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Beretta 92FS Stainless, by Pat Cascio

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!

Some Details

Beretta 92FS StainlessThe 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.

Beretta 92FS Stainless [1]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 92FS Stainless [2]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.

Beretta 92FS Stainless [3]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.

Shooting Tests

Black Hills Ammunition [4] 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.

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#1 Comment By Rucksack Rob On June 8, 2020 @ 12:14 pm

As a 24 year Army Vet spread over a 31 year period (7 year break in service), I carried both the 1911A1 and the M9, and I currently own more than one of both…

I was one of those know-it-alls who at the beginning, berated the military for doing something stupid like dropping the 1911 from it’s inventory. But after a couple of days at the range (and several years) of carrying and shooting the M9, I became quite efficient at it and have no complaints.

After thousands of rounds that myself and my fellow unit members fired (including two tax-payer funded courses to Gunsight. Thank you tax payers.), I only saw one catastrophic malfunction (no injuries) and that was (literally) a ‘broken’ locking block that came apart in 3 pieces once cleared and disassembled. It was replaced with a newer upgraded (casting / hardened?) locking block and continued to take all the punishment you could dish out. (I was under the assumption that the weak point on the M9 was the ‘locking block’ and not necessarily cracking of the slide… Learn something new every day. Thanks Pat.)

Although I now carry a G26 and have several G19’s, I have no hesitations, and feel very comfortable and confidant about picking up a M9 / 92F as my main sidearm. (and a FYI side note here… several years ago, advertised in a well known monthly gun news magazine, they had several ‘ Law Enforcement’ trade-ins of the Beretta 96 in .40 S&W. The ‘kits’ to swap over a 92 9mm to a 96 in .40 S&W was as simple as clearing / disassemble and replace the slide, barrel and magazine. The ‘kit’s were about $150 and now you had a second caliber pistol if you so desired. I do have a kit and I did test it at the time of purchase, but I need another caliber to shoot like I need a flat tire in the middle of nowhere, so it never gets used, but is in the safe ‘IF’ I so desire…)

I too, recommend a Beretta 92 if you decide you want a full size sidearm in 9mm and as stated, with the choices of different 9mm ammo types out there, It will serve you well.

#2 Comment By Duane Donovan On June 8, 2020 @ 6:42 pm

Years ago the Border Patrol issued the .40 S&W Beretta 96. They had a lot of problems with breakages. They then went to something from H&K. Now they issue the Glock 19.

#3 Comment By Victor K. Polk On June 8, 2020 @ 12:24 pm

Just bought 500 rounds of Wolf Military Classic 115 Grain FMJ. My 92 will not fully insert the next round, Previously put 2000 rounds of TulAmmo 115 Grain FMJ without a single malfunction. Anybody else have problems with the Wolf 9mm?

#4 Comment By Chip in NW FL On June 8, 2020 @ 1:05 pm

I purchased my first and only 92F about 30 years ago for $525. It was one of the my first guns that I could legally purchase since I had just turned 21. I still have it and have enjoyed shooting it over the years. Just recently my only child decided to join the US Navy. Before she went to boot camp we dusted off the 92F and made 2 trips to the range. I showed her how to disassemble, assemble, clean and shoot and once at boot camp she was miles ahead of the others in her company. Our time together paid off because out of 110 peers she was one of only 5 that qualified for marksman! She later told me that she was pissed that she was a few points short of sharpshooter. The only downside to my purchase of the 92F 30 years ago is the simple fact that the gun has not gone up in value at all. One of the few guns I own that I’ll be lucky to break even if and when I ever sell it. But then again the time her and I spent together and then her using that to gain recognition by the US Navy is priceless.

#5 Comment By TominAlaska On June 8, 2020 @ 1:26 pm

I always turn off my adblocker when viewing the Survival Blog. It is a constant process because your IP addresses rotate but the Survival Blog ads are useful and even enjoyable. I have purchased from SBlog suppliers many times.

On another point. The gun control pushers aren’t thick skulled at all. The know what they are doing. The happenings in places like Coeur D’ Alene with only motivate them to try harder. When the guns are gone so is the Republic.

