Table of Contents
Here at Gunviore, we’re no strangers to Benelli. We’ve discussed the Benelli Super Vinci and the Benelli M2 previously, and now it’s time for us to tackle the Benelli M4 in our Benelli M4 Review 2016:
History of the Benelli M4
Benelli’s M4 Super 90 is a 12 gauge, semi-automatic combat shotgun, chambered in 2¾ and 3 inch. In 1998, the United States Army put out a request for firearm manufacturers to send in submissions for a new standard issue 12 gauge shotgun. Benelli’s M4 was presented to the U.S. military in August of 1998, and was sent to endure rigorous testing, along with the other designs submitted by various companies. After the dust cleared, Benelli had beaten the competition, and came out with the upper hand. The M4 was renamed XM1014, and production of the weapon began in 1999. The first 20,000 were handed over to the United States Marine Corps, and after several more trials the M4 was officially adopted, and designated M1014 Joint Service Combat Shotgun (JSCS).
This shotgun, perhaps the most advanced of its kind (i.e. gas-operated), is produced in both a civilian version and a military version, with different configurations and barrel lengths. The M4 Super 90 was actually the very first gas-operated shotgun which Benelli had designed and manufactured. It utilizes a unique piston-driven system, which Benelli named ARGO (Auto-regulating, Gas-Operated). Until that time, nearly all of Benelli’s shotguns functioned by using its proprietary inertia-driven system – designed by Bruno Civolani in 1967. There was the M3, which had an action selection, and later on came the Nova and Supernova, which are pump-action only shotguns.
The M4 Super 90 is one of Benelli’s most prestigious weapons. It seriously looks amazing, regardless of how it shoots. It is just such a beautiful design. It has seen a lot of action over the years (Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria conflicts, to name a few) and its use spread quickly way beyond the ranks of the Marine Corps. Nowadays, it is used by military organizations and police departments all over the world (the Los Angeles Police Department is famous for using them), and is especially noted for being the weapon of choice for Special Forces and elite units. It is used in many countries, including Iraq, Greece, Ireland, Georgia, Australia, Israel, Libya, Croatia, Belarus, Lithuania, Malaysia, The UK, South Korea, Malta, Bahrain, Philippines, Slovakia, Brazil, Slovenia, and obviously Italy.
A US Marine shoots a Benelli M4 Super 90 during exercise Eagle Wrath 2016 at Combined Arms Training Center Camp Fuj… pic.twitter.com/saK6ISx4hb
— Army Complex (@ArmyComplex) July 27, 2016
Benelli M4 Models and Configurations
The M4 comes in several models or configurations: there is the M4 Entry, with a 14 inch barrel; M4, with a 18.5 inch barrel and fixed stock (pistol grip or semi-auto grip); and a military only collapsible buttstock M1014. Benelli’s tactical division prohibits the sale of M4s with collapsible buttstocks to civilians, even though there is no longer a ban on owning and operating such weapons by civilians in the United States. The M1014 has a thicker barrel, and no chokes are used (since it is meant to take part in battles, not enter into competitions). The civilian M4 does have a range of chokes to choose from, as well as a thinner barrel.
The M4 is considered to be a kind of successor to the M3, even though its design differs a great deal. There were lesser differences between the M2 and its M1 predecessors. The M4 was a great leap forward, and it remains one of Benelli’s most widely-used shotguns.
Which is Best: Benelli M2, M3, or M4?
The military uses the M4, so obviously Benelli also recommended it for law enforcement and civilian home-defense use. This has caused a big debate over which one is preferable, M2, M3, or M4. The bottom line, for me, is this: there is no debate. These shotguns have different philosophies of use. They were designed with different purposes in mind. If you want a combat shotgun – one which is heavier and more robust – go with the M4, in one of its several configurations. If you want a lighter shotgun, which is cheaper, and which uses an inertia-driven system (rather than a gas-operated one), and which is designed more for self defense and hunting – go with the M2. If you want to have the option of selecting between pump-action or recoil-operation, go with the M3. As always, it depends entirely on you and your needs. Nothing else matters. You need to be able to handle your shotgun, so go with whichever one can facilitate that need in the best possible way.
Benelli M4 Accessories: Magazine Extensions, Rails, and More
Accessories, modifications, and upgrade options are always a big part of purchasing a firearm. The M4 is impressive enough right out of the box, but if you do decide to personalize it, popular accessories include a good sling, a shell carrier, a magazine extension tube, a barrel clamp (for use with a magazine extension), and optics such as lasers, lights, night vision devices, or red dot sights. The M4 has an internal tube which holds 5+1 (civilian models), or 7+1 (military/law enforcement models). There is also the option of adding a magazine extension tube. A picatinny rail is available for attaching optics, night vision, or anything else which can be fitted on a rail. The weight and size obviously change according to model. At the initial release in 1998 and 1999, the standard civilian M4 (18.5 inch barrel) weighed 8.42 lbs, and was 34.8 inches long. Compare that to the M2 – which was and notice that the M2 is significantly lighter – with only 6.7 lbs (tactical model) or 5.7-7.2 lbs (field models) – and that it is also longer, with its length being 39.75 inches (tactical model) or 42.5-49.5 inches (field models). That longer barrel can come in quite in handy with longer shots, which demonstrates exactly how the two shotguns differ by design philosophy and intended use.
