Photo of the day: A Dirty 1911

There are a lot of misconceptions about the 1911 floating around on the web. One of them is the idea that the 1911 is a delicate little princess that can’t function if she’s dirty. In truth, a properly built 1911 will run dirty if it has been properly lubricated. On Saturday I stopped by the excellent Elite Shooting Sports facility and in the space of an hour working on recoil control and sight tracking blew through over 450 rounds through my 9mm Wilson CQB. The picture tells the tale…this is no princess. She’s a very dirty girl.

It’s at the point now where handling the pistol leaves crud on my hands, so I’m actually going to break down and clean her up. Saturday’s outing pushed the round count through my CQB to over 4,000. That’s more than 4,000 rounds without cleaning. All I’ve ever done is properly lubricate the pistol with Wilson’s Ultima Lube and occasionally wipe down the outside of the pistol to keep the black crud off my clothes.

A properly made 1911 will still run if it’s dirty. A spotlessly clean 1911 will shut down in short order if it isn’t properly lubricated. I’ve been on the line with a lot of 1911 pistols over the years, including attending courses dedicated to the 1911 pattern pistol. Most made the mistake of lubricating their 1911 like it was a Glock…meaning they use minimal or no lubrication at all. Invariably those people ran into problems inside the first 150 rounds. An all metal pistol, even one with a neat high-tech finish that provides some lubricity (like Wilson’s Armor-Tuff finish on this pistol) needs proper lubrication to function. Especially if you do crazy things like burn 450 rounds through the gun in an hour’s time because you happen to be near the range and have a case of ammo in your trunk.

Wait…you don’t drive around with 1,000 rounds of ammo in your trunk? What kind of heathen are you? (Note: this is a joke. If you write me claiming you were microaggressed by this statement I’m going to laugh at you with all of my friends)

To be clear, I’m not arguing that what I’ve done here is a best practice because it most certainly isn’t. Only cleaning your gun every 5th case of ammo is not really a good idea. I didn’t set out to do this because it’s a good idea or because I was trying to prove a point. I’ve just been too damn lazy to clean the gun. So now it’s time to be a responsible adult and properly clean the beast.

…although I kinda like the stripe pattern that’s formed on the muzzle.

 

Wilson Combat CQB 9mm

DSC_0675You may have noticed that the site has been on a bit of a 1911 kick lately. Caleb has decided to test out a couple of 9mm 1911 pistols. He even invented a rating system to give some sort of objective score for the guns he’s testing. I’m probably partially to blame for that.

In November of 2014 I took a friend of mine to run a half marathon in Richmond, Va. When he finished up I stopped in at Colonial Shooting Academy to say hello to a good friend of mine who works the gun counter there. They have a pretty solid selection of handguns, including an entire display case of 1911 pattern pistols. My friend, who we often refer to as “El Diablo” because of his knack for dangling shiny temptation in front of his friends, knows my weakness for John Moses’ semi-automatic Peacemaker. He began taking guns out of the case and handing them to me. In the course of the conversation I mentioned how Todd Green’s experience with the Warren spec 9mm 1911 had me thinking hard about the 9mm 1911 as a concept.  I never thought about investing in one until I saw Todd’s test and how much he loved the gun. “El Diablo” sensed his opportunity and handed me a Wilson CQB in 9mm that he had just received in the store.

I was a goner the second I held it. By the end of the day I had put down a deposit on the gun and I was listing a bunch of stuff on Gunbroker to pay for it.

Since I’ve been living with my Wilson for more than a year and since we’re on a 9mm 1911 review kick lately, I figure why not write one for the CQB?

Accuracy:

The Wilson CQB exhibited superb accuracy from the very first shots.
The Wilson CQB exhibited superb accuracy from the very first shots.

I didn’t have the chance to shoot the pistol until a few weeks after I’d purchased it, deep into December. The first thing I wanted to do was make sure it actually worked properly, so I loaded up a magazine of American Eagle 124 grain FMJ ammo and asked my buddy to stand by and watch for inconsistent ejection. (This is part of the 10-8 test, you’ll recall) The first shot I attempted was from the bench while wearing heavy gloves. I couldn’t really get a solid grip on the gun and I felt it shift in my hand right at the point of ignition. For the next five I ditched the gloves and fired off-hand at the 25 yard target. I had a moment of panic because it looked like I wasn’t even on paper. My mood improved dramatically when I got closer to the target.

For reference, the red dot in that bullseye target measures one inch in diameter. I’m certain that with a more skilled meat puppet behind the trigger the Wilson could shoot an even better group than the one pictured. To be honest, I was firing those rounds more to test function than for accuracy so I didn’t expect to see a sub 1″ group at 25 yards. When I saw that group I laughed out loud and my range buddy said “If I hadn’t just witnessed that I would never have believed it.”

Function:

My big worry with a 9mm 1911 was whether or not I could get one that worked. Todd’s test was really an eye opener for me because prior to that I believed the conventional wisdom about the inherent unreliability of the 9mm 1911. I didn’t want to spend money on a 9mm 1911 and have to futz with annoying details like figuring out what magazines the gun would like. I figured if I bought a Wilson gun and fed it with Wilson magazines, it should work reliably.

With more than 3,000 rounds through the gun at this point, that has proven true. The pistol has not experienced a single stoppage or malfunction. The pistol came with three 10 round magazines and I ordered seven more after purchasing the pistol. It looks, though, like Wilson has actually changed their 9mm magazines since I bought mine as mine all have plastic followers and no numbering stamped into the body of the magazine. Even so, none of the magazines have given me any problems.

wrongwayI performed the 10-8 function test on the Wilson recently and it passed with a perfect score. (I had performed bits of the test when the gun was new, but I didn’t go through the one reload one section of the test at that point) Even with no magazine in the pistol, ejection is positive and consistent.

In 2015 I used the Wilson in multiple class settings including Intensive Pistol Skills with Tom Givens, Concealed Carry: Vehicle Environment Skills with FPF Training, and Concealed Carry Foundation Skills with FPF Training. The pistol performed splendidly in every class, never giving me a moment’s trouble. The only unusual moment I’ve experienced on the range with the pistol came during the Intensive Pistol Skills class. On a string of fire calling for a reload, I ejected a partially loaded magazine and somehow when it hit the ground it managed to flip the top round in the magazine backwards. I have tried, but I haven’t been able to make this happen again.

