Gun Review: Beretta M9/92A Take Two

[Ed: the following review originated as a comment from SFC Jose A. Garcia about our Beretta 92A1 review]

I am a fan of the M9. I am also a senior NCO and leader of a marksmanship training team in the US Army. To date, my team and I have trained thousands of Soldiers deploying over the last 3 years. We’ve also competed at the 2010 & 2011 US Army Small Arms Championships, placing among the top 10 teams in Rifle, Pistol, and Combined Arms. Two of my Soldiers have earned their Gold Distinguished Pistol Badges in the last 18 months, with a third within four points of that achievement. We’ve fired tens of thousands of rounds through our M9′s. . .

Here are the problems, and a little gem of a tip for those of you slamming the magazine into the pistol to get the slide to release and thus load a new round into the chamber as quickly as you insert the magazine… neeto huh?

… not so much…

Take and load 5 to 7 rounds in a full size magazine, then try that trick. You will soon notice that you might get off one shot, or no shots at all, but the remaining rounds in the magazine are in a bullet nose down attitude, rolling around in the magazine with the follower stuck down inside and askew.

Next item…

I have large hands and very long fingers. I like the M9. But Soldiers with average size hands or short stubby hands don’t like it so much. But those Soldiers with short thumbs do have an advantage with the M9 – specifically with the slide release. You see, those of us with normal sized hands – grown up sized, non mutant hands like mine – will unconsciously bump the slide release during recoil as we maintain a proper high and firm grip on the pistol.

When the last round is loaded from the magazine and fired – the magazine follower will push up on the slide lock – but as the recoil energy is transmitted to the shooter, the tip of the slide release will bump the shooter’s thumb resulting in the slide going forward on an empty chamber. Which is then followed by a ubiquitous “click” as the shooter presses the trigger and the hammer goes forward on a dry chamber. This usually happens during a stage in competition that a guy had been doing real well at. The trick is to change your grip so that those of you with long thumbs rest the right thumb over the backside of the lower left thumb instead of where it naturally falls along the side of the pistol.

THE DE-COCKER…

The story I’ve been told – and it’s probably just hogwash but it has some veracity to it – is that when the initial 92s first came out, they had a spring loaded de-cocker. The US Army wanted a “Safety” (having been raised on 1911′s). So, Beretta removed the spring, and called it a safety. Now-a-days, most soldiers draw that pistol to fire in a hurry and press the trigger back a few times before they realize… “Oh shit! I need to take the safety off!” … seconds are lost and the stage ends or the bad guy gets away.

We would like to “officially” train Soldiers to always “DE-COCK AND HOLSTER” rather than “SAFE AND HOLSTER”

The other pet peeve…

New shooters will use an over hand grip with the non firing hand to rack the slide. When they do, they typically – and unknowingly – sweep the de-cocker/safety to the “ON” position. When they go to press the trigger, they get the mushy emptiness of a disarmed pistol. Seconds are lost while they figure it out and the stage is over or the bad guy gets away. Sometimes I tell them to take their time, they may have the rest of their lives to figure it out.

We train Soldiers to use the blade of the non firing hand to rack the slide by catching the front of the rear sight (ala 10-8 forums rear sight) on the top of the slide and apply sharp rearward pressure while pushing forward with the grip hand. In some close gunfights, fingers are traumatically amputated. It is better to train to rack that slide w/o the use of your fingers – because you might not have them, and you might inadvertently apply the de-cocker when you really didn’t want to if you did have them.

If you buy one of these pistols from Beretta (as a number of us bought our own so we could get more practice) please know that we were told by Beretta that only the military M9′s are zeroed at the factory – NOT- the civilian market pistols. Why did this question come up, you might ask? We had two of our pistols shooting about 20 inches low at 10 feet from the target. Of course the poor guys took all kinds of hazing from us until each of us shot those two particular pistols with the same nice tight group… approximately 20 inches low. Having never seen that before with a military M9, we called them and discovered what we did.

Since then, whenever I have a problem shooter with an M9, we always check to make sure the pistol sights are set up correctly. We’ve found a few M9′s that have had this problem – it’s rare, but they’re out there.

Locking blocks and slides have been discussed ad nauseum.

