Benelli M4 H2O Tactical Review

This shotgun, in common with the Remington V3, features a gas system that rides close to the receiver rather than on the magazine tube, making for good balance. The Benelli provided excellent results. It is pricey but very good.




The standard Benelli M4 generally may be found for $1799. We chose the H20 version. MSRP is $250 more than the price we found at Cabela’s. This version features a Titanium Cerakote finish. According to Benelli, the Cerakote finish on the new Benelli M4 H2O Tactical is proven to protect firearms from salt spray corrosion, even at elevated temperatures. The company’s extensive testing showed no corrosion to Cerakote-coated panels after 3,500 hours of continuous, indirect salt spray inside of a 95-degree chamber. In addition to corrosion resistance, Cerakote’s impact resistance testing showed an impact strength measurement of 160 inch-pounds, the maximum rate the impact tester can measure.

Action TypeSemi-auto, A.R.G.O. piston driven
Chamber Size3.0 in.
Overall Length40.0 in.
Weight7.8 lbs.
Weight Loaded8.65 lbs.
ReceiverTitanium Cerakote steel, drilled and tapped, Picatinny top rail
Barrel18.5 in. long, Titanium Cerakote steel
Choke TubeModified supplied; IC, IM, F available
Stock Length of Pull14.4 in.
Stock ForendPlastic
Front SightBlack post
Rear SightGhost ring
Trigger Pull Weight7.0 lbs.
Warranty10-year limited
Telephone(800) 264-4962
Made In Italy

Titanium Cerakote finish is added to the barrel, receiver, and magazine tube of the new Benelli M4 H2O Tactical, while the bolt is coated in a black Cerakote finish. In addition to exterior coatings, critical internal components are also coated, further enhancing the shotgun’s corrosion resistance and durability.

While we are following the tradition of testing a marine-type (chrome or stainless) shotgun in some of the shoot-outs, the standard version without Titanium Cerakote treatment should provide similar performance in all regards save corrosion resistance.

The Benelli M4 is easily the most proven shotgun of the test. The Joint Service Combat Shotgun trail was directly responsible for the Benelli M4. The military respected the original Benelli but found the inertia recoil system less well suited to combat, particularly if accessories were added to the shotgun. Testing indicated that the extra weight affected how the shotgun cycled. The M4 Benelli shotgun features an auto-regulating gas-operation (A.R.G.O.) system. The Benelli M4 uses two stainless-steel pistons in front of the receiver. This system makes the piece self lubricating and is little affected by the addition of add-on accessories. In many ways the success of the Benelli M4 has paved the way for self-loading shotguns in personal defense and institutional use. The pump action is still the most popular choice, but the self-loader may be treated with respect. It is true that self-loaders may not function with light birdshot loads often used in pump-action shotguns, but then a combat pistol or rifle would not function with underpowered loads. With full-power buckshot and slugs, and even reduced-recoil buckshot, the M4 is a reliable product. We like the hard-particle finish of the Cerakote chosen for the H20. While the black finish is also useful, the flat dark earth is attractive.

We had no dogs in this race, so we thought the Benelli seemed the easiest to use well.

The stock features a substantial recoil-absorbing pad that works well, and the stock offers ambidextrous sling-attachment points. The pistol grip sits at a well-designed angle for good control. We liked the pistol grip of the Benelli for some applications. The raters were split on the fast handling of the Remington versus the ease of one-hand maneuvering and handling with the Beretta and the Benelli. We don’t recommend firing with one hand, but during tactical movement or grabbing the shotgun from storage, the pistol grip is a good feature. When reloading and stuffing shells into the magazine, the Benelli and Beretta were clearly superior based on leverage with the pistol grip. The safety is located at the rear of the trigger guard and features a reversible option. The bolt handle is extended and offers plenty of real estate for easy handling. The bolt release is smaller than on the V3, but it works well enough. The Remington and the Benelli are equal as far as crisp-handling controls go, save for the bolt release — and while it works well enough on the Benelli, we like the Remington better. The extended safety of the Remington is also fast.

Firing the Benelli accurately was aided by the M4’s excellent ghost-ring sights. Note the post front sight in the aperture.

Attention to detail is demanded to load the Benelli. Rack the bolt to cock the action, and either drop the bolt or load a shell in the chamber and then drop the bolt, then hit the shell elevator release to load the magazine, then rack the bolt to load the first shell. The magazine holds five shells.

The Benelli features the best sights of the test by unanimous vote. The rear sight is a ghost-ring type. The true ghost ring features a larger aperture than an AR-type aperture sight. Look through the rear sight and the front post is centered in the sight. A generous-sized slot offers easy adjustment of the rear sight. We liked the front post very much. The Benelli sights offer an excellent sight picture and fast target acquisition as well as good accuracy potential with slugs. The sights are complemented by a section of rail just ahead of the rear sight to allow mounting a red-dot sight or a slug-type scope. The Benelli barrel is serialized differently from the receiver and is capable of accepting choke tubes. It is supplied with an unmarked Cylinder choke tube. Most, but not all, groups were tighter with the Benelli than the other shotguns.

There is plenty of real estate for mounting optics on the H20.

Handling of each shotgun differs. As an example, the Remington bolt must be racked for the carrier lever to be released for loading the magazine. The ladder may be pressed in, but it is more difficult if the bolt isn’t racked first. The Benelli must be racked and the small release on the side of the receiver pressed. This design allows the Benelli to be single loaded with various munitions.

The same types of shells were used in the Benelli. Results were excellent. The shotgun handles quickly and provided excellent results on the firing range. Moving from one string of targets to the other was easily handled. The shotgun’s kick was rated less than the Remington V3. It kicks enough, but less than the V3, and certainly less than a pump-action shotgun. Part of this is due to the gas system and the other part to the M4’s heavier weight. The Benelli M4’s sights and fast handling added up to excellent results. Firing for accuracy with slugs, results were good to excellent with one 1.5-inch 25-yard group. The performance of the shotgun cannot be faulted. Some of the raters felt the length of pull was a little long, but it measured out a bit shorter than most shotguns, so it must be the grip angle of the pistol grip giving this impression. Because recoil wasn’t a problem, we were able to handle this angle well.

Our Team Said: There were no drawbacks with the Benelli M4 H20. The fit and finish are good and function was excellent. Field-stripping is easily accomplished, the forend is in halves held by pressure from the barrel band, making maintenance easy. The only drawback is the price. We like the Benelli, but we cannot justify the price compared to the excellent performance of the Remington V3 shotgun for hundreds less. But there is no doubt the Benelli offers superior performance, the question is, are you willing to pay for the advantages? Thus, it is Our Pick, while the Remington gets the Best Buy award in this quartet.


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