Gun Review: Beretta M9A3 9mm Pistol

beretta M9A1 review

Chris Heuss for TTAG

Opinions seem sharply divided on the Beretta 92. People either love them or they don’t. My Beretta 92FS, for many years now, has been my go-to pistol. While not necessarily the most accurate pistol I own, it has always been 100% reliable. 

beretta M9A1 review

Chris Heuss for TTAG

The Beretta M9A3 is a modernized version of the battle-proven Beretta M9, which is about as iconic as a modern pistol can be. For many people, the Beretta 92 platform is the quintessential 9mm pistol. The M9 has starred in countless movies (check out its IMFDB profile) and has served as a duty gun all around the world.

The gun was designed to compete for the U.S. Army’s new Modular Handgun System contract, but lost out to the SIG P320

beretta M9A1 review

Chris Heuss for TTAG

After the Army decided to go in another direction, the improved M9A3 was made available to the gun-buying public.

Despite its extensive duty history the M9 hasn’t aged quite as well as other classics like the 1911. I love the look of my old 92FS with its wood grips, but the M9A3 doesn’t have quite the same panache. I understand that function is more important than looks, but this is an Italian pistol so looks matter. 

beretta M9A1 review

Chris Heuss for TTAG

The most obvious difference between the Beretta 92FS (M9) and M9A3 is the threaded barrel. Well, that and the rail.

Beretta really nailed the threaded barrel on the M9A3. The threads are cleanly done and the textured thread protector is well made.

Most important, Beretta takes the extra step of installing a little red rubber o-ring at the base of the threads. This tiny piece of rubber that must cost a couple of pennies (if that) and should be included on all threaded pistol barrels.

I can’t even begin to guess how many times a thread protector has walked off a handgun while I was shooting. When you tighten the thread protector down on the M9A3, that o-ring keeps the thread protector under enough pressure to lock it in place, but it’s still removable by hand.

All manufacturers should include o-rings. Yes, I can buy them on Amazon, but if I spend $800 or on a gun with a threaded barrel I want a rubber o-ring included. 

beretta M9A1 review

Chris Heuss for TTAG

One of the big gripes people had with the Beretta 92 design was its grip circumference. Shooters with small hands couldn’t get a good hold on the gun and it’s a real stretch getting to the trigger for a double action pull.

As you can see above, the backstrap on the M9A3 is straight on the modular Vertec-style grip, resulting in a noticeably thinner handle and a much better experience for small-handed shooters. If you have big hands and really liked that old oil can-sized circumference, Beretta makes a wraparound grip panel to get you back to the size of the original M9s.

I actually don’t prefer one over the other. They’re both comfortable to me. I like the improved texturing on the rear of the M9A3 as it’s a bit more aggressive than the M9 backstrap. On the other hand, I prefer the texturing of the 92FS wood grips over the new plastic panels on the M9A3. Horses for courses, and there are plenty of aftermarket options if you want to swap them out.

beretta M9A1 review

Chris Heuss for TTAG

To the entire world was disappointed (though they shouldn’t have been surprised) that the M9A3 combination safety lever and de-cocker is still located on the slide, just like those of its forefathers. This feature never really bothered me as much until I started shooting more types of guns. Shoot enough of them and you understand why this is less than ideal. A slide-mounted safety isn’t a deal breaker for me but it’s (still) a mark against the Beretta design.

The good news here is that the M9A3 allows you to easily convert the lever to a de-cocker only (G type) for those of you who don’t see the need for a manual safety on a SA/DA pistol.

beretta M9A1 review

Chris Heuss for TTAG

The M9A3’s sight are a clear upgrade. Three-dot tritium night sights are now standard. Beretta also increased their height slightly over the M9’s to clear a suppressor (remember that threaded barrel).

The rear sight is fixed and the front sight post is dovetailed and removable. The standard three-dot sights are like the rest of the pistol…an upgrade over the originals, but not particularly outstanding. They work, are very durable and will get you on target.

beretta M9A1 review

Chris Heuss for TTAG

The magazine on the right is a standard M9 magazine. The mag on the left is the 17-round M9A3 mag, which gives you two more rounds than its predecessors.

The M9A3 magazines also have a PVD coating which is designed to be more sand resistant for the environments troops have increasingly found themselves in over the last few decades. Anything that makes an already reliable magazine more so is a win.

beretta M9A1 review

Chris Heuss for TTAG

The Beretta M9A3 disassembles just like the M9 always has. Unload the gun and make sure it is safe. Push the slide to the rear, turn the takedown lever and move the slide forward off the frame. Then take the barrel and spring out.

Of course, you could always attempt a faster Jet Li field strip process, but we don’t recommend that and caution you to always ensure you gun is clear and safe before taking it down…no matter what method you use.

