To replace the Beretta M9A1 (M9) and later variants in military service, the U.S. Army tested several handguns and chose the SIG P320, which is designated as the M17 in military service. The Glock 19X was also a participant in the military trials. While not chosen by the military, the full-size-grip short-slide Glock has enjoyed commercial success. The new Glock 45 is a direct result of Glock’s experience in the military trials and also a result of criticism of the 19X. A third handgun, Beretta’s APX, was also not adopted, and like the M17, is a modular design. We elected to test these three striker-fired polymer handguns head to head to determine which might be the best choice for concealed carry and personal defense for civilians. To add some historical texture, we also shot these firearms side by side with a full-size Beretta 92, or the M9 in its military appellation. The Beretta won’t carry as easily as the APX and Glock, but it’s comparable to the P320-M17 in size. If we’re looking at them as home-defense guns, then size is less of an issue.
As we collected data and choose firearms for inclusion in these shoot-outs, we met old-line shooters and even young shooters who feel that the polymer-frame striker-fired market is crowded, and these handguns are much the same. Nothing could be further from the truth. Beretta, CZ, HK, SIG, Smith & Wesson, and Glock offer different features and different fits and feel for their products. Those who have not tested the pistols extensively and who have not taken time to compare features may feel these pistols are cut from the same cloth, but by assuming that, those shooters abrogate a lot of responsibility in choosing the handgun that suits them best.
|Hornady American Gunner 124-gr. +P||Beretta APX||SIG Sauer P320-M17||Glock 45||Beretta 92 FS|
|Average velocity||1180 fps||1188 fps||1199 fps||1213 fps|
|Muzzle energy||383 ft.-lbs.||388 ft.-lbs.||395 ft.-lbs.||405 ft.-lbs.|
|Small group||2.5 in.||2.5 in.||2.5 in.||1.8 in.|
|Average group||3 in.||2.8 in.||2.9 in.||2 in.|
|SIG Sauer V-Crown 124-gr.|
|Average velocity||1190 fps||1211 fps||1196 fps||1218 fps|
|Muzzle energy||389 ft.-lbs.||403 ft.-lbs.||393 ft.-lbs.||408 ft.-lbs.|
|Small group||2.8 in.||2.8 in.||2.7 in.||1.8 in.|
|Average group||3.5 in.||3 in.||3 in.||2.4 in.|
|Black Hills TAC +P 115-gr.|
|Average group||1142 fps||1160 fps||1151 fps||1170 fps|
|Muzzle energy||332 ft.-lbs.||343 ft.-lbs.||338 ft.-lbs.||349 ft.-lbs.|
|Small group||2.5 in.||2.6 in.||2.9 in.||1.7 in.|
|Average group||3.3 in.||3 in.||3.3 in.||2.3 in.|
|All groups were fired at 25 yards from a solid braced benchrest position using the Bullshooters pistol rest. We used a Competition Electronics Pro Chrony to measure velocity. The chronograph was 10 feet from the muzzle of the firearm. Ammunition sources: Black Hills Ammunition TAC-XP +P BHAD9N10 ($24.81/20 @ VenturaMunitions.com); Hornady American Gunner 124-grain +P ($17/25 @ LuckyGunner.com); SIG Sauer 124-grain V-Crown ($19/20 @ SIGSauer.com).|
9mm Striker Pistol Test Details
Gun Tests relies on raters who carry and use firearms on a daily basis, but occasionally we draft a novice with no preconceived notions to see how a pistol may be received by those with less experience. Of course, the novice is closely supervised. The raters must be able to shoot well. Our senior rater on this project was a peace officer for more than 20 years and is both an NRA and state-certified instructor. He was won several competitions and actively trains. He has written 14 books on firearms. Another rater is a military officer with extensive experience in the Middle East and Kosovo and has trained soldiers on the handgun. He is also a certified instructor. Their mix of training, police and military, is unified by NRA training.
To test firearms, the shooter must be able to execute a draw from a concealed-carry holster, get on target, and fire quickly and accurately. The rater must also be able to fire accurately from a solid benchrest. This is a skill covered in the NRA basic pistol course 101. Raters also must also be able to discern quality and be able to examine a mechanism for smoothness, leverage, tool marks, and function. One of the raters in this project has extensive experience in industry, including quality control and inspection.
