The Underrated Beretta 92

Yesterday afternoon Wilson Combat, purveyor of some of the most desirable custom 1911’s on the market, announced that they had paired up with Ernie Langdon to begin offering parts and custom work on the Beretta 92. Mr. Langdon worked for Beretta a while ago and from what I understand was largely responsible for some of the most interesting and desirable variants of the Beretta 92 that the company ever produced. He took guns like the 1st and 2nd generation 92 Elite pistols to multiple championships in IDPA and USPSA. After leaving Beretta Mr. Langdon put his expertise on the Beretta 92 to work (all too) briefly offering gunsmith services on Berettas. My first handgun was a somewhat beat-up looking 92FS that needed some competent attention, so I sent her off to Mr. Langdon to have the full armorer treatment including fitting and installing a new locking block and a trigger job. I was quite pleased with the result…so pleased that I had the gun refinished. I’m almost certain that I have the only hard-chromed, Langdon customized Beretta 92 on the planet. Take that, Tam.

Thanks for the advice...
Thanks for the advice…

The Beretta 92 has always been one of my favorite handguns. My formative impressions of the Beretta were probably set by watching Bruce Willis and Mel Gibson waste machinegun toting baddies by the truckload using the 92. Yes, I have a Miami Classic holster for my Beretta 92 as a direct result of the airport scene in Die Hard 2. No, I’m not the least bit ashamed of that fact. Of course, the Beretta 92 was featured prominently in the Die Hard and Lethal Weapon movies precisely because at the time it was the standard issue sidearm of the most famous local police agency in the world: The LAPD. There’s no doubt that Hollywood blockbusters sold a lot of Berettas, but the pistol was doing fairly well in its own right prior to the gratuitous gun porn of 80’s and 90’s action movies.

The Beretta’s adoption by the US Military happened to coincide with the rise of drug-related gang warfare in cities like Los Angeles. Police departments looking to give officers on the street an edge often turned to the Beretta 92, and often with good results. When properly maintained the pistol proves to be a pretty reliable and durable sidearm. It was a rather large pistol even by the standards of the day, and smaller shooters often found reaching the trigger in double action mode to be somewhat difficult. The most universally disliked feature of the Beretta 92 has to be the slide mounted safety. Despite the “extra wide ejection port, no feed jams” the Beretta did occasionally have a malfunction and it’s very easy to accidentally engage the safety while manipulating the slide to clear a malfunction. At the request of some counterterrorism professionals who were using the pistols, Beretta came up with a “G” model 92 where the safety was replaced by a lever that only functioned as a decocker, but for reasons that mystify me (and some others I might add) they have been reluctant to sell “G” model 92’s to the general public. From what Mr. Langdon told me in a class some time ago, even getting the Elite models to be sold in the “G” configuration took quite a bit of effort behind the scenes. Perhaps Wilson Combat will join a couple of smaller shops out there in offering a “G” conversion for the FS pistols.

If you ask guys who served in the military about their experience with the M9, the reviews are often mixed. Some poor decisions by the military contributed to problems with the pistol. The military had a bad habit of taking parts from a gun that had to be deadlined for some reason and using them in other guns. The most notorious of these was the locking block, a wear item that was supposed to be new and fitted to the pistol it was being installed in. The military often took locking blocks off of a worn pistol and threw them into a pile where they were slapped into other guns without proper fitting, which went against Beretta’s own recommendations for the gun. And now, as I channel my best Paul Harvey impression, you know the rest of the story behind the legend of the fragile locking block. The military made another mistake in requiring a rough parkerized finish on some magazines they purchased for the M9 which turned out to be sub-optimal when exposed to the sands of Afghanistan and Iraq. Generally speaking, police departments like the LAPD didn’t mimic those practices and that’s probably a good explanation for why there are such divergent bases of experience with the Beretta 92.

My hard-chrome plated 92FS, customized by Ernie Langdon.
My hard-chrome plated 92FS, customized by Ernie Langdon.

I learned to shoot a handgun with the Beretta 92. It was the handgun I used in the first serious training I attended and I’ve used it in a number of classes with great success since. When used with the factory magazines (I’m particularly fond of those with the metal followers) even with pretty weak springs the 92 has always worked well for me. They’ve proven to be accurate and reliable even under sub-optimal conditions for me. On one 5 day course I took some years ago at the (then) fairly new Blackwater facility in Moyock NC a tropical storm was in the area turning the ranges we were using into mud and wet sand. Pouring rain chased out almost all the lube on the pistol and retreiving magazines from the deck led to shoving muddy/sandy magazines into the pistol repeatedly. My 92 kept running while lots of other guns went down hard. I took a little bit of ribbing for showing up to a class taught by a former NSWG guy in a Beretta hat and t-shirt, but by the end of the week even he had to admit my gun performed splendidly.

I’ve always found the Beretta 92 to be very pleasant to shoot, and when I’ve taught new shooters I always make it a point to have my Langdon-customized 92FS with me because the smooth trigger and soft recoil of the pistol seems to get even the most gun-shy newbie interested in pulling the trigger some more. I’ve also found that the gun fits my hand better than most similar weapons on the market like the Sig P22x family. Admittedly I have large-ish hands, but the controls fit me very nicely and I find it very intuitive to use.

