In 1985, the US military adopted a new handgun for our warriors, and right from the beginning, and even through today, the Beretta Model 92FS (M9/M9A1) continues to get criticism from all sides, for any number or real or imagined reasons. I won’t go into all the details, on this, you can find article after article about the Beretta 92FS on the Internet – some people simply have nothing better to do with their lives, other than to complain about things – anything – based on their wild imagination. The number one complaint was, and still is, we switched from the 1911 .45 ACP handgun, to the Beretta Model 92 FS that “only” fires the “puny” 9mm round. There is a little bit of truth to the fact that, the .45 ACP with FMJ ammo is a better stopper, compared to the 9mm FMJ round. However, it still comes down to proper shot placement. For years, I swore by the .45 ACP in a 1911 as the do all round for self-defense. However, with better bullet designs now available, the FBI says the .45 ACP, .40 S&W and 9mm rounds are all just about identical when it comes to stopping power. Many police departments in the USA were sold on the .40 S&W, however many are now switching back to the 9mm.
Most militaries in the free-world issue handguns chambered in 9mm, so the US military isn’t going to switch back to the .45 ACP anytime soon. Plus, as a member of NATO, we are required to use the 9mm round – simple as that – cry all you like about it, but we’re not changing to a different handgun caliber anytime soon.
There was some controversy about the slide cracking and coming apart on the Beretta M9 early on. Yes, it’s true, but most people weren’t interested in hearing the facts. The matter is, those guns were firing some very hot ammo, and sooner or later, any 9mm handgun is going to break. The ammo being used in those guns were SMG rounds – they were hotter than +P rounds by quite a bit, and the early M9 handguns couldn’t handle the high pressures being generated. This was through no fault of Beretta, it was the ammo. However, to settle the matter, Beretta added a huge “button safety” in the frame of the gun, that wouldn’t allow the slide to fly into the face of the user, if the slide broke. Beretta stayed on top of this and still do.
Things keep coming back to the “puny” 9mm round and its stopping power, and this won’t change, even the new US military handgun fires the 9mm round. Some people refuse to let-up on their complaints, even though all of our Special Forces units have adopted 9mm handguns over the .45 ACP round. Whiners will be whiners — there is no way around this!
The Beretta 92FS was adopted in 1985, and the military version is called the M9 or the M9A1 (with Picatinny rail). And, from the start of the testing, other gun makers kept calling “foul” on the selection of the M9 as the winner in the years’ testing. Happens all the time! No doubt about it, the Model 92FS is a big gun, it is a handful to be sure, and it doesn’t fit smaller hands, I can understand the complaint, but we can’t please everyone, all the time. The barrel on the 92FS is 4.9-inches and the slide is an open-top design. Again, lots of complaints about this, because it can allow dirt and sand to get into the action. But the remedy is simple – keep your 92 cleaned and lubed.
The 92FS operates on the short-recoil, delayed locking block system. This means there is less felt recoil, and a much fast lock time, making the gun extremely accurate, and make no mistake about this, the gun is accurate. The US military required some great accuracy, and the gun can fire a 10-shot group that measures 3-inches at 50-meters – that’s super accurate. I’ve owned a number of Beretta 92s over the years in various configurations, and every one has been a tack-driver – they can give better accuracy than I’m capable of.
We have a SA/DA operating system on the 92, that means the first shot is fired in the long trigger pull double action mode, every shot after that, is fired single action, for much better accuracy. Of course, you can thumb the hammer back and fire all shots from the single action mode if you desire. We also have a full-time de-cocker/safety that allows you to de-cock the gun, after the first round is chambered and that is the proper way to carry this gun – once you insert a loaded magazine, you want to de-cock the hammer before holstering the gun. The magazine release is switchable from one side of the gun to the other for those who are left-handed. Trigger pull in the DA mode was right at 12-pounds, but smooth, single action was at 4.5-pounds.
