Benelli M2 semi-auto shotgun: The Hungerford killings back in 1989 brought about a number of unwelcome changes to our gun laws, including limitations on pump action and semi-automatic shotguns.
At the time the standard capacity for a semi-auto was five shots but new legislation reduced this to three – one in the chamber and two in the magazine.
Then, as now, the new capacity was too restrictive, especially among gamekeepers and those of us involved in rabbit and pigeon control.
Twenty years on, the encouraging news is that if you have a good reason such as this it is still possible to buy and use a shotgun with large magazine capacity held on a firearm certificate.
And in spite of the legislation a marked increase in vermin numbers – particularly rabbits – has seen a growth in ownership of large capacity semi-autos.
One of the best is the Benelli M2.
The M2 comes in many guises and most used here are restricted to 2+1, but even these can be converted to large capacity by replacing the magazine tube.
However, the gun can also be bought as a dedicated large magazine gun, with an extra long fixed magazine at 7+1.
The M2’s mechanism is driven by Benelli’s famous inertia driven system, one that relies on fewer moving parts compared to many other autos. There are no moving parts at all under the fore-end because with Benelli everything happens within the receiver.
Not only does this mean the fore-end can be kept very slim to give a positive feel, it also ensures the gun weighs less overall and balances nicely because the weight is now between our hands.
The entire operation of the Benelli revolves around its bolt. When the trigger is pulled the hammer falls onto the back of the firing pin and fires the cartridge at which point the hammer releases the magazine stop allowing a cartridge to be released backwards and sit under the bolt.
The bolt at this point is still in the forward position but the exploding cartridge charge produces a backward thrust causing the bolt’s rotating head to engage with a recess in the back of the barrel.
This creates a complete lock up with the gun moving backwards under recoil, but the bolt pushing forwards to counter it.
In effect the bolt stays still as the rest of the gun moves backwards around it causing a large spring within the bolt to compress and store energy.
When the force of the fired cartridge dissipates, the energy within this spring takes over and throws the bolt backwards, thus releasing the rotating bolt head and ejecting the fired case.
The design makes firing both ultra fast and efficient and, because the gun works on inertia rather than gas exhaust, it keeps itself cleaner. The only downside to the inertia system is that the gun can be a little more cartridge sensitive than one which is gas operated.
So far as the M2 is concerned I found it recycled perfectly on 2¾in loads.
For maximum practicality the gun has been fitted with a synthetic stock and fore-end and it can be supplied with 24, 26 and 28in barrels with ventilated rib, all chambered for 3in magnum cartridges.
The test gun with 28in barrel came with a standard recoil pad but you can also pick one with a Comfortec gel butt plate that absorbs even more of the recoil.
A set of five multichokes come supplied along with a set of shims for the owner to adjust the drop of the stock to suit.
The M2’s dull satin and matt black finish is reflection proof and very practical.
This is a seriously effective bit of kit that anyone whos involved in rabbit and fox control might like to consider.
It’s hugely reliable, handles well and is comfortable on the shoulder.
It can handle big-shot magnums so it’s perfect for close range fox control, too.
Build Quality 9/10
Value for money 6/10