Benelli Armi S.p.A. of Italy, founded by Giovanni Benelli, began design, development and production of firearms in 1967 out of its headquarters in Urbino, Italy. Originally associated with production of motorcycles since 1911, the concern went on to become one of the most recognized foremost manufacturers of military and law enforcement shotguns anywhere in the world. Key to the success of Benelli shotguns was the in-house inertia-driven recoil system developed by engineer Bruno Civolani. In 2000, the firm was purchased by Italian competitor Beretta, itself founded in 1526, though the Benelli name was allowed to live on in new products such as the "Benelli M1 Super 90" shotgun.
The Benelli M1 Super 90 was developed as a multi-purpose system intended for market to military, law enforcement and security groups as well as targeting the lucrative civilian market. The end-product became a conventional semi-automatic shotgun system available in 12- or 20-gauge forms and further available in 14", 18.5" and 20" barrel lengths. Various models were developed to corner the various facets of every market and this led to variable weights, lengths and magazine counts resulting. Base models were completed with aluminum alloy receivers and a typical over/under- barrel/magazine arrangement. Receivers were largely featureless save for the large ejection port along the right side. A charging handle was affixed to this same area. Loading was through a gate under the receiver, feeding directly into the tubular magazine partially covered by a forend shroud. The M1 Super 90 was further offered with a full stock and integral pistol grip or a full stock with standalone pistol grip. Iron sights were generally used though mounts could be added for using various optics, aimers and accessories as needed. As the M1 Super 90 was based on the proprietary inertia recoil system, it was suggested for using heavier loads for the cycle operation for a more reliable result. This was perhaps one of the few drawbacks of the system.
The M1 Super 90 went on to find considerable success in law enforcement circles where it could be used to quell riots through non-lethal ammunition and teargas, breach doorways and neutralize adversaries at close ranges. Additionally, when pressed as such, the shotgun could be wielded as a viable blunt instrument. The M1 Super 90 proved reliable and maintenance-friendly while procurement costs were in line with budgetary constraints when compared to automatic weapons. Beyond these benefits, the shotgun has also proven a decisive psychological factor to all those unfortunate enough to face it. It was these qualities that pushed the M1 to find military suitors as well which, invariably, led to its popularity in the civilian market as well.
The M1 Super 90 was initially released in the following forms: the M1 Super 90 Slug Gun with 18.5" barrel, 5-shot magazine and stock with integral grip, the similar M1 Super 90 Defense though with full stock and standalone pistol grip, the M1 Super 90 Slug Gun with 18.5" barrel, 5-shot magazine and ghost rings, the special license M1 Super 90 Entry Gun with 14" barrel, 5-shot magazine, full stock and standalone grip.
As with other foreign firearm lines attempting sale in the United States, Benelli has worked through the well-established German concern of Heckler & Koch to bring the Benelli M1 Super 90 to the American market. The Benelli M1 Super 90 has since been followed into market by the M2 Super 90, M3 Super 90 and the M4 Super 90 - the latter which has been adopted by the US military as the "M1014 Joint Service Combat Shotgun".