Beretta 92FS [Review]: America’s A-List 9mm

You know the Beretta 92FS, don’t you? You’ve seen it in countless movies, probably talked to buddies who’ve owned them, and maybe even been issued one during a stint in the military.

You almost certainly know of the Beretta 92FS, but now you’ll learn more about its handling, history, and what the future holds for this seasoned Italian masterpiece.

Bruce Willis Beretta 92FS
Yippie-ki-yay, indeed

The Beretta 92FS, also known by its US Military designation as the M9, has served in the US armed forces as the primary sidearm for many soldiers for decades.  This rich history (and a booming aftermarket) has made this excellent piece of Italian engineering an extremely popular choice with gun guys and gals all over the country.

The Beretta 92FS was also the first handgun I ever bought, it’s the handgun I learned to shoot with and after many years it’s still one of my favorites.

If you’ve been thinking about buying a Beretta 92FS, but you’ve been on the fence, or you just want to know more about this legendary sidearm, you’ve come to the right place. 

Today, we’re going to go into the history of this venerable firearm, why you may want one, and some of the concerns folks have about this black (or stainless) beauty.

670
at Cabelas

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

A Little History on the Beretta 92FS

One of the original “Wonder Nines,” the Beretta 92FS is the standard-issue sidearm for many militaries and law enforcement agencies and is probably the most filmed handgun in history.

Just check out its list of credits: the Beretta 92FS has starred in classic movies such as Die Hard, Lethal Weapon, and Terminator along with new flicks like The Expendables and American Assasin and so many, many more.  You can see the full list of the Beretta 92FS film appearances at the Internet Movie Firearms Database. 

Just to put it into perspective, the Beretta 92FS has appeared in more movies than Samuel L. Jackson.

Sam Jackson Interesting Meme
Sam isn’t far behind though

The Beretta 92FS is ubiquitous…but is it played out?

A lot of people ask if it’s so good, why did the NSWAG and MARSOC opt for the SIG P226/9 and the Colt M45A1 CQBP? And why did the Army replace the Beretta 92FS with the SIG Sauer P320 in January 2017?

For now, the Beretta 92FS remains the standard-issue sidearm for most average squids, grunts, and jarheads, but very few “operators” choose to use them.

There must be something wrong with the Italian Stallion, right?

Rocky Balboa
No not this one, the other one

Well, a lot of it has to do with cost.  The Beretta 92FS is reasonably priced, which is what made it so popular with the military.

Even the Pentagon can’t afford to arm every soldier with a SIG P226 ($1,200) or a $2,000 Colt M45A1.

When you’re talking about arming hundreds of thousands of military personnel, even a small per-unit price difference adds up to a lot of money.

Finally…after 30 years in Beretta’s shadow, SIG Sauer finally got it right with the P320, which is just a little bit more expensive than the 92FS.

The other factor is age.  Many of the more than 600,000 M9s bought by the Pentagon are reaching the end of their operational lifespans.  If you’ve ever heard a service member complain about how terrible the M9 is, keep in mind that some have been in near-continuous use for the last 25 years and they still go bang when you pull the trigger.  

Sorry for the history lesson, but the bad press keeps some shooters from even considering buying a Beretta 92FS.

There are good and honest reasons not to buy one, which we’ll get into, but affordability and lack of operator prestige are not among them.  

Some people love to hate the Beretta 92FS, but very few can after they’ve actually shot one.  

The Slide-Mounted Safety

The slide-mounted safety is the biggest flaw of the Beretta 92FS and the #1 intelligent reason why some shooters will never buy one.

Beretta 92FS Boondock Saints
Their loss. The Beretta 92FS is a true workhorse

The safety also functions as a decocker, which makes it easy to switch from single-action to double-action mode.

This tiny feature gets a lot of hate, but honestly, it isn’t that much of a problem once you get used to it.  But, in a life-or-death, palms sweaty, mom’s spaghetti-type situation, you could very easily engage the safety accidentally and wind up dead.

I consider this a design flaw.

If you’re planning to use the Beretta 92FS as a defensive weapon you’ll want to keep a round chambered, the hammer down, the safety off and rely on the heavy double-action trigger pull (plus that gray ooze between your ears) as your safety, exactly the same way military personnel are trained to carry it.

The Breaking Slide Myth

Once upon a time in 1987, three military-issue M9 slides broke and gave their shooters minor injuries.

Beretta fixed the problem immediately, and there hasn’t been a confirmed case of it happening since, but the rumors persist that someday the M9’s slide will break and fly back into your face.

There have been no reported cases of breaking slides in the last 30 years, but in online debates, there is usually at least one person who says they’d never buy an M9 because of it.  

RDJ Tropic Thunder Meme
Do you know of another credible account of a Beretta slide breaking? We’d love to hear about it

Do with this information what you will.

