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Beretta Model 92X Builds on the 92 Series Legacy

The Beretta Model 92FS WAS retired from U.S. Military service in 2017. The new 92X models offer fresh possibilities for this decorated veteran.

Beretta Model 92X Builds on the 92 Series Legacy

If we listed the most important handguns in our nation’s history, Beretta’s 92-series would no doubt make the list. Its 31-year military service as the “M9” ensures its importance in such a discussion. Thanks to its widespread use by military and police units (not to mention civilian shooters), there is a wealth of practical experience surrounding the Beretta 92 family. Such lengthy history inevitably produced design improvements to address a few issues, but the 92 evolved then and continues to mature now. Announced in 2019, the new 92X series builds on this legacy.

Beretta Model 92X Builds on the 92 Series Legacy
(Photo by Mark Fingar)

The Origin Story

The Beretta Model 92 was designed in 1975 and has been produced in multiple configurations since 1976. The design was changed significantly during the years to maintain its relevance, which started with early Italian-made 92 pistols having frame-­mounted safety levers that allowed it to be carried cocked and locked like the M1911A1 platform it aimed to supplant.

The U.S. military requested a safety that allowed the 92 to be loaded and unloaded with the safety engaged, and the solution moved the manual safety lever to the slide, and thus creating the “92S.” During the same period, the magazine catch was moved from the bottom of the frame to its current position behind the triggerguard. Production moved to Accokeek, Maryland, to fulfill military contracts, which ultimately moved to Gallatin, Tennessee, in 2016.

Beretta Model 92X Builds on the 92 Series Legacy
Beretta’s iconic open-top slide design lightens the slide’s weight, reduces muzzle flip and features a generous ejection port. (Photo by Mark Fingar)

By the early 1980s, the military was ready to retire its well-worn M1911A1 .45s. The two top contenders were the Beretta 92FS and the SIG Sauer P226. Beretta beat SIG Sauer on price since its magazines were less expensive to acquire. The Beretta 92FS was adopted by all branches of the U.S. military as the M9 in 1985, but it didn’t enter official service until 1990.

Though two variants of SIG Sauer’s P320 are now being fielded as the M17 and M18, there are a number of M9s still in service as the transition continues. In fact, the last newly ­produced M9 pistols were shipped from Beretta’s factory in September 2021, which marks the end of that era. Only the M1911A1 can boast of having served longer in as much combat.

Beretta Model 92X Builds on the 92 Series Legacy
The 92X-series features the reduced-diameter Vertec frame and arrives with slim grips mounted. A second wraparound grip is included for shooters who prefer the larger circumference feel and arched backstrap of the M9 and legacy 92 models. (Photo by Mark Fingar)

Though not every soldier, sailor, airman or Marine was a fan of the M9, there are many legendary stories of the M9 being employed to great effect in the service of our nation. In June 1994, U.S. Air Force Airman Andy Brown killed an active shooter on Fairchild Air Force Base with a 70-yard head shot from his M9. In 2004, U.S. Marine Sergeant Major Brad Kasal fought a close-quarter last stand against multiple armed insurgents in Fallujah where he was shot seven times and suffered dozens of shrapnel wounds. A combat photographer captured an image of a badly wounded Kasal as he was helped to safety by two fellow Marines. In the now-­famous photo, SGM Kasal was still clutching the M9 he used to defend himself in one hand and his Ka-Bar knife in the other.

Through the years, the fundamental design and layout of controls remained the same for the 92. The 92 series has an aluminum frame and a forged steel slide. The combination offered a balance of strength and durability. The recognizable open-topped slide became a Beretta signature, which actually first appeared on the company’s M1923 pistol.

Beretta Model 92X Builds on the 92 Series Legacy
The 92X Full Size has a 4.7-inch barrel that extends slightly beyond the front of the slide. It is crowned to protect the rifling. (Photo by Mark Fingar)

There are two main virtues of an open-top slide. Less steel on the slide means less reciprocating mass, which means less muzzle rise. Second, the open slide provides an extremely generous ejection port, which ensures its reliability.

Unlike the John M. Browning’s tilt-barrel design used to unlock and delay the recoil operation of most semiautomatic handguns, the 92 uses a locking block system borrowed from Carl Walther’s P.38. With this approach, the barrel moves slightly to the rear to unlock the barrel from the slide, but it does not move vertically as the block hinges downward. Many have credited this design for reducing felt recoil and improving reliability.

A slide-mounted external extractor has appeared on the open-­top slide design since the single-stack, single-action Beretta M1951. It doubles as a tactile loaded-­chamber indicator with a red-painted dot, as well. With the slide locked back or removed, the ejector is fixed and mounted to the frame.