As shooters learn in NRA basic handgun instruction, the grip, trigger press, follow through, sight alignment, and sight picture are important. In testing these handguns, certain adjustments must be made gun to gun. The double-action-only (DAO) pistols require the trigger be pressed to the rear smoothly until the sear breaks. Reset is rapid as the trigger finger moves forward. The cadences of fire were similar with each DAO handgun. The SIG, however, had less take up, and it put up a “wall” we had to master. With the Beretta 92 and its double-action first-shot trigger, rather than coming to the rear, the trigger finger swings down and rearward to press the trigger. It is interesting that most shooters do not realize how much slower this is and how much effort is expended until you fire the 92 beside DAO handguns. Once the Beretta 92 fires and the trigger is reset, the finger shifts to a straight-to-the-rear single-action compression. With the right technique, the hand itself retains the same firing position.
During the combat firing and range evaluation, we used a practice load for economy. We also fired a magazine of +P loads for function and control evaluation. The pistols each fired 120 rounds on the combat range, hitting man-sized targets at 5, 7, 10, and 15 yards. We used the Winchester 115-grain full-metal-jacket load for this. We also fired 20 rounds of the Winchester 124-grain +P load as a test of control, firing at 10 yards for the X ring with a magazine full. We fired the excess of the 20-round box in executing precision shots at 10 yards. Firing from a benchrest, we used three defense loads for accuracy testing: the Black Hills Ammunition TAC +P, Hornady 124-grain American Gunner +P, and the SIG Sauer 124-grain V-Crown. Here’s what we found:
Beretta APX Compact JAXC921 9mm Luger, $449
GUN TESTS GRADE: B
The APX is the least expensive handgun tested. Yet it is a service-grade pistol with excellent reliability and good combat-shooting ability. The magazines were difficult to load, and the slide was difficult to rack. In addition, the takedown button was difficult to engage.
|ACTION TYPE||Semi-auto, double action only|
|OVERALL LENGTH||6.97 in.|
|OVERALL HEIGHT||4.8 in.|
|MAX WIDTH||1.3 in.|
|WEIGHT UNLOADED||26.4 oz.|
|WEIGHT LOADED||31.5 oz.|
|BARREL LENGTH||3.7 in.|
|SLIDE RETRACTION EFFORT||19 lbs.|
|FRAME FRONT STRAP HEIGHT||1.7 in. without magazine basepad|
|FRAME BACK STRAP HEIGHT||3.3 in.|
|GRIP PANELS||Pebbled polymer|
|GRIP THICKNESS||1.3 in.|
|GRIP CIRCUMFERENCE||5.8 in.|
|REAR SIGHT||2-white-dot-steel, removable|
|FRONT SIGHT||1-white-dot-steel, removable|
|SIGHT RADIUS||5.7 in.|
|TRIGGER PULL WEIGHT||5.6 lbs.|
|TRIGGER SPAN||2.5 in.|
|SAFETIES||Striker deactivation button, firing pin block, trigger|
This is a recent price from BudsGunShop.com. When you look at the modern Beretta APX, it’s good to remember that Beretta is a 500-year-old company that supplied rifles to Napoleon — making firearms that its governmental customers want is second nature. Even after Beretta’s success with the Beretta 92, the Beretta APX breaks new ground. This polymer-frame striker-fired handgun is a modern design that should compete with other handguns similarly configured. Beretta chose to develop a modular pistol for use with different frame and slide sizes. That is a fine idea, but as of this writing, spare slides and frames are scarce. So we cannot rate the piece for its modular design. We chose the Compact version of the Beretta APX because this size is more in sync with the Glock 45, and the compact is far more likely to be chosen for concealed-carry use.
As always, reliability is most important. Function of the controls and the suitability of the sights and trigger for combat shooting are important considerations. Dealer support and the availability of spare parts are important for long-term use. When choosing the Beretta APX compact handgun, we discovered that none of our raters had any experience with the pistol, and none had fired or owned the full-size APX pistol either.
The pistol was supplied in a locking box with two 13-round magazines. The Glock G45 and SIG P320-M17 are supplied with three magazines, so the APX came up short on value as soon as we opened the box. Two grip inserts were included, fewer than the Glock 45, but the Beretta 92 doesn’t allow for changing the grip at all, and neither does the SIG P320-M17, although the frame may be changed with the M17. The APX and accessories are delivered in a hard plastic box with a lock. When looking over the Beretta, it is easily the most visually distinctive pistol tested with its aggressive cocking serrations. When handling and examining the APX, an impression held by most of the raters is that the slide is overlarge for the frame. This impression continued during testing, and we decided that the slide is a bit overweight and too large for a compact handgun.
