Longer ago than I care to remember, I got myself a used Benelli MI Super 90 Defense. Aside from the distant possibility of being involved in the type of worst-case scenario suggested by the “Defense” designation, I really had no idea what I’d do with it. It had an extended magazine, a pistol-grip stock, open rifle sights and a 193/4-inch barrel. I guess I got it because I’d heard good things about Benellis from guys whose opinion I respected—and because it was an extremely cool-looking item, a real departure from the pump guns, Browning A5s and O/Us I’d used all my life.
As testimony to an earlier era, that barrel was straight cylinder-bore—no threads, no choke tubes. Then there was the stamp on the receiver: “Heckler & Koch, Inc. Sterling VA,” a holdover from the days before Benelli USA was handling the products of its parent Italian company on these shores.
Although the Zombie Apocalypse hasn’t come to pass since I took possession of it, the Benelli has—somehow—gotten more use than practically anything I own. Why? Well, I like to shoot skeet with it (I also like to smack gongs with slugs, although admittedly on a less frequent basis).
The first thing I did (after I discovered how well suited the gun was to the semi-half-assed, spot-shooting technique I’m guilty of) was to install a standard stock on the gun. I couldn’t see using a pistol-grip version at the local skeet club among the Citoris, Berettas and Remington 1100s, although I’ve long since been sold on the advantages of pistol-grip stocks for turkey hunting and 3-Gun shoots. After the stock switch, the next thing I did was learn to ignore the rifle sights when shooting clay birds. Not that I’d ever dream of getting rid of them. Besides its aerial target virtues, the gun keeps Federal Tru-Ball one-ounce slugs in half-dollar-size groups at 25 yards, right to point of aim.
- The M2’s standard magazine tube (right) holds five shells and does away with the barrel clamp of the M1 Super 90’s seven-shot extended tube (left).
Operating under the philosophy of “If you find something you really like, you better get two of them,” I recently acquired an updated version of my old Super 90, which was discontinued in 1998. The basic platform has now morphed into the M2 Tactical, introduced in about 2004. The M2 Tactical line contains several variants, all inertia-driven (although the company has since introduced gas-operated tactical-type shotguns as well). The version I used had the pistol-grip stock, an 181/2-inch barrel and open rifle sights. I got hold of an extra ComforTech stock for it, which, unless you’re totally married to the pistol-grip concept, is a pretty good idea, particularly if you intend to shoot lots of buckshot or slugs—or if you insist on taking full advantage of the gun’s three-inch chamber. You can get a ghost-ring aperture sight for it, but since I like to shoot aerial targets, the open sights are just fine for me. Besides the shorter barrel, the main differences between the M2 and my old M1 Super 90 were the redesigned magazine tube (5+1, no barrel clamp, no fore-end washer/flat spring arrangement), the square-backed synthetic triggerguard (as opposed to the old rounded alloy one), a redesigned safety button, a more user-friendly contoured bolt handle and the choke tube-threaded Crio barrel.
For the range, I rounded up two of the newest slug offerings from Winchester, plus some Federal Truball one-ounce max (as in 1,600 fps) loads. The Winchester stuff included the 2¾-inch PDX Defender “buck and ball” load (a one-ounce rifled slug plus three 00 pellets) and the intriguing new Razorback XT, featuring a segmented 1⅛-ounce slug. I also brought along some Hornady 2¾-inch Critical Defense 00 buck (eight pellets).
From a sandbagged rest at 25 yards, three-shot groups with the Razorback were essentially a one-hole cloverleaf with the Federal TruBall stuff doing nearly as well. Moving up to 15 yards for the Hornady buckshot gave me consistent palm-size five- and six-pellet clusters, with the flyers staying in four inches of the bulk of the payload.
The choke tube I was using was an “OK for steel shot” Improved Cylinder. It’d be interesting to find out how different chokes and different buckshot sizes perform at longer yardages. In fact, it’d be even more entertaining to try some of the unleaded coyote loads in an extended Full choke tube, because the M2 Tactical would make a handy predator gun.
Finally, I ran through a mix-and-match of three-inch Winchester Turkey loads and 2¾-inch Federal target loads, and, as I expected, there were no malfunctions. Recoil wasn’t all that bad with the pistol-grip stock, thanks to its straight-line configuration and generous recoil pad. However, out of respect for my advancing years, I think I’ll stick the ComforTech stock on it. After all, you never know when three-inch shotshells may be all that’s around. I’ll probably keep my old M1 Super 90, but as far as I’m concerned, the Benelli M2 Tactical is pretty much at the head of the class as far as what Jeff Cooper used to refer to as “social shotguns.”