When Todd Green told me that he was going to do a 50,000 round test on 9mm 1911 pistols, I laughed. I told him I couldn’t wait to check in on his site and read about how the heinously unreliable pistol was making his life a little more miserable with each new week. It didn’t turn out that way for him and thankfully it didn’t turn out that way for me, either. My Wilson CQB has been one of the most boringly reliable pistols I’ve ever purchased…which I’m quite chuffed about.

Maintenance:

I haven’t cleaned the pistol. Ever.

I have kept the pistol lubricated with Wilson’s Ultima Lube. The CQB is an all steel gun and as such you do need to pay attention to lubrication. The “Armor-Tuff” finish on the pistol is impregnated with molybdenum (a substance used in quality motor oil to prevent metal wear and friction in your engine) and likely provides some room for error if you were to under-lubricate the pistol, but your ownership and shooting experience with a 1911 will be dramatically better if you properly lubricate the pistol regardless of how awesomely functional the finish may be.

I haven’t done anything to the pistol other than lubricate it and shoot it. Although with more than 3,000 rounds through it I will likely replace the recoil spring and Shok-Buff soon.

A little bit of wear is evident on the high points of the slide after thousands of presentations from a kydex holster.
A little bit of wear on the high points of the slide are evident after thousands of presentations from a kydex holster.

Quality: 

The quality of the pistol is superb. There are no cast or MIM parts on the gun. When you handle the gun it’s readily apparent that somebody sweated the details. One of the first things I check when I handle a 1911 pistol is how the grip safety is fitted on the gun. Many 1911 pattern pistols are shipped out with a grip safety that has to be pressed just so for it to reliably disengage and allow the weapon to fire. I often encounter people who say they don’t like the 1911 because they struggle to reliably disengage the grip safety when presenting the gun in a hurry. Sometimes that’s due to physiology, but often when I’ve checked out the gun they are using I find that the grip safety has not been properly designed or properly fitted. The end result is that they present the pistol from the holster and you watch them press on a dead trigger and then begin to futz with the thumb safety trying to correct the problem.

You don’t get any of that with this CQB. The grip safety reliably disengages no matter how bad a grip I have on the gun. That only happens when someone actually takes the time to fit the grip safety properly. Doing so requires patience and a process of putting the part on the gun, testing for function, and then removing the part and filing on it just a bit more. Then lather, rinse, repeat until the part works properly. I’m certain that the experienced smiths building the Wilson guns using parts of known specifications and quality have become very efficient at performing this process, but it still takes a bit of patience to get it right.

The Wilson Bullet Proof tactical thumb safety is an excellent innovation.
The Wilson Bullet Proof tactical ambidextrous thumb safety is fantastic…especially if you are a lefty.

The thumb safety is one of Wilson’s Bullet Proof units with the “tactical” extended levers. Generally the ambidextrous safeties you see on 1911 pattern pistols are Swenson style. Wilson took a fresh look at the 1911’s thumb safety and designed an ambi safety with a lot more contact between the two halves of the safety, making the whole arrangement stronger. If you are left handed or do a lot of left handed shooting with a 1911, you may want to give the Wilson Bullet Proof levers a hard look for your pistol.

The sizing of the “tactical” levers is perfect. At first glance I thought they would be too small to reliably disengage from the draw because I’ve been spoiled by the wider levers of the typical Swenson-style safeties used by other manufacturers, but hands-on time with the “tactical” levers has converted me. They are sized perfectly for my needs and the smaller profile helps the gun ride a little more snugly against the body when carrying concealed.

This CQB is equipped with one of Wilson’s one piece magazine wells. In the past I’ve been ambivalent about having a mag well on a 1911 pistol meant for non-competition duty, but here again experience with this gun has converted me. Reloading at speed can be a challenge on single stack guns, but mag wells are often sufficiently large and clumsy to hinder concealment on what is already a pretty critical dimension of the pistol. The Wilson part is so well designed and blended so nicely with the frame that it makes reloads much easier without adding any appreciable length to the pistol’s grip dimensions. (For me, at least)

Capacity:

This pistol holds ten rounds in the magazine and one more in the chamber. In the classes and range time I’ve done with the pistol I’ve felt the absence of those extra double-stack rounds on more than one occasion. Tom Givens has said multiple times that his rule of thumb is to count on it taking about 5 rounds from a pistol to convince a bad man to stop what he’s doing. With that math, the 1911 in .45 ACP is a one bad guy gun. This pistol with the ten round magazines is about a two bad guy gun. The capacity is right on the margin for what I’m comfortable with in a carry gun.

I'm a big fan of the mag well on the CQB...any 1911 I get in the future will have one.
I’m a big fan of the mag well on the CQB…any 1911 I get in the future will have one.

Shootability:

The capacity concern is somewhat ameliorated  by how easy it is to precisely place a bullet with this pistol. The trigger is superb with just enough travel to let you know you’re actually pulling the trigger and a clean break. The excellent trigger combined with the good sights and the pistol’s mild recoil make it an absolute joy to shoot. If you told me I had to take a hostage shot, this is the pistol I would want to use. My hope is that should I ever need to use this pistol in self defense, I can place every shot in an area that counts so that it takes less convincing overall for the bad man to stop his obnoxious behavior.

If you’ve never fired a 9mm 1911 pistol, you should. It’s not, as many suppose, like shooting a .22LR. It still feels like a reasonably powered center-fire handgun, but it stays put in your hands during recoil and you don’t have to contend with much muzzle rise. It’s almost like cheating.

Value:

This pistol is expensive. Make no bones about it: You can buy two Glock 19’s, new sights for them, a holster, spare mags, a couple of thousand rounds of ammo and a good class for what it cost to just buy a CQB equipped this way. This pistol will not kill bad guys any deader than those Glocks will. You do not buy this kind of pistol because you are looking for the most practical purchase you can make, at least not unless you are faced with extraordinary physical circumstances that makes the shootability of this pistol more of a necessity than a nicety.