I mentioned the slide release lever problem to Beretta at SHOT Show last year. The rep I spoke to in the booth was from engineering. He said it was the first time he’d ever heard about that problem. B.S.

If someone created a case-hardened and properly finished aftermarket slide release lever that reliably eliminates the problem I would purchase it and recommend it to the USAMU and the rest of the Army.

51 Responses to Gun Review: Beretta M9/92A Take Two

  1. avatarJoe Hooker says:

    Get a 1911, man. You’ll be glad you did. Or even a Tokarev.

  2. Just a point of clarification: are you slamming the mags so hard that the slide breaks loose from the slide lock and closes solely because of the mag insertion? If you are, then you’re destroying the magazine. It’s shaped sheet metal. There’s no way any magazine can be built to withstand that much directed force on a thin metal edge. Get rid of every magazine you’ve done that to (if they’re not already warped beyond use, they’re close), and STOP IT.

    The magazine problem might be a Mec-Gar issue. One of my 92FS Mec-Gars got indigestion when half-full while at the range last month, to the point where the spring jammed and the ammo rattled around. I took the magazine apart, and everything’s fine now. I’m thinking that some dirt got in it and allowed the ammo to destack, but the magazine’s now on probation.

    • avatarSFC Jose A. Garcia says:

      Oh crap, I guess I should’ve checked this site out more often!

      Just to clarify…. I am not, nor have I ever advocated slamming the magazine so hard as to cause the slide to release in order to chamber a round. I guess the tone of my cynicism didn’t come across when I wrote that piece. My comments about the practice of slamming the magazine were only in response to what I read from a comment on the first Beretta M9A1 review page on this site, where a reader was saying that he liked to do that. I have seen Soldiers do that to “save time.” Inevitably they will induce a malfunction by doing that.

  3. avatarJason says:

    The spring loaded decocker is the 92G. Still an option, and also available as the Type G trigger on the Px4.

  4. avatar2Wheels says:

    +1 to what the review said about Berettas decocker/safety. I hate it!

    It’s in a bad location to begin with, and I personally don’t want a manual safety on a DA/SA gun. I thought that was why I had to suffer through that long and heavy initial trigger pull… right? Sig does it better :P

    That slide mounted decocker/safety is why I never quite warmed up to my Stoeger Cougar, an otherwise excellent handgun in all other respects.

  5. avatarryan says:

    The Sig P226 looks better and better…

  6. avatarST says:

    ****THE DE-COCKER…

    The story I’ve been told – and it’s probably just hogwash but it has some veracity to it – is that when the initial 92s first came out, they had a spring loaded de-cocker. The US Army wanted a “Safety” (having been raised on 1911′s). So, Beretta removed the spring, and called it a safety. Now-a-days, most soldiers draw that pistol to fire in a hurry and press the trigger back a few times before they realize… “Oh shit! I need to take the safety off!” … seconds are lost and the stage ends or the bad guy gets away.****

    The best solution to this problem is to carry hammer down safety off. If policy mandates it be engaged then the next best thing is to religiously practice taking it off. Massad Ayoob writes of a story involving an officer who encountered an armed perp and beat the draw with a holstered Beretta 92FS that was on safe in a retention holster.
    Article here:http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0BTT/is_154_25/ai_78870850/

    ******Next item…

    I have large hands and very long fingers. I like the M9. But Soldiers with average size hands or short stubby hands don’t like it so much. But those Soldiers with short thumbs do have an advantage with the M9 – specifically with the slide release. You see, those of us with normal sized hands – grown up sized, non mutant hands like mine – will unconsciously bump the slide release during recoil as we maintain a proper high and firm grip on the pistol.*****

    As a fellow with large hands myself, your grip is the best way to manage the problem. What must be said however is that the Beretta 92 is not the only pistol with this issue. A high grip for me on a SigSauer 2022 will cause the same problem of riding the slide release with my forward thumb.

  7. avatarSkyler says:

    I’ve been shooting the M9 in the USMC for about 24 years by my count (but never competitively) and I’ve never ever seen anyone make the slide go home by slamming a magazine in too vigorously.

    I’ve also never seen anyone bump the safety while racking the slide. I’m not saying it never happens, I just think that there’s any number of ways to screw up how a pistol works and this is a petty gripe as it would seem to be rare.