Again, the M9A3 isn’t a competition pistol but it’s capable of very acceptable results at personal defense distances. This 10-yard five-round unsupported group is far less than minute of bad guy and that works for me. This is plenty for a duty gun.

beretta M9A1 review

Chris Heuss for TTAG

It’s also noticeably more accurate than my 92FS which is greatly due to the M9A3’s trigger. It’s a clear improvement over the older 92 series pistols. The updated gun’s trigger is smoother, the break is much more crisp and reset is perceptibly shorter.

The M9A3’s improved trigger is a more important feature to me than the threaded barrel, magazine improvement or even the Picatinny rail. I might even like the improved trigger better than that o-ring.

beretta M9A1 review

Chris Heuss for TTAG

The Beretta 92 series of pistols are kind of in gun limbo right now. They’re not old enough to be cool and not modern enough to be relevant. Don’t get me wrong, they are very good pistols, but the market is full of good pistols.

Will the 92 series one day be considered iconic as the 1911 is? I think so, but to a lesser extent. This is an excellent design that’s been serving shooters well — both military, law enforcement and civilian, for a quarter century.

I am sure some day, many years from now, I’ll still have at least one version of the Beretta 92. And I’m also sure it will be 100% reliable like every Beretta pistol I’ve shot. And in the end, what more could you want?

Specifications: Beretta M9A3 9mm Pistol

Caliber: 9x19mm
Capacity: 17+1 rounds (three magazines included)
Barrel Length: 5”
Weight: 33.4 oz
Overall Length: 8.7″
Overall Height: 5″
Overall Width: 1.5″
Action: SA/DA
Sights: three dot tritium, suppressor height, non-adjustable
Street Price: about $1000

Ratings (out of five stars):

Accuracy * * *
Its duty pistol level of accuracy is plenty good enough the majority of shooters.

Reliability * * * * *
100% like a Beretta should be.

Ergonomics * * * 
The 92 platform has never been wonderful ergonomically. It’s not as comfortable as, say, a Walther, but it is not uncomfortable either. The M9A3’s thin grip is a big improvement as is the flared magazine well, but this is still a large, heavy 9mm pistol. It’s not one most people will want to choose for concealed carry.

Customize This * * * *
It now has an accessory rail, a threaded barrel and, like earlier models, replaceable grips. Beretta was also smart enough to make sure the M9A3 will still fit in most of the thousands of holsters that are made for the M9.

Aesthetics * * * 
The updated, slightly slimmed down M9A3 isn’t ugly but it sure isn’t pretty either. You can get one in either tactical peanut butter (AKA flat dark earth) or black. The Beretta form has graced a million gun-free zone signs, but I give it a solid meh.

Overall * * * *
Beretta did some significant work to upgrade the M9 to what we now see in the M9A3. Many shooters who rejected the original model might find this an M9 they can love (or at least get along with). It’s is ultra-reliable, has a good trigger and good duty pistol accuracy. The standard issue night sights are a plus, too. If you haven’t picked up a 92-platform gun in a long time, it’s worth giving the M9A3 a shot.

 

comments

  1. avatar Shire-man says:

    Is the new safety like the G series?
    I used to hate my 92f until I installed the G series decocker and now I love it.

    1. avatar Cloud says:

      It’s not. It’s a safety and a decocker like that all non G series 92Fs.

    2. avatar JD says:

      You can buy these with a G series Decocker, in both Black and FDE.

      G series is the way to go. If your local dealer doesn’t have them, check out Gallery of Guns.

  2. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    The M9/Model 9x is perhaps one of the most challenging guns to detail strip. Trying to keep all the springs/detents/etc in the mere vicinity of your bench takes some skill and attention to consequences as you punch roll pins out.

    1. avatar Geoff "Mess with the bull, get the horns" PR says:

      My nephew wants a 92 as his first handgun when he hits 21.

      I’ve passed on your warnings to him, who knows if they will stick…

      1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

        Most owners will never detail strip any gun they own.

        The 92/M9 is one where I tell people these warnings about detail stripping it, because people who don’t detail strip guns all the time will lose expensive little bits as they go flying across the room with some guns – and the Model 9x is one of those guns.

        The roll pins are supposed to be replaced time it is disassembled if it is in “you bet your life on it” applications, and the roll pins are metric sizes… which can make them more expensive to find. The punches are metric (I make mine from drill blanks in CRS bodies).

        The Model 9x/M9 was made for government buyers to buy, where they would have a unit armorer to deal with the fiddly bits. It wasn’t a gun made for people to modify and accessorize.

        1. avatar Geoff "Mess with the bull, get the horns" PR says:

          “Most owners will never detail strip any gun they own.”

