Beretta 92 Compact
By R. K. Campbell
Among the oldest and most respected firearms makers is Beretta. With a heritage reaching back more than four hundred years Beretta has provided high quality firearms to the world’s armies and citizens in an unbroken line. Napoleon went to war with Beretta muskets among others, and the Beretta made Garands are of excellent quality. Among the most successful modern Beretta handguns is the Model 92. The Model 92 is the current U.S. military service pistol (As the M9) and has proven to be reliable, accurate, and easy to use well. If you accept 9mm ballistics – and it is the most popular military cartridge in history – then it is difficult to fault the Model 92. Research indicates that there are fewer accidental discharges with the Beretta 92 than practically any other service pistol. While true safety is between the ears, a combination of a positive manual safety, a double action first shot trigger, a loaded chamber indicator and a positive firing pin block are good features. The Beretta also seems to be among the least likely of any 9mm handguns to tie up or malfunction, particularly when fired with +P or +P+ ammunition. (NATO specification loads are actually hotter than the domestic +P or LEO +P+ loads.) The Beretta may not be quite as robust as the steel frame Browning High Power but it is light enough, reliable, accurate, and is deployed with a fifteen round magazine. There have been a number of special variations on the Beretta 92 including stainless steel versions and the Inox line.
Beginning with the Colt Sheriff’s Model of the Single Action Army and proceeding to the Colt Commander, lightened and shortened versions of the service pistol have proven popular. Rather than adopting a purpose designed hide-out such as the snubnose .38 or .380 automatic, serious shooters have attempted to retain the power, accuracy and reliability of the service pistol while deploying a shorter and lighter version of the full size pistol. By shortening the slide, barrel and frame, the end result is a pistol that maintains as many of the good attributes of the original as possible. The Commander, the SIG P228 and other compact pistols have been quite popular. Glock’s Model 19 is a particularly popular service pistol. Beretta’s compact version of the Model 92 has not been seen as often though that is not to say it hasn’t been as popular as those who own the compact 92 as they are often quite enthusiastic concerning the pistol. Beretta simply has not produced a high number of these handguns. Perhaps when the demand for the Beretta 92 is considered, Beretta is simply keeping up with demand for the full size service pistol, the Beretta Storm and other variants, and not devoting production time to the compact Beretta 92. As a result the Beretta 92 Compact has a certain appeal as it is if not rare, it is uncommon and certainly gives the owner real pride of ownership.
The Beretta illustrated was obtained through normal commercial channels. In other words the author found this specimen in the box in the used section of a pawn shop and immediately recognized his good fortune. The pistol was rather nicely packaged. It is delivered in a hard plastic case with a cleaning rod, gun lock and spare magazine and the pistol is finished in a durable blue that is flawless in execution. This compact features beautifully figured wood grips, a departure from the usual plastic grips found on Beretta pistols and has the double action first shot trigger action, followed by a crisp single action let off. The double action trigger is tight but smooth at about fifteen pounds. The single action trigger breaks at a clean four and one quarter pounds. The double action trigger is connected to the hammer by an external drawbar. The sights are typical Beretta 92, designed for rapid acquisition at combat ranges and precision fire to at least 50 yards. The Beretta uses the oscillating wedge lockup pioneered by the Mauser C 96 pistol. The open top slide is a distinctive Beretta trademark. When examining this Italian made pistol the fit, finish and smoothness of operation seemed above average. But that isn’t the only noticeable mark of superior manufacture. The barrel crown was particularly well done with a true forty five degree cut in the crown. This is a step foregone by most makers. This crown aids in good accuracy and also in preventing damage to the rifling.
The heft and balance of the compact pistol are good. The Beretta 92 is noted as one of the lightest recoiling of all 9mm pistols and muzzle flip is subdued. The weight of the compact is balanced more over the hand in a pleasing combination. The barrel is flush fitted to the slide. The shortened grip is a good fit for most hands. The geometry of the grip angle results in an S curve that seems to give better purchase than the full size service pistol grip. The abbreviated grip results in the loss of two rounds in capacity compared to the service pistol. The magazine holds thirteen rounds, the same as the full size Browning High Power, compared to the fifteen round Beretta 92 service pistol. Losing two rounds in capacity is acceptable when the overall weight and bulk savings are considered. The pistol is well made, well finished and offers an impressive testament to Beretta manufacture. Of all of the Beretta handguns that have crossed my path, from the Beretta 1934 to the latest Inox, this particular pistol impresses the most and is well worth its price.
