Thursday, April 4, 2013

Beretta 92FS Review

  A friend was kind enough to loan me his Beretta 92FS "Centurion" this week. It's worth noting that if some of the current Bills in the Senate become law, gestures such as this will become illegal.
  Only 75 rounds were put through this firearm in my testing. With such a low round count, I can make no claims as to this being a thorough evaluation. Obviously an afternoon at the range, and an evening fondling this pistol is not a detailed examination. Think of this as more of an overview of the weapon.
  On the other hand...
  I have to point out that I had a bit of experience with M9s during my time in the military so this handgun isn't exactly a mystery to me.

  The "Centurion" is very similar to the M9s currently in use by our armed forces. The most obvious difference is the shorter slide, barrel (4 1/4" vs 4.9"), and dust cover. It is meant to be a slightly more compact version of the 92FS, while still keeping a full sized frame.  3 dot sights are used instead of the dot over dot version present on the M9. You'll note in the pictures that the push button for the take down lever (right side of frame) is not flush with the frame as it is on later models This model of 92FS was produced from 1992 to 1998.

  I'm going to skip the specs , and let you browse the manufacturers website if you're curious. As I stated above, this model is no longer in production so most of the info that Beretta gives you is for the current 92FS models.

  So let's begin. I like this gun a lot. It's accurate, easy to shoot, has very good magazine capacity, and is reliable. What's not to like?
  New Berettas are generally expensive guns. Trying to price pistols in today's market is an exercise in futility so I'll happily leave this up to you if you're interested in a new 92FS. If you stumbled across my site then the odds are good that you already know what kind of damage a Beretta will do to your bank account.
  It's not hard to find used Berettas that are police trade ins, but most seem to be in .40cal. If I remember correctly, they were between $300 and $400 when I last saw them in 2012. Most of the trade ins that I've run across are cosmetically challenged (beat to hell).

  Even as a slightly more compact 92FS, the "Centurion" is still a big handgun. It's also wide. I consider it a very good home defense pistol or duty weapon. Concealed carry... nope. Not for me unless our crime rates start looking like something from Mexico City or Columbia. This weapon would not be my first choice for CCW at this time.

  Recoil is mild. It's a full sized 9mm so that's expected. I doubt that new shooters would find the recoil intimidating, and I never even considered the "Centurion's" recoil until sitting down to start this review.

  The sights are OK. They're the standard white 3 dot sights that we've seen again and again. I can't think of any real criticism of them.
92FS on left. Taurus PT92 on right

  The trigger is very good for a SA/DA pistol. The double action pull has no take up, and is consistent throughout the pull. Very revolver like.
  The single action pull has about 1/4" of take up, and then breaks very cleanly. No one would ever call the trigger on this gun "Mushy." I think the SA pull is outstanding.
  I shot a Taurus PT92 and Taurus 24/7 OSS alongside this "Centurion," and the Beretta clearly had the best trigger. When I think back on my P series Rugers, it's amazing what a better Beretta job does with their trigger pull.
  I found the trigger reset is very short in the single action mode.
  The trigger guard is large enough for those using gloves.

  The grip is a little fatter than a lot of the hi cap 9mm's that we see on the market today. Those with small hands may have a hard time with this gun. I have medium sized hands, and don't have any issues. The grip is surprisingly comfortable for me. It's been a few years since I've shot a 92FS, and was expecting something more brick like after years of M1911's and XDM's. I liked the grip on the "Centurion,"  but I've felt better.
  There are vertical serrations cut into the front of the grip, and along the backstrap. They worked better than expected considering that I'm used to finger grooves molded into polymer frames or checkering.
  The magazine release is reversible. It's also very attractive (for a mag release).  I have to slightly rotate the gun in my hand to use it. This may not be necessary for those with larger hands. Magazines drop free easily.
  There is no bevel in the mag well. This may be different in other models. It's not really needed with the magazines used for this weapon.
  You probably noticed that this pistol has a lanyard ring. It's a nice feature that I'll probably never use on a handgun.
  Anecdote alert:    We were required to use lanyards when taking M9's to the field when I was in the Marines. I have no idea if that's the current policy.

  I have to rotate the pistol in my hand in order to use the slide release. That's not a biggie for me as I do the same when shooting all of my pistols except for the XDM's.