          This fellow is *extremely* bright and is a talented mechanic. I fear he we try anyways, why I am passing on the warnings…

        2. avatar BR says:

          This is why I’ve taken to telling people who don’t shoot a whole lot or lack any technical ability and dexterity to get a good manual on detail stripping just in case but take it somewhere to be done. Most gunshops around here will detail clean for about 50$.

          Or get an easy one like a Browning High Power. One small brass punch, rubber mallet, a flathead, and 5 minutes and its a bucket of parts with no weird “fly-aways” like these Beretta’s do. I foresee M9s and such occupying part of the gun world that High Powers do too. Cool, historical, capable of standing with the modern pistols to a large degree, and with a notable following but becoming more obscure as time goes on.

    2. avatar kahlil says:

      but the majority of gun users won’t detail strip the gun, they are fun to shoot, and visually are classic. Beretta 92/96 (92 and 96 times better than a Glock) 🙂

    3. avatar GS650G says:

      I was called to a friends house to help reassemble a 92FS and find a tiny spring that flew. We managed to get it all back together but it was a bitch.

      1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

        I’ve known lots of gunsmithing students to spend an hour (or more) on their hands and knees, ass in the air, Streamlight in hand, looking in the corners of a room for a spring that a Beretta M9/Model 92 launched. I’ve known other, more cynical guys, who did their disassembly/reassembly exercise on the Model 92 with their head inside a discarded cardboard box from an appliance, so as to keep the springs & detents contained to the top of the bench.

        The gun started as a decent piece of engineering, but then a committee got involved, and what you see in the slide today is the result: a vastly over-complicated bit of work.

        1. avatar BR says:

          I agree. It would have been a better pistol without the slide mounted mess.

  3. avatar Pmac says:

    Yawn. I have a 92 FS because I only paid $200 for it. When I new shooters out no one likes it compared to other models.

    1. avatar kahlil says:

      The 96 series in .40 is quite handy and the safety is no different than what is on my Px4 compact or most other slide based safeties. It all comes down to a personal preference of what you want as an individual in a gun. I’ve seen some 92’s, 84/85s, and other 96’s that looked well used but they still went bang and the fit & finish was still decent. As I’ve never owned a 92 series I can’t compare to the handling but since the 96 is basically the same framed reinforced and tweaked to handle the .40 I can’t see the reason for anyone really bashing the current product. I enjoy the .22 slide and barrel kit I have with mine but it is a bit more difficult to clean and doesn’t seem as robust as the rest of the gun, but other than that I have no issues with Berettas.

  4. avatar FortWorthColtGuy says:

    Was there ever a M9A2?

    1. avatar Cloud says:

      Yea. It was an m9a1 that the military welded a pic rail to the frame.

  5. avatar Kevin says:

    Thank you to whoever edited / proofread this. I read it a few days ago when it was accidentally posted, and it was full of grammatical and spelling errors – enough to be distracting. A poorly-written article lessens the credibility of the author. Thanks again!

  6. avatar Enuf says:

    There are new M9A3’s on GunBroker.com from about $800 right now.

    That’s still an expensive pile of cash compared to so many other options.

  7. avatar GS650G says:

    A thousand dollars is a lot of money for a pistol these days and while accurate and reliable it needs to compare to other pistols in its price range. I think of the 92F as an inexpensive surplus gun not an heirloom pistol.
    Opinions vary but I’m inclined to find a gently used 92F over this model.

  8. avatar Todd in the sticks says:

    Did you mean a stretch to the double action pull? After the 5th picture, 92s grip to grip, you mentioned, stretch to the single action pull.

    I agree with the stretch…I joked with friends that I was glad there was not one more coat of blueing on that pistol! FWIW, I hated the M9 at Officer Training School. I shot very poorly with it. After quite a few years in the Air Force, they sold me as a free agent to the Army for a little trip. I got a new M9 to work with there (as well as a fully equipped M4) and really learned to like it. I bought a 92 FS when I got back. I’m still not quite as accurate with it as I am with a 1911, but I am more than accurate enough for its purpose.

    1. Yes Text corrected. Thanks.

  9. avatar Bearacuda says:

    Just to clarify, are the sights replaceable? You said the rear sight is fixed–does that mean it can’t be removed?

    1. avatar CG13 says:

      The M9 has fixed front sight that is not replaceable, but the rear is drift adjustable and replaceable. The M9A3 sights, the front and rear sights appear to be drift adjustable and replaceable. I have a good amount of time on the M9 and there are some serious mechanical shortcoming. It is a complex pistol with a high part count.

  10. avatar Centralva says:

    The 92 is a behemoth. I’d like to see a 9×19 cheetah. It’s compact, doesn’t have a protruding barrel or slide mounted safety and is a much better looking gun to boot

    1. avatar CG13 says:

      The model 85 Cheetah has a straight blowback action, 9x19mm is just to0 much for that set-up. It is a nice pistol.

