By Daniel McElrath, Shooting Illustrated
Is a new finish that notable? Well, yes, in terms of what Cerakote brings to the table. A self-defense shotgun may sit unattended for months, yet has to be ready at a moment’s notice. Stainless steel is OK, but its light color can be a tactical liability. Cerakote offers corrosion protection in a color that is discreet and blends well with a number of environments. Teamed with the M4’s black furniture, the color scheme is also handsome. Lastly, the coating should preserve or enhance the M4 Cerakote’s resale value.
Beyond the coating, the new M4 Cerakote continues to offer all of the M4’s lauded features. Its synthetic stock includes a thick, comfortable buttpad as well as recessed, ambidextrous sling-attachment points. A rubber-coated pistol grip provides leverage and quick, comfortable handling of the sizable shotgun.
The safety button located at the top rear of the trigger guard is reversible for lefties. An exaggerated bolt handle reduces fumbling under stress. The bolt-release button is small enough to be unobtrusive, but large enough to find and activate without delay.
The iron sights are excellent. A rear ghost ring—adjustable for windage and elevation using no more than a shotshell rim—is protected by sturdy ears, as is the front post. The front and rear sight combine in a three-dot pattern with tritium as an option.
In addition to the iron sights there is an M1913 rail section just forward of the rear sight, allowing the easy installation of optical sights or a laser. Just ahead of the handguard is a front attachment point for a sling.
Everything about the M4 is robust—a benefit of it being derived from a military arm.
In shooting, we noted that though the M4 is no lightweight, the leverage provided by the pistol grip made it adequately fast-handling. The 18.5-inch barrel that comes fitted with a Modified choke tube, is nearly as short as is legal. It’s compact enough to be nimble and overswing tends not to be a problem. The gun shoulders well and sight alignment is especially easy, with the ghost ring “disappearing” as it should, allowing you to focus on the front sight without claustrophobia or the sense that part of your vision is being obstructed.
The manual of arms for the M4 is a little quirky and takes some getting used to. The key is the cartridge drop lever, which must be mastered in order to be proficient with this scattergun. Essentially, the gun will not permit loading unless the action is cocked, the carrier obstructing access to the magazine. Once the action is cocked—and the bolt closed—load the magazine tube (the capacity is limited to five rounds by a blocker). You can then open the bolt, drop in an additional round and close the bolt, or hold in the cartridge drop lever while cycling the bolt and feed a shell from the magazine. If you don’t hold in the cartridge drop lever, no shotshell will be forthcoming from the magazine.
Reliability from a mixed bag of standard 2 3⁄4-inch and magnum 3-inch loads was flawless. We fired mostly buckshot, but some buck-n-ball, too. Felt recoil was very moderate with 2 3⁄4-inch loads, but 3-inchers still kicked unpleasantly, though maybe less so than in a pump gun. At 15 yards, the M4 consistently put all pellets inside the torso of a reduced-size silhouette target until the front sight eventually worked loose. We tightened it with pliers and accuracy was restored.
Benelli’s Cerakote M4 is an example of a proven product being improved. It is more weatherproof/corrosion-resistant and should have a longer service life and greater long-term value. And, if nothing else, it simply looks better. The price is, well, considerable. However, after more than a decade in military service, the underlying design has proven its worth.