Beretta Model 92X Builds on the 92 Series Legacy
While the DA/SA trigger is familiar to Beretta enthusiasts, they will also notice the change to a rounded triggerguard. (Photo by Mark Fingar)

Long after the handgun was adopted into U.S. military service, Beretta continued refining the design. As is usually the case, the private sector’s ingenuity drove much of that change. Some updates were inspired by custom Beretta pistols such as those built by Ernest Langdon (langdontactical.com) and Bill Wilson (wilsoncombat.com). In fact, I shot my first USPSA match with a Langdon-built 92FS, a gun that included many of the improvements that we see on factory 92 models today.

Enter the 92X

Beretta’s 92X handguns were announced at the 2019 SHOT Show and released mid-­year. The 92X was designed to incorporate the best of the market’s trending upgrades. Hence, the 92X includes several different sizes and configurations: 92X Full Size, 92X Centurion and 92X Compact — with and without an accessory rail.

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Beretta Model 92X Builds on the 92 Series Legacy
Although the early 92 featured a frame- mounted manual safety, more common is the slide-mounted safety/decocker. (Photo by Mark Fingar)

The 92X Full Size model is equipped with a 4.7-­inch barrel that extends slightly past the leading edge of the slide. These barrels are .2-­inch shorter than the barrels used on the 92 FS and M9. Still, at 5.4 inches in height and 81/2 inches long, the 92X Full Size is anything but compact.

The 92X Centurion model features a barrel that is a half-inch shorter and a slightly shorter slide that reduces its overall length by three-­quarters of an inch. (But it maintains the same height as the full-size model.)

The smallest of the 92X series is the Compact. Compact models share the Centurion’s 41/4-inch barrel and overall length, but feature a reduced frame height. The result is the most­concealable 92X, standing just 51/4­ inches tall.

Weights for the Full Size, Centurion and Compact 92X models are 33.3, 281/2 and 27.2 ounces. All 92X barrels are chrome-­lined and have a recessed target crown to guard their accuracy.

Beretta Model 92X Builds on the 92 Series Legacy
The 92X features dovetailed iron sights. The 92X RDO accepts reflex sights, too. (Photos by Mark Fingar)

The visual and tactile element feature of the 92X is the Vertec frame, which featured a more vertical grip design when it was introduced in 2003. Vertec frames were an option for a few years, and reintroduced for the M9A3 design as an attempt to secure a reenlistment for the M9 in 2014. Commercially, the M9A3 reignited interest in the 92 platform, so the Vertec frame was made standard for the 92X series.

Vertec gives the 92X a somewhat M1911-feel for its 18-degree grip angle. It eliminated the arched backstrap of legacy 92 models and narrowed the grip’s circumference. Like the M9A3, each 92X also ships with an additional wraparound grip that provides the original arched contour.

Checkered texture is machined into the frontstrap and backstrap of the Vertec frame and works with the aggressively textured grip panels.

The original M9 contract required a square-hooked triggerguard, which allowed shooters the option to place their support-hand index finger on the front of the guard to pull against recoil, a technique of that era that has lost popularity. The 92X triggerguard was designed with a rounded curvature.

Beretta Model 92X Builds on the 92 Series Legacy
Legacy 92 models are not red-dot friendly, but Beretta engineers designed a workable plate system for the 92X RDO. (Photo by Mark Fingar)

One of the most-maligned features of the 92FS and M9 was its slide-­mounted safety, resulting from the Reagan-era military. If the shooter uses an overhand grip to rack the slide, particularly during a slide-lock reload, the safety lever can be inadvertently engaged. This is the kind of mistake on the military’s part that could have gotten troops killed. Beretta addressed this on its G-models, which made the safety/decocking lever a decocker only. If the lever is swept unintentionally, it returns to its original Fire position under spring pressure and puts the gun into double-action mode, where it can still be fired. On the 92X series, both standard safety-decocking and decocker-only G-models are available.

Many shooters have strong preferences regarding sights, but previous 92 models did not allow for the integral, fixed front sight to be replaced. On the 92X, both the front and rear sights are dovetailed, so they can be traded out with nothing more than a hammer and a punch or sight tool. The factory sights on the 92X now feature a high-visibility orange dot on the front, and a serrated black rear sight.

Beretta Model 92X Builds on the 92 Series Legacy
The firing pin block is actuated by the trigger bar’s movement. As the trigger is pulled, the a plunging block protrudes above the slide. (Photo by Mark Fingar)

The 92X also introduces reflex sight compatability for the first time. As the name suggests, the full-size 92X RDO model is red-­dot ready. Adding a red-dot-sight mount to the 92 was a known design challenge because there is a firing pin block that plunges up and down atop the slide as the trigger is worked. Beretta engineers had to mill a slot in the sight plate to allows the 92X to function without a complete redesign. To mount a red-dot optic, two small panels are removed from the top of the slide using a hex wrench. This allows the RDS mounting plate to be fastened directly to the slide. It bears mentioning that the iron sights cannot be used with an optic in place, so there is no co-witness capability. (The 92X RDO model also features front cocking serrations on the slide.)

