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How Bad Was It? Beretta P92/M-9

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So, Big Army has replaced the Beretta . . .old news I know.

But, just how bad was it as a service pistol?
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I may be in a minority, but I don't think it was bad as a service pistol. In the Army, a pistol is designed to be mostly carried and very seldom fired. The real killing gets done with crew served weapons, artillery and aircraft. If things have gotten to the point that sidearms must be used, then something has gone terribly wrong. I'll quote the Battalion S3 (Ops Officer) of the Mechanized Infantry Battalion that I served with in Germany. When a Company Commander was ribbing him about not wearing face camo in the field, the Major replied "I kill with my mind, not with my hands." I carried one in the field quite a bit, but only once (in Albania) with ammo loaded. Never had to fire a shot in anger, so can't talk about that from experience. I can say that I had no problem qualifying "Expert" with it, just like the 1911A1 I first qualified with before the M9.
 

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Started my service with the 1911, and preferred that. When the few times I was issued a Berretta M9 I was able to qualify expert with it. But the large grip was a challenge for me then as I preferred a smaller grip.

Never had to use it and glad of that fact.
 
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I am not fond of double action to single action triggers. A pistol I owned in the past had this feature and I never liked it. The handgun was sold. I like a safety with a single action trigger on a pistol.
 

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It was a stupid idea right from the start...

1. A proper pistol should only have one trigger pull, either SAO or DAO. Having to train folks to use two different trigger pulls and a decocker is a waste of time and money.

2. Military pistols should have steel or polymer frames. Aluminum needs to be reanodized when being reconditioned, which is expensive and labor intensive.
 

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It was a stupid idea right from the start...

1. A proper pistol should only have one trigger pull, either SAO or DAO. Having to train folks to use two different trigger pulls and a decocker is a waste of time and money.

2. Military pistols should have steel or polymer frames. Aluminum needs to be reanodized when being reconditioned, which is expensive and labor intensive.
I totally agree on both points. And although they've been using weapons with aluminum receivers since the mid-60s, the Army still does not have the capability to anodize. They spray paint (Solid Film Lubricant) the parts, instead. The M17/M18 parts are supposed to be replaced when the finish wears off. Wonder if there will be a market for bootleg used slides in 5-10 years?
 
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Army aircrew had .38 revolvers up until 1993 at Bragg when I arrived to Simmons AAF, then we had M9’s. I thought they were nice but clumsy compared to a worn out M&P with the cylinder about to fall out. As stated above if you’re going to the pistol it’s a survival situation…
 

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The safety/decocker was in the wrong place (on the slide) and could be accidentally manipulated when pulling the slide back. You could accidentally end up with a pistol that was on safe. Not the sort of thing you want if you are clearing a jam or reloading in the middle of a gunfight.

Later models did have relocated safety/decockers but by then the show was over.

The Sig P226 was a much better choice but they lost out when Sig America refused to negotiate a lower service package price. The next day the head of Sig America was out of work.
 

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I enlisted in 1978 and carried and used the M1911A1 until it was replaced by the M9. Heck, I had never fired a handgun before then, so I learned to shoot handguns on the M1911A1. I qualified expert, rifle and pistol, every year I was in the service, retiring in 2004 with 24+ years TIS.

I carried and used the M9 for more than half of my career. I found it to be a completely serviceable and reliable piece of kit. I carried it for weeks at a time in outdoor environmental conditions running the full range from continuous snow and ice to desert sand and dust. (I started my career assigned to 10th SFG(A) and retired as a SGM assigned to 5th SFG(A)). The M9 actually had a number of advantages over the M1911A1, not the least of which were the obvious larger magazine capacity and a very high resistance to corrosion (that is, it tolerated marginal maintenance better than the M1911A1). Additionally, it could be carried with a round in the chamber and de-cocked, on manual safe, and then fired DA for the first shot. There's nothing wrong with carrying the M1911A1 "locked and cocked," but if you have to do so, day after day, week after week, the M1911A1 demands daily cleaning and checking. The M9, not so much. (Hammer forward, de-cocked, the M9 stays clean much, much better than the M1911A1.)

There's been a lot of urban legend "bad press" about the M9 and fragile slides, breakage, and unreliability. The sources of that were some ad hoc "tests" by Navy special ops that employed ammunition loaded to pressure specs that exceeded even standard NATO 9mm (which is already +P). My take on it at the time (and still now) was that they either intentionally intended to test to destruction (box checked) or they were just too damned casual about what they were doing to result in any reliable stats. In either case, the manufacturer, Berretta, made some changes to make the M9 even more reliable. (Keep in mind that the M9 was already subjected to rigorous DoD testing over years before it was finally accepted.)

I currently own examples of the M1911, M1911A1 and the M9 (among other handguns). There's nothing wrong with either the M1911A1 or the M9. Both will get the job done.
 

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"...If you’ve never held a weapon in use by a Fleet Marine Force (FMF or “The Fleet”) unit, you haven’t lived. I would guess the most cherry weapon in our armory would grade at 50%- beat up with extremely worn finishes, especially on the aluminum parts. M16 receivers, M9 frames and slides had as much silver showing as they did black. The magazines were funny looking as well (in simple terms, if you park your car on your lawn and think that it is OK, the guns looked great).

