the store, it seemed like it would be a great gun to carry because it’s so lightweight. After using it in the field I quickly figured out that the charging handle, when closed, is directly at the balance point of the rifle so I was forced to place my hand behind the charging handle at a weird balance point. Overall, I was able to deal with it all season and it wasn’t too big of a deal but it was an annoyance and puts unnecessary strain on the wrists.
Personally, I like a crisp trigger and I think most people would agree. I did not find that the R1 had a very crisp trigger. While sighting in both my rifles, my much less expensive Marlin XL7 had no creep whereas the Benelli had noticeably more. This did not affect accuracy too much, but I was using peep sights at 50 yards.
It would have been interesting to put a scope on it and shoot at further distances. I’m sure there is a way to get the trigger as crisp as I want by bringing it to a gunsmith, but it just another hoop to jump through.
Benelli R1 Review – Recoil Specifications
The Benelli R1 synthetic model that I purchased came with the ComforTech stock. The wooden models don’t come with this option. Benelli claims “The ComforTech® system reduces felt recoil by as much as 48% over the competition.”
A 48% reduction in felt recoil over competitors was a big selling point for me. Although this does not mean there is actually less recoil after the shot, it does mean you feel less of the recoil. In my mind this would make the gun more comfortable to shoot would help with follow up shots at deer. I am a big fan of the ComforTech stock and love the one I have on my Benelli Supernova. I have to say that when firing multiple fast-paced, 180-grain rounds through the Benelli R1 while target shooting it was very comfortable and was more impressed than I thought I would be.
Benelli does a good job of explaining ComforTech and how it can achieve great felt recoil reduction on their website through computer-aided design. They even compare the Benelli Super Black Eagle (without ComforTech) to the Benelli Super Black Eagle II (with ComforTech) so you can see the difference even in their own models.
Benelli R1 Weight
Weight was an important consideration for my purchase. On a 10 mile day of tracking, every ounce you save on your gun helps. One ounce may not feel like a big difference when comparing two guns in the store, but over the course of a 10-hour day, you’ll notice each ounce.
The Benelli R1 weighing in at only 7.1 lbs making it lighter than many rifles on the market. The Remington 7600 carbine weights 7.25 lbs so with the R1 weighing less than the gold standard of tracking rifles I decided that would meet my requirements for weight. After using the gun all season, I found the lightweight rifle to be really nice. The downside, though, is the carry-ability of the gun was not ideal as discussed above.
Since I used this gun primarily in snowy conditions, weather resilience was a big part of this Benelli R1 review. Being able to handle these conditions was an important factor for me. Before I bought the gun, I was skeptical of how it would perform. From the get-go, it was questionable because behind the charging handle there is a slot that allows the charging handle to throttle back after a shot.
I was nervous that evergreen needles and snow would get into this slot when walking through the ‘thick stuff’. I convinced myself this would be fine because of the reliability reputation Benelli has with its auto-loaders in less than ideal conditions.
Charging Handle Slot
After testing the gun, I found my suspicions were correct. This part of the gun did get snow clumps inside the gun and get junk down behind the charging handle. The snow would melt and turn to ice inside the gun and didn’t leave me feeling very confident that it would rack another round.
Additionally, over time the debris that got behind the charging handle made its way towards the recoil system in the stock. I could imagine over time the recoil system of the R1 would gum up pretty bad.
On one cold 30º day the snow was fresh and wet the snow kept falling onto the side of my gun while I was pushing through the brush. This snow made it on top of and around my bolt and behind my charging handle. When I got back to the car after a long day I found I was not able to take the clip out of my gun or pull the bolt back because the gun was so frozen.
I’m not sure what would have happened if I had shot. I regret not shooting to see what the results would’ve been. Anyway, I had to let the car heat up with my gun loaded in order to thaw it and unload it. I figured a semi-auto would need to be maintained a little more in these conditions and I was prepared for that, but the R1 just wasn’t up for the challenge of the snowy weather conditions.
Stripping and Cleaning
One of my favorite features and another big advantage of the R1 over the competition is its ease and convenience of stripping and cleaning. The R1 stripping process is completely tool-less! This is extremely useful because it gives you the option to break down the shotgun in the field if something were to happen.
When you take the forearm off there is a knob at the end of the forearm. This knob can be used to unscrew the gas system so that the trigger assembly can be taken out. This also made cleaning the gun easy after getting ice and debris out from behind the bolt after hunting.
Reliability and Durability
In a gun review, reliability and durability is a big component. During my Benelli R1 review my biggest complaint with this gun is with the magazine and/or bolt. Before the hunting season, after I finally got the gun setup and sighted in I wanted to shoot some rounds through it quickly to practice speed shooting. I quickly found out that the bolt had trouble jacking another round into the chamber. Whether this was a weak bolt or a tight magazine, I am not sure.
This happened to me many times but would not happen every time. This was frustrating because I never knew when it was going to jam on me. I probably could have got another magazine for free to test it out but I did not experiment with the magazine.
With hunting season right around the corner, I didn’t have time to wait for a new magazine so hunted with the gun as it was and hoped it would rack another round if I needed more than one shot.
I big reason I decided to try the Benelli R1 was because of its impressive 10-year warranty. Had it not come with this warranty I probably would have bought another gun known to handle snowy conditions.
With the advances in semi-auto technology, I wanted to see if the R1 could work as a tracking gun. Unfortunately, it was not up for the challenge but with my 10-year warranty, I was able to get my money back and return the gun with no issues.
Benelli R1 Review Conclusions and Recommendations
It’s Not For Deer Trackers
To be honest, all semi-autos are probably not the best choice for tracking deer in the snowy conditions of the Northwoods. But with the 10-year warranty, I was willing to take a chance with the Benelli R1. I thought perhaps modern automatics are able to handle the northern Maine tracking conditions.
Although I had some trouble with the gun’s ability to chamber rounds I believe I got unlucky with a defective gun. But even if I was given a new gun that worked, there were issues that, as a tracker, led me to believe the Benelli R1 was not suited toward that style of hunting. This made returning the gun the right choice for me. That being said, Benelli has a good reputation and a 10-year warranty to back it up. I’m sure I could have got a new gun if I wanted to.
Great For The Average Hunter
I believe the Benelli R1 would be a great option for stalking with no snow and for tree stand hunting. With no snow and a little debris getting inside the charging handle and behind the bolt I’m confident the gun would perform perfectly fine if kept clean.
Also, if you’re not walking long distances then carry-ability won’t be as big of a factor. Personally, I would not hesitate to buy this gun, it’s a great gun for all weather conditions besides snowy ones.
I did not keep the rifle because I was strictly looking for a rifle for tracking and already have a scoped rifle for treestand hunting.
I hope you learned something from this Benelli R1 review. You may also like my other Gear Reviews:
Benelli Supernova Review – 10 Years Later | Field Test Results
Best Hunting Binoculars For The Money | Best Value Binos
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