KevH’s Very Opinionated Guide to the Beretta 92

Originally posted by Kevin Halm (KevH) on SIGforum.

I’m not an expert and I don’t claim to be. I’m not an “Operator” either. I’m a police officer who has been fortunate enough to get a lot of range time at my department and some others and have gotten to see a lot of what works and what doesn’t. I’ve also been fortunate enough to shoot a lot of guns and get a lot of free ammo.

I love the Beretta 92 and think it’s a great pistol. Mine has digested what I venture to guess is about 6,000 rounds and it’s functioning perfectly. I bought one of the last Berettas produced with all metal parts (no plastic). It’s on my “Never will sell” list.

So I see many posts asking, “What’s the deal with the 92?” or “Why do you people all like this gun?” I made this post to discuss what the Beretta 92 is all about, so here goes:

A Little History

I’m not going to go into ancient history here, but I’ll give a little background. The Beretta 92 evolved out of the Beretta 51, which evolved out of a combination of the Walther P-38 and Beretta 1934. If you look hard at both those guns you can really see where the 92 came from.

My P-38
KevH’s P-38

A Beretta 1934
A Beretta 1934

A Beretta M1951 “Brigadier”
A Beretta M1951 “Brigadier”

My Beretta 92FS (It doesn’t wear Hogues anymore though)
My Beretta 92FS

The Beretta 92 series first appeared in the mid-1970’s. The first guns had a frame mounted safety like is seen on the Taurus 92. The 92S and 92SB appeared with the now familiar slide mounted safety-decocker (also stolen from the P-38 design). The 92SB is the gun that evolved into the 92F.

The US Military went out looking for a 9mm gun to replace the 1911 and went out to bid. After quite a fiasco, the Sig 226 and the Beretta 92F were the two finalists. The Beretta 92F won the design and became the M9 service pistol.

So what is this about hot ammo and frames and slides cracking? Why the 92FS?

So the Navy Special Warfare Group had adopted the 92SB prior to the 92F being adopted as the M9. As we all know, the SEALs put a ton of ammo through their guns. Much more than most folk. During three separate incidents during training, the slides on 92SBs broke off and caused minor facial injuries to three unlucky SEALs. It was found that the area where the locking block mates with the frame had cracked causing the slide to fly back into the shooters face.

The military was able to replicate this failure numerous times and found it to be caused by poor metallurgy. Beretta argued it was caused by hot ammo, but the same failures were replicated with lower pressure ammo. Beretta ended up accepting responsibility, fixing the metallurgy problems and incorporating safety features into the design that kept the slide from launching back at the shooter should something break. Hence, the 92FS variant is born.

What’s this talk about magazines? What about lube?

I think the main source of unreliability bitches with the M9/92FS comes from bad magazines and a lack of lube.

The US Government in its infinite wisdom likes to order things at the lowest bidder to save the taxpayer money.

When it came time to order replacement/supplemental magazines for the M9 it ordered lowest bidder Checkmate and Triple K magazines. THESE ARE CRAP!

The magazines malfunction and flex and lead to feeding problems. I recommend only using Beretta factory magazines in your gun. If you really have to use an aftermarket magazine go ahead and use Mec-Gar, but stay away from the cheapy mags.

Another issue I see with 92FS’s all the time is a lack of lubrication. I once saw an officer at the range have a FTE with his 92FS Inox and say, “This gun is crap! Give me a Glock.” I walked over and checked the gun and saw it was bone dry. Our Conversation went like this:

Me: When was the last time you oiled this thing?
Him: The last time I cleaned it.
Me: When was that?
Him: I dunno. Like two years ago?
Me: Can I see your gun for a sec?
Him: Sure

I lubed the gun with some TW-25B and fired three magazines without a single problem. I then loaded the magazines again and emptied the gun rapid fire into the same target with, you guessed it, no problems. I handed the gun back to him.

Him: I guess I need to oil my gun more.
Me: Yes you do. Don’t call it crap if you don’t take care of it.

OIL YOUR BERETTA!

What’s all this about locking blocks?

The 92 operates on the Walther P-38’s falling locking block design. As such, the locking block is one of the action’s main components that receives a fair amount of wear. The original locking block design was prone to breaking under heavy use with +P ammo. Beretta redesigned the locking block in the early 1990’s to make it last longer. Some folks advocate changing the locking block every 15,000 rounds or so. There are plenty of guns that have fired well over 50,000 rounds without getting the locking block changed.

