Benelli M2 Comfortech 20 Gauge Autoloading Shotgun
The Benelli M2 is described as the workhorse of the Benelli line, a term not exactly riddled with hyperbole. The 20 gauge field guns are offered in black or RealTree APG camo, with 24 or 26 inch barrels. Like most all Benelli autoloaders, the M2 has a hard-chrome lined barrel that is cryogenically treated. Having been very favorably impressed with the handling and balance of the Benelli 12 gauge Ultra-Light with its 24 inch barrel, I opted for the 24 inch route in this M2 as well.
The M2 has a stated approximate weight of 5.7 pounds. Well, time to grab the Lyman digital trigger gauge and do some weighing and weight comparisons. The M2 as tested weighs in at 6 pounds on the nose. A Beretta 303 with a fixed choke 28 inch barrel and hard plastic buttplate weighs 6-1/4 pounds, as does a 26 inch Invector choked Browning B-80 with factory rubber butt, while a Belgian A-5 20 Mag with a 26 inch plain barrel is 6 pounds, nine ounces. Of recently reviewed 20 gauge repeaters, a Browning Silver and a Beretta Urika 2 Gold weighed in at 6 pounds 5 ounces, while an 870 Wingmaster 20 gauge 28 inch hit 6 pounds, 14 ounces and a Browning 20 gauge BPS tipped the scales at 7-1/2 pounds.
The length of pull is 14-3/8 inches on the M2, with an 1-1/2 in. DAC and a 2-1/4 inch DAH. These dimensions are approximate, as they can be changed with the included shim kit and the addition of optional recoil pads of different thicknesses. The 24 inch barrel might sound short to some, but isn't what you might think due to the longish receiver of the M2. The nominal overall length of the tested M2 is 45.3 inches, actually a bit longer than a 28 inch barreled Browning Cynergy Field O/U being tested concurrently. The point of all this weighing is not that it is my hobby, or even particularly enjoyable. It illuminates the wide disparity of shotgun weights. The Benelli M2 20 gauge is the lightest twenty gauge repeating shotgun I've tested in a decade. It is lighter than most pumps and O/U's, as well.
The checkering pattern on Benelli's Comfortech stock is dubbed “AirTouch,” the same as used on most Comfortech stocks. I really like it; it really gives you good control of your shotgun and is far superior to some of the greasy-feeling, rubberized, polymer stock configurations out there. The M2 is both supremely well-balanced and blazingly fast to the shoulder. It comes with shims for stock adjustment, but the M2 fit me perfectly right out of the box, so no shim-changing was required.
The M2 has an obnoxious silver center bead on the rib. Like the fat fellow that when he gets his shoes shined, he has to take the guy's word for it, the same is true of the front bead on the M2. The center bead obliterates the view of the front bead. Center beads on field shotguns make no sense; a center bead that blocks out the front bead makes even less sense. Benelli isn't the only shotgun manufacturer that is guilty of this type of lunacy. I've picked on Remington for foisting a center bead on a recently reviewed 870 that rendered the front bead completely invisible and useless, so it is only fair to carp a bit whenever such a dunderheaded practice is employed, regardless of manufacturer. There is no easy way to unscrew the center bead, apparently a pin vise is an “iffy” proposition, so attempting to twist it off with pliers broke it off flush with the rib to my immense delight. Problem solved. Oddly enough, Benelli has the same item #11087 listed on their website as a “Turkey Gun with Comfortech.” It appears to be the same identical gun only without the center bead. If I was smart, which I obviously am not, I would have gone for the turkey gun and skipped the nasty bead drama.
The trigger-guard safety of the M2 is ideally placed and easy to get off. All too often we forget how vitally important an intuitive safety is, until we watch a cackling rooster fly off into the distance. Benelli has done a superb job here. A light, extremely responsive field gun is all well and good, but if you if can't get your safety off, throwing rocks at pheasants might work as well as your shotgun.
The sole problem remaining with the supplied M2 is the trigger that breaks at a heavier weight than the entire gun: 6-1/2 pounds. Good triggers on shotguns seem to be rare commodities these days. However, after talking with the good folks at Benelli I'm advised that most M2 triggers run in the 3-5 pound area. So, just as soon as I'm finished with this review, the trigger assembly is going off to Benelli.
