Are you looking to buy a Beretta 92FS or an M9. We're going to look at the history of the Beretta M9/92FS just to figure out how it came to be and then we'll look at the pros and cons of the gun.
Beretta M9/92FS History
Many know the 1911 as the handgun of the American military and from WWI on it was. But in the 1970s the Joint Service Small Arms Program began to look for a replacement for the 1911. They wanted something that was in a 9x19mm/9mm Luger in order to be compatible with other NATO countries. This search began in 1979, and the following year the JSSAP selected Beretta's entry as the replacement.
However the US Army wanted to test the new design (designated as the 92S-1 by Beretta) and conducted their own trials in 1984. Beretta went up against other well known pistol manufacturers such as SIG SAUER, Heckler & Koch, Smith & Wesson, and Fabrique Nationale.
The 1984 trial was won by Beretta but four years later, in 1988, another trial was conducted. This trial was referred to as the XM10 competition. This competition caused two more trials to be done that ultimately resulted in a few upgrades to Beretta's design.
While it was officially adopted in 1985 it was not officially in service until 1990. Between the time it was adopted and its official entrance into service, there were concerns over the slide's integrity. There were some squabbles as to the root cause of the reported slide failure but it ultimately lead to a slide redesign.
After this the M9 retained most of its normal features in the military until 2006. This variation, referred to as the M9A1, featured the addition of a single slot Picatinny rail to the underside of the slide, which would be upgraded to three slots on the M9A3.
While these modifications are significant, let's focus on the features of the standard M9 and 92FS.
Beretta M9/92FS Features:
The M9, and its civilian version the 92FS, is a full sized semi-automatic double action/single action pistol. It features an external hammer, ambidextrous safety/decocker, and a reversible magazine release. One of the changes that occurred to the early design when it was submitted to the American trials was the transfer of the magazine release from the base of the grip (the normal European style) to just under the trigger guard (the normal American style).
Chambered in 9x19mm, the standard capacity of the handgun is 15 rounds plus one in the chamber. This was an improvement over the 7 round, 8 round, and 10 round magazines of .45 ACP for the 1911. There are a number of different magazines capacities available for the M9/92FS. These range from 10 rounds to 17 rounds (M9A3), 18 rounds, 20 rounds, and 30 rounds.
The sights are a standard three-dot setup. Some models and after market options feature tritium inserts and/or fiber optics. This allows for a variety of sighting options for the end user.
The pistol features a 4.9 inch barrel that meets the military testing guidelines while maintaining total parts interchangeability. The width of the grip is 1.3 inches with its height being being 5.4 inches. Overall the M9/92FS is 8.5 inches long with an overall width of 1.8 inches. The sight radius is 6.1 inches.
The pistol is made from steel and aluminum resulting in a total weight of 2.08 pounds (33.3 ounces) unloaded with a loaded weight of 2.55 pounds (40.8 ounces).
Beretta M9/92FS Pros:
There is a lot going for the Beretta M9/92FS. It has served for multiple decades in US Military service and in law enforcement around the globe. Since it is a full sized pistol it allows for a better grip on the gun because there is more gun to grip.
It features a standard capacity for its caliber which allows for the end user to be prepared to engage multiple opponents without reloading as early as the 1911 it replaced. The variety of magazines available for it also allow for individuals to get the capacity that either fits their needs (whether from magazine restrictions or competition requirements) or their preferences.
The weight of the gun also benefits the shooter. The added mass of the pistol combined with the relatively controllable recoil of 9x19mm make for a very flat shooting setup. This aids in accuracy and control of the firearm. The longer sight radius also helps with better accuracy. The sights themselves are clear, familiar, and durable. They are adequate options with upgrades available.
The ambidextrous/decocker safety allows for the user to activate the safety with either hand being the firing hand. This means left-handed shooters have less to modify on the gun (simply flipping the magazine release) before it is setup for left-handed use.
The doable action nature of the gun allows for repeated strikes on the firing pin if there is a soft strike on the primer of the cartridge. Instead of having to rack the slide and eject the round, the trigger just needs to be pulled again to attempt to fire the round.
Beretta M9/92FS Cons:
While the M9/92FS is a very reliable gun if it is maintained there are a few drawbacks. The most noticeable being the weight of the gun. While it does aid in recoil mitigation it is still a rather heavy pistol. The M9 regularly weighs more empty than its competitors weigh loaded. This has to be considered as a concealed carry pistol will be carried or worn more than it is shot on a daily basis.
Another drawback is the safety/decocker. The presence of a safety is deemed necessary by some but it adds another level of complexity when training with the pistol. Engaging and disengaging the safety has to be regularly practiced in order for it to be able to compete with the basic ease of use non-manual safety guns have. However there are models and modifications that make the M9/92FS double-action-only to circumvent this. Others also just carry the pistol with the safety off, relying on the heavier trigger pull and a quality holster to keep the gun from accidentally firing.
The next drawback to the M9/92FS is the lack of a rail. While this was rectified on the M9A1 models, there are still M9s out there that do not feature a rail. This is true for older police trade-ins and early civilian purchased 92FS. This means the M9 is behind the curve in regards to the modern idea for a “do everything gun” since lights and other accessories cannot be easily mounted, if at all. A handheld light can be used instead of weapon mounted light but the presence of a weapon mounted light is still beneficial.
Lower on the list of drawbacks is the lack of ability to mount a red dot sight on the gun. This can be rectified with custom milling, but this can be expensive and time consuming. Is this a deal breaker? No, but is it a consideration.
The final draw back is the aftermarket of the M9. It's not as large as other brands but it is still better than some. This is more regarding magazine price and availability. But most quality pistol brands outside of Glock are going to have comparatively expensive magazines.
Beretta M9/92FS Conclusion:
Is the M9/92FS a bad gun? No. There many options that are worse than the M9. Are there better options? Yes. The M9/92FS in it early configuration is an aging platform, especially from a weight and accessory stand point. However if it is all you have available to you, you are not hurting.
The M9/92FS is not the most ideal pistol. It will perform when it has to if it is properly maintained. It is far from unreliable. It only gets a bad reputation from the experience of individuals who only dealt with the communal M9s in military storage which have had thousands of rounds and years of wear put on them. A second-hand, well maintained M9/92FS will be very reliable and new out of the box versions will also be reliable.
If all you have is an M9 or 92FS for concealed carry, carry it. As long as you take carry of it and do your part, it will perform.