22 SAS and the Benelli M4 Shotgun

The Benelli M4 Super 90 reflects the current state of the art in combat shotguns.

By the fall of 2018, the Islamic State was bled white. President Trump had taken the gloves off, and a coalition of nations was killing ISIS operatives wherever they could be found. At its apogee, ISIS controlled broad swaths of territory stretching from Libya to Syria and across Iraq. By the end of 2017 ISIS had lost most of its territorial gains but, like a hydra, still fomented mischief through myriad small decentralized terror cells.

If ever there was a mob that just needed killing it was this twisted hive of reprobates.

One cell in Baghdad stood ready to once again take the fight to the infidels. Headquartered in a residential area, this group of maniacal ISIS fighters was constructing suicide vests and planned to bomb several sites simultaneously. Unbeknownst to them, however, the neighbors were watching.

In Her Majesty’s Secret Service

I have it on reliable information that MI6 agents are absolutely nothing like 007. However, these practitioners of the Dark Arts are nonetheless hard at work battling the forces of evil and chaos around the world.

British MI6 intelligence operatives employed a variety of SIGINT (Signals Intelligence) and HUMINT (Human Intelligence) assets to build a detailed picture of the group, its members, and its intentions. As the terror group’s activities ramped up, it became obvious that it was time to act.

The SAS is the covert fist of the British government. Their standard assault rifle is a short-barreled Canadian M4 clone from Diemaco.

A combined strike team made up of MI6 operators, members of the 22d Special Air Service Regiment, and Iraqi Special Forces established a surveillance and staging area near the terrorist enclave. After several days in the position, the detachment got the green light. The 12-man SAS assault team hit the complex just before dawn in pitch darkness using night vision systems.

The Op

The US Army’s Delta Force took its original inspiration from the British SAS.

The SAS is arguably the world’s premier direct action special operations unit. Other counter-terror units such as the US Army’s Delta Force and similar organizations around the globe are patterned after the SAS. SAS operators have access to the finest weapons, training, manpower, and hardware in the world.

The Benelli M4 Super 90 is an exceptionally capable close-combat tool.

The point man in the stack carried a customized Benelli M4 Super 90 autoloading shotgun. The breacher position demanded a cool head along with intensity, discipline, ruthlessness, and ferocity. This man had done this job literally countless times, but he nonetheless sweated in the predawn chill.

The British MOD is not terribly chatty when it comes to SAS operations. This fun-loving SAS bloke just happened to be in Kenya for a training exercise when a legit terrorist action unfolded. He kitted out, pushed into a hotel being overrun by Al-Shabaab jihadists, and saved lives.

The British Ministry of Defence refuses to release SAS operational information as a matter of policy, so there are no details available concerning the type of loads with which the Benelli M4 was stoked. However, it is safe to assume that it was likely something awesome. Sintered frangible breaching rounds would be my guess.

The British SAS wrote the book on CQB operations.

When all assets were in position the team leader gave the word, and the SAS point man blew the hinges off the front door with his Benelli. A swift kick took the door down, and the team spilled into the courtyard. There they surprised three ISIS insurgents just after morning prayers now gearing up for a suicide operation.

This captured suicide vest is on display at the Imperial War Museum in London.

The lead SAS operator responded instinctively with the weapon he had at hand, neutralizing the three terrorists in rapid succession with his Benelli. The M4 Super 90 sports a legendarily smooth, fast action. As they knew that some of these terrorists would likely be wearing suicide vests, the SAS operator took the two of the jihadists with headshots. Two more terrorists were loading a nearby vehicle and came running to the sound of gunfire.

A single SAS operator killed five suicidal jihadists in seven seconds.

The same SAS breacher immediately indexed to the two new arrivals and shot them both dead with his 12-gauge. It had taken seven seconds to neutralize five fanatical jihadists. The rest of the terrorists in the complex surrendered when confronted by the carnage. Some of the dead bombers appeared to have been beheaded. Whether the Benelli was throwing slugs, buckshot, or frangible breaching rounds, at these ranges the terminal effects would have been fairly similar. The surviving terrorists were remanded over to the Iraqis, and the SAS operators scrubbed the facility for intel.

Origins

Those early SAS operators figured it out as they went along.

The 22d Special Air Service Regiment traces its genesis back to the Second World War. Founded in 1941 as a regiment and later expanded into a corps in 1950, the SAS was a truly revolutionary military formation. Tasked with covert reconnaissance, hostage rescue, counter-terrorism, and direct action missions, the SAS operates today within a clandestine world of great secrecy.

David Stirling is a legend within the Special Operations community.

The brainchild of an unconventional British officer named David Stirling, the SAS was originally titled “L” Detachment to confound the Germans. The initial complement was five officers and sixty other ranks. Their first operational mission was an unmitigated disaster, resulting in the loss of a third of their number. Subsequent expeditions, however, were legendarily successful.

The SAS demonstrated how highly-trained, exceptionally-motivated, well-led unconventional troops could have an outsized impact on the battlefield.

