How Do You Shotgun? Mossberg M500A, Benelli M4, and Beretta 1301

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Some articles are just a pleasure to write, from start to finish. This is one of those. I had never heard of this reviewer before, and I don’t do a lot of shotgunning, but both of those are changing. The reviewer, Paul from SuperSetCA, seems knowledgeable, the video is interesting, and the production value is top-notch. It also helps that we get a lot of footage of championship shooter Jessica Hook behind the guns, so seeing how they handle (or how they’re supposed to be handled) is easy. 

Championship Shooter Jessica Hook

Championship Shooter Jessica Hook.

Plus, it just looked like a helluva lot of fun. Especially that one thermonuclear round she threw downrange…I gotta get me some of those.

The guns in question are the Mossberg M500A, the Benelli M4, and the Beretta 1301 Comp Pro Gen 3. All in 12 gauge. The reviews are broken down into comparative sections: Design and Profile; Controls and Loading; and Sights and Trigger. In the course of the breakdowns, we get an overall picture of handling and shootability.

Top to Bottom: the Mossberg M500A; Benelli M4; and Beretta 1301 Comp Pro

Top to Bottom: the Mossberg M500A; Benelli M4; and Beretta 1301 Comp Pro.

This is not a video to determine which of the three is best, but more like a reflection of what to expect from quality products as one moves up the price scale. In the interest of following the video in case you want to jump to a particular section, I’ll follow the same format that Paul does. Disclaimer: The following lists will not match exactly, since two of the guns have some aftermarket stuff on them and some info was not provided.

Design and Profile

First up is the Mossberg M500A, which is presented as being simple, cheap, and reliable.

Considering the track record of the M500, I’d say that’s pretty accurate and unsurprising. I did have a bit of an issue with Paul’s statement that “regular cleaning and maintenance are…optional” with the Mossberg. Yeah, I get it, no one but the most anal among us cleans their guns after every use but seeing the rust on his gun just hurt me. But…it ran like a champ, rust and all. Paul notes that he has had this gun for a while, and a quick look at the Mossberg website will show you that the 500 Series has been upgraded. This article deals with the guns in the video, but I thought I’d point that out.

• Barrel Length: 20 inches.
• Mag: 7 plus 1 Flush.
• Overall Length: 41 inches.
• Weight: Just under 7 pounds, lightest of the three.
• Philosophy of Use: Defense or maybe hunting.

Paul notes that the Mossberg is a great truck gun. No argument here, and his gun sure looked like he had tossed it (literally) in the back of his pickup and left it for a good while.

Next, moving up the MSRP ladder, is the Benelli M4.

Paul notes that the M4 is “fielded with departments worldwide if you’re looking for more of a duty-grade weapon.” As we all know, Benelli makes a damn fine shotgun and the M4 is a proven platform that has been called the“King of the combat shotguns.” 

• Barrel Length: 18.5 inches.
• Mag: 7 plus 1 Flush (aftermarket) (factory is 5 plus 1).
• Overall Length: 35 to 40 inches, depending on the stock.
• Weight: 8.42 pounds (factory).
•Philosophy of Use: Tactical Duty Weapon.

This particular gun, as opposed to the Mossberg, has upgraded furniture, including a pistol gripnthat Paul uses to offset the front-heavy feel from the thicker barrel.

Finally, the Beretta 1301 Comp Pro Gen 3.

This one is described as the “latest shotgun tech out there”and as being “built for speed.”

• Barrel Length: 24 inches (21 inch also available).
• Mag: 12 plus 1 Extended (aftermarket) (factory is 10 plus 1 flush).
• Overall Length: 47 inches (factory).
• Weight: 7.18 pounds (factory).
• Philosophy of Use: Primarily competition, but it looks very versatile in the factory configuration.

The gun has a slick-looking metallic blue anodized receiver and the new Beretta recoil-reducing stock. According to Beretta, the felt recoil is forty percent less than previous gens, which seems to be borne out by Jessica’s shooting of both, of which a brief video clip is provided. Paul says he can “definitely tell the difference from prior gens.”

Controls and Loading

Paul opens this section by asking “How hard do you want to work to make the gun go bang?” A fair and pertinent question, which is answered by comparing the guns themselves with that in mind.

Loading ports left to right: Mossberg M500A; Benelli M4; Beretta 1301 Comp Pro.

Loading ports left to right: Mossberg M500A; Benelli M4; Beretta 1301 Comp Pro.

Mossberg M500A

The Mossberg, being the only pump action of the group, will obviously require a little more effort to fire smoothly. Nothing wrong with a pump gun, but you have to practice that particular motor skill. The Mossberg had the most convenient safety mechanism with a simple up and down thumb switch where the hammer would be, were there an exposed hammer on the gun. Very intuitive and easy to view.

From an easy safety, we go to a more difficult loading gate. Paul describes it as “a bunch of right angles,” meaning that you better practice reloading because, if you want to be smooth, there is very little margin of error. Plus, the gate’s close proximity to the trigger guard precludes quad loading. You’re gonna have to load it one shell at a time, just like Grandpa used to do it.

Jessica Hook with Mossberg M500

You have to reload the Mossberg M500A one at a time.

Again, nothing especially wrong with that, but there are better ways nowadays and it just depends on what you want. He recommends a side-saddle attachment to speed up the process. Probably a good idea.

