Tactical shotguns aren’t supposed to be pretty. They’re supposed to be brutal. The uglier and more intimidating, the better. Trust the gunsmiths at Benelli to turn their back on this tradition of fucile da caccia super bruto. The Benelli M2 Tactical auto-loading (semi-automatic) 12-gauge is gorgeous. Its sleek design, minimalist lines and dark brooding looks generate love and affection long after its American and Brazilian cousins’ machismo starts to grate. But the M2 Tactical is more than just a pretty face. This gun’s beauty lies deep within its unassailable combination of form and function.
Most auto-loading 12-gauge shotguns use some form of gas-operated feeding system. Benelli’s M2 semi-automatic shotguns are inertia recoil weapons. In other words, they use the kinetic energy generated by the gun’s recoil to eject the spent shotshell and load a fresh one.
The system has three basic moving parts: bolt body, inertia spring and rotating bolt head. The M2 operates by means of a spring that’s freely interposed between the locking head and bolt.
As the gun recoils during firing, the inert breech bolt moves about 4 mm forward, compressing the spring. When the spring is fully compressed, it overcomes breech bolt inertia and thrusts the bolt to the rear, under residual pressure. The gun extracts the shotshell case and reloads another shell from the magazine tube.
The spring pressure is designed to delay the opening of the action until after the shot has left the barrel. This compensates for the different pressures produced by cartridges of varying power. No adjustments necessary.
The M2 tactical’s fully-automatic inertial recoil operation is simple; there are less parts to weigh you down or go wrong. It also eliminates the drawbacks of the barrel recoil systems (barrel vibrations) and gas-operated systems (the need to clean gas outlets and possible malfunctions under adverse climatic conditions).
The M2 runs clean; the gun blows all of the gas and crud—otherwise accumulated by shotshell discharge—out the barrel. The detritus does not blow back into the bolt area, as it does with many gas piston systems.
The Benelli M2 Tactical breaks down like most other auto-loaders: take the screw-cap off the magazine tube and let the disassembly begin. The barrel slides off, the bolt slides out. Done. It’s easy enough to reverse these steps and put things back together, with no extra parts sitting on your workbench.
I usually test a tactical rifle or shotgun’s “user friendliness” by giving it a quick visual inspection, without referring to the operations manual. I ran into trouble when I cocked the slide into the locked open position and tried to find different ways to get it to slide forward.
The Benelli M2 sports the usual bolt release lever on the right side of the aluminum receiver. It also has a “cartridge release lever” that doubles as a “cocked hammer” indicator. It’s positioned just forward of the trigger, also on the starboard side of the receiver.
Trying to get the bolt to move forward, I pressed this button. Unfortunately, my left index finger was inside the bolt. The damn thing released with such ferocity that the extractor actually went through my finger and drew blood.
This was definitely a “my bad” event; yet another reason why you, me and everyone else should read the operations manual before touching any new weapon for the first time. After that debacle, I went to Benelli’s excellent website and downloaded the needed information.
Less obscure and certainly less painful: the M2’s triangular-shaped safety button is nestled just aft of the trigger guard. It engages and disengages with a simple lateral push sideways.
The standard adjustable LPA ghost ring sights give you a tremendous sight picture. They’re easy to adjust for slug shooting.
The good folks at Remington were eager to support our Benelli M2 Tactical field test. They provided TTAG with a large quantity of 2 ¾” and 3” shotshell ammo in a variety of flavors and varieties.
Since the M2 Tactical’s is a home defense shotgun first, a hunting or target weapon second, I was eager to see how it patterned with the various Remington buckshot loads. These which 8-pellet 000 buck, 9-pellet 00 buck, 16-pellet #1 buck, 27-pellet #4 buck, both 7/8-oz high velocity and 1-oz standard velocity slugs.
I also fired some butt-kickin’ 3” 1 ¼-oz magnum loads in BB and BBB flavors. I added in a few of my own Remington birdshot loads, specifically the Heavy Dove #8 and the Gun Club load in #7.5 (the 1200 fps variety with 1 1/8-oz of lead shot).
Most competitive tactical shotguns feature a cylinder bore barrel. Some lack the potential for screw-in chokes. The Benelli M2 tactical offers a threaded barrel that accepts a six-pack of choke options. Ours had an “improved choke” setup that helped keep the buckshot patterns nice and tight downrange.
The best-shooting load for this gun on the day: Remington’s standard 9-pellet/00 buck shotshell. The ammo produced a fairly tight pattern at 3-yard, 5-yard, 7-yard, 10-yard and 15-yard intervals.