There are grasping grooves or cocking serrations from the front to the rear of the slide. Some felt this was too much, but it did not affect holstering in the cheap fabric holster we put to use during the range test. There are few makers offering holsters for the APX as of this date. However, when the grasping grooves of the Beretta were put to use, they proved to be excellent. They are about 1.5mm deep. The Glock 45’s forward cocking serrations are as useful as the Beretta APX’s, but the SIG, with its forward serrations on the lower portion of the slide, required more effort to clear the chamber or rack the slide.
The sights are good combat-style designs. The rear sight features a 0.016-inch-wide notch that provides a good view for quickly acquiring the sight picture. The front post is about 0.0145 inch wide.
The frame is a contrast to the slide design. The frame and handle are actually slim in comparison to the slide and fit most hands well. The handle features a combination of pebbling and serrations that all found provided good adhesion and without a lot of abrasion. There are indentations in the grip that allow the trigger finger to reach the trigger face more easily. The pistol features a square trigger guard. The frame features the now-obligatory rail for mounting a combat light or laser device. The means of changing grip inserts is different than some pistols, with a tab inside the frame, inside the magazine well. Changing the grips of this pistol takes a little longer than the Glock, but the result is secure, and there is nothing to fault in the system.
The trigger action is double action only in common with the Glock and SIG pistols. The striker is partially cocked as the slide moves to the rear in recoil. Next the trigger is pressed, and this moves the striker to the rear and the trigger breaks. According to the Lyman Electronic Trigger Gauge, trigger compression is 5.6 pounds, slightly more than the Glock, but the 0.2 pound difference was not discernible during firing. The face of the trigger seems to be flatter than the Glock trigger. The curvature of the trigger face is less than the SIG and other DAO handguns on hand for comparison. The trigger break is crisp, short, and controllable. Reset is also sharp and clean. The slide lock and magazine release operate smoothly.
The magazine is a well-finished steel unit that holds 13 rounds. While this is the smallest capacity of any magazine tested, the pistol is also a short-frame compact handgun. The tapered magazine and generous magazine well make for rapid reloads under stress. The magazine is feed reliable and features a strong spring. We ran into a problem when loading the magazine that will be a cause of concern for some buyers. The magazine was very difficult to load, even for our adult male raters. It is difficult to press cartridges into the magazine and to the rear. Most will have to use a mag loader because our shooters were taxed to load 10 cartridges, and the final three demanded the mag loader be used. We used a Butler Creek magazine loader, the first time in memory we have resorted to such a device. The Butler Creek magazine loader is a good thing to have for extended firing sessions, but we did not like not being able to load the magazines with finger pressure.
The pistol has a feature not found on most DAO pistols. Many of us do not like to pull the trigger before we field-strip a pistol, and this is a criticism of the Glock. The Beretta APX has a striker release that may be used rather than pressing the trigger. The striker runs forward but not with enough force to fire the pistol. The firing-pin block is practically identical in appearance and function to the Beretta 92.
The slide’s stiffness to rack was a problem. This pistol demanded a great deal of effort to make ready. The Glock was easier to rack. The recoil spring is so stiff that when the Beretta APX is loaded, if you insert a loaded magazine and then rack the slide, the slide may not completely close. In the proper drill, the slide is locked to the rear and then a magazine is inserted. The slide is released to load the chamber. While this tightness may be considered a plus when using NATO standard or +P+ 9mm Luger ammunition, the Glock 45 is equally well suited to heavy loads as far as our testing demonstrates, and it isn’t as difficult to load and make ready.
The Beretta APX is disassembled by moving the takedown lever from right to left and rotating the lever. The lever was difficult to manipulate for the first half dozen tries, and even after considerable firing, the lever remained stiff.
Firing tests were undertaken with a total of five loads. During the combat-firing test, the Beretta APX gave good results. The pistol is comfortable to fire. Recoil isn’t a factor to be concerned with as the pistol behaves well with good control. The three-dot sights are fast to acquire. With the +P 1200-fps loads, recoil was slightly more noticeable, but nothing a trained shooter will have difficulty with. The Beretta APX played tag with the Glock 45 for top combat firing in this exercise, with the Glock besting the Beretta by a margin. The pistol was not as slide heavy as we thought it would be.