Benelli M4

The autoloading Benelli is easier to handle with a faster rate of fire. Duh, though all bets are off if Jerry Miculek shows up with a pump gun. The controls are nice with a big charging handle with aftermarket options and a convenient, if small, small bolt release. The only issue with the controls that I would have is the location of the safety on the rear of the trigger guard. You just might be able to hit it with your trigger finger, but unless you have gigantically long thumbs, you won’t get it from the other side without breaking your grip.

Jessica Hook running the Benelli M4 shotgun.

Jessica running that M4.

The loading gate is “rounder and smoother” than the Mossberg, but unlike the M500, the spring-loaded lifter and an interior “hump” require more pressure and effort to load. The Mossberg mag was frictionless once the first shell got things started. Not so the Benelli. The lifter is also forked and tends to catch thumbs. Paul notes that “If you’re not careful, you’re gonna come away bloody.” The M4, can, however, be quad loaded. You decide which of the two you prefer.

Beretta 1301 Comp Pro Gen 3

The Beretta 1301, not surprisingly, is the Cadillac in this category. It has a huge charging handle, though the one in the video is aftermarket, which is the same as the previous-gen models.

Jessica Hook shooting the Beretta 1301 Pro Comp Gen 3.

The Beretta 1301 Pro Comp is slick.

It has a large bolt release that has been reworked to fix problems on previous models which caused accidental activation. While not as convenient as the Mossberg, the Beretta has a large safety on the front of the trigger guard with “great tactile feedback.” Yeah, you’ll still have to break your grip to hit it from one side or the other, depending on whether you’re right or sinister, but it looks to be a lot better than the Benelli.

The loading gate on the 1301 is generous, to say the least. Paul notes that “if you want your shells to get basically sucked into the tube,” this is the gun for you. The Gen 3 features an expanded gate from previous gens, plus, they moved the serial number so aggressive cuts around the gate are now the standard. Quad loading is recommended and watching Jessica do it demonstrates the
ease of the process on this gun. Of course, she is well-practiced, so there’s that.

Jessica Hook Beretta 1301 shotgun, quad loading

The Beretta is made for quad loading.

But you can see how the design really facilitates ease of loading. The gun features an extended lifter that won’t bite your thumb with a light spring pressure that allows smooth loading. As Paul says, it’s “the next best thing to a mag fed shotgun.” 

Sights and Trigger

Paul notes, right out of the gate, that “Duty and Competition guns need good sighting systems, the right chokes, and a really good trigger.”

Mossberg M500A

The Mossberg has a simple front bead sight, which is only so-so at 25 yards and goes downhill fast from there. Good luck launching slugs at long range. Nothing we didn’t already know. If you want better sights on that kind of gun, you’re gonna have to modify it. The factory trigger is about 8 pounds and is pretty much what you’d expect from a good-quality pump gun. Not horrible, not great.

Benelli M4

The Benelli M4 offers a clear upgrade on the sights with a ghost ring in the rear and a protected orange fiber-optic post up front. Clearly more accurate and user-friendly than the Mossberg. The trigger pulled at a less-than-stellar 7 and a half pounds, this is a duty gun, but there are aftermarket triggers out there.

Jessica Hook with Benelli M4 duty grade shotgun.

Duty grade: the Benelli M4.

Beretta 1301

The Beretta 1301 features orange fiber optic bead sights in front and halfway back along the top of the vent rib. It showed the highest accuracy of the three, but I’d say the recoil-reducing stock and the 24-inch barrel had something to do with that too.

Beretta 1301 Comp Pro Gen 3 recoil vs. Gen 2.

Beretta 1301 Comp Pro Gen 3 recoil vs. Gen 2.

Personally, I think I’d prefer the M4 sights, but, as always, I’m just some guy on the interwebs. You decide. There are also some cool upgrades out there for the 1301, which is drilled for an optic.

The 1301 trigger is another area that shines. Paul describes it as “Very nice…similar to a rifle trigger. Smooth pull throughout, very little stacking, very crisp break.” It broke at 4 pounds with a quick reset. Paul says that it would be hard to jerk the trigger on the 1301 Comp Pro. He notes that, with the new recoil system, it shoots very flat. See my comment on accuracy.

Conclusion

As I noted, this wasn’t a contest to see which one of these shotguns was better. Paul and Jessica do a good job demonstrating the level of performance and ease of use you can expect (or should expect) as you move up the price scale.

It’s also worth pointing out that these three guns have different philosophies of use. The Mossberg M500A is a basic defensive or hunting gun, though I would want a longer barrel for the latter. The Benelli, as noted, is a dedicated combat and duty gun. The Beretta is a competition gun. You could do it all with any of the three, but each one has strengths and weaknesses. Cue Captain Obvious again. Mossberg, Benelli, and Beretta are three of the biggest names in shotguns. Depending on what you want it for, it’s hard to go wrong with any of them, assuming you do your homework and buy the best gun for you.

Check out the video. I think you’ll enjoy it as much as I did. If you do, consider subscribing to Paul’s channel. I like his approach. It also made me want to go out and run a shotgun. Finally, Paul notes that “You can be Jerry Miculek on a pistol, but even he can’t put nine .30 caliber bullets into a group this size (fist) in less than a second.” The point is well-taken, but don’t let Jerry hear you say that. 

William “Bucky” Lawson is a self-described “typical Appalachian-American gun enthusiast”. He is a military historian specializing in World War II and has written a few things, as he says, “here and there”. A featured contributor for Strategy & Tactics, he likes dogs, range time, and a good cigar – preferably with an Old Fashioned that has an extra orange slice.





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