That’s just the way it is.

#6 Comment By TominAlaska On June 8, 2020 @ 1:57 pm

My apologies. I intended to place my comments in the first thread. Tom

#7 Comment By Don Williams On June 8, 2020 @ 1:37 pm

1) Combat soldiers had a right to complain about a round that failed to stop enemies at close range even when shot repeatedly. The military was restricted to Full Metal Jacket.

2) The whole point of a 9mm handgun for the Navy SEALs was it using the same ammo as their silenced H&K MP5 submachine guns. Hence the buyers remorse when there was problems with the submachinegun ammo.

3) The huge grip of the Beretta 92 made it harder for female officers to qualify — although I knew a female Air Force lieutenant who managed to do so. But the military has a tight time budget for training.

4) Some of the main objectives of the Modular Handgun System (MHS)procurement was to (a) procure a piece with multiple grips that would work for most of the military population including females and (b) get a round that was more effective than the 9mm NATO FMJ in a gun that could shoot tens of thousands of rounds without falling apart. The procurement was also to fix some other shortcoming of the 92: no way to attach a silencer and no way to attach lasers, lights,etc.

5) The Army’s tissue damage model indicated the superiority of the 40 S&W over 9mm and 40 S&W was favored until the Pentagon looked at the cost and the tears of our NATO allies if we discarded 9mm. DOD then had its lawyers issue a ruling that hollow points were okay to use after all.

This timely ruling coming about 14 YEARS into the Global War on Terror and after almost a century of requiring troops to use FMJ.

6) Note that the SIG “win” was basically SIG buying the procurement with an extremely low price after losing procurements to Glock for BATF and FBI contracts.
I’ve seen no evidence that the full MHS testing was ever done and no publishing of the results.

And the MHS procurement was based in part on the special Winchester 9mm ammo that will be supplied to the military.

7) I don’t disagree with Mr Cascio’s judgment that the Beretta 92 is a decent piece , although I think it is a pretty large gun for concealment.

However, the usual drill for a jam is to hit the magazine, rack the slide and pull the trigger again.

Some soldiers were infuriated to discover that doing this put the 92 on SAFE since it has a slide mounted safety. Leaving the incompletely trained soldier impotently squeezing the trigger again and again as the jihadi raised his AK-47. Although the heavy weight of the 92 probably made it a good throwing rock in such events.
(MHS fixed this also.)

#8 Comment By Chris in Arkansas On June 8, 2020 @ 1:42 pm

I have a couple of 92FS. They are very accurate and well bulit. There’s something more to a sturdy pistol with a metal frame than just smoother shooting and a more stable platform due to a few extra ounces of weight. It’s hard to describe. I have had zero issues with either pistol. I’ve been working to simplify and standardize on Glock so these will eventually get traded off but I suppose I’ll miss them a bit down the road.

#9 Comment By JBH On June 8, 2020 @ 2:26 pm

I was in the Navy when we switched from the 1911 to the M9. Not a bad gun but I was never able to shoot Expert with it like I had the old beat up 1911s although it was theoretically a more accurate weapon. Probably just not enough rounds to get used to it. I am a better shot now than I was then so if I tried it today, I might do better.

I bought my son a Taurus P100 which is a 40 SW Taurus build of the M9 essentially. It never performed well especially with heavier bullets although I had numerous friends who praise the 9MM version of it. I don’t think the lockup was strong enough for 40 SW. If there is a Beretta version in 40 SW I would be skeptical of it. I don’t think the weapon is fundamentally designed for it.

I just bought my daughter a Sig M17 and although that striker trigger takes a little getting used to for me, that thing is a tack driver. I will purchase at least one more of those if I can. I am currently working up reloads for it.

In the .45 vs 9MM debate I have also read about the FBI studies. And just on weight the 9MM makes a lot of sense. You can carry more ammo and hold more in a magazine. However I notice that many special forces and contractor people I read about make reference to their 1911s. I don’t know how prevalent the .45 is in the special forces world but it seems to have some popularity. Makes me wonder.