Here’s a link that has pics of the two different designs:
beretta.squawk.com/blocks.html

So what is a Brigadier?

“Brigadier” was the commercial name for the Beretta M1951. When the US Border Patrol adopted the 96 (40 S&W version) they asked for a heavier slide that was “beefed up” and dovetailed sights front and rear. When Beretta made the Border Patrol Spec pistol available commercially, they resurrected the Brigadier name.

What’s the difference between a 92 and 96?

Not much. The 96F is a 92FS rechambered to 40 S&W. That was one of the problems with the original 96F. Beretta really didn’t change much at all to handle the hotter cartridge. Over the years, Beretta made changes here and there to cope with wear issues that cropped up due to the hotter round. Eventually, Beretta changed the frame of all 92/96/98 series guns to accommodate hotter rounds and that’s where the slanted dust cover comes in.

What is the Elite series?

The Elite series came about when Ernest Langdon worked for Beretta USA and was winning IDPA tournaments. They all feature Brigadier slides and stainless steel barrels. They have thinned backstraps, front cocking serrations, beveled magazine wells and some other features.

What is a Vertec?

The Vertec was Beretta’s attempt to update the 92/96 to compete with other police pistols in 2002 by addressing some previous complaints. The most noticeable things on the Vertec are:

  • Straight backstrap
  • Integral frame rail
  • Dovetailed sights
  • No lanyard loop
  • Slightly different trigger shape

The Vertec was also one of the first Berettas to incorporate plastic parts. The Vertec kinda flopped on the police market not due to anything wrong with the gun itself, but rather to Beretta USA’s lack of marketing and police customer service. I’ll talk about that a little later.

Can I add night sights to my Beretta 92?

If you have a Brigadier, Vertec or Elite then it is as simple as a drifting out the old sights and drifting in a set of Novaks or Trijicons.

If you have a 92FS/96F slide with an integral front sight (part of the slide) then it is not so easy. You have to send the slide to Tooltech who will drill a hole in the front sight and insert a tritium tube. They also will replace the rear sight with a Trijicon unit. The work costs about $150. If you have an older slide with Trijicon sights and they’ve lost their glow then you can send them to Tooltech and for $58 they’ll replace the tritium.

What’s all this about plastic parts?

About 2001 or so Beretta started using plastic or steel reinforced plastic parts. The parts are as follows:

  • Guiderod
  • Trigger
  • Safety/Decocker Lever
  • Mainspring cap
  • Mag release

I may have missed a couple, but I think that’s more or less it. There’s nothing wrong with the plastic parts or the metal parts for that matter. It’s kinda like the lock on newer S&W revolvers, it is what it is.

What’s a Centurion?

It’s a shortened 92FS or 96. It’s basically a “Commander” since it utilizes a fullsize frame and shortened slide and barrel.

So what’s with all the letters, like G, D, L, M and such?

92G- Decocker only on slide (no safety)
92D- Double action only (slick slide / bobbed hammer)
92L- Shorter slide and barrel, shorter grip, double stack
92L Type M- A single stack magazine 92L
M9- US Military designation for 92F or 92FS
M9A1- Military designation for M9 with a light rail dustcover
92G-SD- A Beretta Brigadier slide and stainless steel barrel on a M9A1 frame

There are more, but these are the main variations you will see.

Can I convert my 92FS to a 92G?

Nope. They have different slides. You would have to change the slide and it really isn’t worth it in my opinion. Used Berettas can be found cheap enough that it doesn’t really make sense.

What is all this fuss over the “D” spring?

The mainspring of the Beretta 92D is lighter than the spring of a 92FS. By putting the D model spring in a 92FS you effectively lighten the double-action trigger pull. The reason that Beretta leaves the spring of the 92FS heavier is so that it will ignite just about any primer. I’ve been using a “D” spring in my 92FS since I got it and it has ignited every primer I’ve put into it.

What the heck is a CQB?

It was essentially a gun that Beretta never offered to the general public. I don’t think any of them actually left the factory to consumers and it was only seen as a T&E gun for “tactical” guys and magazine editors like Ken Hackathorn.

The CQB was a 92G with a Brigadier slide, with front cocking serrations, nightsights and a flide-flush barrel. It had a thinned backstrap, skeleton hammer and “D” spring straight from the factory and was finished in all black. It was very similar to what later came out as the “Elite” model, but it was definitely its own gun.

I would have bought one in heartbeat, but alas, Beretta never introduced it to the general public.

I’ve heard 96F’s are unreliable. What’s the deal with that?

