While this pistol has not introduced anything radically new to handgun design, the fact that it replaced the Colt Government Model 45 Pistol of 1911 as the official U.S. Military sidearm is reason enough for a review on this Blog. This had a profound effect on the acceptance of the 9mm Luger cartridge and the high-capacity double-action pistol as a viable option for service and self-defense.


The Italian company of Beretta can boast of being one of the world’s oldest firearms manufacturer. It is generally accepted that the Beretta family started in the gun making business in 1680 (there are claims of an even earlier date, 1526). Initially, the company started making gun barrels, but this was later broadened to include complete firearms. Beretta began pistol manufacture under the leadership of Pietro Beretta (1870-1957). Pietro Beretta, who is considered the father of the modern Beretta company, decided to enter the handgun business in 1903. The company’s first pistol was the Model 1915, a military semi-automatic pistol chambered for the 9mm Glisenti cartridge. The 1915 was a marked improvement over the Italian service pistol, the Glisenti pistol of 1910. The military was quick to appreciate its advantages and quickly adopted it during World War I. In the years that followed, the company produced a number of subsequent semi-automatic pistols. Among the best known is the Model 1934, which established a reputation for great reliability and saw service as the official sidearm of the Italian army during World War II. It became a favorite souvenir of allied troops in Italy.

In the post-war years, Beretta refined the 1934, using it as the platform for a number of newer models. Beretta designers were very much infl uenced by the Walther P38 pistol used by the German military during World War II, and Beretta subsequently used a number of its features in its double-action
models that eventually culminated in the Model 92. The post-war period also saw Beretta begin developing a 9mm pistol. Initially, attempts were made to develop a blowback design based on the Model 1934. Excessive recoil made the pistol difficult to shoot, however, and excessive wear problems were experienced. Eventually, a locked-breech model using the Walther locking system was developed called the Model 951. This pistol had a single-action trigger and was successful enough to be adopted by Italy, Israel, Iraq and Egypt, where it was made under license and known as the “Helwan” pistol. The 951 was used as a platform for the company’s fi rst double-action service pistol. A design team comprised of Carlo
Beretta, Giuseppe Mazzetti and Vittorio Valle began working on the project sometime in 1970, and some fi ve years later, they had completed the task. The new pistol had a Walther-style double action
trigger and a high capacity 15-shot magazine—the first Model 92. It differed from the final 92 version adopted by the U.S. military in that it had a sear blocking safety and a button magazine catch positioned in the bottom left side of the grip. While the frame-mounted sear-blocking safety gave the 92 the capability of being carried in “condition one” (chamber loaded, hammer cocked and safety applied), it was not in keeping with the current military thinking of the time, which was to have a safety that would safely place the pistol in the double-action mode when applied.

Nevertheless, the 92 quickly gained a reputation for being a rugged, reliable pistol with good shooting characteristics. While it was not adopted by the armies of any of the major powers, it was accepted by a number of military forces, notably in South America. Beretta did not rest with the original design, however, but worked on improving the pistol by eliminating its perceived faults. Late in 1978, the Model 92 S-1 appeared with a revised safety and magazine catch. The former was now positioned in the slide and safely lowered a cocked hammer when applied, as well as disconnecting the trigger. The new button-style magazine catch was moved to the favored position behind the trigger. The 92 S-1 competed in the U.S. Air Force test conducted at Elgin AFB in 1979-80 and won handsomely. After being awarded the contract, further changes were made and the Model 92SB appeared soon afterwards. The 92SB had an ambidextrous safety and magazine catch (reversible) and an internal passive fi ring pin lock and was basically the pistol that the company submitted for the U.S. military trials of 1979 and 1981.


As early as the end of World War II, the United States military began to consider replacing the Colt Government Model 45 with a 9mm pistol. Anticipating this, both Colt and Smith & Wesson submitted 9mm pistols for consideration. Smith & Wesson’s submission was the Model 39 while Colt produced a compact, lightweight version of the 1911 that later enjoyed good commercial sales as the “Commander.” The military rejected both pistols after deciding there were sufficient numbers of 1911s in inventory. No further action was taken until after the Air Force had tested and selected the Model 92SB. By this time, the pistol inventory was dangerously low and those still in service were beginning to show signs of wear. Compounding the problem was the fact that there were quantities of nonstandard handguns, including revolvers, in service with various branches of the military. At the urging of Congress, the Defense Department was ordered to decide on a suitable 9mm for use by all services. The Model 92SB had to compete against service pistols submitted by other companies that included Colt, Smith & Wesson, Heckler & Koch, SIG-Sauer and Walther. In what eventually became three separate trials that were marked with controversy involving inter-service rivalry and disputes over the methodology employed, Beretta was eventually declared the winner. Close behind were pistols submitted by SIG and Smith & Wesson.