I still drool over a friend of mine’s setup. He has a Doug Chow 1911 and a custom accurized M1A in a beautiful pelican case. I have shot that 1911 and I can hit anything with it. And I shot Expert with rack grade M14s as well so an accurized one would be a dream.

However if I was going to buy a semi auto today or recommend one to a new purchaser it would be a Sig M17. That and an AR15 are probably the smartest choices today IMO. Not as exciting to me as a 1911 and an M1A but more practical in many ways.

#10 Comment By jima On June 8, 2020 @ 3:04 pm

I have had my Beretta 92FS Stainless for many years. Over time I have added VZ grips, a Gemtech threaded barrel and a compensator…this pistol is sweet. Accurate, can’t get it to jam, a great trigger in single action mode. This would be my “go to” pistol if I were limited to just one. However, saying that, when it comes to concealed carry, it’s my Glock 19.

#11 Comment By benjammin On June 8, 2020 @ 4:04 pm

Over a century ago, our military learned a valuable lesson about effective combat rounds in a pistol. We had forsaken the 45 in favor of a lighter weight, less expensive, more “manageable” cartridge, with disastrous results. We went back to 45 for one important reason; it was effective at stopping an assailant “at caliber”. It has been ever since, and nothing about modern manufacturing methods has changed that fact.

Going back to 38 caliber (9mm) was more a political move than a practical one. The 9mm high cap is here to stay. Might as well try and make the most of it. I liked shooting the Beretta at the range; comfortable fit and mild recoil in my big mitts. You do what you can with what you got. For me, a semi auto with 15 rounds of 10 mm hot loads is my preferred combat pistol configuration. It would take some getting used to, but if I was soldiering again, that is just a matter of getting to the range regularly and qualifying with it. I think the 9mm is probably a good compromise for those who remain in the rear echelon. Can’t win a war without the boys in the back doing their part.

#12 Comment By alfie On June 8, 2020 @ 6:40 pm

Hmm I’m one of the old guys that trained / used a 1911 .45, still have my 1911 Remington Rand, but carry a Bersa thunder and sometimes a Springfield armory range officer compact 9mm ( my ROC 9 ). Some years ago, I bumped into a Beretta 92, ( LEO trade in ), had the money and the handgun was there and I took it home. but never shot it and later gave it to my son who had carried one as a army mp for 7 years. He loves it ( good for him )

#13 Comment By Newell Franks On June 8, 2020 @ 10:02 pm

Nothing wrong with a 9mm or the Beretta (other than the grip size for smaller hands as mentioned above). That having been said, Delta operators still use the 1911, often carrying two in urban settings (granted, they would be much better off with the Glock 41). The Marines also purchased 50,000 1911s a few years back for the Recon Marines. Saying the 9mm round is as capable as the .45ACP with the same kinds of ammo is like saying a 20ga shotgun is just as effective as a 12ga shotgun. Another similar comparison would be the .30/30 cartridge with the .45/70 or the 5.56×45 compared to the 7.62×51. When you really want to stop something, a bullet that is twice as heavy with a lot more frontal area, going about the same speed, is likely to be more effective. The most dangerous game in the world is an armed man. Best to deal with that threat using the biggest stick you can effectively manage. For many people and for many reasons that carry stick is the 9mm. For many people with rifles it is the 5.56×45.