I didn’t buy this CQB…and let me be absolutely clear that I bought this gun myself without any discount from Wilson Combat…because I needed a practical 9mm pistol. I bought this pistol because I really like it. I enjoy owning it more than I enjoy most of the guns I’ve owned over the years. I enjoy shooting it more than I’ve enjoyed shooting most of the guns I’ve owned over the years. When I was listing my lovely 6″ nickel-plated S&W model 27 to help pay for the Wilson, I wondered if I would eventually regret the decision to part with such a nice revolver. The answer is no. Not even for a second. I liked that model 27, but I never fired it. (Seriously…I never busted a cap through it. It was too pretty.) I’ve used this CQB like I would any of my carry guns and I’ve enjoyed every bit of it.

For me, this pistol was absolutely worth the price.

What I would do differently:

As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, this is a pistol I bought off the shelf at a store. It was an impulse purchase. Ordinarily when you buy a Wilson you spec out the gun to your preferences and wait a while (quite a while, sometimes) to get the gun. I honestly believe that if I hadn’t had the pistol in hand I wouldn’t have purchased it, so I certainly don’t regret the purchase at all…but there are some things I would do differently if I was ordering the gun directly from Wilson. DSC_0668

  1. No checkering on the front strap. The checkering on this pistol is superbly done (whether by machine or hand I don’t know…likely by machine) but I am not a fan of front strap checkering on a 1911. I don’t find that it really aids my strong hand grip on the gun, but it does make me bleed after a longer range session or during a multi-day class.
  2. Recess the muzzle crown. Mainly to add a little bit of protection to the crucial crown of the muzzle against impact, but also because it-looka-nice!
  3. Ball cuts on the slide. Purely an aesthetic preference.
  4. Solid trigger. Again, purely for aesthetic reasons. I really prefer not to have the speed holes in my 1911 trigger.
  5. No CQB logo on the slide. Aesthetic reasons.

Conclusion:

Using Caleb’s rating system, the CQB scores an A+ 100/100. It passed the 10-8 test with flying colors, and hasn’t ever failed to fully cycle when firing with a variety of JHP and FMJ ammunition with more than 3,000 rounds through it. It’s made to an exceptionally high standard and every little bit of the gun works in splendid harmony with the rest of the pistol. It’s laser-beam accurate and an absolute joy to shoot. It has become my primary carry gun, carried in the excellent Keepers Concealment “Keeper” holster. The thin profile of the single-stack 1911 and the nicely designed holster make every day AIWB carry a breeze, even for such a big, relatively heavy pistol.

The only real downside to this Wilson is that you could literally buy half a dozen other pistols for the price of this one gun…but if you are a 1911 guy odds are that none in that half dozen will tickle your fancy quite the way that this one can.

This should also remind everyone that guns that look similar on the outside are not necessarily alike. There are a lot of 1911 pattern pistols on the market but while they may look very similar there are a lot of important differences which are evident in the price and performance that they offer once you get them out of the gun store.

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My unusual history with 9mm 1911s

As I continue to work my way through the PT1911 Torture Test, I find I really genuinely enjoy shooting the Taurus. All-steel SAO gun with a good trigger in 9mm equals fun, and I can really drive this gun hard. On bill drills I’ve had splits down in 0.15 range, so…shooting it is pretty easy.

Shelley Rae nighthawk

I actually have a really unusual history with 9mm 1911s, because I’ve really only ever shot 4 (or 5, depending on your definition of 1911). I’ll go through them here, and at the end you’ll see why I really want to get another one, but I want to move up-market with the brand that I’m shooting.

1. ParaUSA LTC 9mm
This was my first 1911 of any type, a 9mm Commander-sized gun from Para. This gun was improbably reliable, likely because it had special Todd Jarrett voodoo inside it. It was only available to attendees of the first (and last) Gun Blogger Summer Camp in 2008, and I shot the hell out of that gun. It fed all kinds of ammo, it ran and ran and ran, and it was genuinely fun to shoot. That was my first exposure to 1911s of any type, and my first exposure to 9mm 1911s, and it sort of set the table of my expectations. Again, I attribute this gun’s reliability to having magic inside it.

2. ParaUSA Tac-S (maybe this doesn’t count)
I don’t know if I should count this as a 1911 or not, because it was a double-stack 1911-style pistol built by Para around their LDA trigger. I shot this at my first Bianchi Cup, a full size DAO 1911-type gun, and it was a wreck. It wouldn’t reliably feed JHP ammo, and every single stage at the Cup I was worried about having to do a failure drill. Luckily I didn’t, but I sold this gun pretty quick. It was a lot of fun to shoot though, when it ran. But it didn’t run very well.

3. Shelley Rae‘s Rock Island Armory 9mm 1911
A few years back, Shelley had a 9mm Government style 1911 from Rock Island Armory. That gun was an utter, absolute tank. The trigger was a little rough, the GI style hammer would bite your hand, but it did not complain about anything. It just fed round after round after round. We put a ton of rounds through that gun, and used it for a while as our evaluation platform for 9mm ammo testing.

Rock Island Armory 1911

It was great. I actually really liked that gun, and thought that it was an excellent example of a reliable 9mm 1911. Sure the sights were tiny, but man could it shoot.

4. Nighthawk Custom 9mm 1911
That’s the gun that Shelley is shooting in the Bianchi Cup photo. A custom 1911 from Nighthawk that had a threaded barrel, suppressor height sights, and a truly amazing trigger. The weird thing about this gun was that we struggled to make it run reliably; I eventually had to change the hammer spring and the recoil spring to get it to cycle our Bianchi Cup match ammo. Now, you’re probably thinking that the match ammo was some cupcake load, but it wasn’t. It was a 115 grain Hornady XTP at 1100 FPS, so it was perfectly in the normal range for 9mm ammo.

However, the Nighthawk was by far the most accurate of the guns on this list, routinely turning in sub-2.00 inch groups from the bench.

