Has It Outlived its Usefulness?
The Beretta Model 92 is one of the most iconic of semi-automatic pistols in the world. Production of the Model 92 began in May 1976 and ended in February 1983. Approximately 7,000 units were of the first “step slide” design and 45,000 were of the second “straight slide” type.
Since that time the Beretta 92 has evolved into several military iterations; to include the M9A1 (2006 to present) and M9A3 (2015 to present). Although, at the time of this writing, the Sig Sauer P320 has been accepted by the U.S. Military as its new “duty” pistol, it has not been written into inventory and the Beretta M9 remains the main “battle” pistol since 1985 when it replaced the venerable 1911.
Due to its popularity in cinema, the Beretta Model 92FS is owned by a large percentage of the firearm’s community. However, it has never been known as a pistol used by concealed carriers due to its large size, although it can be effectively concealed if the carrier does their part.
While you can look up the history of the Beretta Model 92 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beretta_92), the pistol has taken a hit from more advanced large capacity pistols that are far easier to conceal and control. And, although the Beretta Model 92FS was holstered in many LE agencies, semi-automatic pistols like the Glock G17 replaced it as a primary sidearm, which led to a replacement in .40 Smith and Wesson caliber, but seems that 9 mm is enjoying a resurgence for LE use due to advances in 9 mm ballistics.
Most Beretta Model 92FS pistols are now seeing use as “safe queens” more than defensive use. The Beretta Model 92FS has quite a few things going against it, it seems. The trigger, in double-action (DA) mode is heavy, long, and can be quite gritty when new. Although trigger systems, such as that from Wilson Combat can lighten and shorten the action, the pistol is just not popular enough to warrant such an upgrade except from a die-hard Beretta 92FS users (IMHO). My personal Beretta 92FS sits in its case adorned with Beretta wood grips and has not been fired in several years.
Fortunately for me, my local gun club has a Beretta 92FS as one of its range rentals, and I decided to be nostalgic and put some projectile downrange from it. Even my requesting it for shooting drew some surprise from several range workers, as there are obviously much more new and advanced pistols to choose from. However, I have always liked the Beretta Model 92FS and despite that I haven’t shot one in a while, and there was no telling how many rounds had been fired through it, I wanted to see if I could still shoot it with any modicum of accuracy. After all, I have a Beretta CX4 Storm in 9 mm chambering that use the Beretta Model 92FS magazines and you never know if an opportunity will arise where I need to pair the two firearms. So, the Beretta Model 92FS was pulled from the shelf and a box of Sellier and Beloit 9 mm 115-grain FMJ was purchased. This was in addition to some PMC 115-grain FMJ and some Georgia Arms 115-grain FMJ that I had brought with me.
The first thing was to acquaint myself with the DA/SA trigger again through a series of dry-fire exercises. Since this pistol had been well-used, the DA trigger pull was smooth but long (as I remember). The single-action pull was good with a short reset, but not as good as many a pistol out there today, but still suitable for defense use. The slide-mounted ambidextrous safety/de-cocking lever worked just fine.
Since I am used to shooting pistols with long barrels, the 4.9-inch barrel length of the Beretta 92FS is not bothersome at all and the three dot sights allow for quick target acquisition. The grip width, for my hand, is very comfortable. In fact, I am one of those who would put a Hogue wrap-a-round finger grove grip on the Beretta to make it more comfortable in my hand. The overall width of the pistol is 1.5 inches and would stretch the boundaries for concealed carry, but again, the Beretta Model 92FS was not intended to be carried concealed.
Even though I am used to the thumb safety on the 1911, the slide-mounted safety/de-cocker takes some getting used to. In truth, I prefer the frame mounted safety/de-cocker of the Taurus Model 92/99 over that of the Beretta 92FS; however, after a bit of use I had no problems manipulating it. The one thing to remember is that with the safety/de-cocker in the fully lowered position, the trigger is disconnected and that can be disconcerting when you pull the Beretta and pull the trigger – nothing is going to happen. The pistol is normally carried with one round chambered; whereas, the safety/de-cocking lever is fully lowered to drop the hammer safely, then brought back to the “fire” position (red dot showing). The places the trigger in double-action mode, which is a highly safe mode to be in for normal carry. In this mode, when you pull the trigger, a projectile is going to be fired after you complete that long trigger pull and the hammer falls. Like a 1911-based pistol, or any pistol for that matter, it is all a matter of training.
I do have to admit of making a mental note that the safety lever did not work like that on a 1911; my thumb is just used to dropping that safety lever as I am preparing to fire, and I had to make some mental adjustments in my manual of arms. Luckily, I can adapt quickly to different firearms. Since the safety/de-cocking lever is slide mounted, there is no interference with the grip as is possible with some frame-mounted large safety levers.
The magazine of the Beretta 92FS holds fifteen cartridges. Magazine insertion is very easy, and the magazine ejects just as easily. The ambidextrous magazine release is very handy for off-hand shooting and there is no interference for either hand.