As a rule of thumb, most short-barreled tactical shotguns will shoot a pattern that spreads out roughly one inch for every yard downrange from the muzzle. This forumla yields a 5-inch wide pattern at 5-yards, a 10-inch wide pattern at 10-yards, etc.
When you only have 9-pellets doing your talking, a 10-inch wide spread at 10-yards is not a good thing; it minimizes stopping power and increases the chances of collateral damage.
The combination of the Remington 9-pellet 00 buck and the Benelli M2 with the I/C choke produced a tight 2-inch pattern at 3-yards, a 3” x 3” spread at 5-yards, a 4.5” pattern at 7-yards, a 6” x 6” kill zone at 10-yards and a 9” x 8” pattern at our outer limits of 15-yards. Not bad. The other buckshot patterns stayed within the usual 1” spread for every one-yard downrange norm.
I put over 325-rounds of Remington 12-gauge shotgun ammo downrange during the M2 Tactical field test. Benelli’s proprietary inertial recoil system ate up every type of standard 2 ¾” and 3” magnum shotshells with the hunger of a starving hyena. It never failed to go “boom.”
Buckshot, birdshot, slugs, BBs, low-brass, high-brass, whatever. Load ‘em in, rack the first one in the chamber, pull the trigger and Benelli’s uber-reliable inertial recoil system did its thing time and time again. Wash the lead off your hands, rinse and repeat.
The bottom line on the firing line: the Benelli inertia recoil operating system is ultra reliable with just about any type of ammunition you can throw down the pipe, even low-power birdshot.
Not one shot failed to feed, fire or eject. Forget the old days of semi-automatic unreliability. I would stake my life on this gun; just like Benelli’s military, police and civilian customers.
Bonus! After shooting over 325-rounds of heavy-hitting shotshells over two target sessions, I didn’t require any physical therapy on my right shoulder.
I’m 6’3” and weigh 248-lbs. I’m in decent physical shape. But still . . . 325-rounds of pounding from a 12-gauge jackhammer is usually enough to bring a pro-wrestler to his knees. I was saved by this weapon’s “other” unique characteristic: the ComforTech Plus stock. Three innovative components make up the ComforTech system.
First, the ComforTech Plus Recoil Pad reduces felt recoil. Its contoured shape spreads the recoil force over a larger area, while its gel interior extends the recoil force over a longer period of time.
The ComforTech Plus Stock divides into 12 synthetic, recoil-absorbing chevrons, arranged diagonally from the heel of the buttstock to a point just behind the pistol grip. The stock is designed so that the exterior shell flexes outward to further dampen recoil.
The ComforTech Plus Comb Pad cushions the cheek during recoil and provides a slick surface that allows your cheek to slide along the comb during recoil. This eliminates friction resistance and insulates your face from shock and vibration.
The net result: a home defense weapon that reduces both actual and felt recoil, allowing for much faster follow-up shots. A 12-gauge shotgun doesn’t require a visit to the orthopedic surgeon after an extended day at the range or a run-and-gun tactical shotgun event.
The Benelli M2 Tactical Pistol Grip runs $1179 with a $150 rebate mail-in rebate good until July 31. The M2 Tactical ComforTech costs $1329. The M2 Tactical Standard (with standard iron sights) is yours for $1219. Unless you’re dead set on the pistol grip or want to add a fancy optical of your own—and don’t mind taking the shoulder abuse—the ComforTech model is the one to have.
These are all msrp. Even so, all three Italian home defense shotguns are expensive pieces. All of them are worth it.
That said, plenty of lower-priced alternatives—including the Benelli SuperNova Pump—will provide equal service in the heat of battle. But the Benelli M2 Tactical ComforTech has “it.” Reliability, ergonomics, accuracy, long-term dependability and . . . charisma. That special something you feel when you’re firing a no-compromise weapon upon which your life may depend.
Barrel Length: 18.5 in.
Chokes: IC, M, F
Type of Sights: Ghost Ring
Length: 39.75 in.
Length of Pull: 14 3/8 in.
Drop at Heel: 2 in.
Drop at comb: 1 3/8 in.
Weight: 8.00 lbs.
Style * * * * *
Sleek and sexy, lean and mean; it’s the best looking tactical 12-gauge autoloader on the market.
Reliability * * * * *
Thanks to its super-reliable proprietary inertial recoil system, the M2 Tactical shot everything we could throw at it, from bargain birdshot loads to 3″ magnums.
Customize This * * * *
The built-in Picatinny rail holds add a variety of optics on top. However, the ghost ring is fine at home defense distances. I’d like to see 360-degrees of rails, especially at the elevated ticket price.
Overall Rating * * * *
You can pay significantly less for similar performance. But if money wasn’t an issue, would you?
[Benelli provided the M2 Tactical for this test. Remington provided the ammunition.]