Results were good from the bench, with the Hornady load shooting as small as 2.5 inches. The pistol isn’t match-grade accurate, but it is more than accurate enough for personal defense. The Beretta 92, a much larger handgun with a single-action trigger, was more accurate, we found.
Our Team Said: The pistol is accurate in combat firing and accurate from the bench. We liked the cocking grooves, the striker-release safety feature, and the feel of the grip. We did not like the difficulty of loading the magazines, the tight safety plunger, and, at present, the thin selection of holsters.
SIG P320-M17 320F-9-M17-MS 9mm Luger, $650
GUN TESTS GRADE: B
We liked the SIG P320-M17’s reliability and features. The grip fits most hands well and the sights are excellent. We did not like the trigger as well as the other DAO handguns. It was too heavy for our tastes. The pistol is a good choice for those who prefer modular construction and adjustability.
|ACTION TYPE||Semi-auto, double action only|
|OVERALL LENGTH||8 in.|
|OVERALL HEIGHT||5.5 in.|
|MAX WIDTH||1.4 in.|
|WEIGHT UNLOADED||29.5 oz.|
|WEIGHT LOADED||36.5 oz.|
|BARREL LENGTH||4.7 in.|
|SLIDE||Coyote brown steel|
|SLIDE RETRACTION EFFORT||17 lbs.|
|FRAME||Coyote brown stainless steel|
|FRAME FRONT STRAP HEIGHT||2.4 in.|
|FRAME BACK STRAP HEIGHT||3.6 in.|
|GRIP||Modular textured polymer|
|GRIP THICKNESS||1.25 in.|
|GRIP CIRCUMFERENCE||5.6 in.|
|REAR SIGHT||SIGlite, removable base plate|
|FRONT SIGHT||SIGlite dot|
|SIGHT RADIUS||6 in.|
|TRIGGER PULL WEIGHT||6.5 lbs.|
|TRIGGER SPAN||2.5 in.|
|SAFETIES||Manual ambidextrous, firing-pin block|
This was a recent counter price for a P320-M17. This pistol is the new military service pistol, so it warranted attention. There may be internal differences, but the pistol tested is as close as possible to the U.S. M17 available. The M17 is based on the P320. This is a polymer-frame striker-fired pistol. The pistol doesn’t have grip inserts as do the Glock 45 and Beretta APX; rather, the piece offers interchangeable frames in its modular design. The pistol offers the option of purchasing different frames for the integral firing unit. Top Gun Supply is one source that offers full-size grip modules with the full-size grip, full-size modules with the medium grip, and carry-size grip modules with the carry grip, from $40 to $59. Some will find this appealing; others less so. From the military’s point of view, changing the grip to fit a diverse selection of humans and changing the frame for different missions is practical. The availability of compact and medium frames for the full-size pistol has merit.
The trigger action sparked discussion as to the correct definition. Some of the raters felt that it is a single action. The trigger is pressed and the striker moves a bit and a firing pin block moves away. Trigger reset is a short 0.1 inch. Unlike on the Beretta and the Glock, there is no bifurcated trigger. It’s a solid trigger that breaks at 6.5 pounds. The trigger was the most controversial aspect of the SIG P320-M17. The senior rater told the team that it is what it is, and if SIG calls it a DAO fine, but they should rate its usefulness. In general, the raters liked the Glock trigger better for combat shooting. We had to ask ourselves if this was because of long familiarity or because of a real defect in the SIG trigger. We think it is an improvement over the Beretta 92’s long 16-pound double-action trigger for first-shot accuracy.
The grip frame fit the raters’ hands well, and there were no complaints about adhesion when firing. The magazine well is beveled for rapid reloads as well. We like the slide lock and magazine release. Manipulation is flawless, and the controls are well designed. The ambidextrous flipper-type safety is ideal for a combat pistol. It falls under the thumb quickly and offers a measure of security and speed. We recommend the pistol be carried on Safe. There is no speed penalty in actuating the safety with this system. There are cutouts at the bottom of the grip that allow the shooter to grasp and jerk the magazine in case of a stuck magazine. Most of us have experienced a stuck magazine at one time or the other, but the raters cannot recall this happening with a Glock or SIG pistol. Just the same, the military wanted this feature, and it was also applied to the Glock 19X. It isn’t carried on in the Glock 45.
The P320-M17 offers an easy field strip. Rotate the takedown lever 90 degrees and remove the slide from the frame. The takedown lever also releases the fire-control module, and with a little effort, it may be removed from the frame.
One of the best features of the M17, in our opinion, is the sight set. The front set is a single tritium insert that is visible in dim light and bright in darkness. The rear night nights are twin dots. The rear sight may be used to rack the slide against a belt or boot heel. The SIG M17 rear sight plate is removed to mount a red-dot optic. At this point the SIG shows its modular design by allowing an easy way to mount a red dot, placing it head and shoulders above the others for modern use. It may not be the best concealed-carry handgun, but it is a credible combat pistol. The frame has the standard rail for mounting combat lights.
On the firing line, the pistol never failed to feed, chamber, fire, or eject. Reliability was good. There were no problems with any of the pistols tested. We liked the feel of the handgun, and the sights were excellent for combat use.
Speed drills were easily carried out. When firing +P loads, we felt the SIG P320-M17 exhibited the least recoil of any of the handguns tested. The Beretta 92 was as comfortable, but the SIG P320-M17 demonstrated less muzzle flip. In firing from a solid bench rest, the pistol exhibited good accuracy. The raters felt the sights were an advantage. The 6.5-pound trigger is the heaviest of the test. The press is difficult to manage when attempting to achieve maximum accuracy. The fired groups, however, were acceptable. The SIG Sauer Elite V-Crown provided a 2.75-inch group, and the Black Hills loading was slightly smaller with a 2.5-inch group. The accuracy was very consistent.
Our Team Said: The P320-M17 is flawlessly reliable. We feel that the night sights are an excellent addition to the P320 design. We like the dual safety levers and ambi slide lock. Speed reloads were good and felt recoil modest. The trigger break wasn’t the best for absolute accuracy, but it was acceptable for a service pistol. The forward cocking serrations are not as aggressive as those on the Beretta APX or the Glock 45, and this may be important to you. But we did not rate the pistol down in this regard. The SIG features a modular design, and there are spare frames readily available.
Glock 45 9mm Luger, $546
GUN TESTS GRADE: A
The Glock 45 is fast from concealed carry. The action allows a trained shooter to make fast hits, and the piece is reliable. We especially like the bright front-dot sight.
|ACTION TYPE||Double action only|
|OVERALL LENGTH||7.4 in.|
|OVERALL HEIGHT||5.5 in.|
|MAX WIDTH||1.3 in.|
|WEIGHT UNLOADED||24 oz.|
|WEIGHT LOADED||31.4 oz.|
|BARREL LENGTH||4 in.|
|SLIDE RETRACTION EFFORT||16.1 lbs.|
|FRONT STRAP HEIGHT||2.4 in.|
|BACK STRAP HEIGHT||4 in.|
|GRIP PANELS||Pebbled polymer|
|GRIP THICKNESS||1.3 in.|
|GRIP CIRCUMFERENCE||6.1 in.|
|REAR SIGHT||Dual-dot tritium|
|FRONT SIGHT||Single-dot tritium, bright orange|
|SIGHT RADIUS||5.9 in.|
|TRIGGER PULL WEIGHT||5.4 lbs.|
|TRIGGER SPAN||2.45 in.|
|SAFETIES||Trigger lever, firing-pin block|
The Glock 45 9mm was introduced less than a week prior to our obtaining the pistol. The Glock 45 is basically a variant of the Glock 19 but with significant differences related to the sights, slide, and features. This pistol is a Generation 5 with the recoil rod and spring changes, dual slide lock, and other Gen5 improvements. Older trigger parts will not fit the Gen5, and neither will existing aftermarket triggers. (God help anyone with an aftermarket trigger or 3.5-pound disconnect in a service or personal defense handgun.) The Glock presently holds over 75% of the American police market. Glock developed the Glock 19X for military sales, but it did not win the contract. American law enforcement has expressed an interest in the short-slide long-grip pistol but wanted a black gun, not a coyote brown one.
The Glock 45 features the Gen5 grip with aggressive checkering and no finger grooves. The Glock 45 features the new Marksman barrel, a modified polygonal rifled tube. The fit of the new barrel seems tighter compared to several Gen4 Glock pistols on hand. The pistol features forward cocking serrations. They worked as well as the Beretta APX’s, although the Beretta had greater breadth to catch when the hand is moving and sweating. The cocking serrations are superior to the SIG P320-M17, in our view. The pistol is supplied with the same type of grip inserts as other Gen5 Glock pistols. The Glock 19X is supplied with three magazines, including two with grip extensions, making the pistol a 19-shooter. The Glock 45 is supplied with three 17-round magazines. We are not shooting against the Glock 19X, but the differences should be understood.
The Glock 19X also featured a grip cut-out that made for easy clearing of a stuck magazine. The 19X arrangement was found to pinch fingers when speed loads were executed, at least for some shooters. The Gun Testscrew did not experience this problem when testing the 19X or with the similarly configured SIG P320-M17. The Glock 45 is configured to meet the consumer’s need. The magazine well is flared. This works well in practice, and the Glock 45 was at least equal to the SIG P320-M17 9mm in speed loads.
The Glock sights are excellent, at least as good as the SIG in slow fire and superior in dim light. These sights feature two green dots in the rear and a bright-orange dot around a tritium roundel in the front. The rear sight is configured to make racking the slide possible by butting the rear sight into the belt or boot heel. A combination of a good sight picture for daylight shooting and excellent visibility in dim-light shooting earned the highest rating for sights.
The Glock trigger in the Gen5 is upgraded from previous Glock pistols, and the parts do not interchange. The trigger spring now compresses rather than stretches, and there are differences in the ambidextrous slide stop. The trigger feels different than original Glock triggers up to the Gen4. The new trigger is tighter and is crisper than the Gen4. How much real difference this makes is debatable, but there is a discernible difference to shooters who have used the Glock.
In common with the Glock 19X, the Glock 45’s long Glock 17-size handle and short slide makes for fast work. The Glock short slide clears leather quickly and smoothly. Combat-firing tests confirmed our initial impressions. The pistol is fast on target and proved capable on the firing range. All polymer-frame pistols are slide heavy to an extent, but the Glock 45 pistol gave good results. The SIG P320-M17 was more neutral, the Beretta APX similar to the Glock.
The Glock pistol gave the best combat results by a margin. The Beretta 92 was superior once we got past the long double-action first shot, but for speed to a first shot hit and overall combat ability, the Glock 45 won the test. The Beretta APX was very close. The SIG, we felt, did well but was limited by the 6.5-pound trigger action. Fired from the bench, the Glock 45 performed well, but its five-shot groups were overall less accurate than the Beretta and generally equal to the SIG.
Our Team Said: We liked the Glock 45. There is really nothing to change and no drawbacks. This is a combat pistol well worth its price.
Beretta 92 FS JS92F300M 9mm Luger, $562
GUN TESTS GRADE: B
The Beretta 92 shows the age of its design with a slide-mounted decocker and long DA trigger pull. The pistol is reliable and accurate as well as soft shooting. But the other pistols were the better combat guns, we believe.
|ACTION TYPE||Semi-auto, double action first shot|
|OVERALL LENGTH||8.5 in.|
|OVERALL HEIGHT||5.5 in.|
|MAX WIDTH||1.5 in.|
|WEIGHT UNLOADED||34 oz.|
|WEIGHT LOADED||40 oz.|
|BARREL LENGTH||4.9 in.|
|MAGAZINE||15/17-round detachable box|
|SLIDE RETRACTION EFFORT||15 lbs.|
|FRAME FRONT STRAP HEIGHT||2.2 in.|
|FRAME BACK STRAP HEIGHT||3.2 in.|
|GRIP THICKNESS (max)||1.4 in.|
|GRIP CIRCUMFERENCE (max)||6.1 in.|
|TRIGGER PULL WEIGHT (DA)||9 lbs.|
|TRIGGER PULL WEIGHT (SA)||4 lbs.|
|TRIGGER SPAN (SA)||2.6 in.|
This is a recent price from BudsGunShop.com. The military version of the 92 FS has been America’s service pistol since 1981. The Beretta has been proven the world over in combat and in police use in the United States. It is interesting to note that although Glock once held a price lead over Beretta, there is little difference in the price of the polymer-frame Glock and SIG pistols and the aluminum-frame Beretta.
We felt the Beretta was the best finished of the pistols tested. The Beretta is certainly the heaviest pistol tested at 34 ounces. It is also the largest overall in terms of length and height, which makes it less suitable as a carry handgun for most people, in our opinion. The Beretta features a double-action first-shot trigger. The trigger is pressed against a drawbar that cocks and drops the hammer. After the first shot, the slide cocks the hammer for subsequent single-action shots. The long double-action trigger press is difficult to master for some, and it limits accurate fire, especially on the crucial first shot. It is best used for fast reactive shots at short range. The single-action trigger at 4.2 pounds is another matter. This single-action trigger allows excellent accuracy. Both combat accuracy and absolute accuracy are good with this trigger.
The Beretta features a trademark open-top slide with an integral front sight. The rear sight is well designed for general use, but it is not as good as the night sights found on two out of three of the polymer-frame handguns tested. This is the only pistol with an integral front sight that cannot be changed. ToolTechGunsight.com offers a night-sight package that includes removing the rear sight from your frame, machining off the front sight, and installing a Trijicon 3-dot rear and pinned front sight tandem for $299 plus $18 shipping.
The safety is mounted on the slide. Slide-mounted safety levers are not as fast to manipulate as frame-mounted levers. The safety is much inferior to the dual safety levers of the SIG P320-M17. The Beretta safety lever may be placed on to move the trigger out of battery. The safety is also a hammer decocker. By pressing the decocker downward, the hammer is safely lowered from full cock without touching the trigger. There is a positive firing-pin block that prevents the pistol from firing if dropped.
The pistol features front- and back-strap serrations. The grip is checkered and offers a good grasping surface, but it produces little adhesion when firing. We were surprised to find that the Beretta was supplied with three magazines. We like this and felt that this was a good touch.
The Beretta is easy to field strip. Lock the slide of the unloaded pistol to the rear and rotate the takedown lever down and run the slide forward off the frame. We like this takedown better than the Glock; on our pistols, it is equal to the SIG and not stiff as the Beretta APX lever.
For the combat-firing test, the pistol was loaded with the same FMJ and +P loads as the other handguns. The long double-action trigger press limited first-shot hits. In managing the double-action first-shot trigger, our senior rater noted that some get it and some do not.
Once we got past the heavy first trigger press, and we decocked and went through this press with every magazine load, the Beretta featured excellent combat results. Groups were well centered. Firing the +P loads wasn’t a chore, and the pistol doesn’t demonstrate heavy recoil or muzzle flip. In slow-fire accuracy, the pistol was the most accurate from the bench, producing five-shot groups at 25 yards as small as 1.7 inches.
Our Team Said: After the evaluation, we had to look hard at the Beretta 92 in context with the other handguns. We have rated it highly in the past, but while its reliability and accuracy are not questioned, the pistol fell short compared to the others reviewed in this test. The Beretta’s grip is larger than the polymer-frame pistols, which will limit its appeal. The sights are not as well suited to combat use as the other pistols, and the sights are not easily changed. A frame-mounted decocker isn’t necessary with DAO pistols. The primary shortcoming is the trigger action. Compared to a modern double-action-only pistol like the Glock 45 or Beretta APX, the double-action-first-shot pistol has several drawbacks. After a shot is fired and if the shooter is engaged in tactical movement, the Beretta 92 should be decocked for safety. The DAO pistols simply require the trigger finger be taken off the trigger face. The size and weight of the pistol are a drawback compared to the other pistols, if concealed-carry is an option. The pistol does not accept a combat light.
The Beretta 92 is a pistol from the era of the SIG P226 and CZ 75. The Beretta APX and SIG P320-M17 are of the Glock era. In the end the Beretta is a classic firearm, but it was not the best combat firearm tested. Anyone using a Beretta 92 9mm for personal defense that is familiar with the handgun and shoots it well need not trade the Beretta, but it was at the bottom of the list in this test. Based on long-term experience, we feel that the SIG P226, CZ 75 Omega and Rex Zero 9mm are tactically as capable as the Beretta 92, while individuals will prefer one pistol to the other. Of them all, this team of raters prefers the Beretta over the other full-size pistols mentioned above.
Written and photographed by Gun Tests Staff, using evaluations from Gun Tests team testers.