Beretta 92F / M9

Beretta M9 and 92F. The U.S. Military's 9mm Replacement for the Classic Colt M1911A1.

In the early 1900s, the United States military took it upon themselves to upgrade to a more modern standard military-isue sidearm to replace their aging Colt revolvers.  While the old revolvers were solid and reliable, it was time to move on.  Besides, this was the new era when semi-automatic pistols were bursting onto the scene and taking the firearms world by storm.  Not only were semi-auto pistols making their entrance, but they were paving the way for a myriad of fully automatic weapons, which were also making an appearance.  In fact,  many of the earlier fully automatic designs started out as semi-automatic pistols with absurd modifications.   During this time, you might see a Luger P08 Parabellum pistol with a massive drum magazine and a wooden stock attached to it, and a modified receiver to allow full-automatic firing.  At some point, they realized that semi-automatic pistols should be allowed to remain semi-autos, and to give full-autos a place of their own.  As can be expected from this time of experimentation, a lot of interesting things were happening.  The United States military bought a thousand of those now classic Lugers, and put them to the test.  If you are anything of a firearms enthusiast, you know how the story goes.  The US military ended up choosing the Colt M1911 semi-automatic pistol designed by the genius gunsmith, John Browning.  It was a success and became nothing short of a true love story.  From 1911 until well into the 1990s, the M1911 and M1911A1 was the standard sidearm for the US military, and was used in both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, and even in the Iraq War.  There are now generations of American military vets who own the beloved .45 M1911A1.

In the early 1980s, it was once again time for a service-wide replacement of the standard military sidearm, and to retire the Colt .45 M1911A1.  After the usual bidding wars between potential military contract hopefuls, Congressional intrusions into the proceedings, and disagreements between the different branches of the armed forces, it came down to a making a decision.  In 1985, Fabbrica d'Armi Pietro Beretta S.p.A. of Brescia, Italy--better known as Beretta--an arms manufacturer in business since 1526, won the contract.  Now it was time for the next part of the military firearms contract dance:  The endless testing, component redesign and all-around tweaking of the submitted model.  Like most modern romances, this too was a stormy affair.  Beretta submitted their model 92F semi-automatic pistol chambered in 9mm Parabellum.  There were concerns over the military's decision to make the switch to 9mm after decades of using the larger .45 caliber rounds.  Apparently, the US government wanted the US military to be more compatible with their NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) allies, which would also extend to the compatibility of the equipment.  After some wrangling over that issue, they proceeded.  Many may think the problems that arose during the field trials were excessive, but if you look back to the days of the M1911, there were plenty of problems then too.  Of course, the United States government has become much bigger and slower than it was then.  To this day, it continues to grow more fat, slow and expensive, and ever less effective.  

Whenever equipping the entire United States military for a new sidearm, there will be problems uncovered in the testing.  In 1987, a pistol failed catastrophically, the slide breaking in two during firing, and hit the Navy Special Warfare shooter in the face, causing a minor injury.  This happened two more times over the next year or so.  The Army was doing some rigorous barrel testing of their own, putting the 92F through the paces by firing tens of thousands of rounds per pistol, and uncovering the same failure, and others.  The metal used in the slide was found to be too weak, and was cracking or outright breaking where the slide meets the locking block.  The cause was thought to be excessive pressure from the Army's cartridges.  Beretta beefed up the hammer pin, and the Army changed their cartrlidges, resolving this issue.  There were also issues with the frame developing cracks.  One of the requirements of the military contract was for Beretta to shift some of its production to a plant located in the United States.  A plant was set up in Accokeek, Maryland, and once it was up and running, the metallurgical issue with the slide was resolved.  One may tend to blame Beretta for the slide problem, but there are other details.  In the recent past, soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan have voiced complaints over their magazine clips being severely affected by sand or debris, which in the Middle East is in vast supply.  The affected clips were being supplied by an after-factory company, and were not of the best quality, but the original clips by Beretta were more reliable, resulting in another mystery solved.  The resolution of this issue is not known to me at this time, but many of the service members have supplied their own magazines.

Beretta 92F and M9 semi automatic pistols

Upon a doption by the United States military of the 92F submitted by Beretta, the pistol was re-designated the M9.  The military seems to always re-des i gnate everything they use.  Guns, aircraft, handheld radios, pens, pencils and more.  Well, maybe not the pens and pencils, but no guarantees.  So now we have a military term for the Beretta 92F, and now call it the M9.  Of course, the civilian commercial version is still called the F92.  The US Marine Corps model of the M9 has an accessory rail, and is known as the M9A1.  

Based on the earlier model M1922, the Beretta M9 uses a staggered 15-round clip, and an open slide design that's easy to clear and clean, as well as allowing for manual loading of a single round if the magazine is damaged or missing.   The M9 has a special anti-glare coating that also provides corrosion resistance.  The M9 is equipped with a single/double action arrangement, employing double action operation for the first pull of the trigger, then single action for additional trigger pulls until cleared.  The M9 has a reversible magazine release and an ambidextrous safety catch that allows for either left or right-handed use.  As polymer technology advances, more parts are being made of the durable, lightweight material.  It is also a relatively cost-effective solution to the military's budget restraints.  In the US Marines, they are issued to all officers ranking colonel and higher, and the US Navy issues the M9 pistol to those ranking first class petty officer and higher.  They are also used by the Army, Air Force and Coast Guard, as well as in other military and police forces around the world.  

The switch from the M1911A1 to the Beretta M9 / M9A1 has been in place long enough so that a lot of the current generation of young service men and women have little or no experience of the M1911A1.  The worst of the trials of the Beretta M9 / M9A1are over, and for the most part, it has proven itself as a serviceable firearm in combat, although some voice the opinion that the 9mm Parabellum rounds do not have as much stopping power as they would prefer.  After the initial startup pains associated with a switchover of sidearms, there is a general sense of overall satisfaction with the Beretta 92F / M9.  The United States is not the  only nation using the 92F variations of their pistol.  It is used in nations around the world, including France, Canada, Turkey, Poland, and a large number of South American nations.  It is also used by the Iraqi Defense Forces, and a number of others.  Beretta USA is still producing pistols for the US military at its Accokeek, Maryland plant, and  commercial 92F pistols are available on the civilian market, along with other firearms, hunting equipment and accessories.  

Firearm Type: Single Action/Double Action Short Recoil Semi-automatic Pistol
Nation Of Manufacture: Italy, United States
Service Dates : 1990-Present
Variations: 92F, 92FS, 92SB-F, M9, M9A1, others
Ammunition: 9mm Parabellum, 9 X 21mm, SW.40
Wars: Iraq War, Afghanistan War
Recent Prices : US $300-$500

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