    I take it that you’re trying to say that you should call the safety a decocker and the act of putting it on safe as decocking. I’m not sure why this is important. Flipping the safety off should be as automatic as breathing, and should always be the first thing to check when the trigger has no resistance.

    I remember, though, the first time I shot the M9 and they told us to put the weapon on safe. When that hammer when home, I almost had a heart attack! They didn’t tell us it would do that! After shooting the M1911 for a few years, I learned to really appreciate the quality of the M9 and I am an absolute fan of the decocking safety. I wish all my pistols had that feature of physically and visibly rotating the firing pin so that the pistol cannot fire.

    • avatarSFC Jose A. Garcia says:

      I am assuming you are a right handed shooter?
      Grasp the M9 or M9A1 in your firing hand.

      With your left hand, use an overhand grip (not a pinching grip) to grasp the slide at the rear of the pistol and move the slide to the rear as you would during loading or the “rack” of “tap, rack, bang.” It is during this act that most Soldiers will sweep the safety/de-cocker, inadvertently applying the safety. When they press the trigger for the next shot, the safety will be on, and the trigger will be mush. It happens ALL THE TIME.

      I agree with you that “flipping the safety off should be as automatic as breathing” (note: key words “should be”). But the fact of the matter is that it isn’t. In the last three years, my team has trained just short of 10,000 service members for deployment; mostly Soldiers but also Marines, Airmen, and Sailors. There is a significant number of them in all groups that forget to flip the safety off, some more than others, regardless of service branch. They all do it. It is a matter of dry fire practice. They simply don’t do enough correct dry fire repetitions to make this “as automatic as breathing.” They don’t.

  8. avatarMr. Lion says:

    While I’m not a fan of 9mm europellet to begin with, I do own a 92 and I’ve never had any of the issues mentioned here.

    I have large hands. I never accidentally activate the slide release.

    I have zero issues with the decocker/safety.

    I don’t slam mags when loading quick. It doesn’t require all that much dexterity to hit the slide release the moment the mag locks home without beating the crap out of the hardware.

    These sorts of problems scream pretty loudly of a training and/or grip issue.

    • avatarSFC Jose A. Garcia says:

      Mr. Lion,

      Dang it! My grip is all wrong! I guess I’ll have to tell Max Michel and Travis Tomasie that they taught me all wrong! Those jackwagons! I’ve been had!

      Did you even read what I wrote?

      I wrote about “NOT” slamming the magazine to work the slide. There are people out there that actually do that, I was writing to explain why that is a bad idea.

      • avatarAJ says:

        SFC,

        Great article, too bad too many people are not actually reading what you wrote! I agree with you, hoping to save time by slamming the mag and sending the slide home is risky at best. I’ve been a Marine for 7 years now and while I am in a small minority, I love the Beretta 92. I had one as my side arm in Afghanistan and it served me well. I love the Beretta so much that I bought my own a little over 6 years ago. I bought it from a retired police officer and that weapon is zeroed dead on. I’m also a compulsive weapon cleaner, so my Beretta 92 has yet to have a failure to feed or eject in over 6 years. I have large hands, but I paid about $35 on Amazon for some rubber Hogue grips and now the weapon feels incredible in my hands. Not that I don’t like the factory grips, but a little customization can go a long way. Great article, SFC. Semper Fi!

  9. avatarGA Koenig says:

    Ever notice that folks in the military praise the M9, while *every* other market (civilians, LEOs) who has more control over what weapon they use has long ago abandoned the M9 platform?

    Sure, they are reliable (when not paired with those trash magazines big Army procured a while ago). Trouble is; virtually every pistol made today is reliable. It is very accurate, but given the fact that the military generally does such a poor job providing marksmanship training to line units, that really doesn’t matter much.

    Where they do fall down is ergonomics (very poor across a 90% fit rate). An external safety that is awkwardly positioned. Lack of provisions for modern night sights and lights (unless very recently procured). Heavy. Very complex assembly and a high parts count (when compared to other weapons available).

    A Glock or M&P suffers none of the above problems. What does the M9 do so extremely well that these other pistols don’t do? Other than be made by a company that knows how to grease a military contract very well?