5. The PT1911 9mm
You know all about this gun from the torture test.

That’s my history with 9mm 1911s, and you can see why it’s odd. I’m at the point now where I know I want another one, but I don’t know what to get. I know Springfield, Kimber, Colt, and Rock Island all make 9mm 1911s, and I know there has been interest from my readers about torture testing some more of the budget 9mm 1911 options, so what do you think? Where to next?

Wilson Combat announces the 92G Compact Carry

New for 2016, the Wilson Combat/Beretta 92G Compact Carry features sought after custom Beretta parts and features, specially selected by Bill Wilson to enhance performance as a concealed carry pistol.

Beretta 92G Compact Carry - Photo courtesy Wilson Combat
Beretta 92G Compact Carry – Photo courtesy Wilson Combat

Click here to purchase the 92G Compact Carry.

Some features of the limited Italian production Wilson Combat/Beretta 92G Compact carry include steel ambidextrous decocker-only levers, a checkered compact frame with rounded trigger guard, beveled magazine well and Wilson Combat G-10 grips. A steel guide rod and extended steel magazine catch improve handling while the match-grade, blackened stainless barrel with recessed target crown ensures match-grade accuracy. The 92G Compact Carry also features a 16# hammer spring for lighter trigger pull weight, a white dot integral front sight and a Wilson Combat rear battlesight.

The 92G Compact Carry is finished in Beretta black Bruniton coating and marked with the Wilson Combat logo and is specially serialized to ensure its place in Beretta history.

The 92G Compact Carry has been optimized by Beretta to meet the needs of high round count tactical shooters. For discriminating customers further customization and finish work is also available through Wilson Combat.

“In my opinion, the 92G Compact Carry is the ultimate Beretta 92 concealed carry gun and I am pleased we were able to bring this exciting model to the marketplace. This selected combination of sought after custom features and the legendary reliability of the 92 platform will ensure that our version of this classic gun will be a top choice for all-around defensive use” -Bill Wilson, President of Wilson Combat

This model is exclusive to Wilson Combat and only available from Wilson Combat and Wilson Combat dealers.

Editor’s Thoughts: There is a lot I like about this gun right off the bat, the first thing being the lack of a rail. The current 92FS Compact offering from Beretta is a great carry gun, but I feel like the rail makes it too chunky. This model lacks the rail, preserving the nice lines of the pistol and making it a bit lighter. Additionally, it’s a decock only G model, which is the best possible set-up for a 92-series pistol. Replaceable rear sight means I can swap out the sights for something I may like more, however the Wilson sight that comes on it is an excellent choice. The only thing I wish it had was a tritium front sight instead of a white dot sight. Otherwise, I think $1k out the door for a truly sick carry gun is a pretty fantastic set up.

Wilson Combat Ultimate Action Tune Kit for the Beretta 92

If you are a regular reader of the site, you may have deduced that I have a certain fondness for the Beretta 92 pistol. I have used the Beretta 92 quite a bit over the years and the specimens I own have always performed extremely well. The 92 fits my hands nicely. The controls of the pistol all seem to be in just the right place. I’ve never had a feed-way stoppage with a 92 pistol, even when firing the gun in tropical storm conditions with a magazine that was packed with thick mud. The only issue I ever really had with the 92 was that the trigger return spring tended to break frequently if you attempted serious dryfire training. I solved that by installing the Wolff Trigger Control Unit for the 92 family of pistols in my guns.

Even though I like the 92 quite a bit, there are things about it I would change. I vastly prefer the decocker-only G model pistols to the standard FS equipped guns because performing immediate action drills with an FS often leads to unintentional activation of the safety. On one rather embarrassing occasion I didn’t fully seat the magazine when I swapped magazines with the weapon still in the holster prior to a drill and when I got the beep I pulled the pistol and got one shot then a click. I tapped, racked, and went to pull the trigger and got nothing…so I performed the same action three more times. The third time I watched a perfectly good round eject out of the pistol it occurred to me that I had accidentally engaged the safety during the first tap/rack/bang.

The Wilson Combat Beretta Action Tune Kit
The Wilson Combat Beretta Action Tune Kit

The second most commonly complained about feature of the 92 has to be the heavy double action trigger pull. The 92 family of pistols are built largely around the design specifications of the M9 military sidearm. One of the requirements for the M9 is for the weapon to bust extremely hard primers reliably. This means putting a pretty stout main spring/hammer spring (the spring that actually propels the hammer) in the pistol to ensure that the hammer will fall with enough force to reliably set off even the hardest primers. The downside of that kind of ultra-reliable ignition is that the trigger pull has to compress that 20 pound (weight of the spring’s tension, not the spring’s actual weight) hammer spring somehow to cock the hammer. Most Beretta 90 series guns ship from the factory with that ultra-reliable, but very heavy trigger arrangement. Shooters with smaller hands struggle with the combination of the Beretta’s grip and the long, heavy trigger pull made necessary by the military primer requirement.

One of the most frequently performed modifications to the 92 family of pistols is installation of the hammer spring from the double-action-only model Beretta 92D. Often referred to simply as the “D spring”, this spring is rated at 16 pounds and with a standard 92 series hammer still provides reliable ignition with most ammunition even if it wouldn’t pass the military’s stringent primer requirements. It is possible to install even lower weight hammer springs in the weapon, but generally anything below the “D spring” specification would result in spotty ignition reliability. As it goes with most double-action semi automatic pistols, the hammer and the trigger of the Beretta 90 series pistols are joined by a trigger bar. Pulling the trigger pulls the trigger bar forward which, in turn, pulls the hammer backwards until it hits a release point.

Ernest Langdon and the folks at Wilson Combat took a hard look at the trigger bar on the Beretta and thought that if they could modify the design of the trigger bar a bit they could get reliable ignition with lighter hammer springs. I heard tales of this new trigger bar and the excellent trigger pull it could yield for the better part of a year. Then one day back in June I happened to be on the Wilson site looking at getting some new grips for one of my 92 pistols and I saw that they had quietly added the “Action Tune Kit” to the store…including the new trigger bar. I ordered two kits immediately.