This handgun also seemed a bit tighter than average. There was little to no takeup in the trigger before you began the double action press. That is tight engagement. The double action trigger is smooth in the press at about fifteen pounds. Good shooting may be done with the double action trigger at combat ranges of five to ten yards. Occasionally an exceptional shooter will perform beyond expectation with the Beretta , others just don’t get the hang of it. Once the double action trigger is pressed the pistol fires and the slide cocks the hammer for single action fire. The single action trigger is crisp with slight takeup and no creep or backlash. The safety is positive as with any Beretta combination decocker/safety. It is a personal choice whether you wish to carry the pistol on safe. The safety may be quickly manipulated to the OFF position with a strong forward thumb action. An important advantage of the safety is that if someone manages to gain control of your pistol they may not realize how the safety functions and may not be able to quickly manipulate the safety. For this reason I have known peace officers to grind the red dot indicating the safety is OFF from their pistols. You have to decide how important a manual safety is to your tactical mindset.
The test program began by lubricating the long bearing surfaces of the pistol, including the slide rails, the frame rails and the cocking block. The test began to not only evaluate the Beretta 92C but also as a qualification of a new product from Black Hills Ammunition. Black Hills now offers steel cased ammunition. A sign of the times and ever increasing brass prices, the new loads are a good resource for economical shooting. This ammunition was used in the initial evaluation.
In order to master gun-handling it is important to follow the basics, particularly safety, and take things at a steady and smooth pace. Speed will come with practice and smoothness. (If you wish to become a safe shooter, and a good shooter, find a certified NRA Instructor and take the basic handgun course.) Drawing from an AMS fabric holster, the gun was drawn, fired, decocked, holstered and fired again until I was comfortable with the double action trigger. (AMS is a good resource for inexpensive range and field gear.) Good results were turned in with X ring hits at seven yards. Next was drawing and firing the first shot double action and continuing to address targets with the single action trigger press. The balance is good and the heft is ideal for rapidly addressing multiple targets. Control the trigger, watch the front sight and you have a hit. Once the long double action press is learned, speed to a first shot hit is good. The pistol isn’t as fast on target as a single action handgun carried cocked and locked but the handiness and simplicity of the double action first shot are considered a fair trade off. As an example, the Beretta may be maintained in the same condition of readiness both on the belt and beside the bed: safety on or safety off, your choice. I recommend on safe carry as long as the user practices manipulation of the safety extensively.
Having considerable time in with the Beretta 92, acclimating to the Beretta Compact was no challenge and was actually faster on target due to the shorter sight radius allowing rapid acquisition of the sight picture. Recoil control in a 9mm caliber handgun this size presents little difficulty and rapidly addressing multiple targets the pistol and the shooter produced good results. A number of the powerful Black Hills 115 grain JHP +P loads were fired with good results. The difference between standard velocity and +P loads is significant in power but the difference in control in rapid fire is not. The 9mm has several virtues but light recoil is one of the most significant. Keep in mind that unlike larger calibers there is a significant deviation between the wound potential of 9mm loadings. FMJ loads are predictably ineffective producing ice pick like wounds. Choose a carry load that exhibits a good balance of expansion and penetration. Accuracy results with a number of loads were good. The Beretta shoves the bullet nose straight into the chamber in a straight line feed and as a result open nose jacketed hollow point bullets do not present a problem on the feed ramp. During the firing sessions it was noted that the pistol is a capable combat handgun, however, in the final appraisal the larger Beretta Model 92 full size is more controllable on a combat course. It would have been surprising if it were otherwise with respect to the laws of physics: a heavier gun kicks to a lesser degree with a given loading.
During the test my daughter-in-law, Emily, paid a holiday visit. She has served in Iraq and Afghanistan with the U.S. Army. Uncle Sam was kind enough to fly her home from Afghanistan for the Thanksgiving holiday and coincidentally to aid the author in evaluating the Beretta 92 compact. She found the piece good enough for who it was for and showed me how to fire it the Army way, with excellent accuracy and control.
After the initial evaluation I settled down to a fire a few groups off the bench. Using a solid rest and with attention to the sight picture and sight alignment, the Beretta produced credible groups. The pistol proved more accurate in slow fire than the M9 and Beretta 92 pistols on hand. Whether a combination of solid fit and a superior barrel crown or simply good luck, it is difficult to state for certain, but this is an accurate handgun that has proven capable with a variety of ammunition. The Beretta 92 Compact is a well thought out and well executed handgun well worth the time and effort to master.
Accuracy results, 25 yards range, with an average of three five shot groups:
Loading: 25 yard group
Black Hills 115 gr. FMJ Steel case: 3.5
Black Hills 115 gr. JHP Steel case: 3.0
Black Hills 115 gr. EXP: 2.0
Black Hills 124 grain JHP +P: 2.5
Mastercast remanufactured 124 gr. FMJ: 3.75
Mastercast remanufactured 147 gr.: 3.0
Wolf 124 gr. FMJ: 3.5
Magnus 122 gr. FP/WW231 powder/1,050 fps: 3.25
Rainier 124 gr. JHP/Titegroup/1,090 fps: 2.4
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GMB: Great article. The 92 accurate, easy to clean, and very reliable with just about any ammo.
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