The US military has long had a love affair with shotguns. Going as far back as the US Civil War (1861-1865), American service members have often had to hump a scattergun. For close quarters combat, especially in urban environments, trenches, tunnels, and jungles, you are hard pressed to find another more devastating firearm for up close and personal actions. By 1998, the US Army was searching for a replacement for their armories full of Mossberg 500, Winchester 1200, and Remington 870 and Ithaca 37 pump action shotguns. While reliable, some dated back as far as the Vietnam conflict and had 'been rode hard and put up wet.'
Old pumpguns, such as this Mossberg shown above, were slated for replacement by a new combat shotgun.
The Army was placed in charge of development of what would be known as the Joint-Service Combat Shotgun.
The Benelli M4
In 1998, Benelli Armi SpA, of Urbino, Italy had been in the shotgun business for more than thirty years. A line of Super 90 shotguns around the world had used their inertia operating systems developed by Bruno Civolani. The Benelli M1, an aluminum recovered semi-automatic shotgun with a 7-round magazine, had become well known for its reliability and easy maintenance. The M1 had been succeeded by the M2 then finally by the M3, which allowed rapid transfer between semi-auto and pump action. Law enforcement SRT units and military CT groups around the world adopted the M3. Benelli, anxious to take a stab at the potentially huge US Army contract, took their perfected M3 and went back to the drawing board.
ARGO Gas Action
The M4 uses a unique Auto Regulating Gas Operated (A.R.G.O.) system developed by Benelli engineers that has dual stainless steel self-cleaning pistons located just ahead of the chamber that operate directly against the bolt assembly. The Argo system in a short stroke gas system. This gives the shotgun a very strong and positive action that will just continue to kick out shell after shell under the worst conditions.
Taking this gas system and adapting it to the legacy M1/M2/M3 design evolution, Benelli produced a shotgun that was 40-inches long with the stock extended, 32-inches with the stock retracted, an 18.5-inch barrel, and a weight of 7.8 pounds. A fully adjustable ghost ring site, rear pistol grip, Picatinny Rail Interface System, and 8-shot loaded capacity (when using 2.75inch shells) come standard.
Users and Adoption
In 1998, Benelli offered their M4 prototypes to the US Army for a grueling testing process that expected the shotgun to function for 25,000 rounds without any repairs. In 1999, Benelli won the bid and began shipping production models to the US Army, under the elegant and simple military designation of M1014.
The US models are produced under license by HK USA in Newington, New Hampshire. Within a year, the US Navy also adopted the shotgun for their Naval Special Warfare Units (SEALS) and Marines. The USAF and USCG are set to adopt the firearm as well, replacing old pump action weapons. Besides the US military, the armed forces of the UK, Australia, Italy, and Malaysia use the handy Benelli scattergun.
The M4 Tactical civilian version of the M1014, virtually identical except for the collapsible stock, tends to sell for about $1700 online
These shotguns, which have already seen combat in Iraq, the Philippines and Afghanistan since their adoption, are sure to see a lot more service.