Trigger Pull

After the slide-mounted safety, the heavy double-action trigger pull is one of the biggest complaints about the Beretta 92FS.

I’m gonna be honest…it’s not great.

Once you’re in single-action mode, however, the trigger pull is pretty crisp and breaks nicely.

Fortunately, there’s also about a million aftermarket 92FS trigger kits out there.

If the safety is engaged when you rack the slide and chamber a round, the hammer will not cock back automatically and your first shot will require a long, hard (and probably inaccurate) double-action trigger pull.

Beretta 92FS single action
I recommend shooting it Single Action as much as possible

Personally, I hate the double-action pull and I usually rack the slide with the safety off (tricky thanks to the slide-mounted safety) or cock the hammer back manually once I’m ready to shoot.

The stock trigger pull can vary from ~10-15lbs in double-action mode and ~5-8lbs in single-action mode.  That’s a huge range, and it’s the reason why Beretta doesn’t publish exact trigger pull data for the 92FS.

Compare that to, say, the consistent 5.5lb trigger pull of the Glock 17.

If you want to get geeky, you can buy a digital gauge to measure the exact trigger pull of your 92FS.  Fortunately, you can adjust the trigger pull pretty easily if it’s too hard or too light (and replace the polymer trigger while you’re at it if you like).

If you are really turned off by the trigger pull variance, get yourself a striker-fired pistol like a Glock or the Army’s new SIG Sauer P320, which offer a much more consistent trigger pull.

Carrying the Beretta 92FS

The Beretta 92FS is not a concealed carry pistol.  It’s big, it’s heavy, and it prints like Codpiece.

Codpiece Super Hero
The superhero you didn’t know or want to know existed

I’ll be the first to admit the 92FS is not the ideal handgun for shooters with small hands and short fingers—guys like me.

While I still love my Beretta, reaching the trigger in double-action mode is a bit of a stretch, and I find the Glock 19 fits more comfortably in my hand.

There are those who will defend the Beretta 92FS as a concealable weapon, but I’m not one of them.  It’s concealable, yes, but you have to plan your outfit around hiding the big sucker.  And you better bring a stiff belt.

With an IWB holster, it will add at least 2 inches your waistline, and you will have to practice, practice and practice to draw and shoot quickly and accurately.

I wear mine with an OWB holster made by Alien Gear.  It’s a bit hefty (I weigh a measly 145 pounds) but still comfortable and easy to draw.

On the plus side, the Beretta 92FS can pull double-duty as a club to pistol-whip your enemies into submission after you run out of ammo—which isn’t hard, as the standard mags only hold 15 rounds.

For a comfortable, concealable carry, there are plenty of better options, like the S&W Bodyguard.  Check out our list of the Best .380 Pistols for Concealed Carry for more compact CCW recommendations.

Ammo Considerations

I’ve shot lots of ammo and most of it runs great, on the other hand, I had a lot of trouble with Hornady Critical Defense rounds, averaging about one jam per 10-round magazine (thanks, California magazine laws).

Nickel-plated casings are supposed to feed more smoothly, but in my experience, they eject poorly from a stock Beretta 92FS.  Maybe I was limp-wristing, maybe it was just a bad batch of ammo, but the failures made me wary of running nickel-plated rounds through my Beretta.

Check out our full list of recommended 9mm ammo for home defense and range.

Grading the Beretta 92FS

Ergonomics 3.5/5

It can be a little hard to hold if your paws are on the small side, but the grips and thumb rest are well-designed and fit well for shooters with average or large hands.

Accuracy 5/5

To quote Hickok45, a gun is only as accurate as the person shooting it.  It can’t make up for a bad shooter, but the Beretta 92FS is an intrinsically accurate weapon.  

Reliability 4/5

I have to knock off 1 point because of my failures with nickel-plated casings, but other than that the Beretta is an incredibly reliable handgun.

Customization: 5/5

Replacement parts and grips, slides, barrels, rail systems, sights and triggers for the Beretta 92FS are plentiful and affordable.  Thanks to a huge aftermarket for parts created by law enforcement agencies and the military, and the Beretta 92FS is very cheap to customize.  You can get a rail for next to nothing, throw on a flashlight or laser sight, swap in a threaded barrel, slap on a silencer and go full mall ninja mode in no time.

Looks 5/5

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and IMO the Beretta 92FS is a beauty to behold.  Italian design makes everything sexier, and this is no exception.  It’s all a matter of perspective, but I really like the look of the open slide.

Price 5/5

You can buy a new Beretta 92FS for about $600, which is an excellent price point for a gun in this class.

670
at Cabelas

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Final Thoughts on the Beretta 92FS

The Beretta 92FS is a beast, and its earned its stripes in several of the world’s militaries.  If you’re looking for a practical carry gun, an inexpensive workhorse, or a good home defense gun that will go bang every time, you could certainly do worse the Beretta 92FS, but you’d be hard-pressed to do much better for the same price without going the polymer, striker-fired route.