    • avatargsr says:

      the reason the military ditched the .45 1911 was because women joined the military. they could not handle the 45 and could not hit anything with just 8 shots. so they got a 9mm with 15 rounds. political correctness solved.

      • avatarjoe says:

        I’ve never heard that before – a full sized .45 doesn’t kick all that much since the 1911 is still pretty heavy. More than likely the switch had to do with the US military wanting to have a NATO round, which for pistols is 9mm. Some people like the Coast Guard are finally realizing that the need to share pistol ammo with NATO allies is slim to none, and have since switched to the .40 caliber as a trade off between the 9mm and .45 ACP.

      • avatarPops says:

        My daughter shot my Kimber pretty darn good, she didn’t seem to mind the .45′s recoil, and she was 12 when she first shot it.

    • avatarSFC Jose A. Garcia says:

      I think the M9 or M9A1 for the Marines will remain the service pistol for the next 20 years.

      There will be fewer service pistols in the future. The pistol as a military weapon is outmatched these days by the PDW, like the MP7. The Army’s operational requirement for the next side arm is “increased lethality” i.e., better terminal ballistics (“leap ahead” better, not .45 vs. 9 mm better).

      I doubt very much the Army’s next major small arms purchase will be any new pistol. They’re looking for something that is effective against body armor, has better terminal ballistics, has better accuracy, and better range.

      It will be the MP7 or something similar. They’ll still keep the M9 as “the service pistol” but they won’t issue them out as often because they aren’t effective on the battlefield. There is some history to support this. Tankers used to carry the M3 grease gun. It’s not a stretch to see the Army doing something like this again. In fact the way they wrote the operational requirements, it’s the only move that meets them.

      • avatarhoppes#9 says:

        SFC Garcia,

        Well said, good insight. Thanks.

      • avatarjoe says:

        Think again. Even if they like the M9, the entire inventory is aging beyond the point of ordinary repair. A new contract for a pistol will be awarded soon. Yes, the M9 could win it again, but there’s been a lot of great competition since the early eighties when the M9 first arrived. Either way, they are talking about many MORE pistols as alternate weapons for the regular infantry, etc. versus reserving it as a special-ops only tactical arrangement to have a rifle and a pistol. Procurement of a PDW means a new, expensive type of ammunition not already in the inventory which makes that scenario even more unlikely.

        BTW, the only reason the tankers carried the grease gun as long as they did is because the M16 couldn’t fit in the tank. That changed for good when the M4 got popular.

  10. avatarTom says:

    I actually like the Beretta 92. Do not own one, but may buy the 92 or the CZ85. I have always like the feel and controls of both the 92 and CZ75-85. I am hoping the military dumps it and all of the para-military civilians will dump theirs used on the market, for me to pick up cheap. Notice a few nice Taurus type models going used fairly cheap.

    • avatarSFC Jose A. Garcia says:

      Tom,
      They may just dump thousands of them from service, but you can bet Uncle Sam will keep them and give them to some turd world country. I agree, it would be nice if they were made available to the public.

  11. avatarKevin T says:

    Im still confused why the military doesn’t use glock 17s

    • avatarDJ says:

      Because one of the requirements has always been that any adopted pistol must have a trigger-operated “second strike” capability; in case of a misfire, the shooter must have the ability to attempt to fire the chambered round a second time with the ONLY needed action being a second pull of the trigger. All Glock handguns, being partially pre-cocked by the action of the slide closing when the round is chambered, do not meet that requirement.

      • avatarKevin T says:

        oh thats interesting. thanks!

      • avatarchris says:

        the 1911 doesnt have a second strike ability. Colt was just awarded a contract for the marines.
        im sure there are other reasons as well.

        • avatarPops says:

          Well the 1911 does have a second strike capability, just pull back the hammer again. I have never had a round that failed on the first strike go off on the second strike. Maybe other have but maybe you should be cycling a new round in regardless. Second Strike capability became a marketing gimmick for existing capabilities that a lot of pistols have

  12. avatarChris Dumm says:

    As usual, our military is busy preparing to fight the last war. Berettas were a useful step forward from the 1911, but that was 30 years ago and handguns have come much farther since then. They were both excellent designs for their day, but the M9 is nearly as obsolete as the Hi-Power.

