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[Review] Benelli M4: Gas Operated Smoothness

Of all the weapons I handled as a Marine, I always had one regret.

I never got a lot of time with the Benelli M1014 Joint Service Shotgun. I got my hands on most of the USMC’s infantry arsenal, and one gun I hardly ever handled was the M1014.

I knew about, handled it a bit in country. 

Benelli M4 (4)
Benelli M4 Semi-Auto Shotgun

However, a machine gunner and a shotgun didn’t cross paths often. Especially when your armory has two M1014s for the entire battalion. I loved it, but we weren’t meant to be at that time. 

We both needed to grow and learn and become the people and shotgun we were meant to be.

Plus, I needed to save my pennies.

They do cost a pretty penny. The Benelli M4 is an expensive gun, one of the most expensive I’ve ever owned. How can a shotgun cost nearly two grand? 

Well, to warrant a price like that, you better be pretty freakin’ special.

Table of Contents


What Makes the Benelli M4 so Expensive ?

Well, Italian shotguns have a long history of being premium guns and weapons from Benelli has always been top of the line. The same could be said for Beretta, Franchi, and so on and so forth.

Best High-End Semi-Auto
at Cabela's

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

To be honest, compared to some Italian double guns, the Benelli M4 is cheap

Beretta DT11
Beretta DT11 is an over/under shotgun that will run you $10,000-$20,000. Ouch.

With such a high price tag, does everyone need a Benelli M4? 

No, not at all. A $350 Mossberg 590 is an excellent shotgun and a good deal cheaper.

Mossberg 590A1
Mossberg 590A1

Forces like the USMC want a gun like the Benelli because it’s an autoloader that runs and runs and runs. It has to be rugged and durable, and a lot of semi-auto shotguns are a bit finicky for military use. 

Benelli M1014 USMC
USMC Benelli M1014

A gun like the 930SPX runs like a clock in my hands, but I’m also not patrolling for days on end in the desert, riding in dusty convoys, or in firefights right after a sandstorm.

The kind of reliability an infantry Marine needs is not the same kind I need as an average Joe. 

Of course, the 2nd Amendment isn’t about needs. It’s about the right to keep and bear arms, and the Benelli M4 falls under arms.

If I can save my pennies and afford one, I can have one. 

Freedom Huddle
Me and boys at the start of range day, colorized 2020.

What Makes It Tick? 

The price is tied to its reliability as an autoloading shotgun. Benelli can set a high price because they make a shotgun, unlike any other.

The Benelli M4 has something called the ARGO system.

Benelli’s ARGO system was created specifically for this one gun but has since expanded into a line of rifles. 

ARGO isn’t just a pretty decent Affleck flick, it also stands for Auto Regulating Gas Operating system was built for this gun and for the USMC. Benelli is more or less known for its inertia guns.

The gas-operated M4 was a change. 

They went with a gas-operated system because the military likes to weigh their guns down with all sorts of heavy night vision sights, and lasers, and kitchen sinks. An inertia gun is picky about what you attach to it. 

If you throw off the balance of an inertia driven shotgun, then it may not run well, or run at all.

Benelli M4 (7)

The gas-operated the M4 uses is a bit different than most gas-operated shotguns with the ARGO system uses dual gas ports just ahead of the forcing cone. 

Gasses up here are hotter and cleaner, and this means the gun runs longer between cleanings. The ARGO system uses two stainless, self-cleaning pistons to drive the bolt rearward into a built-in buffer that’s located in the stock of the weapon. 

Like an AR-15, you have an extended buffer tube as a necessity. Gas guns aren’t as revolutionary as far as shotguns go but the ARGO system is unique with its dual gas piston design.

Benelli M4 ARGO system
Benelli M4 ARGO system

Gas guns are more reliable with a more extensive range of ammo and tend to be softer shooters.

The downside to gas guns is their need to be cleaned often to be reliable.

However, the Benelli ARGO system goes beyond what a standard gas gun can do and remains cleaner and more reliable. 

The Benelli M4 and Configurations

The Benelli comes in all sorts of configurations. The most significant difference between them all is the stock configuration.

They come in fixed straight stock, fixed stock with a pistol grip, collapsing stock, and then a model that looks like the collapsing stock but is a fixed stock. 

Other than that, they are all the same. The American models hold 5 rounds, and once you complete the 922 R process, you can add an extended tube!

Then it can hold 7 rounds of 2 ¾ inch rounds. 

Ergonomics of the Benelli M4 

I have a complaint.

After 400 rounds of assorted shotgun ammo, I can have at least one right? The only complaint I have is in the ergonomics department.

The bolt release is tiny. 

