The Beretta M9 is a legendary gun for a reason

Discover the Beretta M9 – After 33 years of loyal service, the Beretta 92FS, aka the M9, has officially given way in 2017 to the SIG P320, aka the M17as the standard service pistol of the United States Armed Forces.

It brought joy to Beretta haters everywhere and scorn from legions of Beretta fans – Yours Truly included.

Meanwhile, big-bore fanatics continue to complain that the M9 replacement is still chambered in 9mm, which they claim lacks “stopping power”. However, as experts like Gabe Suarez point out, you can’t count on a one-stop with any caliber, not even the vaunted .45 ACP. Suarez tell this amusing anecdote:

“Some instructors are also very caliber-focused, thinking that anyone who doesn’t bring a .45 to class is unarmed. One of my students who wears a 9mm was recently told that his 9mm was just a .45 set to “stun”. However, the commentator refused to be stunned.

That aside, let’s take another look at the Beretta 92 and why, despite the military change, it’s not going the way of the Tasmanian Tiger anytime soon.

A Beretta is born

Beretta is not only the oldest gunsmith in the world. They are the oldest industrial enterprise of any type in the world. Whatever the flaws in their products, the company must do something to the right!

Based in Gardone Val Trompia, Italy, and family owned and operated from the beginning until today, this prestigious company was born in 1526 manufacturing arquebus barrels. By all accounts, barrels made by Beretta equipped the Venetian fleet during the Battle of Lepanto in 1571 – one of the four greatest naval battles in history.

Beretta has supplied weapons for every major European war since 1650, and it has also supplied pistols for a good part of the Middle Eastern wars. The predecessor of the M9, brigadier M1951, has been adopted by the Egyptian, Iraqi and Israeli armed forces. These are solid references.

As for the M9 itself, as indicated by my [1945[1945 colleague and veteran Brent M. Eastwood, “We sometimes forget that the M9 was born for a very specific reason and its history: the M1911 was becoming obsolete.” Or take it from the USMC Afghanistan veteran Sandboxx’s Travis Pikewho puts it more bluntly when he says of those old .45s that “the surviving examples have been beaten to hell after their decades of heavy use”.

Long story short, in the 1984 pistol trials which involved grueling testing of accuracy, reliability and durability, Beretta beat SIG, Smith and Wesson, HK, Walther, Steyr and FN to become the official handgun of the American army. From there, the Beretta 92 gained even more prestige after being adopted by myriad US law enforcement agencies, including the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the LAPD (immortalized by Mel Gibson as Sgt. Martin Riggs in the lethal weapon film franchise).

“We’re not dead yet!”

Although the Beretta M9 is no longer the official carry gun for our boys and girls in uniform, it is far from obsolete. On the one hand, having recently returned from a one-year contract with the US Air Force in Germany, I can confirm that while the majority of Air Force Security Force personnel that I have observed at Ramstein Air Base was already carrying the M17, I still saw a fair number of sky cops with Berettas in their holsters.

In addition, the Beretta 92 series of pistols is gaining popularity. Going back to what I said in my opening paragraph about “big caliber fanatics”, two of the most open-minded members of this demographic are Bill Wilson – arguably the greatest M1911 gunsmith in all time – and Ken Hackathorn. Both went on YouTube with some fairly strong mentions of the Beretta: Wilson says “I shoot it as well as the 1911”, and Hackathorn concedes that while he was skeptical at first, now “if I could only buy one gun, the gun I would do very probably trust would be a Beretta 92,” adding that it’s “the most reliable handgun I’ve ever used.” Massad Ayoob of the Lethal Force Institute, a contemporary of Bill and Hack, not only lavishes praise on the Beretta 92but wrote extensively over the years to dispel many misconceptions and exaggerations about the pistol’s alleged unreliability and durability.

Blasting with the Beretta at the shooting range

Speaking from personal experience, the Beretta 92 was the first gun I really fell in love with. (I mean strictly in the platonic sense, folks, lest everything hoplophobia I start throwing out Joyce Brothers-style innuendos.) It was November 1989, at the tender age of 14. Critics of the Beretta say the gun is too bulky for small-handed shooters. Well, this may be strictly anecdotal, but as a 14-year-old boy, I was 5-foot-2 and 100 pounds drenched, with a hand size to match. I had no issues with the ergonomics of the Model 92, instead I found it to be a delightfully comfortable, smooth-firing gun.

Fast forward to 1999, in my first year as USAF Security Forces troops (HOOAH!) The Beretta M9 helped me earn a device for an AF Small Arms Expert ribbon.

Fast forward now to the 2010s, and this beloved gun helped make me the best shooter in the training courses for my security contract assignments in Japan and Kosovo, while being recognized as the most accurate from my local. International Defensive Guns Association matches in Southern California. I ended up buying two: one in standard finish and an Operation Enduring Freedom USAF Commemorative Edition (one of 1,000 produced). For good measure, I received a US Armed Forces 20th Anniversary Commemoration as a parting gift from the owner of my local range when I transitioned from the military to civilian life.

Finally, back to the present. For the purposes of this article, I brought one of my beloved Berettas back to the lineup, specifically at the On Target Indoor Shooting Range in Severn, Maryland, a top notch establishment with a really cool group of people (thanks to Kevin, Joe, JD and Louie). The old girl still had it. (Again, no Joyce Brothers jokes please!) Even though my shooting groups weren’t my best ever – maybe it was time to upgrade my corrective lenses – I I was still able to easily nail all my head shots from 25 feet, and keep my shots in the center of mass from 75 feet. For ammo I used FMJ PMC Bronze 124 grain, with 50 rounds fired at each range.

Beretta at the range. Image credit: author.

Beretta M9

Beretta at the range. Image credit: author.

For the sake of brevity, since I’ve probably already been too wordy, here is a handy link to Beretta 92FS specifications.

Christian D. Orr is a former Air Force officer, federal law enforcement officer, and private military contractor (with assignments in Iraq, United Arab Emirates, Kosovo, Japan, Germany and the Pentagon). Chris holds a BA in International Relations from the University of Southern California (USC) and an MA in Intelligence Studies (Terrorism Studies Concentration) from the American Military University (AMU). It was also published in The Daily Torch and The Journal of Intelligence and Cybersecurity. Mr. Orr has 33 years of shooting experience, has earned expert pistol/small arms ratings with the Air Force, Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and Immigration and U.S. Customs (ICE), has won multiple shooting trophies, medals and awards through the Glock Sport Shooting Foundation (GSSF), IDPA and Nevada Police and Fire Games (NPAF).

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