Beretta applies what they call a Bruniton finish on most of their handguns, and it is tough stuff. However, we’re looking at the stainless steel version today, and it is nicely done, with the stainless steel slide over the silver anodized aluminum frame. The gun is meant for some nasty weather. Standard mags hold 15-rounds, and this is what the military issues. However, you can find 17, 18 , 20, and even 30-round mags for your 92…I keep several of the Beretta-made 30-round mags on-hand. The 30-round mags are tough to load by hand, since they have a very stout spring. However, they are worth the money, when you can find them.
The 92FS weighs in at around 33-ounces, so its heavier than many of today’s polymer framed 9mm handguns. However, that extra weight helps keep felt-recoil down if you ask me.
Speaking of magazines, there were a lot of problems in the various sand boxes in the Middle East, and rounds would jam in the magazine. This isn’t the fault of Beretta, the US military bought a lot – way too many military contract mags from another vendor and specified a Parkerized finish on the mags. This was a relatively rough coating – inside and out, and when sand got in the magazines, they jammed. Again, not the fault of Beretta. I personally like the mags from Mec-Gar – the biggest mag maker in the world, and it has a super slick finish – inside and out, so there’s no problems with rounds getting hung-up inside the mag.
My sample Beretta 92FS, as already mentioned is the stainless steel version, and it is more than a little attractive. I have a Crimson Trace laser grip on it. This laser is built into the hard rubber grips, and it is instinctive – you simply apply pressure on the grips and the laser turns on – very nice touch. My sample comes with the three dot white sights, one on the front sight and two on the opening of the rear sight. The M9/M9A1 has only a two dot sight system…I don’t know if I’d pick one over the other, they both work great for me, but for low-light shooting, the red laser dot really shines – no pun intended. The stainless model comes from the factory with hard black plastic grips – that I also like.
I had one volunteer test shooter, helping me, a 20+ year retired Air Force veteran, who has been all over the world, and is more than a little familiar with the M9 handgun. We shot the Model 92FS over several shooting sessions, putting more than 600 rounds through the gun all total. Of course, the military tested the gun for years, so our testing wasn’t meant to duplicate their testing. We just had a great time shooting this handgun.
I keep my 92FS stainless steel model fed using Beretta factory 17-round mags, that are also designed to be used in the Beretta 90-Two model. Very smooth loading using these mags, very smooth! I also had some Beretta factory 15-round mags, with the slick finish. However they don’t seem to load as smoothly for some reason.
Black Hills Ammunition keeps me supplied in the ammo for my articles, and have done so since 1993 when I first started writing magazine articles. For this article, I had a sampling of all their various 9mm ammo: HoneyBadger 100-gr solid copper +P round, and their 125-gr subsonic load, 115-gr JHP +P, 124-gr JHP +P, 115-gr FMJ, 115-gr EXP load, 124-gr JHP and last up is their 115-gr Barnes Tac-XP +P load – quite a selection to run through the 92FS. First up, in all our shooting, there was not a single hint of a malfunction of any type – and I would have been surprised if there were any hang-ups.
Needless to say, we “killed” a lot of rocks and tree branches, and any other targets we could find. When it came time for some accuracy test, we both took our turns, however for my articles, I only report my own accuracy results, so there is no one to blame except me. I really like the new HoneyBadger 9mm ammo that Black Hills is producing, especially their 100-gr +P load. However, the 125-grain subsonic load was the overall winner in accuracy…I had several groups, at 25-yards, hovering just slightly over the 2-inch mark – that’s outstanding. I used a sleeping bag as a gun rest, to wring out the most accuracy as possible. I don’t use a regular gun rest for accuracy – you can’t carry that with you when you get into a gun fight.
A long-time favorite is the Black Hills 9mm 124-gr JHP load – not their +P load, but the standard velocity load, and this one didn’t disappoint me, with groups right at the 3-inch mark – if I was on my game that day. Everything else came in around 3.5-inches – and that’s nothing to sneeze at. I know the gun and ammo can do even better when I’m fresh, not after several hours of shooting. Accuracy testing was done in the single action mode, for best results.
The Beretta Model 92FS/M9/M9A1 are all winners in my book, and I hate to see the US Military phasing them out – however, they will still be with us for a few more years, as procurement of the replacement SIG M17 series handgun will take some time to full equip our troops. Look for a future article on the M9/M9A1 – the military versions of the 92FS.