During the entire time I was in the service, I don’t recall seeing an M9 malfunction. I did see one bend in a 6″ radius when a tank mechanic had his pistol get sucked into and over the winch on an M88 tank retriever (sorry, no pics, pre-digital camera days- but it looked awesome). Nothing else noteworthy, they just shot."

"...When I left the service, I had three working pistols, an M9, Glock 19 and Sig P220 and one broken Colt 1911- the M9 was my go to gun. I’d train with it, shoot USPSA and IDPA (new at the time, started in 1996) with it. It was great. I started shooting with a friend (and original contributor to Rifleshooter.com the first time around in 1998) who was an instructor for a well known and respected federal agency. He was and is, a shooter amongst shooters.

...I still own that same M9, and unlike all of the other guns I owned before 2000 besides my original G19, I didn’t- and can’t, sell it. I have a strong sentimental attachment to it. (In 2006, the Marines have ordered an upgraded version of the M9, the M9A1. The M9A1 is upgraded to include a rail system to attach a light and a checkered front and back strap. However, it is still double action with a hard to reach safety.)"

I use my M9 for dry practice a few times a year. The feel of it transports me back in time. I’ll shoot it occasionally and even take it to match every year or two. What it lacks a compact design and easy to reach safety, it makes up for with a smooth lines and reliable functioning. While I don’t prefer the double action pistol operating systems, I think they have their place in certain applications.

For the cranky old guys, the biggest downside to the M9 is the cartridge. You need to think beyond 9mm and 45 ACP. Pistol cartridges in general suck. Does a 45 suck less, probably, but it isn’t a rifle. I don’t think there is a Warrior alive who would take a pistol over a rifle in a fight. I always liked the M9, and look forward to passing mine onto my son."

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...Just one man's opinion, but its based on 20 years of real-world use, from the military/USMC use in the mid-1990s - to private sector competition events - to a somewhat sentimental heirloom today. Everybody has an opinion about a pistol design from the mid-20th century. Love it or hate it - the fact is - it served the US military reliably for over 30 years, and while it's not a perfect design, nothing is when it comes to a handgun. Everything is a compromise of sorts.

As for my opinion? If CMP ever sells surplus US military M9s, I'd like to buy one, as a small time collector, they are a small but well accepted part of US military small arms history circa 1985 to the late 201Xs. I will also note that technology has progressed since 1985 (and 1911 too)...
 

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There's been a lot of urban legend "bad press" about the M9 and fragile slides, breakage, and unreliability. The sources of that were some ad hoc "tests" by Navy special ops that employed ammunition loaded to pressure specs that exceeded even standard NATO 9mm (which is already +P). My take on it at the time (and still now) was that they either intentionally intended to test to destruction (box checked) or they were just too damned casual about what they were doing to result in any reliable stats. In either case, the manufacturer, Berretta, made some changes to make the M9 even more reliable. (Keep in mind that the M9 was already subjected to rigorous DoD testing over years before it was finally accepted.)
The first incident (23 Sep 1987) was a Navy purchased commercial 92SB produced by Beretta USA, that had approximately 30,000 rounds through it, some of which were considered "high pressure," aka +P. There were no maintenance or inspection records, so the initial conclusion was the incident might have been avoided had the testers performed closer visual inspections.

In 1985 during Life Assessment Tests on Commercial 92SB-F pistols, cracks (but not separations) were observed in the locking block slot in the slide. Cracks were detected by MPI at 5,000 round, and by 13,000 rounds were visible to the unaided eye. The pistol survived to the end of it scheduled 15,000 round life without failure. Of the two other pistols in the test, one fired 13,437 round with no crack indications before being retired for unrelated issues, and the other had a crack indication at 11,000 rounds and also made the 15,000 life without failure.

On 6 Jan 1988, the first M9 failure occurred. The pistol had about 4,500 rounds through it. At this time the Army was still evaluating the 1987 Navy incident. During a controlled test during an unrelated engineering study a third failure happened on 8 Feb 1988, fortunately this time the injuries were minor. This time the failure was after 6,007 rounds, and occurred without warning.

On 3 Mar 1988, a safety-of-use message went out requiring the slide be replace after 3,000 rounds.

The cause of the cracking and failures of the slide was assigned to variations in heat treating of slides leading to some slide having high fracture toughness (which cracked, but did not fail), and some slides having low fracture toughness (which failed without warning). The corrective actions were to change the heat treatment to give high fracture toughness, increase the radius of the locking slot, and incorporate a means to capture the slide in the event of failure. By the beginning of 1989, all of the corrective actions were approved and ready for implementation.

The safety-of-use message was rescinded after all pistols in service were upgraded with the slide capture feature and a new slide.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
With all of the above pros and cons . . . .I think it is interesting to note that the Air Force is jaming a chopped M-4 rifle into ejection seats for combat aircraft.

Givers the ejectee something serious to use en extremis.
 
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