Rail-mounted lights are popular for duty and personal defense use. First seen on the M9A1 as a single-notch accessory rail, the 92X maintains the full Picatinny rail that appeared on the M9A3. It is machined as part of the frame’s dust cover. For those who don’t want an accessory rail on a carry gun, the 92X Compact is available without.

Beretta Model 92X Builds on the 92 Series Legacy
Forward cocking serrations and a robust accessory rail have been carried over from the M9A3 model to modernize the 92X-series guns. (Photo by Mark Fingar)

The 92X retains the traditional double-action (DA) and single-action (SA) trigger system shared by all 92 pistols. On average, the trigger on Guns & Ammo’s test samples measured 91/2 pounds for DA and 41/2 pounds for SA pulls. Though the transition from a long and relatively heavy DA pull to the shorter and lighter SA pull might be new to shooters raised on striker-­fired handguns. As a former Marine and police officer once issued these pistols, Handgun Editor Jeremy Stafford assured me that it’s not a difficult skill to master.

The 92 series has always used a dual-column magazine that tapers to a single-column profile. The capacity on the original 92 was 15-­plus-­one rounds, but that has extended to 18-plus-one on the Full Size and 17-plus-one for the Centurion 92X models. Compact magazines have a capacity of 13-plus-one. Beretta includes high-quality, Mec-Gar magazines.

Unfortunately, G&A did not have the opportunity to evaluate the new 92X Performance model, which has a steel frame, frame-mounted safety, adjustable sights and an upgraded trigger. We are looking forward to that review opportunity.

Beretta Model 92X Builds on the 92 Series Legacy
(Photo by Mark Fingar)

We did evaluate the 92X Full Size RDO for accuracy testing. Groups were excellent, but we did encounter several mysterious failures to fire with two out of the three brands of ammunition used. Light primer strikes were the culprit. We are not sure what went wrong with our particular gun, but these malfunctions did highlight that double-action pistols offer restrike capability. Like a revolver, pulling the trigger again offers another bite at the apple if something goes awry. Always test a firearm intended for personal defense extensively to ensure that it functions reliably. G&A’s was returned to Beretta’s engineering team for troubleshooting.

Despite being the standard by which other duty handguns have been compared for nearly 40 years, Beretta hasn’t let the 92 series rest on its service record. The 92X is a more advanced, capable and shootable handgun than its predecessors. With several variants and sizes to choose from, there is now a 92X for just about any shooter or purpose. With the updates made to this venerable platform, we can be sure that this combat-proven handgun will continue to serve. 

Beretta Model 92X Builds on the 92 Series Legacy

Beretta 92X Full ­Size Specifications

  • Type: Recoil operated, semiautomatic
  • Cartridge: 9mm
  • Capacity: 18+1 rds.
  • Overall Length: 8.5 in.
  • Height: 5.4 in.
  • Weight: 2 lbs., 1.3 oz.
  • Material: Aluminum alloy (frame); steel (slide)
  • Grip: Textured polymer panels
  • Trigger: 9 lbs., 8 oz. (DA); 4 lbs., 8 oz. (SA)
  • Safety: Manual, slide-­mounted firing pin block lever
  • Finish: Bruniton
  • Sights: Steel, orange dot (front); serrated black notch (rear)
  • MSRP: $700
  • Manufacturer: Beretta, 800-237-3882, beretta.com

Beretta 92X Centurion Specifications

Beretta Model 92X Builds on the 92 Series Legacy
(Photo by Mark Fingar)
  • Type: Recoil operated, semiautomatic
  • Cartridge: 9mm
  • Capacity: 17+1 rds.
  • Overall Length: 7.75 in.
  • Height: 5.4 in. 
  • Weight: 1 lb., 12.5 oz.
  • Material: Aluminum alloy, steel
  • Grip: Textured polymer panels
  • Trigger: 9.5 lbs. (DA), 4.5 lbs. (SA)
  • Safety: Slide-mounted manual lever, firing pin block
  • Finish: Bruniton
  • Sights: Steel, orange dot (front); serrated black notch (rear)
  • MSRP: $700
  • Manufacturer: Beretta, 800-237-3882, beretta.com

Berreta 92X Compact Specifications

Beretta Model 92X Builds on the 92 Series Legacy
(Photo by Mark Fingar)
  • Type: Recoil operated, semiautomatic
  • Cartridge: 9mm
  • Capacity: 13+1 rds.
  • Overall Length: 7.75 in.
  • Height: 5.25 in.
  • Weight: 1 lb., 11.2 oz.
  • Material: Aluminum alloy, steel
  • Grip: Textured polymer panels
  • Trigger: 9.5 lbs. (DA), 4.5 lbs. (SA)
  • Safety: Slide-­mounted manual lever, firing pin block
  • Finish: Bruniton
  • Sights: Steel, orange dot (front); serrated black notch (rear)
  • MSRP: $700 w/ rail; $600 w/o rail
  • Manufacturer: Beretta, 800-237-3882, beretta.com
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