by Ken Cherry
March 03, 2014
Aegis Academy members and readers, I did a review of the Remington 870 12 gauge tactical shotgun, but the question always comes up, what about the semi-auto shotguns? We have now done the same for the Benelli Super-90 semi-auto 12 gauge. For starters, it’s very hard to make a true side-by-side comparison of the 870 pump gun and Super-90 semi-auto. Simply because the Benelli can be more than three times the cost of the Remington, depending on which model you chose. The retail price is just one part of the review. Let’s look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of one of the best high-end auto loaders.
As the name implies, the Benelli Super-90 is a semi-auto shotgun and has a lot of particular features that set it apart from many other semi-autos. First and foremost, the Benelli Super-90 comes in numerous different models. Each of which has some very distinguishing differences. The M-1 is the basic model with an 18.5 inch barrel, standard butt-stock and castle-type pistol sights. The M-2 has the same barrel length with a pistol grip butt-stock, ghost-ring sights plus the receiver is drilled and tapped for a picatinny rail. The M-3 has an 18.5 inch barrel, pistol grip butt-stock, ghost-ring sights and the rail system is factory installed. The M-3 can also function as a semi-auto and/or a pump gun with a twist of the control collar located at the front of the fore-grip. The M-4 is the high end model with a pistol grip, collapsible butt-stock, 18.5 inch barrel, ghost-ring sights and rail system. This is the model that the USMC and other military units have purchased to replace various other 12 gauge shotguns. Depending on where you live and which model you want, retail cost can be anywhere from $1200 to $1800, quite a lot of money for any shotgun.
All of the Benelli Super-90 models come with the patented Benelli “inertia recoil system”. This system uses the majority of the gas pressure to cycle the weapon so the shooter feels less actual recoil compared with a 12 gauge pump gun. All the Benelli Super-90 models come with an aluminum alloy receiver and synthetic butt-stock and fore-grip which make them very light weight and easy to manipulate. The light weight coupled with the recoil system makes the Benelli Super-90 the preferred shotgun for 3-gun matches that are very popular with sport shooters across the country. Go to any 3-gun competition in your local area and more than 75% of the shotguns being used are some variant of a Benelli Super-90. You will also see a variety of the latest electronic red-dot systems and illuminated high-visibility front posts as well as numerous other high-end modifications. These include, extended bolt handles and bolt releases, oversize safeties, high capacity magazine tubes and beveled loading ports. None of the above modifications, other than the high capacity magazine tube, would I call a tactical necessity.
The Length of Pull can be measured and changed to suit almost any size shooter just by changing the thickness of the recoil pad on the butt-stock. You can also order your Benelli Super-90 with any of the normal length smooth-bore or rifled slug barrels. Another popular tactical accessory is a light system, which replaces the standard fore-grip with an integral light mount fore-grip and pressure pad switch. However, any standard or aftermarket accessory that fits on the Benelli Super-90 will be relatively expensive.
When it comes to actual shooting and manipulating of the weapon there some real tactical disadvantages to any semi auto shotgun, Benelli Super-90 included. The type of ammunition and maintenance of the weapon drive the reliability of all semi-auto shotguns. Benelli Super-90s thrive on high quality ammo such as 2-3/4”/3” buckshot and slugs plus proper care and cleaning. Without both, they can be become very manipulation/training intensive during a malfunction. Depending on the malfunction, an average shooter can clear a pump gun faster and with less drama than a semi-auto. A pump gun will also be easier to change ammunition on the fly (slug select) and run better on lower quality ammunition with less maintenance due to the manual pump action.
With all that being stated, a high capacity magazine tube and light system are all you need to make your Benelli a great multipurpose home defense weapon. With the accessory light system and magazine tube extension, you could have more than $2000 invested in one weapon. For less money, you could purchase the Remington 870 12 gauge Tactical with a light system and a Sig-Sauer pistol and have cash left over for training and home defense ammunition. If you’re not going to be a 3-gun competitor anytime soon the decision seems very easy to make.
You can find more gun reviews from the Aegis Academy staff here.
~ Chris White
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