Wilson states plainly that some minor gunsmithing is necessary to install the Action Tune Kit, and when I installed the kit on my Wilson Beretta 92 Brigadier Tactical I found that to be true. If you look carefully at the photo at the base of the round pin on the front of the trigger bar (that pin actually runs through the top of the trigger) there is a small protrusion pointing toward where the muzzle of the gun will be. This is an over-travel stop. It bumps into the frame and limits how far forward the trigger bar can go, in turn limiting how far backwards the trigger can go.

I have only tested this part on three 92 series pistols to this point, but based on what I’ve learned from others I think it’s safe to say that at a minimum you will have to fit the over-travel stop for the part to work. As it comes from Wilson, the stop stuck out far enough to prevent the trigger bar from moving sufficiently forward to fully release the sear. Fitting the part to the pistol was simple: File on the over-travel stop with a jewler’s file for a bit to remove some metal, then install it back into the pistol and test the function. The goal is to remove as little of the over-travel stop as possible while still allowing the rear of the trigger bar to reliably release the sear. On my Brig Tac this process of repeatedly filing and checking the fit took less than fifteen minutes.

If you’ve never worked on a Beretta before, here’s a very useful video that demonstrates complete disassembly and reassembly of the pistol. You don’t have to completely disassemble the entire pistol to install the kit, but it shows a good breakdown of removing the grips, the trigger bar, and the trigger bar spring. (DO NOT FORGET THE TRIGGER BAR SPRING!) Be warned: There is chanting and pan-flute music in this video. I strongly encourage watching this with the sound muted and something good playing.

 

The Action Tune Kit comes with three different hammer springs, weighted at 12, 13, and 14 pounds. This allows you to tune the action for reliable ignition. I had already installed a 13 pound hammer spring in my Brig Tac previously so I left it in the gun when installing the new trigger bar. Having used the pistol with just the 13 pound hammer spring and with the addition of the new trigger bar, I can report that the trigger bar on it’s own made a tremendous difference in the felt weight of the trigger pull. It is the lightest Beretta 92 trigger I have ever used and it’s the lightest true double-action trigger I’ve encountered on any semi automatic pistol full stop. In terms of weight and feel it’s more akin to the lightened triggers you get on H&K’s LEM system or the Sig DAK system than what you would expect on a Beretta 90 series gun.

Because I had the 13 pound spring in the gun before getting the trigger bar, I can also tell you that the new trigger bar improves the reliability of ignition with lighter weight springs. Prior to the installation of the new Wilson trigger bar I experienced multiple failures to fire with just the 13 pound spring in the gun. Since installing the trigger bar I’ve tried multiple types of FMJ and defensive-grade JHP ammunition in the pistol and all have gone bang on the first try.

I’m certain that one of Wilson’s talented gunsmiths could further refine the fit and the overall feel of the trigger, but with minimal skill and minimal time I was able to make a very significant difference in the weight and feel of the trigger by installing one part I’d done a little bit of filing on.

If you like your Beretta, the Action Tune Kit from Wilson is a superb investment. For 80 bucks you can completely transform the trigger in your gun. I’m a very satisfied customer and if you’ve got a 92 that needs some love I think you will be too.

 

 

Cost and the 1911 – Part 3

We’ve covered previously how the 1911 no longer exists and discussed why. While the original 1911 was very durable and reliable it wasn’t a stupendously accurate or ergonomic sidearm. Talented gunsmiths like Hoag, Clark, Swenson, Wilson and others brought a number of innovative parts and modifications out for the 1911 which made the pistol more accurate, more usable, and more desirable.

They did most of this work on 1911 pistols manufactured by Colt. Colt has been selling 1911 pattern handguns on the commercial market since it came to be, and were selling the predecessors of the 1911 pistol before that. Colt has tinkered with the basics of the pistol over the years, offering some mild variations on the original 1911 pattern designed to offer more accuracy or more utility. Growing up I always had a thing for Colt Gold Cup pistols partially because of the name, partially because of how pretty they are, and partially because of the level of hand-fitting and attention those guns received at the factory. For the most part, though, Colt still made 1911 pattern pistols for commercial sale with the same basic parts…and thus flaws…of the original 1911. They still did the basics pretty much the same way that they always had, though…using quality materials that made for a very durable pistol that was an excellent starting point for a custom build.

As the world progressed and inflation made everything more expensive, the cost of building a 1911 skyrocketed. The 1911 wasn’t alone, of course. Just about any firearm made entirely of quality metal became more and more expensive to manufacture. To give you some idea of why, take a look at this video that Caleb took a while back at the S&W factory:

Forging high quality steel as you see in the video is expensive and time consuming. The raw frames you see as the end product of that process will then need to have much of their material carefully removed to produce a finished 1911 frame. In the Colt factory they accomplish that with a series of machines that have been in use for decades, each station performing a particular operation or two to bring the frame closer to the finished product. Other manufacturers might accomplish the same goal with a CNC machine. Either way, it takes a lot of time (which is the same as money) and effort to turn that frame-shaped forging into a finished frame. It’s an expensive process…and that’s why so few manufacturers use it.

Colt and S&W are one of the few manufacturers who make the major parts (like the slide and the frame) of their 1911 from high quality forgings. Most of the more inexpensively priced 1911’s you see on the gunstore shelves are made with major parts that come from casting. Casting isn’t evil in and of itself, but when it comes to long term durability forged components tend to hold up better than cast components. If you’re looking for a 1911 that you use for occasional plinking at the range the difference between a cast frame and a forged one may never be important to you, but on a duty/carry gun you will live with for daily use for years? You probably want a quality forged frame and slide like Colt still uses in the 1911 pistols they manufacture.

