I've put this article off for the longest time, however I've had so many requests from SurvivalBlog readers, to give my honest opinion on the Beretta M92 9mm pistol that I decided to finally sit down and give my two cents worth. I honestly thought everyone was sick and tired of hearing about the M92FS - seeing as how it has been our military handgun for close to 30 years - but apparently, more folks want to hear about this handgun.
First off all, let's get the boring stuff out of the way. The Model 92FS 9mm pistol is a DA/SA (Double Action/Single Action) handgun - the first shot, is fired from the super-smooth double-action, and the following shots are fired from the single-action mode. If there is a break in your firing, you simple use the frame mounted, ambidextrous decocker to safely lower the hammer. (Do not try to hold the hammer with your thumb and pull the trigger - you are inviting a negligent discharge when the hammer slips and the gun fires.) Overall length of the 92FS is 8.5-inches, with a height of 5.4-inches. The barrel is 4.9-inches, and unloaded weight, of the aluminum framed handgun is 33.3-ounces. The standard magazine holds 15 rounds of 9mm ammo - however, optional factory and aftermarket magazines can hold 17, 20 and 30 rounds. But note that most of the aftermarket high capacity magazines cannot be trusted. (And while the factory high capacity magazines work well, they are both scarce and expensive.)
The chrome-lined barrel provides extra corrosion resistance, and that's a good thing, and it doesn't really affect accuracy in a negative way - like some chrome-lined rifle barrels do. One thing about the 92FS that greatly aids the reliability of this fine handgun is the open slide design that virtually does away with stove pipe malfunctions, and it also makes it easier to load one round at a time into the chamber should you lose or damage the magazine.
Take-down of the 92FS is a piece of cake, thanks to the take-down latch on the side of the frame - reassembly is just as easy - but make sure you read the owner's manual. The rear sight has two white dots and the fixed front sight has one white dot - they are fast to pick-up, but I'd like to see the sights a tad larger - just my take on it. I've yet to run across a Beretta Model 92FS that needed the rear sight adjusted for windage - they are dead-on from the factory. I had two police trade-in 92FS pistols on-hand for testing - my local gun shop got a great buy on a lot of these guns and priced them right - so I forced myself to take two of them - I couldn't pass up the deal. Both guns only had some holster wear, other than that, they were like-new.
Beretta uses a proprietary finish on their 92FS called Bruniton, and it a non-reflective black coating that can really take a beating from the elements. The magazine release button can easily be changed over to left-handed use, too - great idea. The black poly grips take a real beating, too - however on one of my samples, the grips were rough, so I replaced them with a brand-new pair from Brownell's.
None of my own testing can even come close to what our military put the M92FS through - it is actually the most tested handgun in US military history. The military version is dubbed the M9 and they recently adopted the M9A1 - which has a rail on the frame for attaching a light or laser. On another M92FS that have, I installed a Crimson Trace set of replacement grips on the gun - it does make the already slightly chunky 92FS a little bit thicker, but nothing you can't adapt to. I love all Crimson Trace products - I've toured their plant a few times, and you can't believe the work that goes into making their laser grips.
Okay, the average reliability of all M9 pistols tested at Beretta USA is 17,500 rounds without a stoppage - in other words, the guns just don't malfunction - unless it is an ammo or magazine problem. I've yet to have a M92FS malfunction - even with questionable ammo and after-market magazines - the guns are "that" good. During one test of twelve pistols fired at Beretta USA before U.S. Army supervision, the M9 pistols shot 168,000 rounds without a single malfunction. I can't even begin to duplicate that kind of testing - and it isn't necessary, either.
At the beginning of the military contract, there was one or two instances, where the slide broke during live-fire, and came off the pistol, hitting the operator in the face. [JWR Adds: Beretta soon added a secondary slide stop, as redundant safety measure. Hence the "S" in the M92FS model desognation.] This was widely reported in the gun press, however one thing they failed to mention was that the rounds being fired were hot rounds - beyond even +P+ loads - we're talking proof loads the rounds were so hot. Beretta, like other gun makers say you can safely fire +P 9mm ammo in their guns, and I honestly don't know of any maker that says you can fire +P+ 9mm loads in their guns - just a lawyer/liability thing. I've fired thousands of rounds of +P+ 9mm loads through handguns and never had any problems - but be advised!
