When shotgun manufacturer Benelli introduced its first bolt action rifle a few years ago, the Benelli Lupo made something of a splash. The Lupo drew attention because it was a stylish rifle. It was also adjustable for a customized fit thanks to its chassis-style design with a separate stock, receiver, and forend. It didn’t hurt that the rifle proved to be quite accurate.
Now the rifle is turning heads again with the Lupo BE.S.T Walnut model. It blends contemporary styling with old-school charm. A richly figured AA-Grade satin-finish walnut stock, this is a package that is certain to turn heads at the range or in the field.
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Stunning Good Looks
Synthetic stocks rule these days, for several good reasons. But they’ll never match the beauty and warmth of a finely crafted, high-grade walnut stock. I’m old enough to remember a time when most rifles wore walnut stocks, but it’s been a very long time since I’ve seen a relatively affordable factory production rifle with a stock as beautiful as the one on the Benelli Lupo Walnut. Different manufacturers use different grading systems to describe walnut stocks. Some say that an AA-grade stock has a 25 percent or more fancy figure on both sides of the stock behind the wrist. Others assert that an AA-grade stock has a 50 percent figure. I would rate the butt stock on the rifle sent to me for testing as being closer to 50 percent.
That’s a subjective evaluation on my part, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and to my eye, this is one beautiful rifle. The butt stock has straight lines, a high comb, and a subtle Monte Carlo cheekpiece. These elements work in concert to position the eye properly behind a scope. The separate forend is scalloped, on its upper side, for a sure grip with the fingers of the supporting hand. Both the buttstock and the forend have nicely executed checkering. The buttstock wears Benelli’s Progressive Comfort recoil pad, which does a decent job of mitigating recoil. Overall ergonomics are excellent.
An Impervious Finish
Walnut-stocked Lupos are offered in 6.5 Creedmoor, 308 Win., 30-06 Springfield, and 300 Win. Mag. chamberings. Rifles in 308 Win. and 30-06 Springfield have 22-inch barrels, while guns chambered for 6.5 Creedmoor and 300 Win. Mag. have 24-inch barrels. All have 1:11 rates of twist except for the 6.5 Creedmoor, which has a 1:8 twist rate. The hammer-forged barrels are cryogenically treated to relieve stress and enhance accuracy and are threaded 5/8 x 24 for suppressors or muzzle brakes.
The glossy black finish on the free-floated barrels is Benelli’s proprietary BE.S.T treatment, which is applied using a combination of Physical Vapor Deposition and Plasma Enhanced Chemical Vapor Deposition technologies. These processes use electricity, radio frequencies, and plasma in a high-vacuum environment to deposit a solid coating that uniformly covers the treated parts. This makes the barrel impervious to the elements. It allows Benelli to offer a remarkable 25-year warranty against rust and corrosion.
Steel Action, Aluminum Chassis
One of the things that sets the Lupo apart is its innovative receiver design. Rifles with two-piece stocks aren’t always noted for producing tack-driving accuracy, but the Lupo design has the strength and rigidity to ensure repeatable accuracy. The lower part of the aluminum receiver is actually a chassis, upon which rests a hardened steel barreled action, with the barrel attaching via a steel barrel extension. The receiver has a somewhat slender, trim appearance and angular lines imparting a bit of European flair.
The one-piece machined bolt used in the Lupo deserves special mention. It’s a three-lug design that has a cut-out area on the bottom of the bolt that allows rounds to ride high atop the magazine for reliable feeding. Although it takes a bit of force to raise the bolt handle and cock the rifle, the bolt cycles quite smoothly. The dogleg bolt handle has a short, 60-degree throw, ensuring ample room for scope clearance. The bolt knob is shaped somewhat like a football. It looks a bit unconventional, like many things on this rifle, but I found it exceptionally easy to grasp and work the bolt.
Flush-Fit, Detachable Magazine
I also like the rifle’s detachable magazine, which holds five rounds and inserts just forward of the trigger guard into a substantial magazine well. The magazine was easy to load by simply pushing rounds straight down from above. That means you can top off the magazine while it’s inserted into the rifle. The magazine inserts into the gun without much fuss, but it takes a bit of forceful pushing in and down on the magazine release lever to remove the magazine. That makes it highly unlikely to be accidentally dropped from the gun while maneuvering through the brush.