    • avatarSFC Jose A. Garcia says:

      Mr. Dunn,

      There have been great strides and leaps ahead made in the last few years in terms of small arms lethality. The technology was and is being fielded rapidly.
      Checkout LSAT Light Small Arms Technologies; see also M855A1

      • avatarjoe says:

        I’m not even sure how useful a step forward the M9 was, considering it was essentially a 1970′s design, adapted from the P38 action from World War II. The M9 is most definitely an obsolete design nowadays – there are much more ergonomically sensible and more accurate choices.

  13. avatarMil-Polocue Paratroop says:

    I carried the M9 in Combat and LE duty for over 20 yrs… I love the reliability of the weapon.. In accuracy I always found it wanting.. I grew up shooting revolvers and I shoot better with more weight toward the muzzle, I always qualified expert with the M9 but it always took concentration and focus.. I never warmed up to the weapon. Just for S&G’s I have fired the Military police qualification, with both my GP-100 and my XD 45 Tactical and gotten much tighter groups while still sticking to the time hacks… firing both right and left hand, using barricades. All in all the M9 is a good weapon I only experienced one FTF and that was an Ammo issue, but I will never be a 9mm fan… ask anyone that’s tried to end the suffering of a vehicle struck deer with one … even 40′s have been found lacking in that role whereas the venerable .45 and 357 work everytime with the first shot.

  14. avatarRichard says:

    I have owen work with M9 for years it good gun . Beretta done lot thing fix issues they have had with them over years. New M9 they have address update some those issues make out standing gun. If want very reliable battle proven military sidearm that still being used good price point M9 hard beat. If hate plastic strike fire guns or plastic frame guns do not mind weight of M9 or do not have money buy sig226 still good buy. Only short coming are there to big bulky be concled care gun but Beretta other company make other 9 mm hanguns for that,

  15. avatarMichael says:

    Forgive my ignorance here…..but if the Beretta has fixed sights, what needs to be zeroed? When you say that the M9s are zeroed at the factory while the civilian models are not, are you saying that the quality control is at a higher standard for the M9s vs the civilian 92s?

    Thanks

    • avatarSFC Jose A. Garcia says:

      US M9 and Beretta 92FS rear sights are “fixed” in that they have no adjustment screw. However the rear sight is pressed into place, much like the front sight windage adjustment on an AK47. Beretta makes a tool to adjust the rear sight windage on the M9.
      M9′s are test fired for accuracy at the factory, 92FS are NOT test fired *for accuracy* at the factory.

      • avatarjoe says:

        For windage, yes it can be drifted. This might matter in marksmanship competitions, but seriously, for hitting a man-sized target ten feet away in center body mass, zeroing a pistol is an utter waste of time. Frankly, if you can hit the center body mass (and the ammo/caliber combo is any good), the guy is going down. Who cares if it’s an inch to the left or right? If you’re that close you’ll hit him again a split second later. There is a reason they literally tell you to QUIT AIMING the pistol during army tactical shooting drills.

        Considering how the tip of the barrel of the M9 floats in the end of the slide, it’s questionable how consistent one of them would stay zeroed without some serious tooling – which I understand the US Army marksmanship unit performs on their slides, don’t they?

  16. avatarRudolf says:

    From my experience with the m9 after taking several classes, I kinda found the slamming the mag in on a full mag to have vastly impressed some instructors but nevertheless it is not treated very fondly and positively.

    I understand the reasons and merits but for me, in my experience(knock on wood), it has worked reasonably well.

  17. avatarTNdefender05 says:

    I carry the M-9 everyday I go to work and I must say that I am not a big fan of the pistol. It is reliable, accurate as can be for its intended purpose, and feels like a solid piece of equipment. The real reason the M-9 is full of safeties and what not is because of “Big Brother Green.” AKA the U.S.Army, which is known for producing safety sally’s. It is probably a good thing because that is how they like them. Anyway sorry back to the M-9. Great piece if you are looking for a solid, no frills handgun.