Even though Colt still forges the major components of their pistols the old fashioned way, they’ve found ways to save money in other areas of the pistol. Colt has been using polymer mainspring housings on some of their 1911 pistols since at least the mid 1980’s. (I had a 1986 vintage MKIV that came with one, for example) Small internal parts like the sear and the disconnector are now made by the metal injection molding (MIM) process which is more economical than the old fashioned way of carefully whittling a sear or a disconnector out of tool steel. Colt has had its ups and downs over the years, but these days the 1911 pistols they are putting out are really nice. I’ve had the chance to handle and inspect quite a few of the “New Roll-Marked” Colt pistols and they’ve all been very well made pistols…and all the ones I’ve fired have worked splendidly. Colt manages to turn out a solid 1911 pattern pistol that I wouldn’t have any reservations about buying. They’re certainly not the cheapest 1911 pattern pistol on the shelf, but they’re made to a reasonable quality standard with quality materials and will hold their value over the long term. You can’t really say the same about many of the cheaper guns on the shelf made from castings and poorer-quality MIM processes with spotty quality control.

Still, it’s possible to build a 1911 pattern pistol better than the NRM 1991 pistols that Colt is producing. Imagine that somebody had the crazy idea to build a 1911 pattern pistol as good as it could be built from the ground up. Imagine that they decided to eschew any of the cost saving steps above and instead decided to make every single part of the pistol using either high quality forgings or bar stock. Imagine that every slide, frame, and barrel was machined in house to very strict tolerances and designed with very tight clearances so that the amount of time necessary at the gunsmith’s bench to get a superior fit was minimized. Imagine that every small part like safeties, disconnectors, and sears were machined out of high quality tool steel and then heat treated for strength and durability. Imagine that all these parts were carefully assembled by a team of experienced gunsmiths with years of experience.

That would be a pretty darn expensive way to make a 1911, wouldn’t it?

A Wilson Combat "CQB" chambered in 9mm
A Wilson Combat “CQB” chambered in 9mm

and now you know why a pistol from Wilson Combat is priced the way it is. When you really think about what goes into the gun, though, the price tag looks pretty darn reasonable. Take, for example, my friend Todd’s new 9mm 1911. I’m sure in the relatively near future he’ll post something outlining all the work that master pistolsmith Jason Burton put into making that pistol, but the quick and dirty version is that it was the result of hundreds of hours of work, over 100 hours (that’s 2.5 average work weeks, folks) just at the bench. Taking a pile of parts from different manufacturers, even good ones, and getting them all fitted together correctly so that they all play nicely takes a lot of time and skill.

Wilson Combat produces their guns using frames, slides, barrels, and small parts that they make in-house to their own specifications…all designed to play nicely with each other from the getgo. There’s certainly a good deal of work and skill put into the assembly of the final pistols, but they don’t have to spend as much time on labor-intensive processes like fitting the slide and frame together properly when both are machined for a proper fit in the first place.

Gratuitous mag well in the fading sunlight shot...
Gratuitous mag well in the fading sunlight shot…

While there’s only one company making Glock pistols, everybody and his second cousin seems like they are making a “1911” pattern pistol these days. You can find a “1911” pistol starting at about $400 and ranging all the way up to holy-crap-you-can-buy-a-new-car-for-that-price range if you go nuts and splurge on an engraved, fire-blued gun with genuine ivory stocks. Most folks, I find, don’t really understand why there is so much difference in the price of what they assume is the same gun. The truth is that the $400 dollar 1911 made from entirely cast parts in the Philipines really has very little in common with a Colt or a Wilson or an Heirloom gun other than being based on the same original design. Sure, it’s a “1911” but when you look under the hood at how the gun is made it’s pretty clear that the person putting down the purchase price for the Colt or the Wilson or the Heirloom isn’t just burning money.

In the same vein, you often see folks who take one of the cheaper 1911 pistols and install some aftermarket parts like a new barrel or some Wilson “Bullet-Proof” internals to upgrade the gun and misunderstand the result. There’s certainly considerable benefit to performing those kind of modifications but the end result it is not, as I’ve seen alleged a few times, the same as buying a complete Wilson gun.

The goal with these articles is basically consumer advice. I find that lots of folks like the idea of a 1911 and really want one, but they’re often confused by the sheer number of options on the market…and often when they turn to the internet to do research they are hip deep in utter nonsense faster than you can say John Moses Browning. The key to a happy experience with 1911 pattern pistols is to know what you want. If you want a casual plinker so you get some of that old 1911 flavor on an occasional range trip, or a gun you can take apart and beat on without worrying too much about it then shopping at the low end of the price spectrum will likely give you exactly what you want. If you want a good quality gun that will be reasonably accurate, reliable, and is likely to survive many years of use and carry…and maybe you’d like to have some light customization done to make it suit you a bit better…then go buy yourself an NRM Colt. If you want a 1911 pistol made as good as it can be and to your exact specifications, bite the bullet and get on Wilson’s waiting list. (This goes double if you want said 1911 in a heretic caliber like 9mm) If you want a one of a kind custom masterpiece that’s as much a work of art as it is a functional firearm, talk to Jason Burton and figure out when he can spare a couple of hundred hours to build you one.

If you understand the 1911 and what you’re really looking at on the gunstore shelves, you have a much better chance of getting the gun that suits your purposes. Most of the disappointment folks encounter, at least in my experience, is when their purchase doesn’t meet their purpose. The person looking for a solid carry gun where all the major components will go for a six figure round count without breaking a sweat probably isn’t going to get that from the $400 cast RIA sitting on the shelf. The Colt next to it for twice the price, though, has a much better shot at achieving that result.

There are some goods in this world where the differences in prices between brands is entirely a function of branding and marketing, but in the world of the 1911 pistol that’s not the case. The price differences really do reflect significant differences in the way the guns are manufactured. Some of those differences may be very important to you, but then again some of them may not be. At least if you know what those differences are you can make an intelligent decision for your needs. I would never suggest that somebody who wants a fun plinker has to spend $3,500 bucks on a Wilson CQB with some custom touches, nor would I suggest that someone in Todd’s situation who needs a reliable carry gun with a light trigger buy themselves a Taurus 1911.

…ok, to be fair I wouldn’t suggest that anyone ever buy a Taurus 1911 unless I hated them with a purple passion and wanted to see them suffer…but you get what I’m driving at. It’s entirely possible to have a happy 1911 ownership experience if you do a little bit of research and if you’re honest with yourself about what your budgeted price really buys.