  The magazines are produced for Beretta by Mec-Gar. They're very well made, and I've always been happy with Mec-Gar's products. There are 15 numbered witness holes, and the floor plate is removable for cleaning. 15, 18, and 20 round magazines are available. Pro Mag has 32 rnd mags (I haven't used their products in years, and have no idea about their quality in 2013).
  This is an interesting video on Beretta's sand resistant mags. Long story short, due to government specifications, a magazine vendor supplied M9 mags with a phosphate coating on the inside. The sand in Iraq and the texture of the phosphate caused malfunctions. It's briefly discussed here , and here.

  The plastic grip panels shown on this handgun have a good texture. No complaints.
  It's worth noting that there are thinner aftermarket grips for those with small hands.

  I have to shift the gun in my hand to use the ambidextrous safety lever with my shooting hand. That's not something that I care for. I'd prefer a safety that can be disengaged without changing my grip on the gun.
  There's good tension on the safety lever. It engages and disengages easily without feeling loose or sloppy. I've seen safeties on other weapons that required a second hand to disengage, and have run across pistols with safeties that cannot be trusted to stay on. Beretta did a good job with the safety/decocker on this firearm.

  About the decocker/safety lever on this weapon... this is a direct quote from the Beretta website.
"Unique Ultra Safe Design: The ambidextrous safety lever, easily accessible by the thumb of a right or left handed shooter, is spring loaded so it’s either positively “on” or “off ”. The safety lever also functions as the pistol’s decocking lever. When pushed down, the rear part of the firing pin (striker) is rotated out of alignment with the front part of the firing pin. Additional hammer drop catch (half-cock notch prevents striking of the firing pin unit) in the remote chance of unintentional hammer drop."

  I'll try to simplify the explanation a bit. When loading the firearm, rack the slide to chamber a round as you normally would:

*If the safety is on when racking the slide, the hammer will move forward when the slide is released. The weapon is now on safe with the hammer in the forward or decocked position. To fire a round, take the safety off. The first shot will be double action, and subsequent shots will be single action.
*If the safety is in the off position when racking the slide, the hammer will remain cocked, and the weapon is ready to fire.  Your first shot will be in the single action mode and will have a lighter trigger pull than when shooting double action. All of the subsequent shots will also be single action.
*If the safety lever is in the off position when racking the slide, the hammer will remain cocked, and the weapon is ready to fire. If you do not want to shoot the pistol at this time, the safety can be put on and the hammer will be decocked. When you are ready to fire the weapon, the safety lever can be disengaged and the pistol is ready to fire. The first shot will be double action and subsequent shots will be single action.
*The hammer may be decocked using the safety lever at any time. When the safety is on, the firing pin is out of alignment with the hammer. The trigger also no longer functions.
*This is a very safe system, but anything made by man can fail and the weapon should always be pointed in a safe direction. Read your manual as features on models often vary.
  If you do not understand the safety mechanism on this handgun then read the manual, or find experienced instruction.
 I say this without trying to be funny or sarcastic. Some people need hands on experience, and reading the instruction booklet isn't enough. My little explanation is definitely not a substitute for training or reading the manual.
  I stated in earlier paragraphs that we used the M9's in the military. When I served in the Marines during the late 1980's, we were in the process of changing over from the M1911A1 to the Beretta M9. The M1911s were carried with a loaded magazine and an empty chamber. The Berettas were carried with a loaded magazine, a round in the chamber, and the safety on.
  It was not unusual to hear about negligent discharges every couple of weeks when the Colt .45's were being phased out. Some people simply didn't understand how the safety system on the Beretta's operated. Lack of training, fatigue, and sometimes stupidity played a role in these negligent discharges.
  So if a serviceman that carries this weapon on a daily basis can screw up then a civilian that shoots it once per year can definitely make a mistake.
  Nuff said on that.

  The slide serrations are pretty good (I've seen better though), and it's easy to get a good grip on the slide when chambering a round.
  Someone, somewhere, at some time, once described the Beretta's slide on frame feel as, "Glass on glass," when racking the slide. I like that description.  So because I have too much time on my hands right now, I pulled handgun after handgun out of my safe. The Beretta does have a smoother feel when chambering a round. Does this really matter? Not really. The other handguns shoot just as well, and are at least as reliable. With that said, the Beretta just "Feels" well made and like a quality piece of equipment. Most of us like a gun that feels good when we spend several hundred dollars for a firearm. It's one of those intangible things that matter to gun buyers.

