Review Of The Benelli M2 3 Gun Edition 2016
As readers of ThruMyLens probobly know, I started shooting in local 3 Gun Competitions last year. I’m an accomplished shooter and NRA Certified Instructor, and have shot competitively in an IDPA-like local league. But I don’t shoot rifle or shotgun nearly as much as I do pistol…which is one of the reasons why I wanted to compete in 3 Gun – doing so would force me to build proficiency with both platforms. I really only started shooting a shotgun seriously in 2014 when I bought my Remington Versa Max Tactical. It’s been a fine shotgun for me, and I’ve taken a Tactical Shotgun class with it, as well as gotten my start in 3 Gun competition with it. But I found myself wanting a more capable shotgun specifically modified for use in 3 Gun competition.
I explored several different options before making my final selection. One option would have been sending my Remington Versa Max Tactical to one of the handful of gunsmiths (Triangle Shooting Sports, Salient Tactical, etc.) that specialize in customizing shotguns for 3 Gun. This would not have been a cheap option, but wouldn’t have been terribly cost prohibitive given that I already owned the shotgun. I’d just have to pay the shipping back and forth, and pay for the work. The big downside to this option would have been being without a shotgun for several weeks and not being able to practice or compete. Another option would have been to buy another shotgun and then send it off to have the custom work done. This was the most costly option I looked at which also had the downside of time. True, I could keep shooting with my Remington while the custom work was being done, but I still had to wait several weeks to get the end result I was after. Then I discovered the Benelli Performance Shop M2 3-Gun Edition. Essentially Benelli took the shotgun most used in the sport of 3 Gun (the M2) and outsourced the customization work needed to make the shotgun “race ready” for 3 Gun Competition. Benelli USA introduced a “race ready” version of its venerable M2 tactical shotgun fine-tuned for 3-Gun competition in 2013, and it’s been a hot seller for Benelli thanks to both the explosion in popularity of 3 Gun, and the dominance of the M2 within the sport. For 2016, the base gun used to create the M2 3 Gun Edition the M2 Field Comfortech 24 which is sent to RCI for the customization and added parts. To find out the specifics of what else had changed with the 2016 model, I went to George Thompson, Senior Product Manager for Benelli who indicated the following:
RCI is the current Performance shop builder on the M2 3 gun edition. It was changed and updated for 2016. Those changes include Mag well cut for Quad Load (new), Modified carrier (same as before), Large bolt handle and bolt release (Now RCI, were Nordic), Hi viz front sight (same as before), XS rear sight dovetailed into the rib (new), Shell caddy (new) RCI Follower installed (was Nordic before) and the change to only a 24″ barrel option.
The most significant change for the updated model is the 24″ barrel length – up from 21″ in the previous version of the M2 3 Gun Edition. 3 Gun has seen shotgun barrels increase in length in recent years for several reasons. Longer barrels tend to offer better sight radius, better ballistic velocities & better “swing” (target transition). Aesthetically, there’s also the advantage that long magazine tube extensions look less ridiculous on a longer barrel. I ended up adding a Nordic Components +6 Magazine Tube Extension on my rifle, for 9+1 total capacity, which is nearly even with the end of the 24″ M2 barrel.
My first impression of the the Benelli Performance Shop M2 3 Gun Edition was that it felt very light – particularly when compared to the Remington Versa Max Tactical. The weight issue was one of the main driving factors behind my purchasing the gun. Remington lists the weight of the Versa Max Tactical at 7 3/4 lbs. Despite having three additional inches of barrel, the Benelli weighs just 6 3/4 lbs., and it feels like an even bigger difference. Much has been written about the virtues of the M2 for 3 Gun, so I won’t spend a lot of time going over the M2’s virtues, or even much how it compares to the Versa Max (perhaps a topic of a separate article). Instead I’ll try and mostly focus on how the “3 Gun Edition” enhancements and modifications performed.
I took it out to the range and shot a nice mix of target shot, buck shot, and slugs. Given how legendary the Versa Max is for being a soft shooter I was both anticipating and dreading the first few shots with the Benelli. Recoil mitigation in the M2 is accomplished via Benelli’s ComforTech® stock. According to Benelli, felt recoil is reduced by 48%. As expected, I felt the M2 in my shoulder more than my Versa Max (particularly with slugs), but it was both comfortable and manageable to shoot, even at speed. I couldn’t tell much of a difference when shooting target load, but slugs were definitely more punishing. The Hi-Viz site works just a good here on the Benelli as what I was already used to on my Remington. The improvement comes from the addition of the XS Sight Systems Express Sight mounted toward the rear, which is extremely helpful for taking longer, more precise shots.
The following weekend I shot in a 3 Gun Nation Club Match at the Miami Valley Shooting Grounds, and put the M2 3 Gun Edition through its paces. Overall the shotgun performed flawlessly. The combination of the RCI-XRAIL loading port modifications and the TTI (Taran Tactical Innovations) Custom carrier greatly enhanced the reloading experience (my Versa Max has bit me once or twice).
Other RCI components installed include an oversized charging handle, an oversized bolt release, and a “match saver” extra shell caddy. All of these components are highly sought after upgrades which most 3 gunners want when modifying a shotgun for competition. I had the opportunity to work with all of these upgraded modifications in both practice and competition and was extremely impressed – not only did they function perfectly, they are seamlessly integrated into the M2 and feel like “standard equipment.”
While the Benelli Performance Shop M2 3 Gun Edition isn’t going to win me any 3 Gun matches, I do believe it will help me perform at my highest level of capability. Most serious 3 Gun competitors would likely choose to take a stock M2 and send it off to their shotgun customizer of choice. Still, the ability to buy a “race ready” product, with a factory warranty intact is an attractive option. As I’m still very much a beginner in the sport, I think this shotgun will meet my needs for a long time to come. With a retail price of $2500.00 US, it’s not an inexpensive option, but unfortunately there just aren’t many of those when it comes to the sport of 3 Gun.
John B. Holbrook, II
John B. Holbrook, II is a freelance writer, photographer, and author of ThruMyLens.org, as well as LuxuryTyme.com and TheSeamasterReferencePage.com. *All text and images contained in this web site are the original work of the author, John B. Holbrook, II and are copyright protected. Use of any of the information or images without the permission of the author is prohibited.