By Mike Searson
Every shooter has a list of firearms that will end up in his will. That is: they will never be sold under any circumstances whatsoever. The shooter will live under a bridge with those guns stashed somewhere before he sells one to pay for a meal or rent.
These are the guns that may be family heirlooms, represent a historical time period, or simply work better than all the rest in one way or another. This author is no exception, and while I have horse traded with different firearms over the years to the point where most of what I have left falls into that list, there are about 10 or so that might as well be placed in my coffin when I take the big dirt nap.
One of them is a pistol known as the Benelli MP 95E “Atlanta.”
Benelli Makes Handguns?
Although better known for their superb shotguns which dominate many of the shotgun shooting sports and are in use by military and police agencies throughout the world, Benelli also made several lines of competitive target pistols for Bulls eye and IWF events in the past. Pistols such as these re chambered in 22 Short, 22 long rifle and sometimes 32 S&W Long as a wadcutter only type round where the bullet seats flush with the case mouth.
The Benelli MP 95E “Atlanta” has a polymer frame and a steel slide. The frame is black, as is the slide with the Benelli logo on both sides with red highlights. The laminated wood grip is fully ambidextrous, and stippled. It differs from the earlier MP90E in lacking a palm shelf at the base of the grip, but one can be added if the user so desires. The top of the barrel is grooved to allow for scope mounting.
An ambidextrous safety is placed in front of the trigger and activation or deactivation can be performed by using the trigger finger or the thumb of the shooting hand. The magazine release is on the left side of the frame. The slide stop is found on the right side of the slide.
The rear sight blade resembles an oversized Bomar rear sight and measures bout an inch and a half in width. The sight is completely adjustable for elevation and windage and the adjustments have the positive clicks of a high end scope. They are easily adjusted and stay in place. The rear sight’s notch is narrow, and the fixed front sight blade can be replaced by using an Allen wrench.
One of the highlights of the MP95E is that the trigger is set to 2.5 pounds, but can be adjusted up or down. Regardless of the setting it consistently has an extremely clean pull. The trigger pack is easily removed from the frame to accomplish this type of work. The grips themselves are nothing short of being a thing of beauty and anatomically match the ergonomics of the hand. When firing the Benelli MP95E, it feels as if the shooter is simply pointing down range.
Magazines load in front of the pistol grip instead of inside it and this may be a factor in why the pistol fits so well in the hand as it is not concerned with angles for feeding or dimensions in which to hold a magazine.
This has led to some confusion about the pistol and is the reason why Google searches for Benelli’s MP95E Atlanta most often turn up results about so-called Assault Weapon Legislation. The location of the magazine well outside of the pistol grip was one of the criteria for making a handgun legislated as an assault weapon or assault pistol. After the corrupt anti-gun political hacks stopped frothing at the mouth over their victories at various state and local levels by legislating items that they know nothing about, certain pistols like the Benelli MP95E were added to lists specifically exempting them as a sporting firearm specifically made for International and Olympic Shooting Events.
Our particular pistol is chambered in 32 S&W Long, but we plan on adding at least another one in 22 long rifle to the stable one of these years. Readers familiar with the author’s work from other venues are probably scratching their heads and wondering why this is on his “Never Sell” List. It is in an uncommon caliber, it is not particularly suited for self-defense, there is no easy way to suppress it, there is no full auto selector and it was never issued to a military unit or police agency.
The basic answer is that the Benelli MP95E brings simple joy to the target range. The 32 S&W wadcutter is a far cry from 10mm, 45 ACP, 41 Magnum and 357 SIG, but it is an inherently accurate round that can be loaded for pennies compared to other calibers. Factory ammo from Fiochhi will not break the bank either and the hollow based wadcutter makes crisp clean holes in the paper that dwarf the narrow ragged ones made by the larger 9mm 115 grain FMJ bullet.
In addition to it simply being an accurate and fun handgun to shoot, there is another benefit as an instructor or even just the guy or gal that takes all their friends out shooting. It is so accurate that even a novice or problem shooter will hit the 10 ring at 50 feet. The Benelli MP95E is in that class of handguns with the S&W Model 52, S&W Model 41, H&K P9S, Hammerli Trailside and Free Pistols by Pardini. These handguns are built for competition target shooting and unfortunately, like the Benelli MP95E are either no longer in production or are expensive for a novice shooter.
Take a blind man shooting
Our own personal story about why the Benelli MP95E will remain a staple is because of a recent student named Tom, who used it in a series of classes. Tom grew up hunting and served in the Army where he learned how to fire a handgun. After mustering out, he never picked up another one. He always meant to, but life and kids and home improvements kept getting in the way. Unfortunately Tom contracted a disease that left him legally blind. He took an early retirement and moved to a smaller home with his family in a less expensive area of town.
Burglaries were becoming common and Tom wanted to protect his family. A mutual friend introduced us and Tom’s vision proved a challenge to teaching him. We tried lasers, red dot sights, shotguns and various point-shooting techniques with mixed degrees of success, but it was the extra large sights of the Benelli MP95E that got Tom putting rounds on paper and eventually hitting the 10 ring. With that understanding of sight alignment and sight picture, we were able to teach him the fundamentals so he could protect himself and his family.
He did not choose a Benelli for self defense (and it is very impractical for that application), but he told me when things get better, he plans to pick up a used one for practice. We were just happy to get him on the road to shooting again.
These pistols have been variously imported by Heckler & Koch, Beretta and European American Armory. We never determined whether the pistols were not big sellers due to their high price, confusion with firearms like the TEC-9 and AK-47 in places like California or if Benelli’s importers and distributors who competed in the same market had priorities that were skewed.