I think its safe to say that most gun enthusiasts are familiar with the Beretta 92FS. You’ve probably seen it in countless movies, talked to buddies who’ve owned them, and maybe even been issued one during a stint in the military.
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.
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 Die Hard, Lethal Weapon, Terminator, The Boondock Saints, Mission Impossible II and III (Brigadier and Centurion variants), The Bourne Legacy, The Expendables, Leon The Professional and 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.
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?
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.
Remember, the Beretta 92FS and the SIG Sauer P226 finished neck-in-neck in the military’s trials to replace the Colt 1911 in 1984. But Beretta won the contract in part because its 92FS was cheaper than SIG’s P226.
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.
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 action is crisp, the recoil is barely noticeable (thanks 9mm!), and it will shoot as long as you can. But there are some downsides to the venerable Beretta 92FS.
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.
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.
We 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.
Do with this information what you will.
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…its 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 ($92.99) 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.
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 ($499.00).
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.
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.
I’m a cheap guy who likes to shoot a lot. Shooting ordinary 115 grain 9mm reloads I’ve only had a handful of failures over thousands of rounds.
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
The “FS” stands for full-sized, and the Beretta 92FS lives up to its name. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
You can buy a new Beretta 92FS for about $600, which is an excellent price point for a gun in this class.
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.