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