Added versatility part I: Carlson’s aftermarket replacement barrel for the Benelli Nova (updated 8/12/13)

Carlson's Benelli Nova Replacement Barrel

During a bird hunt last October, I found that a short-barreled shotgun of the type usually relegated to home defense offered a number of advantages when pursuing ruffed grouse in the thick woods of eastern Maine. The short, 18.5-inch barrel of my Benelli Nova Tactical was easily maneuvered through thickets and brambles and the gun’s fixed, improved cylinder choke meant shot columns spread quickly, increasing the likelihood of a hit on a flying bird at close range.

While the Nova performed admirably in the brushy grouse woods, its versatility is ultimately limited by the fact that its barrel is not threaded to accept choke tubes. A fixed improved cylinder choke is great for close range bird hunting, but is less than ideal for turkey hunting or when trying to achieve tight buckshot patterns beyond 15 yards. Additionally, my experience has been that the addition of a rifled choke tube will noticeably tighten slug groups.

In order to add the versatility I desire to a shotgun I love, I ordered an aftermarket Benelli Nova replacement barrel from Carlson’s Choke Tubes of Atwood, Kansas. While the company distributes a small variety of these Turkish made aftermarket barrels for the Benelli Nova and Supernova (as well as for the Remington 870), the model I acquired comes with a Carlson’s rifled choke tube installed.

Above: The Carlson's Benelli Nova aftermarket replacement barrel (top) compared to the Benelli Nova factory barrel.

Above: The Carlson’s Benelli Nova aftermarket replacement barrel (top) compared to the Benelli Nova factory barrel.

Specs and features

The barrel has a 3.5-inch chamber, sports a chrome-lined bore, is made from grade 4140 steel, and is equipped with a rifle style front sight. The rifled choke tube is made from 304 high stress stainless steel and has a twist rate of 1:35. The barrel’s length without the rifled tube installed is 18.5-inches. With the rifled tube installed, the barrel’s length is a shade under 19.5-inches. The barrel’s threads will accept choke tubes of the Benelli Mobil type.

A rifled choke tube? But why?

Rifled choke tubes are a much maligned piece of equipment, often derided by hunters and shooters who have never used one. While it is true that a few inches of rifling at the end of a barrel will do little or nothing to help stabilize the type of saboted shotgun slug designed for use in a fully rifled bore, my experience has been that a rifled tube will improve accuracy out to 100 yards when slugs with a nose-heavy design (such as Fosters and Brennekes) are used.

Above: A look down the business end of a rifled choke tube.

Above: A look down the business end of a rifled choke tube.

Sight compatibility concerns

Upon inspecting the new barrel, my biggest concern was that the front sight will not be compatible with ghost ring rear sight currently mounted on the Nova’s receiver. The front sight on the factory barrel protrudes to a height of approximately 1-inch while the sight on the aftermarket barrel is less than ½-inch high. I’m concerned that there won’t be enough adjustment allowed by the rear sight to accommodate the low profile sight on the new barrel. If this is the case, it will give me an excuse to have the gun drilled and tapped for an optic mount.

Above: The front sight on the Carlson's replacement Nova barrel.

Above: The front sight on the Carlson’s replacement Nova barrel.

I plan on getting the new barrel to the range for a trial this Friday, barring inclement weather or a range closure.

Update 8/12/13: I took the barrel to the range today and unfortunately, my fears about the rear sight not being compatible with the front sight were confirmed. I was unable to adjust the rear sight enough to get any rounds on paper at 50 yards. A meaningful review of the barrel will have to wait until I can have my gun drilled and tapped for an optic, which is something I’ve been meaning to do for a while anyway.