Benelli M4 (3)
You’re killin me, Smalls!

It’s super small and kind of hard to press into action. It’s also a critical component if you run the gun dry and have to speed reload the weapon. Closing the bolt when the weapon is empty isn’t easy using that little button. 

Other than that, I have no significant complaints. I wish the gun would have a left-side charging handle for right-handed shooters.

This would keep us from having to reach over or under the gun to charge the weapon. 

My complaints have fallen on deaf ears of every shotgun maker I can think of outside of the Rock Island VR 80 puts the charging handle on the right-hand side of the gun. 

Rock Island Armory VR60, VR80, and VRBP-100 Shotguns (2)
Rock Island Armory VR60, VR80, and VRBP-100 Shotguns, hands-on review!

Other than that, the gun’s large loading port is excellent.

It eliminated some of the clumsiness that comes with loading a tube shotgun. This is more prevalent when you are keeping the gun orientated downrange as you load. 

The tube and follower flow very smoothly as you load the gun. It glides without interruption. The pistol grip also helps you keep the weapon orientated downrange as you shoot two, load two. 

Benelli M4 (2)

In my experience, each and every Benelli M4 stock option is rock solid. Even the collapsing military stock is super tight and rock-solid. Their portion that greets your shoulder is comprehensive and fits well into the shoulder. 

The stocks all offer a hearty cheek weld, and this allows you to get behind the iron sights or an optic. The plastic forend is positioned close to the receiver and isn’t a far reach for any shooter, and it’s plenty comfortable as well. 

Besides the tiny, and soon to be replaced bolt lock the Benelli M4 is a comfortably built gun. It’s designed to fit a wide variety of users, and it shows. 

Range Time

Oh man, have you ever driven a really lovely car?

Be it a fast one, or a luxurious one, and then had to go back to your sensible Toyota?

You’ll never feel the same about your average car after you drive a high end one. 

That’s what it’s like to shoot the Benelli M4 and go back to your average scattergat.

The gun runs so smoothly, and it’s such a joy to shoot. Without any kind of break-in period, it was running lightweight birdshot loads. 

Benelli M4 (8)
Cool guy action shot!

One demand I make of these guns is that they have run with light loads. Shooting nothing but buckshot gets expensive quickly, and I’m not about that life. I like to be able to run light loads and enjoy the gun as a plinker. 

12ga Shotgun Shells, Opened (L to R: Bird, Buck, Slug)
12ga Shotgun Shells, Opened (L to R: Bird, Buck, Slug)

That’s the Benelli M4 reliability for you.

It seems to eat just about everything and do so with style and grace. 

One of the fascinating things about this gun is how tight the tolerances are. Every little thing is spec’d to a particular measurement. For the end-user that results in a weapon that feels and handles wonderfully. 

Benelli M4 (1)

The trigger is easily the best stock shotgun trigger I’ve ever felt on a semi-auto tactical shotgun.

It’s short and lightweight, and it breaks quickly and cleanly. Even the reset is short as well.

With practice, the light and short trigger pull allow you to work the trigger quite quickly. 

Factor in the rapid moving action, and you can drop 5 shots before the first shell hits the ground. You’ll have fun doing it too. 

Despite the low overall weight, recoil is easy to manage. When you are working the trigger and sending a pound’s worth of buckshot downrange, you’d expect a bit of muzzle rise. You’d be surprised at how easy the gun is to control.

The ergonomics of the Benelli, the soft recoiling ARGO design, and the weapon’s weight keep it from rising too high as you dump rounds. I can keep it on a very dead paper target for the entirety of its magazine at 20 yards. 

Everything about the M4 lends itself to being easy and smooth to move between targets. That mild recoil also translates well to buckshot and even slugs. I don’t use slugs often, but it’s nice to do so without suffering from a bruised shoulder. 

Those remarkable iron sights can direct shot in the right direction just fine, but most sights can. The ghost ring sights are more rifle like and do give you an excellent option for using slugs at longer ranges.

Benelli M4 (5)

They are quite precise and made it easy to steer slugs the right way. 

That little bit of rail gives you plenty of room to add an optic, and an excellent red dot is a quality option on a shotgun.

There are lots and lots of those available, and I tend to be more prone to light and small red dots on shotguns. I’d go as little as mini red dots on shotguns. 

The Benelli M4 has earned a place in my home as my go-to home defense shotgun. 

Best Benelli M4 Upgrades 

1. Meprolight Night Sights 

The Benelli M4’s stock sights are outstanding, and if you want to toss on night sights, you can without sacrificing any of the functionality of the M4’s sights.

Most Innovative
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

These tritium sights from Meprolight are identical to the M4’s sight, but they have tritium inserts. 