Out at the range, the M2 performed flawlessly, without a single hiccup. It digested Winchester promo loads, 1 oz. AA's, 1-1/4 oz. three inch shells and the Federal 1-5/16 oz. loads I used for patterning without a hitch. It was completely reliable right-out of the box, regardless of what it was fed.
All of my test shooting was done with a thin shirt on, no hunting coat or shooting vest. The M2 was surprisingly soft to shoot. Far more comfortable than some heavier O/U models, and actually noticeably softer shooting than a heavier Beretta Urika 2 Gold 20 gas gun with its vinyl crucifix buttplate. It is dramatically softer shooting with 1 oz. AA loads than a substantially heavier Citori 28 gauge with 3/4 oz. loads. Most 28 gauges don't kick much but apparently this Citori didn't read that part. Also noticeable was the absence of muzzle flip with the 1 oz. AA's. I expected some with this light of a gun and a short barrel, but it just wasn't there.
I also ran through a box of 1-1/4 oz. 3 inch #5 shot loads. Around here, if you go through two boxes of pheasant loads in a season, you've had a fabulous season. The M2 20 gauge is ideally suited for that.
The bore of the Benelli M2 as measured by Skeets bore gauge is .620 in. The Improved Modified tube used for patterning had a surprising light constriction of .022 in. Shooting off bag and cradle at the bench, with Federal 1-5/16 oz. 3 inch loads was the only time recoil was uncomfortable, without the benefit of the entire body to absorb it. Off the bench again reinforced how heavy the supplied trigger really was; it felt like I was pulling on it forever. The Benelli M2 gave beautifully centered patterns at 40 yards, very even with no patchiness about two inches high, an ideal field pattern for flushing game. It shot to point of aim. This is a very good thing, as many shotguns do not.
I appreciate highly polished blue and hand-checkered walnut as much as anyone. Along with that comes the knowledge that a blued barrel is a pre-rusted barrel that requires some care. There's red oxide, the stuff we generally don't like, and black oxide that sounds better if we call it bluing. Bluing is fine for many applications, but for the all-weather hunter it has its downside as well. (Actually, a properly rust blued barrel is completely protected by the resulting oxide and will not rust further. -Editor.) The same goes for walnut stocks, which do nothing to manage recoil. It is easy to appreciate the craftsmanship of beautifully inletted walnut, the hand-rubbed oil finishes and the eye-catching grain. However, in the case of this M2, the engineered result is ultra-light weight, weather-resistance and shooting comfort not possible with the use of traditional materials.
Stripping down the M2 couldn't be much easier, a child of six could do it. Unfortunately, six year old children are rarely handy when you really need them, so you'll find it easy to do yourself. Unscrew the forearm cap, pull off the charging handle, knock out a drift pin and the rest is close to self-explanatory. That's one of the benefits when you don't have action bars or springs in the barrel nut to fuss with.
There is little doubt left in my once young mind about how well the Comfortech stock works. All anyone has to do is pull the trigger versus any shotgun in the same weight bracket including Benelli's own Weathercoat-stocked Ultralight 12 gauge with similar loads and you'll instantly find the difference to be night and day. It isn't the softest-shooting 20 gauge ever. For the record, the softest-shooting 20 gauge in my experience with target loads is the original Browning Gold 20 gauge, no longer in production, which tips the scales at 7-1/4 pounds. Though soft-shooting, it is decidedly a ponderous pig compared to the M2 Comfortech.
With target loads, you can shoot it all day. More important for pheasant aficionados, you'll actually be delighted to carry it all day as well. Fast and responsive is a great advantage for grouse and quail hunting and the M2 fits the bill there, as well. Now that Federal Heavyweight #7 20 gauge loads have proven to be devastatingly effective on turkey, the M2 is just ideal to handle in the close quarters of a turkey blind. The Benelli M2 Comfortech is the lightest, fastest-shouldering, best handling, most hassle-free repeating 20 gauge I've tested in recent memory.
Copyright 2010, 2012 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.