  11. avatar Specialist38 says:

    The 92 is a great design. The M9A3 I handled was slimmer and had a light DA pull so I assumed it had a D hammer spring.

    A little pricey for me but a cool pistol. I certainly wouldn’t feel unarmed with one.

  12. avatar KyBob says:

    I’ve always been a fan of all-metal handguns. Polymer is nice and light, but it’s….polymer. It’s not an heirloom gun like my grandfather’s S&W “original” M&P circa 1905. I’ve always been a fan of 1911s, Browning Hi Powers, and Sig Sauer pistols. The all have give a feeling of endurance.

    I’d always resisted the Beretta 92 series because of the damn safety; it’s opposite of any other pistol I’d experienced. Up to fire? Accidentally engage the safety when racking the slide? Blasphemy! Then I found out about the G-models, and how easily all the others can be converted to decock only.

    I’m now a big fan of the 92 and M9 series Beretta, and have come to appreciate the nuanced advances made by Wilson Combat and Ernest Langdon. I have an M9A3 on order, as well as a Langdon Tactical trigger job in a bag. Believe me, that mod takes an equivocal firearm and makes it into a masterpiece. Sure, they’re not like the designs of John Moses Browning, may he rest in peace, but there is still something very satisfying about shooting the 92 series. It’s a big, heavy gun that soaks up recoil. Sure, the locking block is supposedly good for only 20,000 rounds, and they require proper lubrication, but all in all, it is a nice shooter. I’m glad I have mine. Best pistol ever? Maybe the Langdon Elite LTT. There’s nothing like it!

  13. avatar Chris T in KY says:

    No thanks. I shoot better with my ruger p89 now than with my army issued m9 back in the 1990s. But I do like a de-cocker.

  14. avatar David says:

    18+ years in the Marine Corps and I’ve never seen as many hard mechanical failures with any other platform than I have the M9. Their locking blocks are prone to cracking and locking up the pistol. Fortunately it will unlock when you disassemble it but the guns done until the locking block is replaced. Magazines were also an issue but that might be chalked up to the Marine Corps issuing garbage they bought off the back of a truck somewhere. The list of pistols I’d rather take into combat than a M9 is pretty long.

  15. avatar coagula says:

    I recently purchased a Sig P220 Legion and took it to the range this past saturday… while I was out, I took my Beretta M9A3 and my carry pistol, a Glock 23…. I am far more acturate with the M9A3 than with anything else… gonna have to figure out why.

  16. avatar jwtaylor says:

    My M9 was a spectacular service pistol. I carried one particular already very well worn M9 for 2 tours in Afghanistan. On my first tour there, we set up a range and taught the ANA and ANP how to shoot. Between that, drills, and competitions, I shot it most days. Accurate and extremely reliable, even under deployment conditions. Once I learned to shoot the DA/SA trigger, and just gave up using the safety, I absolutely fell in love with the gun. It was the one firearm I had on me all the time, no matter what.
    Since then, it was the first gun I was ever able to run the Bill Wilson 5X5 test in under 20 seconds. I have over 30k logged on one particular 92G. I have dozens of pistols, and yet, if I was every going to choose one to take to war, one of my 92Gs would be it. I’d trust my life (again) any day to those guns.

    I very much prefer the arched grip over the new straight version.

  17. avatar arc says:

    Reliability… teehee… all Beretta guns that I’ve used in the past were horrid. One didn’t work at all (shotgun).

    My M9 service pistol that I had to qualify with had a spread so bad it looked like someone hit my target with bird shot. Thanks but no thanks, won’t touch it with a 20 foot pole unless its the last gun on earth. Then I’ll use it only until I build a better one.

    1. avatar J says:

      Well you should take into account that your m9 was a beat to shit military pistol handled by hundreds or thousands of sargent fuckups or private dumbasses over the span of several decades so it isnt exactly a good specimen of the 92 series.

      1. avatar CE Bay says:

        “…your m9 was a beat to shit military pistol handled by hundreds or thousands of sargent fuckups……over the span of several decades so it isn’t exactly a good specimen of the 92 series.”

        Who carries the M9 depends on what branch of the military you’re talking about. For instance, in the Marines, only very high ranked enlisted (SNCO and above) infantrymen are issued an M9, but even a lot of them don’t carry them, because it’s extra weight. But no “sergeants” carry that weapon.

        Also, in the history of the US military, the rank of “Sargent” has never existed. However, the rank of “Sergeant” does exist, and I seriously doubt that any ONE M9 was handles by “hundreds or thousands” of Sergeants, since none of them are issued used sidearms.

  18. avatar Nickel Plated says:

    Uugghh. All these posts of “The M9 I used in the army 20 years ago was crap. I would never touch one.”
    How does ignorance like this still persist with Google and YouTube around?
    That and people who talk about the M16 they had in Nam.

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