The SAS operated behind enemy lines throughout North Africa and the European theater, fomenting a great deal of mischief. As a result, Hitler issued his infamous Commando Order in October of 1942, stating that Allied soldiers operating covertly in German-held areas whether in uniform or not were to be shot upon capture. At least sixty-five members of the SAS were eventually executed as a result.

The SAS Today

Today’s SAS is a world-leading special operations unit.

In the modern era, the SAS is comprised of three regiments. 22 SAS is the active-duty contingent based at Hereford. 21 and 23 SAS are part of the Territorial Army (similar to the US Army National Guard) and headquartered in London and Birmingham respectively. 22 SAS wears a distinctive sand-colored beret adorned with a cap badge consisting of an inverted Excalibur flanked by wings of flame. The unit motto, “Who Dares Wins,” is depicted in a banner across the front.

The televised SAS assault at Princes Gate in London in 1980 changed the way the world viewed counter-terror operations.

22 SAS served as inspiration for the American 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta back in the late seventies. Colonel Charlie Beckwith did a one-year exchange tour with the SAS and returned home determined to create a similar unit within the US Army. Today operators from 22 SAS cross-train with special operations forces from throughout the free world.

The SAS has been busy since 911. Despite their legendary penchant for secrecy, there is a Wikipedia page that categorizes their GWOT operations.

The SAS has been an active part of the war on terror since the very beginning. They are rumored to have neutralized some 3,500 terrorists in and around Baghdad alone. 22 SAS is the reason Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has not had a good night’s sleep in a decade.

The Gun

The Benelli M4 has been in active US military service for twenty years.

In 1998 the US Army Research, Development, and Engineering Center at Picatinny Arsenal requested submissions for a new semiautomatic combat shotgun. The Italian Benelli firm responded with the M4 Super 90 12-gauge autoloader. This revolutionary shotgun survived a grueling test and evaluation process to become a type standardized US military weapon.

The M4 has a well-deserved reputation for reliability.

The M4 was Benelli’s first gas-operated shotgun. An exceptionally simple design, the M4 utilizes the “Auto-Regulating, Gas-Operated” (ARGO) system. This short-stroke action uses a pair of stainless steel self-cleaning pistons and has only four primary parts. One of the most appealing aspects of the weapon is that it feeds both 2.75 and 3-inch shells of a variety of power levels reliably without needing any particular adjustments. The M4 is expected to fire at least 25,000 rounds without requiring any component replacement.

The M1014 is like Garanimals for gun guys. Mixing and matching accessories optimizes the weapon for particular applications.

Barrels are available in both 14 and 18.5-inch versions. Magazine capacity is between 5+1 and 9+1 rounds dependent upon magazine extensions. Pistol grips, collapsible stocks, and sundry furniture options are available to customize the basic chassis. In US military service the M4 Super 90 is designated the M1014.

The M1014 has seen active service with LE and military units around the world.

The M1014 weighs 8.42 pounds empty and is 34.8 inches long with an 18.5-inch barrel and 7+1 magazine tube. Ghost ring sights come standard, and there is a Picatinny rail up top for optics. The first run of 20,000 units went to the US Marine Corps back in 1999.

John Wick is an enthusiastic user of the Benelli M4.

The Benelli M4 is a popular high-end option in 3-gun competition, and the gun featured prominently in the movie John Wick: Chapter 2. As the John Wick movies are basically expansive 3-gun exercises sprinkled with a little superfluous dialogue, the films showcase the state of the art in close combat firepower.

John Wick’s M4 is naturally a heavily customized example by Tarran Tactical.

A quick perusal of GunsAmerica shows these weapons running between $1,700 and $2,200 dependent upon particulars.

Denouement

SAS selection is the stuff of nightmares.

The British SAS takes its operational security very seriously. Their selection process is unimaginably grueling, and the details of their missions seldom reach the light of day. The op described here was given only cursory treatment by the British press. I extrapolated the details from a variety of sources.

The British SAS personifies the quiet professional, operating in the shadows defending freedom and democracy.

The catchy bit of prose, “People sleep peacefully in their beds only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf,” has been falsely attributed to George Orwell. This specific line was actually coined by a newspaperman named Richard Grenier paraphrasing Orwell. Regardless, in no place is this adage better personified than in the secret soldiers of the British SAS.

SAS operators are the tip of the spear.

In late 2018 while most of us were going to work, taking our kids to T-ball, and doing the myriad things that define modern life, a dozen hardened British warriors stacked in the darkness outside a nondescript home in the outskirts of Baghdad. The point man in the stack burst in upon a hive of terrorist activity and killed five ISIS suicide bombers with a shotgun. This particular engagement took place at bad breath range and spanned a mere seven seconds. Rough men indeed.

22 SAS has played a part in every major conflict that involved the UK since WW2. These young studs are tabbing their way across the Falklands.
The Benelli M4 Super 90, shown here in the mitts of US Marines, is a fitting tool for SAS operators.
Who Dares Wins.