There might just be a reason why Bill Wilson is getting into the business of customizing the Beretta 92. If you’ve never looked into the Beretta 92, maybe now is a good time to give one a try…


  1. As a long-time Beretta 92 carrier (I still carry a 92G Elite that Ernie slicked up 15 years ago), seeing Ernie get with Wilson on this project makes me want to go be in my bunk. I’m hoping they bring back some of the old LTT components (speed-bump trigger and bobbed hammer in particular) and start converting FSs into Gs.

  2. Apparently some people value the “G” model hammer drop lever over both the current slide safety or the original 92 (no suffix) frame safety. Why would someone rather have the hammer drop than a frame mount with the choice of DA or SA for first shot?

    Does anyone want a decocker on their Winchester 94 carbine? Colt Python? Ruger Blackhawk? I don’t get it.

  3. Robbie — it’s not SAFE to drop the hammer on a DA pistol by riding it down with your thumb. (Yet another argument for NEVER training to fire a DA revolver in SA ).

    And, once the hammer is safely down on a DA, there is no need for a seperate safety, unless you plan on having your gun snatched from your holster and have to wrestle for it. Most DA semis are carried, hammer down, safety off, so they are in a “Point and click” readiness, just like a DA revolver.

    Thus, the fondness for decocking safeties or decock-only DA pistols.

    If I want to carry cocked and locked, I’ll wear one of my 1911s.

    1. “…it’s not SAFE to drop the hammer on a DA pistol by riding it down with your thumb.”

      Please educate me by elaborating. How is it any less safe than doing so with a 1911, HiPower, Winchester 94, or Colt SAA?

      Do you think Ruger needs to put decocking levers on their Blackhawks and Vaqueros?

      I’ve been doing it for decades. One thumb on the hammer spur, the other between the hammer and the back of the slide. How do you de-cock your 1911’s?

      What’s so dangerous about the Beretta 92 that you would be frightened of doing it the same way?

        1. Some times I press check them as well. Decades without a ND. Don’t ever buy a Blackhawk, Vaquero, Colt SAA etc. Once cocked, you can’t unload them without decocking them and they don’t have decocking levers.

          I’d be surprised if there have been as many negligent discharges from single actions in the past 131 years as there have been from trigger booger Glocks in the past 15 or 20..

          1. Pretty sure it was Jeff Cooper who said 30 or so years ago…”There’s no point in trying to make guns idiot proof because they keep inventing better idiots.”

  4. OK. I can see how someone who has zero point zero interest in cocked and locked for the Beretta might prefer the G model over the current FS safety, it just seems like such a minor insignificant thing to me. If they can’t remember to take another tenth of a second to flip the lever back up, maybe they’d be better off with pepper spray and a rape whistle.

    A frame safety would make the 92 an option for those who find the DA trigger reach a problem.

  5. I squealed like a little girl when I saw that Wilson was going to offer custom work on 92’s. I want to buy a new 92 and send it off to them; I’m really excited for a ‘G’ modification!

  6. Bought my wife a 92f because of the lethal movies and that was what she wanted. went 2 turners back in the day & b ought hers and a glock Mod. 20? 10 mm for me. Bought her 4 16 rnd. mags. 4 hers & 10 16 rnd.mags for mine @ the same time. hers was choices of standard finish or polished blued with gold plated whatever. bought the standard ver. & @ police supply a standard issue pol dept rig for it. reloaded 1000 rnds. 4 ea.w/speer, hornady bullets with star brass from gun show. 10mm was hard to get @ time, so stocked up on components as credit card would bare. can’t now buy high cap. mags in CA. So glad I did way back then. Both are 1st. gen. Mod/ls. & still going strong.

  7. I’ve had my 92F since ’92 (Police Special model). Nice factory trigger, ergonomic grip-to-barrel angle, shoots to point-of-aim, plenty accurate. Always qual’d with a perfect score (PPC). My favorite handgun. Present w/eyes closed, open ’em, perfect sight alignment. Instinctively on-target.

    Only downside is the size – great for taming recoil (what there is w/9mm) and feels geat in the hand, but it’s a HUGE sidearm for concealment. Not quite a Desert Eagle, but….

  8. Bill Wilson actually has been a fan of the 92 a long time and has shot them a lot. I think he has it posted somewhere how many rounds you can expect a locking block to last, they do break after enough rounds but the problem was worse back when they were first used and our Military was using a lot of TZZ ammo which was hot.

    I was working as an instructor and saw a lot of 92’s unpacked, lubed, and taken right on the range without any problems at all. In fact the biggest problem was after cleaning when guys would lose the v trigger bar spring in the cleaning tank and not realize it until their pistol wouldn’t work.

    Applying the safety as you rack the slide was a problem I warned every class about but it still happened way too often. Also at least some units carried it in condition 3 with the safety on believe it or not.

  9. I don’t get the “huge sidearm” thing. My 92FS is exactly as tall and wide as my M&P9, and just a bit over half an inch longer in the nose. A fully loaded 92FS is a whopping four ounces heavier than a loaded M&P9, not enough for me to feel a difference on my belt.

    The 92FS is a fine pistol that takes a lot of undeserved crap from Internet gun shop operatives. Accurate, reliable, easy to shoot and maintain, standard capacity mags are cheap and thick on the ground, holsters and accessories are easy to find, and the damn thing just works. It also doesn’t hurt that in a world of square black plastic pistols, it’s a good-looking weapon.

    1. Most of the reasons I bought my wife a 92f. A little big for her, but what she wanted and learned to shoot it well. Partly me, but mostly her desire to be good with it. A safe pistol, I love the hammer drop and all that safe pistol stuff for her.

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