The Benelli M4: Gas Operated Goodness

When the Marines were tasked with finding the next joint service shotgun, they knew they had to make the right choice. Rarely do Marines have the opportunity to steer weapon selection for the entire military, and their reputation was on the line. Over two decades later, it’s safe to say they made the right choice with the Benelli M4. Of course, the Benelli M4 became the M1014 Joint Service Shotgun in military parlance. 

The Benelli M4 represented a departure for both Benelli and the armed forces. The military wanted a semi-auto combat shotgun, which would make the Benelli M4 the first of its kind for general military issue. Benelli had previously utilized inertia guns with the M1 through M3 guns, and the M4 would be their first gas-operated gun. 

Inside the Benelli M4 

That gas system is unique to Benelli and is what Benelli calls the ARGO system. ARGO stands for auto regulating gas-operated system. The ARGO system utilized twin pistons to drive the bolt rearwards and operate the gun. This makes the Benelli M4 a short-stroke gas piston gun. Benelli placed the gas port just forward of the chamber to capture the hotter and cleaner gasses and to better operate the gun. 

The ARGO system eliminates any action bars or linkages. It’s a pure and downright beautiful gas-operated system. Benelli has since adapted the system to big game rifles to deliver the same reliability and lightweight design to rifle cartridges. 

Obviously, when the Marine Corps wanted a semi-auto combat shotgun, they wanted it to be reliable, and this ARGO system was developed specifically for this task. The original inertia Benellis are great, but when you add weight to the gun, you can affect their reliability. Gas-operated guns have no such issue, and you can add optics, lights, and more, and the gun will run. 

922R Sucks 

Gun laws suck, and as such, the Benelli M4 has to be imported in a neutered configuration. This includes a limited five rounds tube and a fixed stock. To restore the Benelli M4 to its natural beauty, I had to install four specific US Made parts. I went through Freedom Fighter Tactical, a company that specializes in US-made parts for the Benelli series shotguns. 

I installed a 7 round tube, a Mesa Tactical handguard, a US Made hammer, and a follower. Four parts allowed me to turn the Benelli M4 into a proper tactical shotgun. This includes the famed collapsing stock as seen on military-issue M1014 shotguns. 

On the Range With the Benelli M4 

The big thing about semi-auto shotguns is reliability. Lots of semi-auto shotguns have reliability issues, and that’s why pump shotguns have consistently been the go-to option for tactical shotguns. To test the Benelli’s reliability, I gathered a wide variety of ammo types and shoved them in my range backpack

This includes high-powered birdshot in the 1,300 FPS category, standard el-cheapo Walmart Estate birdshot loads, as well as standard pressure buckshot, low recoil buckshot, and some low recoil slugs. 

I can’t say I was surprised when the Benelli M4 ate it all without complaint. The low recoil loads and cheap birdshot ran without any issue whatsoever, as did the standard buckshot and hot birdshot loads. It ate and ejected with a loud chunk after every round. I’ve fired over 1,500 rounds through the Benelli M4, and it only chokes on the lightest of loads. 

Just for fun, I tried specialized skeet and trap loads that move at a slow 950 feet per second. Even then, it would feed and eject without issue half the time or so. To put this into perspective, loads that move at right around 1,200 FPS are considered low recoil. These specialized trap loads are designed for guys hitting clay pigeons and firing hundreds of rounds in a match. 

Twelve gauge shotguns are known for their ferociousness on both sides of the gun, and many shy away due to the recoil they generate. The good news is that the Benelli M4 is a gas-operated gun. Gas-operated guns reduce recoil significantly and make even the fiercest loads feel tame. 

Stupid Easy To Control 

With standard buckshot, the Benelli M4 is stupid simple to control, and effective to utilize. Firing rapid double taps John Wick style is very easily achievable. Muzzle rise can be felt, but proper mitigation techniques tame it down a good bit. The fast-cycling action and reduced recoil make it way too much fun not to fire double taps or rapid strings of fire. 

The trigger is superbly crisp and better than any shotgun trigger has a need to be. It allows for nice tight slug groups, and when paired with the easily adjustable ghost ring iron sights, you can be rather accurate and precise. 

The rear aperture is quite wide and allows for fast shooting and rapid target acquisition. An optic’s rail is included, but I’ve replaced it with a Sync mount from Scalarworks topped with a Holosun 507C that co-witnesses with the iron sights. The entire setup allows for a rapid firing and easy-to-control shotgun that spits lead out reliably and quickly. 

That adds up to the Benelli M4 being one of the most competent fighting shotguns on the planet. It’s perfect for police and military use and is a fearsome fighting shotgun for home defense. I have one complaint. The bolt release is superbly small and very annoying. It needs to be way bigger for rapid port reloads and reloads in general. It’s easy to see why the world’s finest fighting force chose the Benelli M4 when they needed a shotgun. 

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  • DELCO December 21, 2021, 12:49 pm

    M4 has been around a while. It’s comes with the collapsible stock. Unless you want to file the paperwork for the 14 inch . The M4 is not hard to find, but you’ll pay for all its features the ARGO, being the main selling point.

  • Buck` August 6, 2021, 11:41 am

    As noted by others, stocks are not NFA items; however, be sure to read the entire post and about the need to add a minimum of four US-made parts in order to keep the gun 922(R) compliant before you add the collapsible stock.

  • Irish-7 August 5, 2021, 3:04 am

    Please tell me that the US Marine Corps is not forced to purchase 5 round guns and modify them!

    • Mike in a Truck December 20, 2021, 12:53 pm

      After reading this article I called my LGS and they have one in stock- card number given,mine!. I need this shotgun like I need another anal opening as I have plenty of shotguns but I dont have this. Now I do. See how I talked myself into it? Feel free to use this technique for yourself. Merry Christmas!

  • Evan August 3, 2021, 8:41 am

    We had these in the Corps. My only complaint was that they don’t cycle less than lethal ammo. Other than that, it’s as fine a shotgun as you could ask for.

  • Bob August 2, 2021, 4:11 pm

    I’m a retired police officer now but when I was on the SWAT team the Benelli shotgun was my weapon of choice. I have not fired a shotgun that can empty a tube magazine faster than the M4 Benelli. I wish I could have kept it when I retired.

  • Ed August 2, 2021, 9:19 am

    Where did you find an adjustable stock? Kind of like a unicorn….

    • Mark August 2, 2021, 10:30 am

      I believe you need some ATF/NFA paperwork for the collapsible stock.

      • John S. August 2, 2021, 11:22 am

        Only if the barrel length is less than 18” or the stock collapsed makes the firearm less than 26” in length overall.

      • Evan August 3, 2021, 8:42 am

        You don’t need paperwork on them and they aren’t hard to find.

        • ed December 20, 2021, 9:51 am

          Really? Tell us where.

          • CalvinPi December 20, 2021, 1:51 pm

            There is a remarkable new feature on the internet called ‘Google’, as well as competing systems. You use it to look for what you want.

            It’s quite a useful feature for finding information, so it’s worth learning how to use.

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