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.