The trigger is smooth throughout the double-action pull, which seems to take forever. A surprise break comes very easy, and I found myself wishing for a “stack” point in the trigger pull; a point in the trigger pull where the trigger goes slack and stages the trigger for single-action, as with most revolvers. But the only slack that you feel is when the hammer drops, and you start the transition into single-action mode. The secret of shooting the Beretta, and other DA-SA trigger (like the Sig Sauer) is to keep the trigger pull smooth while keeping the sights aligned through the pull. Once the pistol is in single-action mode, the trigger reset is quick and one must remember not to go fully forward with the trigger, lest they want a long but unencumbered trigger pull until resistance is felt. The reset point can be felt, and it is a matter of keeping your finger on the trigger once the reset point is reached to obtain that short single-action pull. Once again, it is a matter of training.
Felt recoil and muzzle flip is negligible with the Beretta 92FS, even with my wrist not fully locked out. I could tell that my grip was a close to ideal as I could make it, because muzzle flip was straight up and not at an angle. The Beretta 92FS is easy to get back on target, and for me, the grip was well enough to keep from readjusting it during a string of fire (15 rounds). I have fired some handguns that almost made it mandatory to readjust my grip after even one shot.
The Beretta is far more accurate than I can shoot it on a casual basis. It took me a good magazine full of cartridges before I started to understand the rhythm of shooting the pistol again. Although I wasn’t ready for prime time with the pistol, I was satisfied with this first outing at 7 yards, 10 yards, fifteen yards, and twenty-five yards. Now, I am not going to tell you that I punched nail heads at twenty-five yards firing offhand. The best I could pull off this day of shooting was to keep seventy-eight rounds out of 80 in the 9-ring from distances from 7 yards to twenty-five yards – enough to qualify expert in police qualifications. All starting strings started in the double-action mode. Twenty rounds to the head went into a 4-inch group at ten yards. The Beretta 92FS is not a target pistol, and with more trigger time I could better.
The first DA shot is difficult and multiple transition drills from DA to SA use need to be practiced if I would continue shooting the Beretta 92FS for something other than casual target shooting. When many agencies moved from the Beretta 92FS to Glocks for duty use, shot consistency improved because each shot, from start to finish, felt the same. However, most officers were not used to a trigger like the Glock and negligent discharges became somewhat common. Because of this, the “New York” trigger was born; the trigger spring is replaced with a trigger spring that increases trigger pull weight from factory standard 5.5 lb. to 8 lb. It was really a matter, then, of adapting to the grip angle of the Glock.
With the Beretta 92FS, the double-action trigger pull is heavy and long; whereas, the single-action pull is heavy and short. I had to really concentrate on maintaining a correct sight picture in both modes. On this range rental, the front sight was no longer a white dot, and with my aging eyes it was all I could do to center the front sight post between the two rear dots. I could have really used better sights on this pistol. Add all this to the fact that I am not as steady shooting offhand as I once was. In short, any failing in accuracy I could mostly put on me and not the pistol
The Beretta Model 92FS is a quality and adequately-accurate pistol that has served our military, and other agencies well over the years. It is still carried by many agencies, foreign and domestic, as a primary sidearm. Obviously, there is a mystic attached to the Beretta Model 92FS, as it is still featured in cinema, and still desirable by civilian shooters. The Beretta Model 92FS (M9A3) is a part of history, as is the 1873 Winchester and Colt Single-Action Army revolver, the Springfield ’03, the M1 Garand, the M14, the M16, the CZ75, Browning Hi-Power, and of course the M1911A1, as well as many others. It has proven itself in battle the world over, in civilian or military versions.
It was good to shoot the Beretta 92FS again after many years.
Has the Beretta 92FS or M9 outlived its usefulness? That depends upon which section of fence you sit. According to sources: “In December 2014, Beretta unveiled its M9A3 pistol upgrade for a separate Army effort to identify Engineering Change Proposals (ECPs) under its existing contract. The company presented the upgrade to improve the M9’s performance as a more cost-effective solution without needing to buy a different handgun. Improvements include a thin grip with a removable, modular wrap-around grip, MIL-STD-1913 accessory rail, removable front and rear tritium sights, extended and threaded barrel for suppressor use, 17-round sand resistant magazine, and other small features, all in an earth tone finish. Later that month, the Army decided not to evaluate the M9A3 in favor of pursuing the MHS program, maintaining that the M9 design does not meet requirements and a cost-benefit analysis determined the old fleet would cost more to replace and repair than buying a new service pistol. Beretta claims M9A3 upgrade features fix most of the complaints and could be sold for less than the cost of previous M9 versions. The Army formally rejected the M9A3 ECP proposal at the end of January 2015.
On January 19, 2017, it was announced that a customized version of the SIG Sauer P320 had won the United States Army’s XM17 Modular Handgun System competition. The full-sized model will be known as the M17 and the carry-sized model will be known as the M18. “Only the Sig Sauer P320, with a serialized core frame and the ability to swap different grip lengths and slide-barrel combinations, seems to meet the requirements of the RFP among the named designs,” noted Bob Owens writing for BearingArms.com.” – (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beretta_M9)
For the rest of us who really like the darn thing, its usefulness is dictated by individual wants and needs. The Beretta 92FS and variants are widely used and by many countries. I don’t see it going away soon, but like the 1911-based pistol, the Beretta 92FS (and variants) has been relegated, by some, to the dust barrels of gunnery, even while it is still in use.
As much as I like my Beretta 92FS in blue, the INOX version (shown below) gets my pulse racing, as I am a stainless-steel type of guy.
Taurian, June 2019