If you're looking for a 3 1/2" gun, I'd be leery of the Gold, as an awful lot of them have gone back to the factory - and still been hinky. Whatever the problem is (I've seen some with a chunk of the receiver milled out by the factory) doesn't seem an issue with the 3" version - though that may just be because so few 3"ers have passed through my commercial blinds.
If you go with the SBE, be advised that far and away the greatest cause of their malfunctioning has been operator error. The Benelli's inertia operated bolt must close with enough force to twist it's face into the "locked" position in order for it to fire. Folks who ease the bolt shut, instead of just releasing it, after loading or ease it back for a peek to see if it's loaded or can't resist fidgeting with the operating handle are begging for malfunction unless they also insure that the bolt face is locked. (The extractor claw will be above an extended mid line of the barrel if the bolt's locked and below it if not.)
The only other "malfunction" one might expect from a Benelli with even minimum maintenance (or a Beretta) may result from the Italians cutting tighter chambers than most others, because some types of ammunition may be too wide to feed well into them. Remington 3 1/2" steel Nito Magnums, for instance, have proven a bad match with the SBE, with some shells out of a box not wanting to feed.
Other than that, Benellis like oil and a shot of Rem Oil on each bolt race will keep them rolling long, long past mandatory cleaning time for most semi-autos.
As for barrel length, I'd go with whatever feels the most alive (not lightest) in your hands - but avoid the 24" on the grounds that it would be hard on your blind mates' ears.