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About the author: Will Dabbs A native of the Mississippi Delta, Will is a mechanical engineer who flew UH1H, OH58A/C, CH47D, and AH1S aircraft as an Army Aviator. He has parachuted out of perfectly good airplanes at 3 o’clock in the morning and summited Mount McKinley, Alaska, six times…always at the controls of an Army helicopter, which is the only way sensible folk climb mountains. Major Dabbs eventually resigned his commission in favor of medical school where he delivered 60 babies and occasionally wrung human blood out of his socks. Will works in his own urgent care clinic, shares a business build-ing precision rifles and sound suppressors, and has written for the gun press since 1989. He is married to his high school sweetheart, has three awesome adult children, and teaches Sunday School. Turn-ons include vintage German machineguns, flying his sexy-cool RV6A airplane, Count Chocula cereal, and the movie “Aliens.”

{ 18 comments… add one }
  • Ti April 27, 2020, 8:40 pm

    I’d like to see that thing filled up(9+1), and then emptied as fast as a human being can bump it! Watermelon and 2 liter soda bottles down range.

  • Mike D from CT April 27, 2020, 6:42 pm

    Let’s not forget the phenomenal predecessor to the M4: the Luigi Franchi LAW-12 AUTO. Absolute perfection once your correct the bumper issue.

  • Archie BrownThe April 27, 2020, 6:17 pm

    The old shotgun, whether SB, double, pump, or semi/full auto, will mostly always be the very best ” alley cleaner”.

  • ted vincent April 27, 2020, 2:17 pm

    good stuff …..and yeeeaaaa…..thats why we like Mr Vick…who needs dialogue… Thanx !

  • Rollin L April 27, 2020, 1:18 pm

    The English learned a lesson about good intel and taking out the opposition well, in 1920. While they were already good at it, and brought to Dublin some of their best in order to undermine the IRA, Ireland’s Michael Collins remained one step ahead. The vaunted intel group, later known as the “Cairo Gang,” was among England’s finest. Collins and his Dublin team took out 15 of them in one day, in a series of simultaneous hits on several locations at 9:00 am on November 21st that year. The English retaliated later that day by murdering 14 innocent civilians in a an enclosed stadium during a Gaelic football match.

    • David April 28, 2020, 12:00 am

      What have the unfortunate events of Bloody Sunday in 1920 got to do with the SAS which was formed some 20yrs later by Col. David Stirling (1942 North Africa WW2)? Hitler was not a terrorist seeking independence, but a genocidal maniac responsible for millions of deaths of innocent Jews.

  • KO April 27, 2020, 12:58 pm

    Great article. On the breach, I suspect it was a single shot to the bolt area. Taking out 2 or three hinges is much slower (without the use of multiple breachers), has a higher probability for fail/hangups (especially without intel on the size and location of hinges) and reduces the rounds left for the entry… and would therefore be more likely an explosive breach (with its own set of pros and cons). They were most likely kitted for both, planned their primary method based on intel and made the final call onsite.

  • Ralph April 27, 2020, 11:54 am

    While Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi might not have gotten a good night’s sleep for a decade b/c of 22 SAS, he’s getting plenty of sleep now thanks to the 1st SFOD-D.

  • Bad Penguin April 27, 2020, 10:34 am

    The head shots weren’t to keep the vests from exploding when hit by the shot, it was because he needed an instantly fatal hit that would prevent a wounded terrorist from detonating his vest. The fact the guy could take out 5 guys in 7 seconds is a testament to his training and abilities. Some guys like to practice head shots at the range but in real life the target seldom cooperates and stands still. AND at the range the target is not trying to kill you.

  • Robert D Floyd April 27, 2020, 10:17 am

    As I was reading this, I was looking at my M4 across the room. I had purchased it a few years ago to replace my M90 that was stolen from my home in El Paso 23 years ago. I have been thinking about selling my M4 because I have yet to pull the trigger on it. But everytime I think about doing that, an article like this pops up and reminds me of what kind of weapon it is and I quickly changed my mind. I will be putting it back in the gun case today. Thanks for shaking me back to my senses.

    • Mike V April 28, 2020, 2:38 pm

      Yet to pull the trigger?!?!

      • Robert D Floyd April 28, 2020, 6:45 pm

        OK, I ran a few rounds threw it today. So now it is officially a “used” shotgun.

        • Mike V May 2, 2020, 12:30 am

          Atta boy👍

  • GREG McKILLIP April 27, 2020, 9:25 am

    Great article! Interesting info on our Brothers in Arms! Keep em coming.

  • James April 27, 2020, 6:40 am

    Wouldn’t mind also hearing a bit about the French GIGN anti-terrorist unit . ( in comparison)

    • Rick P. April 27, 2020, 7:35 pm

      I apologize in advance James, but I can’t resist. I heard you can pick up a French M4 Super 90 cheap, if they still advertise (Never fired, only dropped once) it’s just a joke. I’m sure the French CIGN are a very capable anti-terrorist unit.

    • Ej harbet April 29, 2020, 7:33 pm

      Id like a examination of the french doorkickers revolver fetish.

  • Madjoe April 27, 2020, 6:12 am

    I am really enjoying your articles. Keep ’em coming!

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