I'm sure most SurvivalBlog readers are aware of the severe ammo drought we are in - have been - for about six months now. The hottest selling rounds are .22LR and 9mm - both are very hard to find, and when you do find them, you pay dearly for them. Last year, I could purchase a brick of 500 rounds of .22LR hollow point ammo for about $16. But today, if you can find it, that same brick will set you back about $70. I usually run about 500 rounds through guns for my articles, but these days, I've really cut back - I'm having a difficult time getting quantities of 9mm from my ammo sources for articles - not because they don't want to supply me, because they just don't have much 9mm ammo to spare. So my testing was limited t only 200 rounds of various 9mm for this article.
I did have quite an assortment from Buffalo Bore Ammunition for this article, and here's what I had on-hand. 147-grain JHP Subsonic and their same FMJ FN load - both were easy-shooting and no problems were encountered - some subsonic loads I've tested in the past didn't have enough power to make the guns function 100% of the time. Also from Buffalo Bore I had their 95-grain Barnes TAC-XP all-copper +P+ load, and their 115-grain load with the same Barnes bullet - again this is a +P+ load. I had their 124-grain Penetrator load, this is a +P+ loading with a FMJ FN bullet, that Buffalo Bore owner, Tim Sundles carries for deep penetration when needed - Tim will load the first few rounds to be fired in his 9mm handguns with JHP and then the rest will be his Penetrator load. His thinking is, and I can't argue with him is that, if an attacked fails to go down after the first few shots, then they will be behind cover and this Penetrator load will help penetrate that cover. I also has their 147-grain JHP +P+ load and the same load in 124-grain - +P+ of course. With the current severe ammo shortage, the only load I could get from Black Hills Ammunition was their 100-grain Frangible load, that has a bullet that is made from compressed copper - and this is used mainly on indoor firing ranges - when the bullet hits the steel backstop or steel target, the compressed copper bullet fragments and doesn't bounce back at you. This load is rated at 1,200 FPS and it seemed hotter than that - but I liked it. I like the Black Hills 115-grai Barnes TAC-XP load in +P but alas, they didn't have any, and I only had enough on-hand for two full magazines for carrying purposes, so I didn't shoot that ammo up - it has always been a great load in any 9mm handguns I've fired it through.
In all my testing, I had no malfunctions, and I even mixed-up different types and shapes of ammo in magazines - and this usually can induce a malfunction in many guns, but not so in the Beretta M92FS samples - and I used both of my guns for this article. The Buffalo Bore 95-grain Barnes TAC-XP and the Black Hills 100-grain Frangible ammo shot a bit lower than the other rounds - which I expected, seeing as how they are both lighter weight loads. Nothing to worry about at close-up distances, but something to keep in mind at long-range shooting.
If I did my part, with the gun over a rest, over the hood of my car, at 25-yards, my 92s would keep all the hits right about the 3-inch group. There was one stand out, and that was the 147-grain FMJ FN subsonic load from Buffalo Bore, and that would consistently do better than the 3-inch mark if I did my part and held tight. During my testing, I used some genuine Beretta magazines and some after-market magazines and all worked perfectly.
I'm thinking, I'd probably carry the Buffalo Bore 115-grain Barnes TAC-XP +P+ load in the gun, and then my spare magazine - and you should always carry at least one spare magazine - would be loaded with the Buffalo Bore 124-grain +P+ Penetrator load - like Tim Sundles carries - just in case I have to shoot through some light cover. Sundles also tells me this load will penetrate the skull of a black bear - something to keep in mind if you're in beat country with a 9mm handgun. Now, keep in mind, that all handgun makers tell you to not shoot +P+ 9mm loads in their guns - again this is a lawyer and liability thing. I just wouldn't shoot a steady diet of +P+ through any 9mm handgun - it accelerates wear and tear. And, Tim Sundles told me that he does not recommend +P+ loads in any 9mm handgun with a barrel shorter than 4-inches that the slide is moving so fast, you might have some feeding problems. I've fired +P+ 9mm loads in a Glock 26 and never had any problems - but that was that gun!
I wish there was something negative to report about the Beretta Model 92FS, but nothing went wrong, if I had one minor complaint, it would be the gun seems overly engineered and too big for the little 9mm round - but that's my personal opinion. There's a good reason to own a Model 92FS or the military M9 - and that is, in a SHTF scenario, you can probably scrounge some spare mags - a lot of police departments still issue the Beretta 92FS, and the US military has tens of millions of spare magazines and parts - something to think about if you need some repairs or parts - just thinking out loud! Shop around, and I'm betting you can find a police trade-in Model 92FS at a really good price - and when you do, add it to your collection - you'll really like it, I like mine! - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio