Beretta’s Best Pistol: The Beretta Vertec

By R.K. Campbell

The title of this feature is a bold statement. Just the same, I feel that the Beretta Vertec may stake a claim as the best combat handgun yet offered by this respected maker. While the Beretta M9 9mm and the M9A1 continue to enjoy commercial success and an excellent combat reputation, the Beretta Vertec may be hands down the best choice for a dedicated individual that prefers the Beretta system. The pistol neatly solves every complaint that even dedicated Beretta fans may have used to address the Model 92. Reliability has not been a problem with the M9. Accuracy isn’t a problem. But the sights, the inability to mount a weapon light on most models, the grip frame and finish have been criticized. The wound potential power of the 9mm Luger cartridge is a legitimate complaint; just the same, the original specification read “9mm NATO” and it is what it is. Those of us with more flexibility in choosing a personal rather than an issue handgun may obtain and carry the finest rendition of the Beretta handgun yet. The rub is that production seems to have halted for the time being. Just the same, there are many examples available and it isn’t difficult to find a Beretta Vertec to suit your wants.

The pistol is easily recognizable as a variant of the proven Beretta 92 pistol. The primary difference is that the back strap is straight and smaller in cross section than the standard Beretta 92. This makes for better hand fit. It may be said that this grip frame is similar to the comfortable 1911A1-type grip. The pistol also incorporates light rails into the design with a modern rail on the forward dust cover under the slide. The pistol uses the same oscillating wedge lockup that has been in use with the Mauser C96, Walther P 38, Beretta 951 and now the Beretta 92/M9. The pistol’s action has proven reliable and the Vertec builds upon this proven action. The pistol tested for this review is a stainless steel version. The fit and finish of Beretta products is uniformly excellent. Moreover, stainless steel is more resistant to the elements and wear than a blue finish handgun. Stainless is a good choice for a hard-use service-grade handgun. As for the action’s operation, the long but smooth double-action first-shot trigger breaks at just over 12 pounds. The pistol changes to single action fire after the first long double-action trigger press. The slide recoils and cocks the hammer for single-action fire with a smooth 5.5 pound trigger release. There is a touch of take up, but the trigger is crisp in operation with good, fast reset. The double-action trigger felt smoother than the recorded weight when firing, I believe due to the smaller grip. Trigger reach was excellent. While there have been complaints concerning the girth of the Beretta 92 grip frame, these are addressed smartly with the Vertec variation. Similar to the other Beretta 92 variants, the pistol is simple to field strip, clean and maintain. To disassemble the pistol, lock the slide to the rear, be certain the chamber is empty and that there is no magazine in the pistol, then rotate the disassembly lever (located in front of the slide lock) downward. The slide lock may then be released and the slide ran forward off of the frame rails. The recoil spring guide and spring may then be lifted from the barrel. Next, the pin in the barrel locking wedge is pressed and the barrel may be lifted from the slide. This is all that is needed for normal maintenance.

An important difference in the Vertec pistol is the addition of dovetail sights, particularly the front sight. The dovetail front sight isn’t going anywhere, it is firmly attached. However, if you wish you may change the front sight out for a taller or shorter version if needed in order to precisely sight the pistol in. The sights offer a good sight picture and leave nothing to be desired as combat sights. As issued, the handgun is ideal for use with 180 grain JHP loads. Higher velocity loads struck higher on the target, but I was able to compensate without difficulty. While this may seem counterintuitive and against the rule of a heavy bullet firing higher, I believe the difference was due to heftier recoil with the 1100 fps 155 grain loadings. During the firing test the pistol was fired primarily with 180 grain JHP loads as well and practice ammunition with the same bullet weight.