#14 Comment By Paul On June 9, 2020 @ 7:01 am

The ranges that rent guns can’t keep them running (the M92s). The safety/decocker is complex and maladroit compared to the 1911.
The FBI published an article in the early 1980s claiming that the 9mm was the “deadliest handgun in America”. Two years later, the Miami/Dade shootout happened and the FBI had their fannies handed to them. The Wonder Nine was Frisbee’d into the dumpster and they went on a wild goose chase to find their ultimate duty pistol, wasting millions of taxpayer dollars on the 10mm. In the end, they ended up with a huge pistol with down-loaded ammo that had the same muzzle energy as a plain vanilla .45 ACP load. Somebody figured out the .40 S&W solved their problems with small handed shooters and more power than the Nine, and the Universe was all better.
Until the Wonder Nine contingent arose again, and now we’re all back to 1984. The same ammo tech that improves the Nine also improves the .40 and .45. They’re just not equal, anymore than 115 lb female army rangers are just as effective as 180 lb males, no matter how hard the PC generals wish it so. When the next war starts, we’ll see the Army scrap all of the PC crap and go back to what works.
The new SIG will be a huge improvement.
Decades ago, DoD rigged a Glock 17 for a lights-out endurance test. A machine fed rounds through it night and day, until 700,000 rounds clicked on the counter and they just turned the machine off. I’m sure they cleaned it once in a while, but the point is, Glocks work and would have made a good service pistol for the US military. SOCOM’s commander just handed down the edict, “Go buy the damned G19 and be done with it already.” They seem to be happy with it.
All my 1911s gather dust, have been for 20 years. I finally overcame my prejudices and bought the plastic gun(s). Lots of them in the same caliber. Can’t have six different guns and calibers, magazines, holsters, etc. Standardization rules.
Don’t own a 92 and haven’t ever seen one in a shooting course. Never fired one. 95% of students show up with Glocks.
Once in a while I’ll lay a revolver on the table for the battlefield pickup drill, where all students fire each other’s artillery. My OWN DAUGHTER ran the revolver dry, and could not imagine how to reload it! Right then, I knew I was a BAD DAD! The main instructor did a tutorial on reloading revolvers because few of the other students had ever seen one, either. Strangely, she now carries a J-frame .38 on her person all day, and leaves her G17 at home. She LIKES it.
We truly are lucky to have all these magnificent pistols to own and train with. In most other countries, Glocks are status symbols like Mercedes Benzes…very expensive and rare. God Bless America.
Last week here in Salt Lake, a guy I know who owns a jewelry store in downtown called 911 because of a fight with rioters, and the dispatcher said, “You’re on your own” and disconnected. All the cops were busy with protestors and thugs. All this while the power is on and groceries are on the shelves.

#15 Comment By GGHD On June 9, 2020 @ 4:55 pm

Some Conjecture on the Beretta Model 92F. =
We all know, the pistol is big and heavy, with an almost 5 inch barrel. The Beretta Model 92F just might make a good semi-automatic civilian version of a legal UZI or Tommy Gun. The full capacity magazines make the Beretta a possible choice as an excellent second gun.

The Beretta would make a good pistol to carry along in the trunk of a car, inside of a secured strongbox. .. Besides use as a house gun, or when camping, fishing or vacationing; +the Beretta could be taken along during the trips to town to buy supplies or for medical appointments.
… … The mob riots this week demonstrate once again the need to have a ‘get home bag’ ~ and a good extra get home gun. People might have to walk home or drive a dangerous route home.

As often pointed out here on Survivalblog, the ~grey-man appearance is needed in many situations. The Beretta 92F is a little big for everyday carry. But, during emergencies the Beretta would work. +The pistol would fit into a backpack, man bag, or the wife’s purse. The regular EDC gun would be carried concealed. [Grey Man when needed] … … As said earlier, it would be good to have a type of legal UZI or Tommygun. Full capacity magazines are available for the Beretta 92F.

The NOT so much conjecture: =
In the Ocean of the civilian Free Market system, the Colt 1911 with its clones, and the Glock with its clones, have been widely chosen as the best guns to use and shoot.

People should understand such things before they buy a gun, and then try to shoot a particular gun before purchase. = Pistols have grip-angles, grip sizes, bore axis, ammunition capacities, overall size, types of ~safeties, purchase prices and ‘shootability’ for a particular person.
… … Pistols need to be reliable to always work, accurate enough, and also shoot a big enough lead pumpkin to be ‘stop’ a villain. [Recoil, accuracy and ‘stopping’ power have offsets for many people. A person shooting a huge lead pumpkin could end up shooting almost all the bullets at the moon, instead of the villains.

Some shooting ranges have guns to rent, and try out. … Some ranges have a ‘ladies’ night for the gals. The NRA has courses on guns taught by other woman, “Women for Women.” … … Women with children or just a mother’s heart are concerned about keeping a gun safe from children. … There’s plenty of gun information around for both men and women.