  The "Centurion" has a black non reflective Bruniton coating. This corrosion resistant coating held up very well on the M9's that we used in the service. The weapon that is being reviewed is a safe queen so it's likely that the matte coating will look like new for generations.

2" orange centers on small pie plates
  What are the two most important things about a defensive handgun? Reliability and accuracy. As I only put a little over a box of 9mm through this gun it's hard to write about how reliable it is. It worked flawlessly for me. My friend has had no problems with the gun, but to be honest, I doubt that this weapon has more than 1,000 rounds through it.

  Now for accuracy.  The target to the right has 3 five shot groups at 10 yds (because that's what was open at a crowded range). The first shot was fired in the double action mode and the flyers are the second shot when I changed over to single action.
3" orange centers on paper plates
Excuse alert:     I don't shoot a lot of DA/SA pistols so it took a few magazines to get used to the trigger.

  This target also has 3 five shot groups with the first shot being fired in the double action mode. This was at the end of the day, and I showed a little improvement. These are regular sized paper plates with a 3" orange center.
  Yes, I put this handgun up against my Taurus 24/7 OSS, and a Taurus PT92. Reviews are coming (at the usual snail's pace).

  Disassembly is pretty simple. I'm not going to waste paragraphs describing it. Check out the manuals on this site for more info. I will note that you don't have to squeeze the trigger when taking the handgun apart. This is a big deal to some as there have been  occasional negligent discharges by unsafe individuals whose pistols, "Just go off," while they're cleaning them.
  Anyone should be able to disassemble (and more importantly reassemble) this gun.

  Anecdote alert:     I was happy to see us change over to the M9 Berettas when I was in the military. Most of the M1911s that we had in service were junk. I know, I know... that's heresy, and nothing beats a .45acp, blah, blah, blah.
  The simple fact is that our Colt .45s were worn out. They had been in service for at least 40 years when I served. I remember one trip to the range during which 1/3 of our Colts would not fire (our armorer was spoken to about this by the CO). Our magazines were total crap, and I never saw a mag taken out of service. If the weapon jammed you simply cleared it. A great deal of our problems were no doubt due to bad mags, but we regularly experienced every malfunction possible.
  When my unit got the Berettas they ran. It's that simple. The guns worked.
  One more thing. We carried 3 magazines loaded with 5 rounds each when using the M1911s. That's just pathetic. We also had an empty chamber (loaded mag in the magazine well) when carrying the gun.
  We had two 15 round magazines loaded with 12 rounds each when using the Berettas. That's a little better. We also carried a round in the chamber which I consider a huge improvement.
  No, I won't start the .45acp vs 9mm debate.

  This ran on a lot longer than expected. I'll try to wrap it up without adding 10 more paragraphs.
  I like this gun, and would buy it if the price were right. It would probably have to be a decent deal since I like a lot of other handguns more. There's not a lot of bad things that I can say about this weapon. I'm not a fan of SA/DA triggers, and some will be confused by the operation and safety. Others will have a hard time transitioning from one trigger method to another. It's a training issue, but the vast majority of handgun owners don't train. A simpler, more instinctive weapon might be a better choice for those individuals.
  The gun is big, and slightly heavy. This makes for a good home defense weapon. Recoil is minimal, and ammo capacity is extremely good. I believe that the gun is reliable, and know that it's accurate.
  Those with smaller hands will find the grip wide. Thinner, aftermarket grip panels are available.
  The aftermarket is pretty good for the 92FS.
  So in conclusion, I like the "Centurion" a lot, and would buy it for the right price. It's not my first choice but I'd recommend it and would feel well armed when using it.

This is a short but good write up from a very knowledgeable source. When I grow up I hope to be as smart as this individual, and will hopefully have at least half of his firearms knowledge.

My other gun and knife reviews on this site

1 comment:

  1. Beretta 92FS is a nice gun. I would choose the 92FS because I love shooting and 9mm generally reloads longer and better.
    Mass gun license application.