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April 1, 2009
A typical evening in Argentina. Doves flock in by the thousands to the nearest waterhole. The shooting opportunities are almost endless.
Estimates in the area around Cordoba place the local dove population at around 90-million birds. These birds propagate 4 times a year, leading to massive populations that cause millions of dollars worth of crop damage. Dove hunting helps the local farmers while bringing much needed revenue to the area. Birds taken are used at local food banks to feed the needy.
The reason we came to Argentina was to field test Benelli's new Vinci shotgun (full details available at
), which is named after Leonardo Da Vinci for its simplicity of operation. The object was not to shoot hundreds but rather
of rounds through these guns to see how they would perform. This new 12-gauge weighs just 6.9 pounds, but recoil-reducing design features make it the softest-kicking 12-gauge I've ever shot.
One thing we learned when doing this much shooting it to keep your gun mounted--even after the first and second shots. With all the inbound doves there were always other targets available. Raising and lowering the gun for each shot would have anybody worn out by noon.
The new Vinci's synthetic stocks will be available in 3 finishes--Realtree APG, black and Advantage MAX-4.
Lunch each day was prepared in the field over an open fire. Food was exceptional and totally gourmet. This typical sampling includes a mixed grill of sausages, beef and homemade empanadas. Fantastic!
Jason Evans of Benelli puts the Vinci through its paces on the first morning. Of the tens of thousands of rounds fired from the dozen guns on this hunt (our group shot 87,950 rounds total), we did not experience one gun-related feeding or ejection problem using all types of loads.
Bird boys employed by our outfitter, David Denies Wingshooting (
) and Pica Zuro Lodge, we terrific guys--always helpful and ready to lend a hand. Here they're brushing in a blind on the edge of a field. Amazingly, blinds were built in mere minutes using machetes.
Enroute to our stand on the first morning. Those two cases of shells the man is carrying will probably be gone by noon, but Pica Zuro had an endless supply of ammo. As Benelli's Joe Troiani, who managed to put 20,000 rounds through his Vinci in a week, put it: "If Pica Zuro's ammo storage facility ever exploded, it would probably crack the earth's crust!"
This special release on the side of Vinci releases the bolt. It can be released from almost any angle for easy loading, but when you press down and push back, it allows you to unload the magazine without cycling the action--an extremely handy safety feature when you need to cross a fence or want to unload at the end of the day.
Benelli has paid careful attention to a lot of small details on the Vinci. For example, the loading port on the bottom of the gun has been made extra-wide and sculpted to facilitate fast and easy loading, even with bulky gloves on.
The area around the safety has also been sculpted so that the safety button is recessed. This way it can't accidentally get hung up on anything or pushed off unintentionally. Your trigger finger fits naturally up into this radiused area so you can easily
if the safety is engaged or not without taking your eye off the target. This was very helpful in the field, but it is an even more important advantage if you put a pistol-grip stock on the gun and are faced with a home-defense situation in the dark.
The ComforTech Plus stock on the Vinci is divided diagonally and utilizes special chevrons for maximum recoil reduction. It flexes to soak up recoil and its combed low enough that despite firing 5,825 rounds in 3 ½-days, my cheek was bruise free. This is not the case with many other shotguns I've tried that make my face feel like I've been socked with a right cross after only shooting a box or two of ammo.
You can count on shooting hundreds of birds a day when you come to Argentina. The good news is that the bird population is self-perpetuating. Shooting also brings much needed income to the local region. Most important, all the birds that can be recovered are breasted, frozen and provided free to a local nun. Sister Teresa, with help from David Denies Wingshooting, now has 5 food kitchens open, providing thousands of meals each month to needy children--all based on dove meat done every way imaginable from spaghetti sauce to dove burgers.
Every day, the cook gathered birds we shot around 10:00 a.m. and soaked them in lemon juice until noon. Breasts were then wrapped with onion, red pepper and a strip of bacon then basted with Chimi churri (a local sauce made of spices, onion, garlic and olive oil). Breasts were then cooked over hot coals. No liver taste whatsoever and simply the best I've ever tasted.
A typical afternoon (this one in a corn field). Lots of empty shell cases.
Terrain varies widely here and the doves move to the best feeding areas. Pica Zuro hunt managers, Horacio Dartiguelongue and Pablo Aguilo, have scouts out everyday locating the best spots. Each day was different, from open fields to milo to corn fields to treed areas. And you have the chance to practice every imaginable shot…hundreds of times over.
Luca Amaya (on the left) was my bird boy for the hunt. Every time I turned around he was there to hand me a cold drink, fetch more shells, help me load, take photos or do whatever was needed.
Benelli USA VP/General Manager, Steve Otway shows good form here with the new Vinci. Note how his weight is forward on his left foot. The trick to shooting doubles, triples and, on the rare occasion, even 4 birds is to keep your feet and gun barrel moving, adjusting your body position to the passing birds. Not many doves got by Steve all week.
Steve shows how easy it is to load and unload the new Vinci. Even with improved cylinder chokes in place, we took birds at 50, 60 and even 70 yards. It's all about finding the right lead and following through with the shot. Though the Vinci is very light, it doesn't feel whippy in the least. I'm not an expert shotgun shooter, but by the end of our stay in Argentina, I was shooting like one.
The biggest afternoon for me came on the last day of our hunt when I shot 61 boxes (1,525 rounds) of shells. I can't say that I hit a bird every shot, but when you get to shoot that much, you really can get in a groove and your shooting really improves.
Lunch under the trees. Note the white linen tablecloths, typical of the high quality food and service Pica Zuro Lodge provided. They have two dove lodges in Argentina--each beautifully appointed--and five fishing lodges in the southern part of the country where the trout are huge. For more information log on to
This simple release button on the side of the Vinci receiver allows you to close the action using either hand from either direction. Press down and back on this button and you can easily unload the magazine without cycling the action--an excellent safety feature.
The Vinci breaks down into three simple modules--buttstock, barrel/receiver and trigger group/forarm. A quarter turn on this knurled cap is all it takes to remove the forarm and magazine. In fact, you can break the whole Vinci down in less than 10 seconds. I know because we timed it!
The Vinci's new ComforTech Plus system uses a combination of recoil-reducing stock design and recoil pad technology to make it the world's lightest and softest kicking shotgun. After thousands of rounds fired, I can honestly say it is just that. Optional accessories include comb and butt pads in various lengths and sizes so you can easily get a custom fit to your shooting dimensions
Because the Vinci's inertia-driven action is completely contained in the receiver, Benelli was able to design the grip with a much more natural angle so that your finger moves in a straight line forward to the trigger--much like it does on a good rifle.
With a suggested retail price of $1,379 (black); $1,479 (camo), the Vinci offers a lot of gun for the money. It even comes in a fitted hard case that keeps all the components safely tucked away.
In all my years of shooting, I have never seen birds as thick as the doves in Argentina. And I have never fired as many rounds (without feeling punch-drunk) with any shotgun…ever! The Vinci really works.
Our last morning was "slow" by the guide's reckoning.
… I only managed to shoot a case of shells and some 378 doves in 2 hours. Not bad for a "slow" morning, but that's how good the shooting is in Argentina.
Benelli unveils the lightest kicking shotgun ever.
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