2. Trijicon RMR 

If the Benelli M4 is the king of semi-auto shotguns, then the Trijicon RMR is the king of miniature reflex sights.

This is a rock-solid and very reliable red dot that’s industry-standard and well suited for a defensive shotgun. It’s available in multiple models and the dual-fuel models re my favorite. 

See more picks in Best Shotgun Sights.

3. Scalarworks Trijicon RMR Mount

If you want to mount the optic low enough to use your iron sights to co-witness, then you need the Scalarworks works mount.

This replaces the stock rail and uses a direct mount system to keep the RMR super low.

4. Mesa Tactical Shell Carrier 

The Benelli is like any other shotgun, and it has relatively low capacity, so keeping a little extra ammo on the gun is always a good idea.

The Mesa shell carrier is one of the best on the market. Mesa makes the most excellent shotgun accessories on the market, and this is an excellent and well-made shell carrier. 

at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

The Mesa carrier attaches to the same location as the rail, and this ensures nothing interrupts the action and inhibits reliability. The shell carrier holds 6 and holds them tightly. 

4. Strike Industries Hayl Rail 

The two-piece plastic rail on the Benelli M4 works, but the Hayl Rail gives you an aluminum handguard with lots of M-LOK slots.

at Optics Planet

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

These slots allow you to add lights and accessories to the gun quickly. A good flashlight is a must-have, and we have a little guide you can read about them here. 

We go over even more in Best Benelli M4 Shotgun Upgrades. Here’s our current “Ultimate Build.”

Benelli M4 4
Benelli M4 Ultimate Build

By The Numbers

Accuracy: 5/5 

It’s a shotgun, and it’s a shotgun with excellent sights and a great trigger. It makes hitting your target quick and easy. It also directs slugs just about wherever you need them.

Benelli M4 (9)

The addition of an optic’s rail makes it easy to toss on your favorite red dot and have 24/7 performance.

Reliability: 5/5 

The Benelli runs and runs and runs, with a boring level of reliability. If you want to practice malfunctions, buy some mini shells, or some nonlethal because the Benelli isn’t going to allow you to get failure drills in naturally. 

Customization: 3/5

The Benelli M4 is a bit of a niche weapon, especially with its price. The gun has a small aftermarket that’s wholly dedicated to the gun. You can find a few different upgrades and parts to make it yours. 

Looks: 5/5 

I’m biased for sure, but the Benelli M4 is a great looking shotgun. It seeks, tactical in the best way and most certainly intimidating. 

Price: 3/5 

Is it worth the price? Sure, it’s the most reliable semi shotgun out there. It works when it’s filthy dirty, soaking wet, and when it’s filled with carbon. Some don’t need that level of reliability in a shotgun, but if you do, you have to pay for it.

Best High-End Semi-Auto
at Cabela's

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Overall: 4.5/5

Parting Shots

The Benelli M4 is a formidable weapon and remains unmatched in the semi-auto shotgun realm. It comes with a hefty price but you get military reliability, a great trigger, and a super smooth action. It will serve you well in home defense, range fun, or even SHTF situations.

Benelli M4 (4)

What are your thoughts on quality scattergats? Overpriced or well worth it? Let us know in the comments! If you’re thinking of a shotgun for home defense, take a look at the Best Shotguns for Home Defense & Target Shooting!

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19 Leave a Reply

  • Thor

    Edit to my previous post: Toward the end I said "In the first 4-5 missions with an 870, I had a couple failures". I meant to say: "In the first 4-5 missions with a BENELLI, I had a couple failures." I never had an issue with an 870.