Even though the M2 and the M4 do get compared a lot, it comes down to comfort and need. Simply – what will you be using the shotgun for? Once you have the answer to that question, you also have the answer to which one you should get. Do your research, and see which one fits you more. Remember, what is pefect for one shooter will be unacceptable for another.
Benelli M4 Price
There is no denying that this is a great shotgun, any way you choose to look at it. The one issue which may deter some people is that of price. Nowadays, the manufacturer suggested retail price for the civilian M4 starts at $1999. The civilian M4 shotgun comes in four configurations, all with ghost ring sights, modified choke, and 5+1 magazine capacity.
- Tactical – 18.5 inch barrel, black synthetic finish, pistol grip stock, drilled for mount and picatinny rail included. 40 inches long, 7.8 lbs. $1999
- Tactical – 18.5 inch barrel, black synthetic finish, tactical stock, drilled for mount and picatinny rail included. 40 inches long, 7.8 lbs. $1999
- Cerakote Tactical – 18.5 inch barrel, black synthetic finish, federal standard field drab stock. 40 inches long, 7.8 lbs. $2,299
- Cerakote Tactical – 18.5 inch barrel, black synthetic finish, AI dark earth cerakote, tactical. 40 inches long, 7.8 lbs. $2,299
Benelli H20 Model and Finish
At one point there was a Benelli M4 with an H2O finish, collapsible stock, and extended magazine tube, but the cerakote replaced it. The M4 H2O model was imported in parts and put together in the United States. Because of that, it was considered manufactured in the U.S. by the ATF, so Benelli were able to “get around” certain regulations. After a while, the ATF no longer allowed the manufacture of the H2O. It stated that it does not comply with the Firearms Act 922(r), and the H2O models became a pretty rare item.
Benelli M4 Review: Shooting and Handling
So, how does it handle? First of all, it wouldn’t have been chosen by the United States military if it wasn’t up for the task. While testing the M4, it was put through the worst: intense heat and cold, mud, rain, dirt, and other extreme conditions. The ARGO system proved to be a great achievement, with its dual self-cleaning pistons. The maintenance is minimal, even though it is a gas-operated shotgun. The ARGO system has fewer moving parts, which means that there is less that can go wrong. It is about simplicity, and Benelli definitely had the infantryman in mind when they were designed this weapon.
The M4 is solid and sturdy, and it really does look as though it could take anything and keep on firing. Benelli have always been a firearms manufacturer who cared about the details, and this shotgun is no exception. The stock, the finish, the barrel – they are all up to par, and it isn’t hard to see why this is such a popular item. It is one of the fastest cycling shotguns in the world, and it is as quick as it is accurate. It is versatile, and its modular design allows for easy stripping, fixing, component/configuration changing, and general maintenance. Whatever needs to be done, can be executed in a quick and efficient way, usually without the use of tools. This gun can be used for anything from breaking airborne clays and skeet to oblitirating stationary bottle and cans at 75 yards. The M4 is also versatile when it comes to perspective shooters. Do you have a spouse, a friend, or perhaps a teenage son or daughter, who may need to use this shotgun at some point? You’ll be happy to know that it is very easy to handle. The recoil is not as severe as similar firearms, and it does not jam or stall easily. Obviously, if you misuse it in some way, anything could happen. The online shotgun forums are filled with stories of woe and regret, but those are usually made by people who either didn’t break the gun in properly.
Breaking in the Benelli M4: Jamming and Cycling
A quick note on jams: even though the Benelli M4 is advertised as a shotgun which ought to properly and reliably cycle just about any kind of shell you feed it – within the chamber’s size limit. More often than not, the reason why the shotgun does jam, is due to usage of ammo which is of the cheaper variety, and which is not truly meant to be used by the Benelli M4, from a design point of view. Remember, these are shotguns engineered and built for battle. Harsh combat. They need to be treated as such, and you shouldn’t expect your Benelli to immediately cycle low-quality ammo in the same way that it does the better quality ammo. It takes some breaking in, just like with other Benelli shotguns like the Vinci or Montefeltro. Full power ammunition, at least in the beginning, is your friend. Even if you don’t intend to fire that kind of ammo in the long run, it is best to break in the Benelli using the more expensive, full power shells.
Shotguns have been making quite a comeback in the home defense department. The more advanced shotguns, like the M4, make it so a shooter doesn’t necessarily have to decide between a home defense firearm and a hunting firearm. The civilian M4 can facilitate both needs, and provide a solution for anyone who is looking for a sturdy, reliable shotgun. Benelli is known for its innovative designs, flawless executions, high-end materials, and attention to detail. A limited 10-year warranty is given with every purchase, and if something should be wrong or malfunction, contact your local dealer and send it in to Benelli for inspection. If a fix or an exchange is necessary, Benelli will do so, free of charge. Remember that any modifications may void the warranty, so upgrade with care and caution.
As always, if you have the option, get to a gun shop and feel the M4 out for yourself. You will have a much better idea of what you are facing once you get your hands on it. There is only so much research you can do on and offline, right? And make no mistake, I am a big fan of proper market research. I think that when it comes to firearms, the more research the better. The M4 has been around long enough, and has undergone enough changes and scenarios, to be viewed with some perspective and hindsight by professionals and amatuers alike. Overall, the Benelli M4 Super 90 still stands out. Even after all these years, it is a symbol of the quintessential combat shotgun.