Want more great option? Check out our other Handgun Reviews.

13 Leave a Reply

  • Dale E Ross

    So I find this article about the Beretta 92FS and true to Hickok45 what do I find? OH, yes, the Glock. I am so sick and tired of Glock, Glock, Glock. They have a great marketing system but Glocks SUCK. Can we at least on one occassion discuss the gun the article is supposed to be about? FULL DISCLOSURE: I admit to being the biggest Glock hater in America. If the piece of plastic is so damn great why don't the Austrians use them? The 92FS is a very good at it's price point. The Glock, not so much.

    1 day ago
    • Todd the Cat

      How about asking why almost every police department in the US uses them? My personal G17 was my duty weapon in law enforcement and I loved it. I have a G17, G19, and G26. What he says about trigger pull consistency is dead on. Why do you hate Glock so much? You never mentioned your problem with them.

      1 second ago
  • Abc

    You should try out and review the M9A3 from Beretta. The Vertec grip shape cures your complaint about the 92's need for large hands. My hands measure a large so I found the grip of the 92 acceptable, but I prefer the slimmer feel of the Vertec. The M9A3 is available in either the F or G type safety (safety + decock, or decock only). It also comes with tritium night sights that allow windage adjustment. I am with you that my shots pull left and up, although the Mantis accelemeter says that I'm not pulling the shots. So I can at least adjust out the left shot placement. I only have 200 rounds three mine, but it still had no issues with the Hornady XTP or FTX rounds. The only bullet issue was with the copper poly bullets from APX. Manually they fed fine, but the blow back energy was not able to cycle a round with a full 17 in a magazine. 5 rounds worked. Otherwise it shot 115 grain through 147 grain round nose, truncated, and hollow point without issue. I really liked the Fed Am Eagle 124 gr subsonic. I really prefer a DA/SA pistol. My DA shots were roughly scattered over twice the diameter of my SA shots, so 3.5 inch vs 2 inch at 21 ft. BTW: does anyone know at what distance the sights are sighted at?

    1 week ago
  • Jason James

    The slide-mounted safety is a training issue, and nothing more. But if it makes your panties bunch up, put in an aftermarket "G" series kit. Or buy a 92G and be done with it. To whine that you'll lose your gunfight because of a safety, though, tells me that you either don't know your weapon well enough or don't train with it often enough.

    5 months ago
    • Dale Ross

      Look at this guy. Do you believe he will EVER be in a gun fight?

      1 day ago
  • Rob

    The Beretta M9 was the second pistol I was ever issued in the U.S. Air Force (the first being the Smith and Wesson Model 15 K-38 Combat Masterpiece), so it will always have a special place in my heart. I have heard the naysayers in regards to the slide mounted safety/de-cocker and its supposed flaws. I never considered the location to be problematic in any way. I routinely racked the slide with the pistol on safe/decock (or down) mode, the hammer would always fall safely in the lowered position, and all I had to do from that point was flip the switch up to the "fire" position, then simply holster it. The heavy double-action trigger pull (think 12 to 15 pounds) was more than adequate to ensure that no AD would occur. I mean, it takes a hell of a trigger pull to send that first round down the barrel and out of the business end. I now have the civilian version (the 92FS) and could not be happier. It is a fine heavy duty firearm, does a fantastic job of eating everything I feed it and will be passed down to my oldest son one day.

    9 months ago
    • RPK

      Join the YOU MUST HAVE BEEN AIR FORCE SECURITY POLICE? I TOO, WAS ISSUED THE M-15 AND THEN THE M-9 AS AN 811X2. BOTH FIREARMS WERE EASY TO CLEAN, DEPENDABLE AND VERY SAFE TO CARRY. "ROB" HIT IT HEAD ON. GREAT ANALOGY! discussion...