  18. avatarPops says:

    I just purchased a Beretta M9 (J92M9A0M), should arrive in a week. My wife and i have shot a military M9 from time to time while we were in the Air Force, never had any of the problems listed here, except for a batch of crap mags, so I feel comfortable with this purchase. My dad has a 92FS, he bought his because he liked the one he carried while working with a Seabee unit. But my carry gun is an old beat up Glock 30 that just keeps on throwing those .45 slugs with never a problem, and it’s a lot easier to conceal. I also have an FN 5.7, very light with 20 rounds on tap, my only complaint is the texture of the grip rubs my “love handles” raw. So I’ll either have to lose weight or find a better holster.

  19. avatarShirt says:

    Thanks for the straight forward write up and comments. I like my M9. I learn to like every other semi auto or revolver I own (ie. train untill proficient) If you train enough, you can function well with a muzzle loading BP pistol. A lot of good choices out there. TRAIN YOURSELF! 1Sgt (Ret)

  20. avatarjrstark says:

    uugh it’s a slide lock-not a slide release-was corrected after calling it a release for 50 + years.

    • avatarPops says:

      It’s not a slide catch ? It really doesn’t matter, yes it locks the slide back, but pressing down on the lever releases the slide forward. So people call it a slide release, because it performs that function as well. Some suppressed pistol are fitted with a slide lock, which locks the slide preventing the pistol from cycling, for a quiet shot. Maybe that’s another reason for people calling a slide catch a slide release.

  21. I went a whole year and looked at many 9mm semi-auto pistols and chose the M9 Beretta…And the reason is I thought the weapon was well manufactured (other than the polymer guide rod which I replaced with a stainless steel one)…I have medium size hands and really the only problem I had is my short thumb reaching the mag release and I have to tilt the weapon up and in a little so my thumb can engage the release…with a little dry firing practice I have become very comfortable with changing the mags and racking the slide, which I do with my weak hand 0ver the top, near the rear sights all in one motion…I have never had any problem engaging the safety nor engaging the slide release…Guess it all depends on the size of your hands and how you train…Anyway out of the four semi’s that I own the M9 is my favorite…Be safe my Friends and God Bless

  22. avatarPete says:

    Great site. My first time reading it. Good, level headed contributors without the arrogance/conceit so evident on other sites. I own 2 M9′s by the way. One had a problem. The trigger fails to reset. It will fire S/A, not D/A unless safety off, push trigger forward. I think this is a return spring issue of some sort.

  23. avatarPete says:

    Pete- Con’t Returned to Beretta for fix If there is a “better” spring fix for this I’d appreciate advice. Respectfully, Pete. SFC Garcia- Thanks For Your Service.

  24. avatarPops says:

    About a year and a half owning my Beretta M9 , no problems yet. I want to replace the plastic guide rod, trigger and safety lever, the plastic works fine, just want mine to be like the one I carried years ago. Easy for the wife to rack the slide, easy to clean, and reliable. Picking up a Sig MK25 next, but I won’t get rid if the Beretta, it’s a great gun.

  25. avatarAlan Higgins says:

    The merits of the M9 vs the 1911 have been argued for years. I used both extensively in my time in the Marine Corps. I was dragged kicking and screaming into the M9 world, but once there, the pistol performed very, very well for me. My only issue is the ergonomics. My go to pistols now are my series of Kimber 1911′s. That said, I do have an M9 that I practice with quite extensively for when my contracts require that I go back to those sandy locations. SFC Garcia, your comments were well noted. The problem, as I’m sure you will agree, is the lack of proper training and PRACTICE with their weapons systems.

  26. avatarWillCook says:

    I love the M9. Used it in the Navy and in the Army, just this weekend to tell the truth. I love it so much I bought one. I was very disappointed with my first squeeze of the trigger. The second confirmed it. Low and left…. Big time. I bought it new, even went through the extra pains to get the M9 markings instead of the 92. So I found a Berretta Rep at a local gun show. I was told the same thing, she never heard of one that did that from factory and questioned my how much time do I have on a handgun. After setting her straight she told me I can mail it back to Berretta with $75 and they will check it and zero it for free if it’s found to be outside of a 3″ circle at 25 yards. Your $75 will be returned with a factory zeroed weapon. If they check it and it’s one, they keep your $75

  27. avatarClaude P. says:

    I have Civilian M9 ,I hate those snowball sights. I can not get use to them, but love the gun.

  28. avatarPops says:

    @WillCook, I think that is crappy customer service, $75 to sight in a pistol, I am in the wrong business !

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