Occasionally, I hit the bossman up for ammo, but it always seems to come with a catch. Usually in the form of a gun or piece of gear thrust in my hands along with insistent demands for a review. I certainly don’t mind because I like guns and I like writing, but I must have gotten to platinum status in the last few months based on the recent haul. Specifically, he shoved two Beretta 92 pistols at me that had been kissed by the wizards at Wilson Combat . . .
I’d anticipated picking up some 5.56 for a torture test when I got a text that said, “I’ve got some Beretta 92s for you to test ASAP. Full zoot Wilson Combat.” I don’t speak that language, but knowing that I’d see Farago in a few days, I figured I’d understand soon enough. And sure as you’re sitting there reading this, I had my pickup parked next to his German automobile a few days later in the parking lot of my bank. While he and I loaded ammo and guns from one vehicle to another, he indicated that these were on loan from a nice gentleman in town. The directive from on high was that I had a week to shoot them, take pictures, test them, beat ’em up, and then return them. We both celebrated our freedom at doing a gun transaction free from bureaucracy and paperwork and then headed off in our separate directions.
I’m always nervous about having guns in my possession that don’t belong to me, but I’m extra double throw-down nervous when they belong to an individual instead of a large firearms manufacturer with insurance policies and profit margins. Naturally, I went directly to my house and stashed the guns in my safe. But I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t sit in my shop and dry fire them a bunch first.
The first 92, a FS model, with the following worklist is a real gem.
- Action Tune
- Contour Magazine Well
- Battlesight Rear Sight
- Fluted Steel Guide Rod
- Checker Frontstrap and Backstrap
- Round Trigger Guard
- Custom Carry Safety De-Cocker
- G10 Grips with Wilson Combat Medallion
- Armor-Tuff Complete Pistol
- Wilson Combat Logo Laser Etch Slide
- Oversized Checkered Magazine Release
- Machine 92F/FS Fixed Front Sight for RED Fiber Optic Rod
- Shorten Barrel to 4.7″ and Reverse Crown.
The second 92 is an official Wilson Combat edition Beretta 92G that includes the following.
- M9A1 frame with 92A1 round trigger guard profile and improved checkering
- Dehorned 92G Brigadier slide
- Enhanced slide to frame fit
- Trijicon tritium dovetail front sight
- Stainless barrel with recessed crown, 4.7” Elite II length, black finish
- Oversize steel magazine release
- Steel de-cocking levers
- Skeletonized Elite II hammer
- D hammer spring
- Lanyard loop pin
- Lanyard loop, aluminum
- Steel trigger
- Wilson Combat rear u-notch battlesight
- Wilson Combat fluted steel guide rod
- G10 Dirty Olive grips with Wilson Combat logo medallion
- Wilson Combat logo on slide
- 3 15rd M9A1 Beretta sand resistant magazines
- 9mm caliber only
This is the same gun we talked about here in November. The Wilson edition has a metric crapton of “things” and despite Farago’s assertion that there was some brand dilution going on in the partnership, I’d say the 92G is more a Wilson gun with Beretta badging than the other way around. Think Carroll Shelby Mustang as being more of a Shelby car than a Ford gussied up by a guy with a woman’s name.
Whatever your opinion on the matter, know that I’ll detail the two guns in independent reviews to keep from breaking our review engine and making Leghorn’s head explode, but after 250+ rounds through both, I have some first blush impressions that are common to both guns.
Better than Stock?
I took both guns to the range along with a bone stock 92 on loan from yet another gracious benefactor. Loading up magazines of the same ammo, it was immediately apparent that the extra money spent on both guns was worth it. The sights were better, the triggers felt crisper, smoother, and better to the finger. They felt similar in my hands, and they all ate whatever I threw at them, but it was apparent that the Wilson guns have a bit more polish.
The Wilson guns are hands down stunning in person, especially the official Wilson Combat one. Nary a machining mark could be found, the sights were ultra crisp, and the grips look fantastic. We’re talking about a gun designed by Italians here. It has to be beautiful. It must be. These are the people who brought us Ferrari, Lamborghini, and the phrase “Italian Supermode”. From the smoothly curved slide to the attractive yet functional backstrap, the exposed barrel, and even that ridiculous slide mounted safety, the 92 has sex appeal. Gobs of it. I’ve always thought that. Now take an already pretty girl and hand her over to the folks at Wilson who make, arguably, some of the best looking 1911s on the market, and you’ve got a recipe for a winner.
Nobody told me that when you have a Wilson gun in your hands, you have the potential for great snobbery. I got my first taste of this at my local indoor range. Since I had limited time with the guns, I needed to find a place as geographically close as possible that would let me burn through a case of 9 mm. Luckily, I have a range within 10 minutes of my house. But they are SUPER restrictive on range rules, and the various pock marks in the floor, ceiling, and walls speak to why. Besides the restriction on drawing from a holster, they also don’t allow double or triple taps. Each shot must have 1 sec between it or you’ll get a tap on the shoulder from one of the ROs. There I am blazing away with the 92G punching a (large) ragged hole in one of their targets when I got a tap on the shoulder and a stern warning about leaving one second between shots. I replied, “OK” and gave the universal thumbs up sign. As he left, an utterance straight from my soul escaped. “I’m punching ragged holes in a target with a goddamnned Wilson Combat pistol. How are they going to tell me how I can shoot it?”
Face red with embarrassment at my utterance, I slowed my shooting and wondered what had come over me. Soon after, I got another tap on the shoulder. “Hey you clearly know what you’re doing. Feel free to double and triple tap, just don’t do any mag dumps.”
These guns are powerful stuff man.