I’m good friends with a San Francisco PD (SFPD) rangemaster and got to have a front row seat to watch their transition to the Sig 226R and 229R. So here is the deal that they were experiencing.

SFPD adopted the 96F as their main duty pistol (along with Beretta 1201FP shotguns in cars) and began to experience a problem known as “key holing.” What this basically comes down to is that when the bullet leaves the barrel it begins to wobble in flight and when the round hits the target it does so at and angle (sideways) leaving what looks like a key hole in the target rather than a circle.

SFPD’s range crew (which is very good) tried all sorts of different ammo to make sure it wasn’t the ammo’s fault. They experienced it with every type of ammo. After slugging a few barrels and doing some more research, they discovered that some 96F barrels were out of spec and the bore had a greater diameter than most 40 S&W barrels (don’t ask me the exact numbers because I don’t remember). SFPD made Beretta aware of this problem and Beretta chose to ignore them and say it was the ammo’s fault. After a lot of bickering back and forth, Beretta replaced some pistols but not others. SFPD partnered with Winchester to have a 40 S&W Ranger-T round made to their spec that wouldn’t key hole in the guns. As the 96F’s aged, they began to experience other wear problems with the guns. Beretta’s LE division continued to ignore SFPD’s requests and complaints. When SFPD decided it was time to upgrade pistols, Sig and Winchester got the new contract and not Beretta for obvious reasons.

Remember what I said earlier. Beretta essentially bored out the barrel of a 9mm pistol without changing other components and declared it a 40 S&W. Later on, Brigadier models and the Vertec appeared that had improvements to strengthen the slide and locking block area. Is the 96F a reliable pistol? Yes. Does it tend to experience some wear problems that the 92FS does not? Yes. When I finally buy a 40 S&W Beretta it is going to be a Vertec or Elite.

Do police departments still carry the 92FS and 96F? Why do a lot of departments switch to Glocks and Sigs?

Yes, the Beretta is still carried at departments all over the country. I don’t think Beretta’s problem with losing LE contracts is pistol design. In fact, I think their pistol has an excellent design. I think (actually know) it is that their marketing and LE customer service SUCKS!

I have never experienced any problems with the Beretta’s customer service for the average consumer. I’ve always found them to be prompt and helpful (I shoot Beretta shotguns in addition to my 92FS). I have found consistently that their LE customer service lags.

When my old department went to transition from the S&W 5906 to a 40 S&W gun, the main two guns we were considering were the Glock 22 and Beretta 96 Vertec (Sig was out due to price). The Beretta LE rep in the SF Bay Area dropped off a fairly worn Beretta 92 Vertec test gun one day with one magazine (no box) and said, “Shoot this and let me know if you need anything.” We had a host of questions for him regarding the gun, customer service and parts and he said, “I don’t really know the answers to any of these questions, but I will get back to you.” He never did. He asked me to FexEx the gun back to him a month later. The cost of a 96 Vertec with nightsights for my department would have been $545 a gun at that time and they would not take our old guns on trade. The cost of sending two of us through the armorer school would have been $700.

The Glock rep showed up with a trunk containing every model Glock makes (as well as free T-shirts, ammo and other crap). He’s a retired deputy and went to the range with us to evaluate the guns and answered every question we could think of on the spot. Glock offered to sell us G22’s for $395 with nightsights and took all of our old S&W’s on trade at a good price. Glock sent three of us through its armorer’s school for free and supplied the department with a ton of free parts and other stuff since then. Even after transitioning, the Glock rep would show up occasionally to check up and make sure everything was working ok. When a problem arose (an AD that the officer claimed was the gun’s fault), the rep drove six hours and showed up at the department that evening to help address the issue.

That’s why Glock is moving Beretta and other manufacturers over in the LE marketplace.

If Beretta had gone through and offered models like the CQB with a lightrail dustcover in the LE marketplace for a decent price and provided good marketing and customer service, they’d probably hold their share of the market. Because they didn’t do that they’ve sort of fallen behind.

So how does the 92FS compare with the SIG P226 in size?

Here you go:

Comparison of Beretta 92 and SIG P226 back to back

Comparison of Beretta 92 and SIG P226 magwells

Comparison of Beretta 92 and SIG P226 with Kershaw knife

The author’s opinions are his own and do not necessarily represent an official statement by pistol-training.com, its editors, or administrators. The staff at pistol-training.com thanks Kevin Halm for allowing us to publish his work and photographs.