LooseRounds.com5.56 Timeline
Weaponsman.com

 

A critical look at the M1014/M4 Super 90

I am a fan of the M1014 aka M4 Super 90, enough of one that I have been wanting one for a long time.


If you made a list of pros and cons, the M4 Super 90 has many pros going for it. It is a proven gun, perhaps the semi-auto shotgun with more combat experience as the U.S. Military’s M1014 and as the U.K. military’s L128A1. It is known for reliability, and has shown it self to be fast in competitions like 3 Gun. Most importantly, it looks really cool. It is high capacity, at 7+1+1. The additional +1 comes from the ability to “ghost load” an additional shell onto the shell lifter to cram another round in the gun. It comes with really great Ghost Ring sights, an optics rail, and should go at least 25,000 rounds with out parts replacement. Like the Mossberg shotguns, it has a superior alloy receiver unlike the inferior steel receivers of the Remington 870 shotguns.

1 round in chamber, a full tube, and a “ghost load” round on the lifter.

People rarely talk about downsides to guns. What are the downsides to the M4 Super 90? First would be cost and weight. If someone was looking for a gun for 3-gun competition, they could get a tricked out M2 Super 90, or other guns for less cost than the stock M4 Super 90. The “ARGO” dual gas piston system on the M4 Super 90 add weight making the gun heavier than inertial driven shotguns. (On the plus side, of you are mounting lots of accessories, the M4 will run with all that extra weight on the gun)

Back to cost, the M4 Super 90 comes neutered from the factory. Reduced capacity, and the collapsing stocks are hard to find and even more expensive. It can cost many hundreds of dollars to configure a M4 Super 90 into M1014 configuration.

Personally, I think one of the most iconic parts of the M1014 is also one of the worst parts of the design. The collapsible stock is very expensive to buy, and major flaw. Benelli somehow managed to make a stock that is always wrong. Not only is it rare and expensive, and there are weird 1, 2, and 3 position versions, it adjust at an angle, making the cheek piece problematic.

Like most shotguns, the stock is overly long than what is ideal for many. As you collapse it, the cheek piece get higher and higher, preventing the use of the sights. Unless you have mounted an optic, the sights are unusable when the stock is collapsed. You collapse the stock on this for storage, not to fit you. The stock is also way too short when collapsed. If this was a rifle stock, people would complain about the tremendous amount of wobble in it, but somehow this is ok on an expensive shotgun.

Note how much higher the cheek piece is with the stock extended vs collapsed.

A very minor grip of mine would be the three dots on the sights. IMHO, the two biggest improvements of the M1014 over the military issue pump shotguns are the superior sights and that it is semi-auto.

This picture does not do it justice, but the M4 Super 90 comes with great sights. But being Ghost Ring sights, the white dots on the rear sight are centered around the Ghost Ring. Since you use the top of the white post. If you were to line up the dots you would be aiming high. I’m looking forward to trying this with slugs and seeing how much the difference in point of impact will be.

When people talk about about the M4 Super 90, usually one of the biggest selling points it the absolute reliability across all ammunition types. People love to say how the Marine Corps picked it because it can shoot less lethal loads and cycle them.

When I read that I was confused, because when I was in the M1014 wouldn’t cycle breaching or bean bag rounds. But now I read people talking about how the M1014 does.

Turns out, the USMC contracted a 3rd party company to modify and retrofit all their M1014 to work with light loads. If you buy a M4 Super 90, you don’t have the same gun that the USMC uses. In 2010-2011, SRM modified all the USMC M1014 shotguns to be able to cycle light loads.
https://ndiastorage.blob.core.usgovcloudapi.net/ndia/2015/smallarms/Turlington.pdf

So all this talk about how your M4 Super 90 can run anything is bullshit. For example, this commercial M1014 pictured above choked and malfunctioned on light target loads that function fine in a VEPR-12.

Oh, and despite the USMC spending time and money to do this retrofit to their M1014s, they still felt the need to turn their Mossbergs into modular breachers 6 years later with the MEK kits.

I had 4 malfunctions with this light target load in 9 rounds fired. Now, to be fair, this M1014 has a low round count and perhaps might break in more. Hopefully.

Most people don’t seem to like the stock controls on the Benelli M4 Super 90. Enlarged buttons for the safety, and bolt release. In the picture above a Taran Tactical extended button is installed.

Many aftermarket buttons are so very much larger than the little original bolt release button.

On this particular gun, pushing rounds into the magazine was very stiff to get the rim past the catch. I read that this is not uncommon in Benelli shotguns and people will modify the catch by polishing, bending it, or removing material around the two U shaped cuts in it. I don’t recall any of the M1014s I used in the Corps being like that, but that was also a long time ago that I last used a Benelli. I expect that will become easier with use.

I see people say this is the ultimate home defense gun. It is nearly 2 pounds heavier and 2 inches longer than a M4.

I like this gun, that is why I own one. But I believe that if you need or want a semi-auto shotgun, there are many cheaper options that would fit that need just as well. But if YOU want a M4 Super 90, and can afford it, get it.

It is a cool gun. I’ll be talking about mine more later.


There is one more topic I feel it is important to discuss. This is not a gun issue but a training issue. Semi-automatic shotguns have a different manual of arms than most all other semi autos.

On your average semi-auto pistol or rifle, you load the mag, cycle the action, and you are ready to go. On a semi auto shotgun like the Benelli, you can fill the tube, and cycle the action all the day long and you will not chamber a round. You need to hit the shell release to release a round from the tube onto the lifter in order to chamber a round.

There is a bolt handle, a safety, a shell release, and a bolt release. All of which have to be used in the proper order. Now those of you that are familiar with semi-auto shotguns are probably yelling at your screen that any idiot would find that easy. For me, it has been something like 5 years since I last used a semi-auto shotgun that worked like that. I had to read the manual.

I remember in training on the M1014, guys would be on the line, a whistle or firing command would be given and they would raise their gun and *CLICK*. They had failed to load it correctly.

Watch this Marine at the 18 second mark in this video. Again at the 40 second mark.

I’ll withhold commentary on other training issues shown in the video. But it goes to show that this guns manual of arms is not obvious to people not familiar with it. It takes training and practice.

7 thoughts on “A critical look at the M1014/M4 Super 90”

    • On the M4 Super 90, if you load the tube, you can rack the action all day and it won’t release a shell onto the lifter. Hitting the shell release releases a shell onto the lifter so it can be chambered. Firing will automatically release a shell.

      Reply
      • Well, I get that the shell release releases the shells to be carried up to the action. My question is what benefit that provides to the operator, or anybody else for that matter.

        IOW, I’m implying, and will now outright state: this isn’t a training issue, it’s a design issue.

        Reply
      • if I recall correctly this feature was designed so that Marines could use under-powered less lethal loads with the shotgun without having to worry if the gas system could feed them correctly; you could load the tube with bean bags, and rack the bolt in between each shot.

        Don’t ask me if it ever worked. We had some in our Recon unit but only used them to mess around with; the pistol grip breaching mossbergs were the only shotguns we used.

        Reply
  1. I want to like this gun, but over many years, I have owned four Benelli semi autos and every one of them were choke-a-matics.
    Every one.
    Now waiting to be told that I had the dubious honor of owning the only four Benelli’s in the galaxy that ever malfunctioned…..

    Reply

Leave a Comment