Benelli Nova? Great gun, love that gun. I have several,” remarked one of the guides offhandedly on a recent goose hunt. In a blind filled with enviable Beretta semi-auto shotguns and a 10-gauge Browning I’d love to have in my own safe, the affordable pump-action Nova proved to be a fine field companion and effective hunting shotgun. 

For me, the icing on the cake was the fact that it’s also a bang-around working shotgun that requires less love than the ammo I feed into it. Benelli introduced the Nova in 1999 – wow, the last two decades went fast – with a marketing pitch that positioned it as the shotgun that revitalized pumps for the 21st century. 

I’ve met a few too many older Mossberg, Ithaca, Remington, etc. shotgun fans to really buy that argument. I expect to see Remington 870s and Mossberg 500s in the field for a long time to come even now that it’s nearly 2022. But the Benelli Nova does offer some sweet features, not the least of which is affordability, and I’ve come to love this gun for both hunting and sporting.

Specs Overview

Benelli Nova 12-Gauge pump-action shotgun
The robust Benelli Nova offers a 3.5-inch chambering in the 12-gauge version. (Photo: Paul Peterson/
Benelli Nova 12-Gauge pump-action shotgun
The guns have a steel skeleton with overmolded polyer for strength, weight, and durability. (Photo: Paul Peterson/

Polymer parts aren’t terribly new in shotguns, but the Nova took it down more of a Glock route and made it integral to the entire firearm chassis. The gun’s stock and receiver are formed as single pieces using a steel skeleton overmolded with a modern, durable polymer. This both reduces weight without sacrificing strength and creates a package that is highly resistant to weather, rust, and wear. 

Benelli offers the pump-action Nova line in 12- and 20-gauge options with barrel lengths ranging from 24 to 28 inches. The max weight for the line runs up to 8 pounds for the longer 28-inch barrel 12 gauges and drops to 6.4 pounds for the smallest 24-inch 20 gauge. The guns have a robust but simple rotating bolt system with dual action bars supporting the forend pump. There’s also a meaty fiber-optic front sight with a silver mid-bead at the center of the ventilated rib atop the barrel. 

Benelli Nova 12-Gauge pump-action shotgun
This Nova boasts Realtree Max-5 camo that is both durable and easy to maintain. (Photo: Paul Peterson/

My personal Nova has a Realtree Max-5 camo treatment that has proven to be effective at resisting dings and scrapes while also being incredibly easy to maintain after exposure to humidity, rain, and snow. Other options include simple matte, blued treatments or Mossy Oak Bottomland, though the list of choices is likely broader if you want to find just the right camo for your liking.

Benelli Nova 12-Gauge pump-action shotgun
One of my favorite features is the convenient forward location of the safety and slide release. (Photo: Paul Peterson/

A feature that is much to my particular liking is the safety located at the front of the trigger guard. Rearward safeties are very common, but I am a sucker for forward or tang safeties from an ergonomics perspective and considering I often shoot with gloved hands. I’ve added some additional specs for my personal Nova below:

Overall length: 49.5 inches
Barrel length: 28 inches
Weight: 7.9 pounds
Length of pull: 14 3/8 inches
Trigger pull: 7.6 pounds
Chambering: 2 3/4, 3, and 3.5 inches

The gun holds 4+1 for 2 3/4 and 3-inch shells and 3+1 for those who want to buck it up to 3.5-inch shells. For capacity-limited hunts that require no more than three shells in the gun, I found the Benelli Nova plug offered just the right margins to run 2+1 for shells ranging from 2 3/4, 3, and 3.5 inches. Though, when limited to three shots, I opted as often as ammo would allow to load 3.5-inch shells. Recoil is manageable, and follow-up shots are quick. Even the slightly heavier trigger pull lends itself to shooting with a gloved hand. I did notice a bit of an added recoil with some of my extended chokes, but it’s not unpleasant.

Benelli Nova 12-Gauge pump-action shotgun
The weight and butt pad help with recoil even with 3.5-inch shells. (Photo: Paul Peterson/
Benelli Nova 12-Gauge pump-action shotgun
The gun has two sling-mounting points. (Photo: Paul Peterson/

There’s also a fairly peculiar button on the very long forend pump that I’ve heard was originally marketed to law enforcement as a way to cut off the magazine tube and load specific types of non-lethal or specialty shells. From a hunting perspective, I don’t really care about that, but it is very nice when you need to clear the gun without emptying the tube to leave your hunting blind. The fact that the Nova also has various options for tube extension to boost the capacity also makes it a likely companion for my next snow goose hunt in the spring. 

Benelli Nova 12-Gauge pump-action shotgun
The unique tube cut-off button on the forend is handy for clearing the gun. (Photo: Paul Peterson/
Carlson's Cremator choke on a Benelli Nova
There's a nice, wide range of choke options for Benelli shotguns that are easy to install in the field. (Photo: Paul Peterson/
Benelli Nova 12-Gauge pump-action shotgun
Along with the generous front fiber-optic sight, there is a silver mid-bead. (Photo: Paul Peterson/
Benelli Nova 12-Gauge pump-action shotgun
The semi-pistol grip and elongated forend both have deep grooves for added grip. (Photo: Paul Peterson/

Shooting & Hunting Performance

At first glance, I kind of thought this gun looked a bit like a long-nosed pig of a shotgun. But the darn thing has grown on me, and I keep it as my go-to or backup shotgun for range trips and hunts.

There’s nothing very small or compact about the Nova. I won’t even dare to call this a sleek, nimble, wieldy, or svelte gun. The lines, to me, are functional without the pretext of being classy or sexy. Still, the firearm and camo skin are solid, and I have no problem tossing this thing in the back of truck, banging it around a duck boat, or weathering snow with it in a cold 20-degree shooting blind. 

I love functionality in my guns, and I hate feeling like I might ruin a piece of art. The Benelli Nova spares my collector’s conscience while still putting a tank-like scattergun in my hands for shooting. It is a long shotgun, but that is still very suitable for blinds where you have left and right lateral limits to protect your fellow shooters. It also pushes the barrel out a bit, which helps with accuracy and limits exposure to the concussion from shooting.

The semi-pistol grip and nearly 11-inch slide boast deep, though rounded, grooves for added grip texture. These are not aggressively abrasive, but they functioned well for me in actual use even on very cold mornings. When you have two minutes between piping hot and cold coffee fresh from a Stanley thermos, the Benelli is still there waiting to do the one thing it was born to do – shoot.  

12-Gauge shotgun ammo
My Nova had no issues with a variety of hunting shells. (Photo: Paul Peterson/
Hevi Metal 12-Gauge Ammo
Hevi Metal 3.5-inch BB brought down the first bird to fall to this Nova. (Photo: Paul Peterson/
Goose Potjie Stew
We prepared a nice potjie-inspired goose stew after a successful hunt with the Benelli Nova. (Photo: Paul Peterson/

Final Thoughts

Effective shooting, minimal maintenance, repeated reliability in the field, and budget pricing: That’s how I would sum up Benelli’s pump-action Nova. Sure, the gun has a bit of a caboose – the buttstock does run a good inch or more taller than the other 12-gauge shotguns on my rack. Regardless, the Nova feels like it was born to hunt and doesn’t seem to care much about the temperature, weather, ammo, or long spells without cleaning.

That, coupled with the price and the easy availability of custom Benelli chokes for hunting and range shooting, make it a prime go-to or backup shotgun for me. While not the most swingable 12 gauge, it has proven effective on Canadian geese, sporting clays, and some doves that wandered a bit too close to our hunting blind. This particular Nova is mine and will remain in my safe for the predictable future. 

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