 

 

Wilson Combat Beretta 92G Brigadier Tactical

DSC_0584 If you remember back to March of this year, we brought you the announcement that purveyors of 1911 excellence, Wilson Combat, had teamed up with Ernie Langdon to begin offering gunsmithing services on the Beretta 92 family of auto pistols. Bill Wilson, the founder of Wilson Combat, has apparently been a fan of the Beretta 92 pistol for quite some time and wasn’t content to offer gunsmithing services on the 92 family…he wanted a Beretta built to his specifications. So he called up Beretta and ordered 1,000 pistols built his way, including using parts Wilson manufactures for the 92 series pistols.

It’s a fairly unusual thing for a relatively small custom gun maker like Wilson Combat to team up with one of the heavy hitters in the industry to produce a gun. I can’t really think of any other examples of this kind of venture off the top of my head. The fact that Beretta was willing to build this gun to Wilson’s spec says quite a bit about the company and the people involved in the effort.

The announcement in early November generated a lot of buzz on forums and social media…and a lot of sales, too. The first 250 guns sold in less than 48 hours. Why, you may well ask, would people be in such a hurry to buy this pistol? DSC_0576

The simplest way to put it is this: This pistol is like a greatest hits edition of the Beretta 92, built to the highest standard possible. The feature list includes:

 

  • M9A1 frame with 92A1 round trigger guard profile and improved checkering
  • Dehorned 92G Brigadier slide
  • Enhanced slide to frame fit
  • Trijicon tritium dovetail front sight
  • Stainless barrel with recessed crown, 4.7” Elite II length, black finish
  • Oversize steel magazine release
  • Steel de-cocking levers
  • Skeletonized Elite II hammer
  • D hammer spring
  • Lanyard loop pin
  • Lanyard loop, aluminum
  • Steel trigger
  • Wilson Combat rear u-notch battlesight
  • Wilson Combat fluted steel guide rod
  • G10 Dirty Olive grips with Wilson Combat logo medallion
  • Wilson Combat logo on slide
  • 3 15rd M9A1 Beretta sand resistant magazines

Of particular interest to those who know the Beretta 92 are the spec for a tighter lockup, the use of a “Brigadier” slide, the inclusion of an Elite II style barrel, and the “G” de-cocker only configuration. That combination of features is impossible to find even among Beretta’s discontinued models. As an example, it’s only in the last few weeks that Beretta has brought “G” model 92 pistols back to the market after a very long absence.

The heavy "Brigadier" slide is cited as "bulletproof" by Bill Wilson.
The heavy “Brigadier” slide is cited as “bulletproof” by Bill Wilson.

Seeing the buzz and the speed with which these guns were selling and reading the specs convinced me to place an order. Pretty soon WC0279 arrived at my local FFL and I was able to go hands-on with the what is claimed to be the best Beretta 92 ever built. It’s difficult to say this without sounding like a cliche, but the gun just “felt” right in my hand the second I picked it up. The fit of the slide and frame is as tight as advertised, and ditto with the lockup. The store happened to have a couple of other Berettas in the case so I took the occasion to compare, and the fit and finish on the Wilson Beretta was indeed superior to those specimens and to the two Beretta pistols I already owned.

5 shots of Federal HST 124 grain +P ammunition at 25 yards from a rested, seated position. Not too shabby.
5 shots of Federal HST 124 grain +P ammunition at 25 yards from a rested, seated position. Not too shabby.

Of course, gunstore “feel” doesn’t really tell the tale of how the gun will perform for you. To figure that out you need to go to the range. On her first range trip the pistol did not disappoint. Conditions at the range were, frankly, terrible and not conducive to getting the best accuracy out of the gun…and I was shooting horribly thanks to a monster headache not being helped by the dude next to me blasting with an SBR AR15 with some ridiculous brake on it. It took a bit of doing but I finally figured out that I needed to use a 6:00 hold on the sights and got a system down good enough to hit the nearly invisible 2″ circles at 25 yards. In more than 200 rounds of shooting I managed to put together a couple of good groups using Federal’s 124 grain +P HST and the Speer 124 grain +P Gold Dot loads.

The spec is designed to produce an exceptionally accurate pistol and every report I’ve seen so far seems to indicate that shooters are finding their own eyeballs and trigger fingers to be the limiting factor in accuracy rather than the pistols themselves. Mr. Wilson himself reports getting excellent accuracy at 50 yards with the guns he’s acquired for himself.

So is this the perfect Beretta 92? The combination of the accessory rail and the “Brigadier” slide will make finding holsters for it somewhat challenging and the double action trigger pull on my specimen could benefit from a trigger job (a service Wilson Combat will happily perform on the guns, though it adds cost and an estimated 5 weeks to the delivery time) but other than that it’s difficult to find anything to complain about on the gun. The grips don’t have enough purchase on the left panel for where my hand makes contact, but that’s true for me with just about every handgun I pick up.

Is this the best Beretta 92 pistol ever made? I can safely say it’s the best Beretta 92 I’ve ever handled. It’s more expensive than a Beretta 92 sitting on the gunstore shelf, but it’s built better and it’s a configuration you simply cannot get from Beretta today or by buying one of the excellent discontinued models like the Elite II or 92G-SD. (Which usually sell for more money than is currently being charged for this pistol, for what it’s worth…)

I’ll put it to you the way I heard someone describe the Hellcat editions of the Charger and Challenger: If it sounds cool to you, you’ll like it. If you like the Beretta 92, this gun is a no brainer. If you don’t like the Beretta this gun may be the one to change your mind. If you are interested, I believe Wilson Combat still has some guns available for order here.

Even more importantly, it may be the opening shot from a reinvigorated Beretta looking to take back some lost ground in the handgun market.

Time will tell.

DSC_0585 DSC_0583 DSC_0582 DSC_0581 DSC_0580 DSC_0579 DSC_0577 DSC_0575

 

 

 

Improving the J frame – Wilson Combat Custom Tune Spring Kit

Handguns are, by a wide margin, the most difficult firearms to shoot accurately due in part to their relatively small size and the inability to stabilize them against larger structures of the body. They become more difficult to shoot as they get smaller and the trigger pull gets heavier. The typical J frame has a trigger pull that is several times the weight of the revolver itself and is usually carried with a very small “boot” style grip. This translates to the application of comparatively enormous levels of torque on a handgun with very little room for a grip that will resist that torque.

