Growing up, I never thought of using a slug gun for deer hunting. Why should I—I had a great rifle? Why would people want to use a slug gun? They were inaccurate, hard to shoot, and really bad for killing deer, right? You’ll have to forgive me; I was young.
Truth be told, slug guns are very effective, especially if you have a good one. When I moved to areas where you had to use a slug gun due to regulations, I soon learned just how good they are. Most that I used at first were kind of clunky and felt rather awkward, and then I tested the Benelli M2 Field Shotgun. To say that it was a game changer for me is an understatement.
Keeping it simple
The problem with a lot of modern slug guns revolves around how they fit. Too often, it seems, a firearm manufacturer takes a proven shotgun design and tries to adapt it to what they think a slug gun should be. In other words, they try to make it more like a rifle. Call me crazy, but slapping a cheek pad on the buttstock is one thing, developing a crazy new buttstock is another. Firearms fit best when they feel like a natural extension. I know I shoot better when that is the case. Maybe that’s why I did well shooting the M2.
Benelli knows how to make a great shotgun. They have hammered down the two things that make a shotgun great: it points great and goes “bang” when you pull the trigger. The M2 features Benelli’s tried and tested “Inertia” system that operates the action via recoil. For those who aren’t familiar with the system, the recoil of the shot cycles the action and loads the next shot. Recoil-powered actions tend to be lighter and can function under harsher circumstances. I don’t want to say you don’t have to clean a Benelli, and neither do they, but if you forget to clean your shotgun, it’ll still work. The trade off is that you feel a little more of the recoil. And with slugs, there is plenty recoil to feel.
To combat felt recoil, Benelli has their “ComforTech” stock, which is made up of special padding in the cheek area and in the recoil pad itself that reduces the felt recoil. Benelli claims this imparts a 48 percent reduction in felt recoil. The stock flexes to absorb some, and the recoil pad has been designed for the same purpose. The comb inserts, which you can change, are designed to let your cheek slide across the surface, reducing the recoil impact to your face.
The M2 in slug format really isn’t all the different than a standard M2, and that is a good thing. As I said above, far too often companies try to make their slug guns feel more like a rifle and end up with something that feels awkward. A lot of the problem is when they go to great lengths to allow the hunter to use the shotgun again later as a conventional scattergun. I see the use in doing so, as some guys just don’t have the change to go buy a dedicated slug gun. Heck, I’ve been there. The problem is that when you add cantilevers or other elaborate appendages to make it so a scope can be mounted or fancy stocks to make the gun easier to hold on to, it gums up the works. If you change the center of gravity away from between the two points at which you’re holding the gun, the end result is not going to be good.
The M2 doesn’t try to do this. It takes a great, tried and true shotgun in the M2 format and simply adds a 24-inch, fully-rifled slug barrel. The barrel has rifle sights instead of the vent rib. If you want to add a scope, the M2 receiver is drilled and tapped and the included rail mount bolts right up. The comb inserts on the stock are interchangeable to allow you to change your cheek rest to fit the scope. With a scope mounted, the center of gravity is still low and the feel of the gun doesn’t change much. I didn’t keep a scope mounted to my test gun—the open rifle sights did just fine for where I was hunting with the M2.
Food for thought
I fed several different slugs through the Benelli and found it liked 300-grain, Federal Trophy Copper Sabot Slugs. At 50 yards, I could get a three-shot group within a half-inch from a locked-down bench. Off-hand, I could usually get around an inch at 50 yards with iron sights. If I had a scope mounted, I am sure I could have done that or better at 100-plus yards. At deer-sized game, I wouldn’t hesitate to take a 100-plus yard shot with this combination.
Part of the accuracy of the M2 stems from its “Crio” barrel. Benelli cold treats their choke tubes and slug barrels to improve performance. Cold treating isn’t a new technology, and it is proven to strengthen steel. Having the entire barrel treated is a nice touch and it helps.
Another element to the consistency of the M2 is the three-lug rotary bolt head that locks into the steel barrel. The trigger assembly, which is pretty good, is removable for cleaning.
I spent a lot of time shooting different slugs through the M2 and my shoulder is still mad at me. Even with all of Benelli’s recoil reduction stuff, you still feel it.
What would I do?
If I lived in an area that required the use of slugs for deer season, and I have at certain times in my life, I would want a dedicated slug gun and my choice would be the Benelli M2. To be sure, it can be converted into a standard shotgun without much effort. In fact, Benelli offers the slug barrel as an accessory, but if you were going to set it up with a scope and all that, it’d be better to just keep it that way. At $1,469, it isn’t cheap, but compare it to a top-shelf bolt rifle and you’re in the ballpark.
What I really liked about the M2 is that it still feels like a shotgun should. It points well, fits my shoulder nicely, and doesn’t feel awkward. It also has those three key features to a good gun—boom, boom, and boom!