Mystique or not, I can’t shoot these as well as I can any of the plastic self defense pistols I’ve tried. And gosh I sure did try. I wanted, nay needed these guns to shoot well. This is the American military’s sidearm for crying out loud. John McClane killed about a million Eurotrash bad guys in Die Hard with a 92F. Martin Riggs shot that smiley face target in the very first Lethal Weapon with one. Yet here I was, sweat pouring down my face, shooting an iconic pistol built and tuned by Wilson effing Combat and I couldn’t make a ragged hole at seven yards if I wanted to.
As I’ve mentioned about a billion times here, I have smallish hands for a man. They’re slightly larger than your average woman’s hand. Small feet too for what that’s worth. The rest of the TTAG staff has average to large hands so I’m the one always screaming, “But this GLOCK doesn’t fit me” to anyone who will listen. And now, I can add the Beretta 92 series to the list.
I bet if you put either of these guns in a Ransom Rest, they’d bore holes in pie plates at 50 yards. There’s no doubt in my mind that removing the human element from the equation would reveal these as really accurate guns. But put human with un-naturally small hands behind it and this is a fair shooter on its best day.
Leaving the range dejected, I texted the owner of these to tell him that I’d swing by his office by the end of the week to return them. I explained that they were real swell and all, but I just couldn’t shoot them worth a damn. It might be worth noting that the owner is a combat vet who has been around guns since birth (I think), and has expended an uncountable number of rounds downrange on the taxpayer dime through the M9/92 platform. I fully trust that he can run and gun with just about anything you put in his hands. So when the reply text basically said, “Glad its not just me”, I felt marginally better.
Sitting in his office later that week, he told me that he’d always felt very comfortable operating the M9/92 platform, but try as he might, he could just never shoot them as well as others types of pistols. So as an experiment, he acquired these two guns, the creme de la creme of Beretta 92 variants, to see if it was pistol or operator. We both agreed, it’s the gun.
I hopped in my truck and made a beeline south for my duck hunting trip, but I just couldn’t shake this Beretta 92 thing. It was gnawing at my guts. Or that could have been the puffy Cheetos and Red Bulls. But it might have been those damn pistols. I tried to put it out of my head, but with a few hours of windshield time and some Creedence on the radio, I started to see a small Italian designer in my head.
Hunched over a table, he blew away the pencil shavings and eraser dust to reveal a beautiful, hammer fired, fighting gun. Hidden behind those beautiful curves was a gun that the world’s militaries could use. Picking up where His Holiness, John Moses Browning, left off with the 1911, this gun was hammer-fired, but carried a great deal more capacity. Where the 1911 would need to be reloaded after eight shots, this one could go double the distance. It must have had a frame-mounted safety with a big, ambidextrous paddle. And though it was a double stack design, it had been made to fit snugly in the hand. Equal parts 1911 and SIG P210, it must have been a beauty.
But then suddenly, our petite designer, proud of his work, felt a presence behind him. It was his boss, a government bureaucrat. “Is that your new design, young man?”
“Yes of course, sir! I’ve just completed it.”, our young designer exclaimed, beaming with pride.
“Nobody will buy this! Look at how easy it is to fire!” the bureaucrat screamed. “Make the safety smaller and locate it higher. Make it so you have to really think, and change your grip to get to it. How about up there on the slide? Also make it move in the opposite direction of every other manual safety that’s ever been made.”
“Oh, please no!”, our little designer exclaimed.
“And what is this crisp single-stage trigger? No, no, no. The Americans will never buy an unsafe gun like this. Make the first pull difficult. They like revolvers over there. Give them a long travel with a heavy first pull.”
Our designer dropped his head into his hands.
“Oh! But then make it so all subsequent shots have a totally different feel. Bring back that crisp single stage! But not three pounds. No, no. Too heavy. Make it six pounds. We can’t have this gun going off unintentionally.”
Tears started to roll down our designer’s cheeks as he stared out at the Italian countryside
“Now how will we take it off single stage mode? We can’t have American soldiers running around with a cocked and locked pistol and just a manual safety keeping them from touching one off. A ha! I know.”
“Oh please. You must stop.”, wept the little Italian.
“Make the safety a de-cocker! Yes, of course! When the safety is engaged, drop the hammer safely so that the Americans have the long double stage trigger back.”
Deflated, a small, “Yes sir” escaped the designer’s lips.
“One last thing, young man.”
“Locate the trigger farther away from the grip. And give it a really aggressive curve. I’m sure you think the 1911’s flat face and straight pull make for a good trigger, but you’re wrong. I work for the government, so I know. Make it so that the trigger finger has to change angle and orientation over the course of the travel.”
“But of course” wheezed our designer looking up through puffy, swolen eyes.
I snapped out of it when I saw the sign letting me know that Port Aransas was a scant twenty miles away. I marveled at my discovery that Creedence, Red Bull, and fried corn puffs could be the key to finding my spirit animal, making a mental note that I might not need to take a trip to the desert to find peyote in order to achieve an enlightened state of being.
As I rolled into Port Aransas, it was time to put Italian handguns out of my mind in favor of Italian shotguns. But I couldn’t shake that feeling that this was a beautifully designed gun that had been worked over in such a way as to make it nearly impossible to fire. Between the weird trigger/grip ergonomics, the long double stage trigger pull, and the slide mounted safety that was hard to manipulate even when I wanted to do it, I heard the voice of the designer calling through the decades, “Please save me.”
These guns seem designed to thwart the user from firing them well. I’d never met a gun that was designed to not be fired until I fired a Beretta 92. And as good as Bill Wilson is, I don’t think even he can answer the pleas from an Italian figment of my imagination.