Benelli M4: The Superior Semi-Automatic Shotgun Built Specifically For Combat

Photo Credit: Lance Cpl. Daniel A. Wulz / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
Photo Credit: Lance Cpl. Daniel A. Wulz / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

Produced by Italian firearms manufacturer Benelli Armi SpA, the M4 semi-automatic shotgun is the fourth and final model of the Super 90 line. Built for combat, the matte black, corrosion-resistant finish not only reduces the weapon’s visibility in the field, but also contributes to its durability in all climates and weather conditions. Multiple features make it immediately recognizable, and the M4 can be seen in such films as John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017).

Made for combat

Junior Chavez firing a Benelli M1014 outside
US Marine Cpl. Junior Chavez firing a Benelli M1014 at Range 221, at Camp Pendleton, California, 2020. (Photo Credit: Lance Cpl. Drake Nickels / U.S. Marine Corps / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain)

In 1998, the US Army’s Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC) was looking to commission a new 12 gauge semi-automatic shotgun. It issued the official request that May. While there were several submissions, the Benelli M4 was the one that stood out.

That August, five prototypes were heavily tested at Aberdeen Proving Ground, in Maryland, where it quickly became clear the M4 was built for combat. The shotgun easily beat out its competition, showing its superiority. It’s no surprise, then, that 20,000 units were delivered to the US Marine Corps in 1999, with the weapon given the official designation of “M1014.”

The M4 and M1014 have seen use by a variety of military units, including small tactical groups and infantry forces. Other nations have also adopted the shotgun for its superiority on the battlefield, including the United Kingdom, Serbia and Australia.

Designing the Benelli M4 around the ARGO system

Benelli M4 against a white backdrop
Benelli M4. (Photo Credit: United States Marine Corps / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain)

One of the main features of the Benelli M4 is its “ARGO” system. Developed by the company and designed specifically for the shotgun, it’s centered around an auto-regulating, gas-operated mechanism. Made up of four parts, the ARGO system uses two self-cleaning symmetrical fore-end shrouds, each containing a stainless steel piston that pushes against the rotating bolt.

This is a simple and effective self-cleaning mechanism that’s not seen in other gas-actuated automatics. In fact, the complexity of similar ones in other gas-actuated shotguns propelled the M4 to the top of its category.

Impressively, the weapon can fire more than 20,000 rounds without the need for cleaning.

Other features of the Benelli M4

US Marine holding a Benelli M1014 through a hole in a wooden door
US Marine with Bridge Company, 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group using a Benelli M1014 to blast a hole during urban breaching and demolition training at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, 2013. (Photo Credit: Cpl. Paul Peterson / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain)

There are many other features to the Benelli M4 that only add to its superiority, especially in combat.

While the shotgun uses military-style ghost ring iron sights, it also has an MIL-STD 1913 Picatinny rail that allows flashlights, conventional scopes, night-vision devices (NVD) and laser illuminators to be equipped. One of its most identifiable features is its pistol grip, and the M4 also has a collapsible buttstock to shorten its length from 40 inches to 35. This increases maneuverability while making transportation and storage easier.

The M4 can also support shells of different power and lengths, switching between 2.75-inch and three-inch ones in any combination, without any adjustments required by the user.

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While the shotgun can be reconfigured as desired, thanks to its modular basis, the Benelli M4 is so good in its original form that there’s little need for changes.

Samantha Franco

Samantha Franco is a Freelance Content Writer who received her Bachelor of Arts degree in history from the University of Guelph, and her Master of Arts degree in history from the University of Western Ontario. Her research focused on Victorian, medical, and epidemiological history with a focus on childhood diseases. Stepping away from her academic career, Samantha previously worked as a Heritage Researcher and now writes content for multiple sites covering an array of historical topics.

In her spare time, Samantha enjoys reading, knitting, and hanging out with her dog, Chowder!