A clear-up day on an estate shows how effective the Benelli M series really is - and 20 years later Matt Hunt hasn't changed his mind
Whenever I handle a Benelli M series semi-automatic, it makes me think of the king of gamebirds, the grouse. These guns are to grouse moor management what the Winchester lever-action rifle was to winning the West.
My first introduction to the M series Benelli semi-auto was 20 years ago when I was working for Mark Osborne and Sir Edward Dashwood in what was the early days of the E J Churchill Group. Mark and Sir Edward’s partnership gave grouse moor management a long overdue burst of youth, enthusiasm and investment.
The grouse keeper was equipped, supported and rewarded accordingly. Working in the gun room, I would receive orders to equip these keepers in their task, and top of the list was always a Benelli M1. When the guns arrived they looked awkward, unrefined and plain. I could not really understand why a keeper would want a Benelli over the Beretta semi-auto.
Six months later, I found out why when a team of keepers from Leadhills joined us for a clear-up day at West Wycombe Park, all toting M1 Super 90 Benellis. They never missed a bird. The next day, I sold my Beretta and invested in a Benelli.
The reason these guns are so respected is they are simple, durable and, above all, reliable. This does not mean that they are crude or agricultural — quite the opposite; the design and engineering is superb.
The mechanism is designed around a rotating bolt that locks into the barrel breech on close. Behind this is a recoil spring; on firing, the inertia of the shot throws the bolt on to the recoil spring. This inertia cycles the bolt back into the receiver, re-cocking the trigger mechanism and taking the next cartridge from the magazine. This process is exceptionally fast and reliable, with even the poorest of ammo being extracted with ease.
One of the misconceptions is that this inertia system requires a heavy cartridge to cycle the mechanism. You will achieve 100% reliability with 24g loads and very acceptable results with 21g loads.
The more you shoot these guns, the better they cycle. I can vouch for this, having used a five-year-old 20-bore M2 dove shooting in Argentina. During the trip, I shot 5,000 cartridges through it and never had a misfire.
The latest M2 has not changed mechanically from the M1, and the test gun shot a variety of cartridge loads with no issues straight from the box.
The new Cerakote ultra-thin polymer ceramic coating looks superb and is extremely tough and resistant. I have seen a keeper cleaning his Benelli with a steam cleaner following a very wet and wild day. This is not recommended but, after a once-over with an air compressor and liberal application of WD40, the gun looked as good as new.
As good as these ceramic finishes are, they do scratch, metal on metal, very easily. So leaning the gun against metal fencing is best avoided.
The stock and fore-end of the M2 Cerakote are made from a hard and durable synthetic. The stock measurements are standard with a 14½in length of pull and a 2in drop at heel. Cast and drop can be adjusted.
The Comfortech recoil system is exceptionally effective. When using magnum cartridges, you actually feel the system soaking up the recoil as it passes through the stock. The recoil pad is a superb design and unique to any other I’ve seen. The back of the pad is shaped to add maximum contact with the shoulder pocket.
As the M2 Cerakote is a limited edition, barrels are only available in 28in, with an 18.4mm bore and fitted with the Benelli Crio choke system, and guns come with five choke tubes. The chamber is 76mm and proofed for magnum steel.
Need to know Benelli M2 Comfortech Cerakote
- Manufacturer Benelli
- Model M2 Comfortech Cerakote
- Calibre 12-bore
- Barrel 28in
- Chamber 3in (76mm)
- Chokes Crio multichoke, five choke tubes
- Rib Raised
- Grip Pistol
- Weight 3.2kg (7lb 2oz)
- Importer GMK
On loading the Benelli, you begin to appreciate how clever the ergonomics of the design are and start to understand that function was the priority.
When loading the magazine, the gun fits the hand perfectly and, even with gloves, you can load it with no concerns.
As with most semi-autos, the safety catch is a finger-fire, thumb-safe type, which is well thought out with differing shape and feel when moving the safe button to the fire position. The addition of a red band around the safe gives added comfort at a glance.
The gun is light at 7lb 2oz and effortless to carry across the back on a sling. The lack of weight makes the guns handle fast and can take a bit of getting used to if swapping between over-and-unders.
Mounting the gun, the sight picture down the rib is flat like a rifle. This is a result of the rib design, which is high at the back then tapering down to the muzzle.
Despite this flat picture, the gun shot very high and not as anticipated. Taking time to set these guns up using the shims is advisable if used predominantly for winged game or vermin.
The M2 Cerakote with Comfortech retails at £1,645, a mere £130 less than the standard M2 Comfortech. Though its durability credentials have been improved, the main change is the look.
But if you’ve been out every night for a week sheltering on the side of the fell and waiting for first light for a single opportunity in the protection of the king of gamebirds, I recommend that you take a Benelli.
- Action and barrels 19/20 This limited edition has 28in barrels
- Handling 19/20 At 7lb 2oz, the lack of weight makes it fast
- Trigger 19/20 Well-thought-out design and shape
- Stock 19/20 Cerakote is tough, but it can still scratch
- Value 17/20 You can buy cheaper, but why would you?
- Overall score 93/100 Excellent on any grouse moor