    May 30, 2021 5:48 pm
  • Thor

    The Benelli M4 shotgun is a good range gun, and that's it. In the mid 2000s I was on a team in the Middle East. One of my jobs was to breach doors. My team would mostly do 'hard hits' at night, in Blackhawks, landing in front of the target house and entering by breaching a gate/wall/door/sometimes a ceiling. The rotor wash from the helicopter jammed the action of my Benelli m4 on at least 2 occasions. This happened to others, too. Within a couple weeks, all our teams ditched the Benelli and went to the 870. The 870 never failed to fire. Even if it did, you could rack the action and be back in business. Not the case with the Benelli. That action would stick, and there was nothing you could do quickly enough when it mattered. Also, the 870 weighs 1/2 as much as the Benelli. Also, the buttstock of the 870, assuming it doesn't have a pistolgrip, allows for a much better range of motion in real-world scenarios. Also, assuming you're carrying a long gun as a primary and a sidearm, there's no room for the shotgun without it being an obstruction, so it makes sense for it to go on your back. We would heat up PVC and wrap it in rigger's tape and ziptie it to the top strap of a plate carrier. it was easier to grab the 870 with a regular buttstock since it rode higher - and put it back on after you used it - than it was for the Benelli with the pistol grip. And the Benelli bounced around more in that configuration when running. In summary - the Benelli is sexy and maybe ok for limited applications, though I can't envision what those applications would be. I wouldn't carry it if you gave it to me for free. I certainly wouldn't pay $1800 or whatever the going rate. I know... what are the chances the average shooter will be in the situation above? Very unlikely. However, if paying $1800, I would want my shotgun to have that capability. I don't know whether the Benelli could fare better in other elements like mud or water. But common sense tells me the action of any semiautomatic shotgun would be less reliable than a pump. Just figured I'd share this since I see nothing but glowing reviews for the Benelli, and a very small percentage of people, to include entire services that have green-lighted it, have actually used it for it's chief purpose. I'm sure there are people who have had different experiences. In my experience, it's not a good thing to be in a bad guy's house at night following an explosive breach and trying to ride the momentum, with an entire stack behind you waiting for you to shotgun breach a door, and your shotgun seizes up. In the first 4-5 missions with an 870, I had a couple failures. In the approximately 100 missions that followed with the 870, never once had an issue. I'd probably put the Mossberg 500 series up there with the 870.

    May 30, 2021 5:38 pm
  • Chuck

    Wondering if the Trijicon RM07-C-700679 (RMR Type 2 6.5 MOA) has too large a dot at 6.5 MOA to accurately send slugs downrange at 50-75 yards to hit 8x11 metal plates. Thoughts y'all?

    February 25, 2020 8:26 pm
    • Rick

      If that’s what you have, use it. I’ve found the smaller RM09 1 moa dot perfect on mine. My buddy has the Holosun 507c on his and it’s great as well with the 2moa dot and 35moa ring.

      April 11, 2020 11:45 am
  • Michael

    I have an M3 Super 90 folder. It is beyond the best shotgun ever made, much better than the M4 even. I love this thing, there is nothing like it. It is Smooth, and handles anything I put in it!

    February 7, 2020 11:40 am
  • Bruce Parker

    I Agree with the Bolt release Being undersized But I First added a FFT Oversized Charging handle to my M-4! Great Accessory,

    February 6, 2020 2:13 pm
  • Joshua McDaniel

    I love the M4, but I just can't justify its price tag. There are so many other weapons that I want, I just can't. I bought a mossberg 500, put all the gear you could want on it, and im in under 500.00

    February 4, 2020 9:59 am
  • Joe

    I want this gun! its one handsome machine.

    February 3, 2020 1:33 pm
  • Guy in NJ

    My M4 it wouldn't cycle the light loads reliably until I broke it in with 20-30 shots or so. After, I polished the buffer and trigger; and put lighter springs in both. I added the Scalarworks mount and RMR. Now I can put slugs on top of one another at 100 yds, while smoothly and reliably working the lightest loads. Great home-defense firearm for this condo dweller.

    February 3, 2020 8:15 am
  • Ian VanVranken


    February 3, 2020 8:05 am
  • BigDon

    So no one is building an oversized bolt release for them yet?

    February 3, 2020 7:51 am
    • Guy in NJ

      Oversized bolt releases are available. I agree with the review; a must-have upgrade.

      February 3, 2020 8:18 am
  • Johnny

    How does Remingon V3 gas system compare?

    February 3, 2020 6:57 am
  • Bill Robertson

    Great review. I think the Beretta 1301 would have been a good comparison for value.

    February 2, 2020 8:14 pm
  • Vlad

    FN SLP runs as well for me. But hey, great review!

    February 2, 2020 8:03 pm

    mossberg has the new JM 940 out now, wonder how that will match up

    February 2, 2020 6:05 pm
  • Nephthys

    Love my M4. Bought it as a birthday gift to myself this past October, and it makes the trip to the range with me every sunday, where its fed a steady diet of slugs. Not a single hiccup once. Ran a couple boxes of 3" slugs today, any of my other shotguns and my shoulder would be hamburger, but this thing just soaks it all up.

    February 2, 2020 5:51 pm
  • Slovko

    You mentioned the only difference between a M1014 and an M4 is the stock. The two other notable differences between the two is that the M1014 barrel is a heavier military profile with a fixed modified choke and has an American flag on the receiver. The civilian M4 has a thinner barrel with a removable chokes.

    February 2, 2020 5:17 pm
  • Douglas Andrew Gracey

    I say not only no but HELL no! Competition ok, give it to a grunt why ? They brake shit . Not cost effective IMO

    February 2, 2020 4:27 pm
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