Military standard Beretta M9
Beretta M9 Military Sidearm From 1985 To 2017.

In spite of accusations that Beretta received favorable treatment—because of an agreement for the U.S. to have missile bases in Italy—there is no evidence that the 92 was selected for reasons other than it had the best performance in the trials. Nevertheless, this did nothing to appease the opponents of the 9mm.
After the military’s acceptance of the 92SB (now designated as the M9 pistol), lawsuits against the results were brought by Heckler & Koch and Smith & Wesson. While both suits were unsuccessful, they simply fueled the acrimonious debate over the adoption of the Beretta that still continues today.


Instead of employing one of the Browning-type breech locking systems, the 92 used the same locking block system employed in the Walther P38. This had the advantage of not titling the barrel during the unlocking process. The pistol had an open top slide like that of the earlier Beretta pistols. The pistol’s double-action trigger system and hammer-lowering safety were also typical Walther. The ambidextrous safety was mounted on the left rear of the slide. Depressing the lever disconnected the trigger and safely
lowered the hammer. Pushing the lever up put the pistol in the double-action fi ring mode. The pistol also had a passive fi ring pin safety. The pistol retained the open top slide of the company’s pre-war designs and had a high-capacity double-column magazine that held 15 rounds. The pistol magazine catch was in the American favored position of behind the frame. Other controls included a slide stop and a takedown
lever. The frame was made of an aircraft quality aluminum alloy, while the slide, barrel and some other components were made of carbon steel. The pistol’s fi eld stripping procedure

was greatly simplified by a frame-mounted takedown catch. Rotating it down releases the slide/barrel assembly, permitting its removal from the frame. The initial order of pistols came from Beretta in Italy,
but as the company already had a plant in Maryland, subsequent pistols were manufactured in the United
States by Beretta USA.


By most accounts, the 92 has been well received by the military. The only exception was the navy. Ironically, the coast guard has been an enthusiastic user of the pistol. The fact that Beretta’s pistol was adopted as this country’s official military sidearm had a dramatic effect on law enforcement’s acceptance of the high-ammunition capacity double-action pistol and the 9mm cartridge. No doubt impressed by the 92’s passing of the stringent military trials, a number of departments have since adopted the 92SB. These include the Connecticut State Police and the Los Angeles Police and Sheriff’s Departments to name but a few. By all accounts, the policemen have been quite satisfied with the pistol. Thanks to the 92, Beretta is now a major supplier of law enforcement handguns. Commercial sales have also been good, as civilians are greatly influenced by what the military and police use. This is not to imply that the Model 92 is beyond criticism. In the author’s opinion, most criticism has been unsubstantiated claims of lack of stopping power and unreliability originating from 1911 and 45 ACP adherents. Both the GovernmentModel and its cartridge have garnered an almost cult-like following among many handgun enthusiasts who cannot accept its replacement by a double-action auto—and a 9mm one at


The most serious complaint against the M92 came when the U.S. Navy reported a number of slide failure incidents. These occurred to members of SEAL units fi ring the M92. According to the reports, slides fractured unexpectedly causing injuries to some shooters when the rear of the slide was driven off the frame into a shooter’s face and chest. In addition, there were some reports of frame cracks being discovered. The reports were serious enough that the navy, apparently never really happy with the adoption of the M92, suspended accepting any more pistols into service. There were even threats of possibly canceling the navy order. Both the army and Beretta conducted an investigation, which revealed no defects in the basic design or the quality of materials used. There were, however, suggestions that the cause was due to the use of abnormally high-pressure ammunition used by the navy. Beretta did make modifications that solved the frame cracking and prevented the slide from coming off the frame. The Model 92’s critics focused upon this report to validate their case against it. In passing, it is worth mentioning that frame and slide cracking is a fairly common occurrence in self-loading pistols, especially after extensive fi ring. Another important point is that apart from these military reports, there have been no similar reports from other users, such as civilians of law enforcement, who probably put more rounds through their handguns than does the military. In the author’s opinion, if the Beretta 92 has a fault, it is the size of its grip, which can be problematic for small-handed users.