      6 months ago
  • Edward

    I have a 92FS Inox that I purchased in 1994. I have several handguns, and after nearly a quarter of a century, my Beretta is still my favorite. It's true that it is not comfortable for those smaller hands. But for those with large hands, it is one of the, if not THE, most comfortable firearms there is. Some folks have a problem with the safety, but if you know it is there and take the time to train yourself, it is not a big deal in the heat of the moment and can save yourself and others when outside of those heated moments. I spent 8 years in the military, I've been in combat and have been using guns all my life... I never truly understood the hate on safeties. Never had a problem drawing and firing my service pistol or my personal pistol quickly and efficiently. The sight picture is great - VERY accurate weapon and well made. My service weapon was fantastic and I was confident of its performance. Did I mention ACCURATE? Seriously - Out of the box, with no gadgets or tweaks, my Inox took 2nd place in a statewide shooting competition in NC.ACCURATE. I've not experienced a jam, stove pipe or any failures due to the weapon itself in either my service weapon or personal. I did have some bad (old) ammo handed out by the quartermaster, that led to a stovepipe after a very weak pop. It was obvious that the powder was either old or had experienced some extreme temperature variations (probably both). The Beretta got a bad rap, as mentioned the 3 slide breaks started this off. I recall when this occurred during the testing. I was in Camp LeJeune, NC at the time and there were plenty of concerned Marines that simply wanted to stick with the "tried and true" 1911. The other concern was switching to the 9mm ammunition (less knockdown) - which had little to do with the M9 itself - That was a decision independent of the firearm. The ammo switch was a call to save $ and, more importantly, facilitate ammo swaps with both ally units and enemy combatants. But in the end, the Beretta 92FS is outdated. There have been some amazing advances within the past 20 years in firearm technology, as well as ammunition and accessories. The 92 was designed with technology, information and machinery that is light years behind what can been done now. Beretta could only make minor changes to the service weapon. If major changes had been made, it would have made millions of dollars worth of replacement parts, frames and training obsolete. I'm glad to see the military move on to another sidearm. I have a feeling that this will happen again and the time between the change will be lessened. I'm also anxious to see what the new 92s will be like. Good Article - Thanks for posting!!!

    1 year ago
  • Andrew

    I’ve not tried Hornady loads, but my M9A1 has been through a few hundred 147 gr Ranger T standard pressure rounds with no stoppages. They are nickel plated (doesn’t matter to me). It is a highly rated Police and defensive round. I haven’t had a need to test any other hollowpoints, because it was my first choice. My M9A3, Kahr, and PX4 eat them, also. Look into the G conversion lever. Very cheap and makes the gun decocker only/no safety, like a classic Sig. Then put a $7 D hammer spring in it to drastically reduce the double action trigger pull weight. Ignore the 15rnd mag capacity (same as the wildly popular G19). It was considered good enough at the time of introduction, but the gun can fit more just by using a mag with a nesting spring. You can get flush 17rnd mags from Beretta, standard for the M9A3 or 92A1. You can buy 18 rnd mags that are also virtually flush from MecGar, and these are very reliable.

    1 year ago
  • av willis

    Look into the G conversion kits. They sell for about fifty bucks by beretta and convert the gun into decock only, not unlike a sig..

    1 year ago
  • Austin Harper

    FS does not mean full size. It's a model number. They made a 92,92f,92fs, and a lot of other models. Do your research.

    1 year ago
  • Travis Ramsey

    My first handgun was the Stoeger Couger in .40 cal. For those unfamiliar, Stoeger is owned by Berretta and the guns are identical. I absolutely love mine. I have never seen anyone else with a Stoeger pistol and I really believe it to be one of the sexiest handguns outside of the 1911. I have shot thousands of rounds through mine and have not had a single failure. I know I'm due for one and expect it each time I take it to the range, but it never comes. I recently took my CWP training in my home state of SC and I had planned to use my S&W shield to qualify, but at the last second, I pulled the Stoeger out of my range bag instead. I was two shots away from a perfect score, and I am definately no marksman. This thing is heavy as a brick, but fits my hands perfectly, (I am 6'4" and 210 lbs.) It really shoots like a dream, so I would not hesitate to buy the 92FS if I found a deal on one. Keep the great articles coming.

    1 year ago
  • Craig Rabin

    I bought my 92FS as my first pistol after moving up from black powder pistols and revolvers. I've bought many other pistols in 22 and 45, but never felt the need to get another 9mm. I use mine strictly for target practice and matches at the range, having shot at least 3k rounds through it. After my first 1k rounds of 124gr factory ammo, I have been shooting only handloads of 124 to 160gr. I make the bullets just short enough to still fit in the magazine and find this to be a very accurate shooter. 147gr rounds seem to be best for target shooting, while 158 swc 357 bullets and 160rn 9's work great for bowling pin matches. I should mention that all my reloads are with range brass, brass and nickel. I only sort to remove 380 shells and shells that are bent with a crease or cracked. Everything else is used. I've discovered that this gun is so forgiving with ammo, that if it fits in the magazine, it will fire just fine. When reloading, I just find the max powder weight, deduct 2/10ths of a grain, and its perfect. Other than changing to a lighter trigger spring and installing a Beretta adjustable rear sight, nothing has been done other than an occasional cleaning. Its function has been perfect. The large size and metal frame are perfect for me. The lines and feel of the pistol are much more appealing than the polymer guns that most people want. I know that no matter what the gun is subjected to, I can grab any 9mm round and trust it to go bang and cycle when I pull the trigger. If your looking for a full size 9mm, give the 92 some real consideration. Shoot one if you can. I've regretted purchasing some firearms, but the 92 is one of the best I have purchased.

    2 years ago
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