At the rear of the action, you’ll find a two-position, tang-mounted safety, located within easy reach of the thumb, as well as a red cocking indicator. The safety does not lock the bolt down when engaged. It takes just enough force to operate that it is very unlikely to be accidentally moved out of position.
The Lupo’s single-stage trigger, adjustable from 2.2 to 4.4 pounds, is a very good one. As the rifle arrived from the factory, the trigger broke cleanly and quite crisply at an average pull weight of 2 pounds, 2 ounces, with no hint of creep. The surface of the trigger is grooved, and the trigger is protected by an oversized, angular trigger guard that will easily accommodate a gloved trigger finger.
The rifle has a listed weight of 7.1 pounds, but weight can vary considerably with wood-stocked rifles due to variations in the density of the wood. My test rifle chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor, weighed 8 pounds, 7 ounces with a scope and rings added. That’s still light enough, in my view, for the gun to be an everyday hunting rifle. I didn’t notice the weight much when handling the rifle because the gun is so well balanced in the hands. It carries easily in one hand and mounts quickly to the shoulder.
For range testing, I wanted to keep the rifle’s weight down and maintain its trim profile, so I mounted a Leupold VX-3HD 3.5-10 x 40mm scope in a set of Weaver rings to the rifle’s pre-installed, two-piece Picatinny rail. While this scope didn’t provide the higher magnification that I often prefer for range testing, it was a perfect setup for hunting with the Lupo. With the scope installed, I was able to zero the rifle with just two rounds and then ran it through a quick function test. The rifle fed rounds from the magazine with no hiccups, and it fired, extracted, and ejected rounds with no issues.
I expected the rifle to be quite accurate, based on my prior testing of a Lupo, but wondered if this wood-stocked gun would shoot as consistently as the synthetic-stocked model I last tested. My doubts were increased by the fact that I had to contend with a full-value wind varying from 5-15 mph on the day I tested the rifle, but the Lupo did not disappoint.
All four tested factory 6.5 Creedmoor loads printed three, three-shot groups at 100 yards averaging less than an inch — and best groups well under that mark. Looking at best groups alone, which hint at the rifle’s accuracy potential, the Hornady Precision Hunter 143-grain ELD-X load shot the best group measuring 0.50 inches. Winchester’s 140-grain match load shot a 0.44-inch best group, and Federal’s 120-grain Trophy Copper load shot a best group measuring just 0.31 inch. The average group size for all three of those loads was less than 0.75 inches.
That’s outstanding accuracy given the testing conditions. Velocities, measured over a Competitive Edge Dynamics M2 chronograph, were quite close to factory-stated numbers. The 140-143-grain bullets launched at 2,607–2,688 fps out of the rifle’s 24-inch barrel. The 120-grain load stepped out at 1,825 fps.
Final Thoughts On The Benelli Lupo Walnut
In a market glutted with so many look-alike rifles with synthetic stocks, the Benelli Lupo Walnut rifle is a refreshing change. I found much to like about this gun and virtually nothing to dislike, which is something of a rare circumstance.
With an MSRP of $2,199, the walnut-stocked version of the Lupo costs about $300 more than Lupos with camo synthetic stocks and about $500 more than rifles with plain black synthetic stocks. If you’re on a tight budget, the synthetic-stocked models make sense. For my money, the Lupo Walnut is a great deal considering its fantastic ergonomics. Not to mention a finish that is practically impervious to the elements and a great warranty.
With the Benelli Lupo Walnut, you’re not just getting a very accurate hunting rifle. You’re getting a visually stunning rifle that deserves to be treated as a family heirloom.
Benelli BE.S.T. Lupo Walnut Rifle
Caliber: 6.5 Creedmoor, as tested
Action Type: Push-feed bolt action
Rate of twist: 1-8
Barrel: 24-inch, threaded
Finish: Glossy BE.S.T.
Stock: Satin AA-grade walnut
Magazine/capacity: Detachable, 5+1
Sights: None, two pre-installed Picatinny rail sections
Overall Length: 46.225 inches
Weight: 7.1 pounds