In addition to the changes required by the military, Beretta has responded to market demands, usually from law enforcement, by introducing a variety of versions of the Model 92. The Model 92F has a conventional double-action trigger and is a civilian version of the military M92 pistol. The Model 92G looks just like the 92F but has a de-cocking lever instead of the hammer-dropping safety. The lever looks just like the safety on the F model except it does not disconnect the trigger when applied. Instead, it safely lowers the hammer when depressed and then returns to the horizontal position when released, putting the trigger in the double action mode.

Beretta 92FS Inox
The Beretta Mod. 92 FS Inox, The Stainless Variant.

The Model 92D has a double-action-only trigger that requires the same long heavy pull for each firing cycle. It is easily identified by what is termed a ”slick” slide, so called because of its plain, fl at side and an absence of safety or de-cocking levers. It also has a spurless hammer. The 92M has a single-column 6-shot magazine that provides a narrower grip to accommodate shooters with small hands.
Beretta has also made a number of compact versions of the 92 that have shorter barrels and grips. The reduction of grip size resulted in a magazine capacity reduction. These culminated in the Centurion, which has a 4-inch barrel but a full-size grip and the standard 15-shot magazine for sales to military and police forces.
The growing popularity of the 40 S&W cartridge prompted the company to bring out models in this caliber. Fortunately, the strength of the 92 enabled this to be done on the same 92 platform. Both full and compact versions were made and designated as the Model 96 and 96 Centurion, respectively. In terms of other calibers, 30 Luger versions have been made for those countries where civilians are prohibited from
having larger caliber pistols. Several competition 92s have been made with longer barrels, compensators and target sights. The Brigadier is a 92 with a beefed up slide for sustained shooting.
The standard finish for the 92 and most of its variants has generally been blue steel barrels and slide with alloy frame that have a matching “Bruniton” finish. Optional finishes have included stainless as well as some specially enhanced and engraved commemorative models.


The latest version of the 92 is the Vertex. It has a straight backstrap to better accommodate small-handed shooters, without a reduction in magazine capacity. The 92 pistol remains in production today with it still being the official service pistol of America’s military and many of the country’s police forces. It has performed satisfactorily in Panama, Desert Storm and Afghanistan. In spite of its earlier trials and tribulations and the claims of its critics, it has proved to be a worthy successor to the Colt Government Model 45.


First apply the safety, remove the magazine and check that the chamber is unloaded. Then unlock the takedown latch by pushing in the locking plunger positioned on the right side of the frame and rotate the latch down as far as it will go. This releases the slide/barrel assembly, allowing it to be removed from the front of the frame. With the slide removed, take out the recoil spring assembly from under the barrel. The barrel can then be removed from the bottom of the slide to complete the stripping procedure. Assembly is done in reverse order.


While I do not own a 92, I have evaluated a fair number over the past 20 or so years. I have been impressed with the pistol in respect to the high quality of the fi t, finish and reliability. All of the 92s I have shot have had above-average accuracy. Most shot sub-3-inch groups when shot from a seated bench rest at 25 yards. The fixed sights are good at presenting a nice clear sight picture. Recoil with 9mm ammunition is quite mild and the pistol is very pleasant to shoot. As far as reliability is concerned, I have yet to experience a malfunction with any of the many 92s that have passed through my hands. The single-action trigger pull is relatively light and crisp. The double action has an even, relatively smooth stroke that is a trifle on the long side. The latter has not adversely affected my double-action shooting with the pistol at the closer distances, although it does tend to slow down the speed of my shots at ranges over 10 yards. The pistol’s biggest detraction is the size of its grip. While I have no difficulty in accessing the trigger and all its controls, I have seen shooters with smaller hands experience trouble doing either. Apart from this observation, my opinion of the 92 is that it is an excellent service auto pistol that is a worthy replacement to the Colt Government Model 45.


There is little apparent collector interest in the Model 92, except, perhaps, in some of the commemorative models. A used 92 in good condition is certainly suitable as a self-defense arm.