Benelli's 20-Gauge M1 Field Flies High
January 03, 2011
A high-volume dove hunt was the ultimate field test of Benelli's newest M1 Field gun.
Returning to Argentina last October with the folks from Benelli to checkout the new 20-gauge version of the M1 Field shotgun was a delight. This trip, like my first Argentina adventure a few years earlier, had been arranged through Carlos Sanchez & Co. Av. Santa Fe 2653, 1Int Piso, Of. No. 40, 1425, Buenos Aires, Argentina; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; www.losombues.com. We would be concentrating on doves in the Entre Rios Province about 250 miles northwest of Buenos Aires on the shores of the Parana River. As you are about to find out, the 20-gauge M1 passed a punishing field trial with flying colors.
The most common dove in this dove-rich region is the eared dove, which resembles our mourning dove, both in its four-ounce size and its gray and buff color. Large-scale agriculture produces thousands of acres of grain crops like corn, soybeans, wheat, sunflowers, and sorghum and provides Argentina's dove and pigeon populations with an inexhaustible supply of food. Abundant food and water, a mild climate, few predators, and a nesting season that produces at least four hatches a year all contribute to the massive number of birds.
The dove flocks located near Los Ombues are estimated at 16 million birds. They trade between nearby grain fields and roosting areas in the tree-lined flood plains. According to Carlos, such huge concentrations of birds pose a serious threat to crops, and Argentina imposes no season or limit on doves or pigeons. With the promise of awesome flighting action, the M1 Field 20-gauge shotgun had its work cut out for it.
Benelli's Newest M1 After firing a quick 50 rounds, I paused to let the barrel cool and took the opportunity to admire the gun I held. Newly chambered in 20 gauge, Benelli's M1 Field shotguns are direct descendants of the combat-proven M1 Super 90. Few semiautomatics shoot more reliably than the M1 Field, which is a no-nonsense tool that wraps reliable firepower in a rugged, sleek, traditionally styled package. The first thing you notice when you pick up the M1 Field 20 gauge is its light weight. Tipping the scales at just 5.75 pounds, the M1 Field comes to your shoulder quickly and swings smoothly. It can be handled and carried all day without causing fatigue, which is important on high-volume, south-of-the-border bird shoots.
Like Benelli's Montefeltro and Super Black Eagle models, the M1 Field features an inertia recoil system. By reducing bolt mass and eliminating complex linkages and O-rings, Benelli's rotary locking bolt allows rapid and reliable cycling. The rotating bolt head features oversized lugs for solid, steel-to-steel lock-up with the barrel extension. The hard-chome locking head helps prevent powder residue build-up on the bolt assembly and forces gases and fouling to be expelled out the barrel. Lacking the weight of sleeves and pistons found in the forend of gas-operated systems, the gun's balance allows for quick swinging and easy handling.
Benelli's dependable action utilizes a heavy spring located in the bolt between the rotating bolt head and the bolt carrier. The spring is compressed by the inertia of the bolt carrier as the gun begins to recoil. As the bolt head tries to travel rearward, the rotating head is cammed tighter into the locking lugs of the barrel. When the high-pressure force diminishes, the heavy spring between the bolt and the bolt head presses forward, unlocking the bolt head from the barrel and allowing the entire assembly to be carried rearward, which extracts the fired shell, recocks the gun, and chambers a fresh round. A recoil spring mounted behind the bolt assembly delays the opening of the action until after the shot has left the barrel.
The proven Benelli inertia system handles whatever you put in the magazine, from soft-kicking target ammo to the stiffest magnum loads. It's fast feeding and above all reliable in every weather condition, continuing to function without cleaning after many thousands of rounds. Without complex linkages or pistons to maintain, the M1 Field can be easily and quickly disassembled without tools. Other systems, which are gas-operated, require constant and regular maintenance to prevent grime and powder residue build-up, a common cause of fouling-induced breakdowns in those guns. (The only hiccup we encountered came after firing thousands of rounds. Carbon build-up on the bolt's locking head sometimes slowed the bolt's cycle. When this occasionally happened, a quick spray of gun oil and a few swipes with a cleaning cloth rectified the problem in short order.)
The M1 Field's receiver is made from machined, high-strength anodized aluminum, although the bolt lock-up remains steel-to-steel by virtue of the barrel extension reaching the rotary bolt head. Therefore, the weight-saving aluminum receiver in no way compromises the inherent strength of the action. The M1 Field is chambered to accommodate both 23/4-and 3-inch 20-gauge shells. The underbarrel magazine holds three shells, and a plug is included to meet various state and federal regulations. A four-shot extended magazine tube is available as an option, which gives the gun a seven-round magazine capacity.
Like Benelli's M1 Field, the Montefeltro model, seen here, features an inertia recoil system. The light recoil of both 20-gauge guns makes them a natural choice for south-of-the-border, high-volume shooting.
A loading system unique to Benelli enables the shooter to unload a shell from the chamber without having to unload the shells in the magazine. This is done by way of the cartridge drop lever mounted on the front right of the trigger guard. The lever works in three ways. Pressing it up and pulling the bolt back locks the bolt to the rear. Pressing while the bolt is forward releases a shell from the magazine onto the carrier. Finally it indicates the hammer is cocked when the red dot is visible.