Making the trigger pull lighter helps ameliorate this somewhat, but unfortunately there is no free lunch. The J frame requires a pretty stiff hammer spring to achieve reliable ignition since the hammer itself has such little mass. Due to this I never really bothered trying to do any trigger work on my J frames before, but with the purchase of the 638 I decided I would try out the Wilson Combat Custom Tune spring kit. The Wilson kit seems to be well regarded by folks who know the J frame well and I’ve yet to hear a report of unreliable ignition with the Wilson kit.

The kit includes 4 springs, a hammer spring and 3 different weight trigger return springs you can use to get the trigger feel you want.
The kit includes 4 springs, a hammer spring and 3 different weight trigger return springs you can use to get the trigger feel you want.

The Wilson Custom Tune spring kit comes with 4 springs, a single hammer spring that is lighter than the stock spring and three trigger return springs. The idea is you select the trigger return spring that gives you the trigger feel you prefer. (I used the lightest one) When you pull the trigger on a J frame you are working against the pressure of both of these springs, so by making them lighter you can reduce the weight of the trigger pull. Replacing two little springs sure sounds simple enough, right?

It is…mostly. Even a simple job on a very well documented gun can turn into a soul-crushing experience if you don’t do the research and gather the right tools. One of the “right tools” I’ve been too lazy to acquire for myself before now is a good set of gunsmith’s screwdrivers or screw-driver bits. Contrary to popular belief, all screwdrivers are not created equal and use of the usual sort of tapered screwdrivers on guns often results in damaging screws or even damaging the finish of the weapon itself. Keep in mind that with the Airweight revolvers you are working on a frame that is made of a metal which is considerably softer than that of the screwdriver you’re using, and so if your taper-ground driver slips out of the screw slot you’ve just dug a nice trench in your new gun’s finish.

While I was buying the spring kit I also bought the Brownells rebound slide tool pictured. The rebound slide spring bumps up against a stud made into the frame that’s aluminum on the Airweight revolvers. I hoped that using the proper tool would reduce the chances of snapping that little stud off…which could be a pretty expensive mistake. Unfortunately either Brownells got the spec on the tools wrong or S&W changed the dimensions on the studs on some of their revolvers because the opening in the tool was too narrow to fit around the stud properly. I put the 13 pound return spring in the rebound side and with careful finagling and holding my mouth just right I managed to use the tool to get the rebound slide back into place without incident.

The J frame's internals are actually pretty simple to work on if you have a little bit of knowledge, the right tools, and some patience.
The J frame’s internals are actually pretty simple to work on if you have a little bit of knowledge, the right tools, and some patience.

The hammer spring/main spring is considerably easier to deal with…you just need a paperclip or a very small punch to capture the spring in a compressed state so you can remove the end cap that holds it into the frame. Getting the spring cap back on with the new spring is a little bit more tricky. If you are going to do a job like this I’d suggest doing so in a place where you have plenty of room and with no nooks and crannies that a little black piece of plastic can disappear into after it’s been unexpectedly sent on a ballistic trajectory by a spring.

While I had the little revolver’s guts exposed I figured I’d perform an additional task unrelated to the spring changes: Removing the lawyer lock.

When you bring up the topic of S&W revolvers you will hear folks speak about “pre-lock” guns quite frequently. In the early days of our new millennium S&W decided to integrate a locking mechanism into their revolvers which would prevent the revolver from being fired when engaged. Much wailing and gnashing of teeth has happened over this decision partially because it was the result of some Clinton-era political pressure (S&W has new owners now who had nothing to do with that nonsense, by the way) and partially because it’s not aesthetically pleasing to see that lock zit sitting on the sideplate of the revolver.

I have a different reason for loathing the lock, though: Under the right circumstances the lock can spontaneously engage. Initially it was thought to be something that could primarily happen with the extremely light titanium and scandium frame revolvers in heavy calibers, but over time credible reports have accumulated on good old fashioned steel-framed guns in common calibers as well. This assertion is highly controversial because most people have never actually seen it happen. I have, though. I’ve experienced a partial lock engagement on another S&W revolver I own and as a result I get rid of them on guns I carry. Opinions vary on how one should go about getting rid of the lock, but I’m content to simply remove the bit that actually prevents the hammer from moving when engaged. The other pieces stay put nicely, in my experience.

I hate you. So. Very. Much.
I hate you. So. Very. Much.

I know why S&W started including the locks on their revolvers, but I’d absolutely love to see them be rid of the bloody things. They made revolvers for almost a century and a half without any silly locks and you can still buy some of their revolvers without locks…so why not just ditch it altogether, Smith?

After putting everything back together and doing some quick function checks, I found a noticeably improved trigger pull with a slightly slower trigger return speed…which is to be expected when you reduce the power of the trigger return spring. I didn’t hear angels singing or anything, but I didn’t go in expecting a miracle. I just wanted to make the trigger pull a little bit lighter. The difference is most noticeable when dry-firing with just the left hand, as I tend to need to apply less torque and as a result I don’t get as much lateral movement during the trigger pull. When it comes to shooting a handgun little things make a big difference and that goes double for little handguns like the J.

Given the price of the Wilson spring kit and the ease of installation, I’m pretty pleased with the purchase. I’m confident Wilson has done enough homework on the J frame to put together a spring kit that will function reliably. I’m sure it’s possible to go a bit lighter than the Wilson kit with some other option but I’m certain that the Wilson kit will work when I need it to…and that’s critical for a revolver like this one. If you have to pull a revolver like this you are already having a bad day and you need it to do its job properly.

 

Ruger SP101 Wiley Clapp and Wilson Combat Spring Kit

SP101 and wilson spring kit

The Ruger SP101 is one of my favorite small frame revolvers, right up there with the all steel J-Frames I love. If you have a Ruger revolver, you owe it to yourself to get a Wilson Combat Spring Kit from Brownells for it. I have WC kits in all of my GP100s and my Security Sixes. They just make the guns better.

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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…