The pistol was also fired with a smaller quantity of 155 grain loads. At no time were any failures to feed, chamber fire or eject when firing well over four hundred .40 caliber Smith & Wesson cartridges. And this is another advantage of this Beretta. The Vertec tested is a variation of the Berretta 96 handgun. The Beretta 96 is a variant of the Beretta 92 chambered in .40 caliber Smith & Wesson. The .40 Smith & Wesson cartridge was developed as a compact but effective cartridge capable of being chambered in 9mm Luger handguns. The .400-inch projectile offers superior wound ballistics. The .40 is also the first handgun cartridge that was designed specifically around a jacketed hollow point bullet. Feed reliability is excellent. The Beretta 96 is identical in size and weight to the Beretta 92. The slide is strengthened to handle the .40 caliber cartridge and spring rates are appropriate for the .40 caliber cartridge. The magazine capacity of the .40 caliber pistol is eleven rounds versus fifteen rounds for the 9mm Luger. Considering the increased wound potential, this is an acceptable trade-off.

The pistol was lubricated and the magazines loaded with Black Hills Ammunition 180 grain FMJ loads prior to the firing tests. The pistol was placed in a Don Hume belt slide holster. The carry condition was fully loaded with a cartridge in the chamber and the safety on. The slide mounted safety acts as both a manual safety and a decocker. The pistol also features a positive firing pin block. In order to quickly manipulate the safety, a strong forward thumb motion is used as the pistol is drawn. The pistol was drawn, the thumb safety disengaged, and man-sized targets were addressed at 5, 7 and 10 yards. The long but smooth double-action trigger press allowed center hits with good speed. Once the first shot was fired, the pistol reverted to single action fire. In single action fire, the pistol was controllable in rapid fire. While there is a difference between the recoil of the 9mm and .40 caliber variants, the difference is not enough to affect the good handling and subdued muzzle flip of the Beretta pistol. Practical accuracy was good. Some Black Hills Ammunition 180 grain JHP was also fired. Results were comparable, with continued good function.

A quantity of the Winchester 180 grain JHP loading was fired for function. This is the original .40 Smith & Wesson service-grade loading. Accuracy and control were good. The 180 grain JHP load in this caliber typically exits the Beretta barrel at 950 to 980 fps. Control is good and the powder burn is usually a full burn, resulting in little muzzle signature. A number of Winchester Silvertip 155 grain load were also fired. This load exhibits a velocity of well over 1,100 fps from the Beretta Vertec. Muzzle flip is increased. This loading offers dynamic expansion and predicted excellent wound ballistics. It is up to the end user to determine if the increased muzzle flip is worth the advantage in expansion. The 180 grain loads have a good reputation in personal defense and service use.

The Beretta Vertec .40 handgun was benchrested for absolute accuracy. Taking every advantage including a solid bench rest firing position, the pistol was fired for accuracy with four different loads. Results were good, service grade at least, with the best grouping demonstrating a five-shot group of 2.75 inches at 25 yards. This is adequate accuracy for any foreseeable chore.

25 yard accuracy, average of two five shot groups:
Black Hills Ammunition 180 grain JHP 2.8 in.
Black Hills Ammunition 180 grain FMJ 3.1 in.
Winchester 180 grain JHP 2.75 in.
Winchester 155 grain Silvertip 3.25 in.

When the results are tabulated, there are several conclusions. First, the Beretta is reliable. There were no failures to feed, chamber, fire or eject. The handling of the pistol was deemed good and the handfit better than a Beretta M9 on hand for comparison. Practical accuracy is good and the pistol is comfortable to fire and use. The pistol is more accurate than all that the finest pistol shot will be able to hold. The Beretta Vertec is a winner and we hope to see more of it.

You may carry a service pistol concealed if the proper gear is chosen. The Beretta was tested with a StealthGearUSA inside the waistband holster. This holster offers a barrier construction that protects the handgun from perspiration and keeps the user comfortable as well. Overall utility is excellent. The Stealth Gear holster earns a high rating for tactical concealment.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V19N10 (December 2015)
and was posted online on October 16, 2015


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