The M1 Field 20 gauge is available with either a 24- or 26-inch barrel, complete with ventilated rib and sights that include a red-bar front sight. All guns are supplied with five choke tubes in cylinder, improved cylinder, modified, improved modified, and full choke tubes. For fast and easy insertion and removal of the choke tubes, the M1 Field comes with a precision-fit choke tube wrench.
To provide durable, long-wearing, low-visibility finishes that stand up to tough hunting conditions, Benelli offers the M1 Field in a matte-finish metal combined with black synthetic stocks. For ultimate concealment, it's also available in full-coverage Advantage Timber High Definition camouflage. Like its 12-gauge big brother, the 20-gauge M1 Field features a drop adjustable buttstock. Installing or removing polymer shims where the receiver meets the stock adjusts the angle of the stock's pitch so you c
an alter it to your own requirements for a custom fit.
The M1 Field is available in 12 gauge with 21-, 24-, 26-, and 28-inch barrels. It's available with 24- and 26-inch barrels in 20 gauge. Available finishes include satin wood stock and matte blued steel, black synthetic stock and matte blued steel, and Advantage Timber H.D. camo synthetic stock and steel.
Performs Like A Champ I liked the feel of the M1 Field from the first time I picked it up back at the lodge. I particularly liked the way it handled the first time I pressed the trigger. It shot reliably, swung smoothly, and folded the first dove I shot at. I was bound to like this handy 20-bore gun. I knew from my prior trip and the volume of birds we faced that the shooting would be steady and plentiful. And the M1 Field 20-gauge gun provided just the ticket.
Once in the field we settled into positions to intercept dove flights winging between food and water. A loader accompanied each shooter and toted the shells, opened boxes, picked up empty hulls, kept track of downed birds, and provided a daily tally of birds and shells. For nearly two hours the doves poured in from one direction, and then for the next two hours they flew back in the opposite direction.
Benelli M1 Field
20-Gauge Semiautomatic Shotgun
Model: M1 Field
Operation: Inertia-operated autoloader
Caliber: 20 gauge
Barrel length: 26 inches
Overall length: 47.3 inches
Weight: 5.75 pounds
Safety: Two position mounted on rear of trigger guard
Sights: Metal bead mid; vent rib with red-bar front
Magazine capacity: 3 rounds
Finish: Advantage Timber High Definition Camo
On the first day the sight of swarming doves created a frenetic rush in everyone to shoot, which was like running a marathon with the pace of a 100-yard dash. With three days of shooting ahead, it was important to pace our shots. I stopped rushing my shots and settled into a rhythm. If a few birds got by, there were many more to follow. This is not to say that it was easy shooting--the birds know guns and stay high until they're over a chosen field. Concealing cover and camo clothing were important for bettering the odds on doves flying within range of your position.
For the next three days the action was as fast and furious as I could stand--sometimes more so--and I tackled it with a measured pace. Darting and dodging doves demanded a balanced quick-swinging gun, and the M1 Field performed like a champ. By the third day I was on intimate terms with the sweet-shooting little M1 Field 20 gauge. It is the perfect pick for beginning shooters, old hands, or for anyone looking for less recoil than that of a full-size 12 gauge. But whether you're a novice or an experienced shotgunner, the M1 Field 20 gauge is pure delight to handle and fun to shoot. This is a versatile shotgun, as at home in North America's woods and marshes as it was in the dove-swarmed grain fields of Argentina.
"It is the perfect pick for beginning shooters, old hands, or for anyone looking for less recoil than that of a full-size 12-gauge. But whether you're a novice or an experienced shotgunner, the M1 Field 20 gauge is pure delight to handle and fun to shoot."
|Tips For High-Volume Wingshoo|
| As enjoyable as high-volume shooting can be, it takes preparation to avoid pain and discomfort and to prevent injury. The basics of shooting safety begin with eye and hearing protection, so wearing a pair of quality shooting glasses and formed earplugs or sound-suppressing earmuffs is essential. |
Resist the urge to rush. Hurrying raises blisters, sprains thumbs, and burns fingers. To prevent blisters, savvy shooters wrap their thumbs with tape and wear shooting gloves.
To avoid the all too typical shoulder pain and soreness resulting from firing several hundred rounds of ammo, protect your shoulder with some type of recoil pad. Semiautomatic shotguns are the guns of choice for high-volume shooting because they absorb some recoil by virtue of their operating systems. On a recent trip to Argentina I chose Benelli's M1 Field shotgun in 20 gauge. After firing 3000 rounds, I was suitably impressed with the way the gun handled. This lightweight semiautomatic weighs less than six pounds and comes with either 24- or 26-inch barrels, 3-inch chambers, and five choke tubes. The 20-gauge M1 Field is configured in basic black synthetic or Advantage Timber camo.
If you plan a high-volume bird shooting trip south-of-the-border, day-long, nonstop action can be grueling. It's important to pace yourself. Pick your shots by watching for birds far enough in front to allow time to judge angles, distance, and speed accurately. If you experience a string of misses, slow down or stop shooting. It might be a signal that you're tired. Take a break and soak up the incredible spectacle of birds around you. The sight of thousands of doves swarming like bees is worth marking to memory.
And when you're crouched in a north-of-the-border dove field still a few birds shy of a 10- or 12-bird limit, remembering those dove-a-minute days will certainly bring a smile.