Beretta M9 9mm Handgun Review

Tough and reliable, the Beretta 9mm pistol keeps coming back for more!


A little more than two decades ago the United States military, and by that I mean the actual men and women serving in it, underwent a big change in their lives with the adoption of a new service pistol. Not only did we change caliber (a subject that is still open for debate), we adopted a completely different operating system with a double-action/single-action (DA/SA) design.

beretta21.gifI was a young US Marine when this changeover took place and I still remember the noise that went on in the ranks and in the firearms world in general. Gallons of ink and reams of paper were sacrificed during the debate over .45ACP versus 9mm, and the M1911A1 versus the M9. Before we move one sentence further into this review let me make it clear, I’m not going to re-fight that war.

So what is the point; why revisit the Beretta M9? Because, like it or not, at the moment there are literally tens of thousands of M9 pistols in the hands of our troops around the globe. All the editorials, reviews, or carefully crafted letters in the world aren’t going to change the fact that as these words are put to paper, the predominant sidearm of the US Military is the M9 Beretta pistol.

I carried the M9 for a few years during my tour of duty and I will be the first to admit that after I left the Corps I did not carry one again for many years. Only a few months out of the Marines, I entered the police academy and during my career as a cop I carried a number of sidearms, but not the M9 or its civilian counterpart the Beretta 92.

Last year I had cause to reconsider the M9 service pistol. As a member of a Small Arms and Tactics training team, one of my jobs is to train US troops with the M9. For the first time in more than a decade I had to closely examine not only the characteristics of the pistol, but how to best operate the gun in close quarter combat.

To date I have worked with hundreds of servicemen and women, and have run across the same arguments, issues and excuses that I heard 20 years ago. The first thing shooters will do after they perform poorly on the range is to blame their equipment. Experience had taught me that, only on the rarest occasion is the equipment at fault. “Operator error” is by and large the number one reason for failure.

I remember one admonition from our senior firearms instructor when I was a police academy cadet. A young officer complained that she couldn’t hit the target because there was something wrong with her pistol. The instructor took the pistol and with a single hand held it upside down. After putting a full magazine into the center of the target he handed the pistol back to the shooter and advised, “There’s nothing wrong with this gun.” The implication was obvious. It’s not the gun, it’s you.

As a small arms instructor I have put literally thousands of rounds of ammunition through the M9 service pistol during the last year. While I hate to give the bottom line up front, the fact is that these guns are tough and reliable. They consume magazine after magazine of hot M882 military ball ammo and keep coming back for more. 

In my own little corner of the world, we put shooters through much more than the standard pistol qualification course. Our students shoot hundreds of rounds on paper and steel silhouettes each week. They must shoot single- and weak-handed, perform rapid reloading drills and fire from awkward positions. In a nutshell, these pistols are run hard.

Gun Details
The current Beretta M9 service pistol is definitely a full-sized handgun. Many have criticized the choice of a DA/SA action. This criticism aside, the fact remains that it was this “first shot double-action” feature that allowed the “big military” to allow its men and women to do something they were prohibited from doing up until its adoption: carry a pistol with a round chambered and the safety on. 

What many people fail to realize is that the standard practice before the M9 was to carry the M1911A1 pistol with the hammer down on an empty chamber and magazine inserted. It was not until the introduction of the M9 with its DA trigger and active decocking mechanism that the “powers that be” allowed the troops to walk around with “loaded” pistols. 

Considering specifics, the M9 Beretta service pistol has a 4.9-inch barrel with an overall length of 8.5 inches. This duty gun holds 15 plus 1 rounds of 9mm. The pistol is finished in Beretta’s Bruniton matte black, non-reflective coating. Sights are fixed, but the rear is drift adjustable. As mentioned, the pistol operates with a DA/SA trigger mechanism and the decocker/safety is mounted on the slide. 

From a technical standpoint the M9 has short recoil, delayed locking block system as opposed to a straight blowback. In addition to the manual safety lever, the pistol includes a passive firing pin block. When a round is chambered, the extractor protrudes and acts as a loaded chamber indicator. 

Another change took place with the introduction of the new pistol. Rather than merely conducting slow-fire, marksmanship training with their handguns, the US military started training with their pistols in the same manner as their rifles. When I first entered the service, the only live-fire training we did was to fire our .45 pistols slowly at paper bull’s-eye targets. When we adopted the M9 we actually began shooting plastic silhouette targets. Drawing from the holster became a part of the qualification process, as opposed to the old .45 ranges where we never drew from the holster with live rounds in place. 

Today’s training is light years ahead of what it once was. We conduct shoot from cover drills, movement drills, and even transition training where shooters rapidly transition from a long gun to their secondary weapon, the M9. 

During my own range time I worked with a number of commercially manufactured loads from CorBon, Remington, and Winchester. Over a period of two to three weeks I would hit the range several times. In addition to slow-fire and chronographing, I ran numerous drills from the holster. My holster of choice for this project was the BlackHawk SERPA drop leg rig. Over the last few years I have found the SERPA drop leg holster to be fast, secure, and reliable.

To add some realism to my training I invited a training partner along. Tactical Ted accompanied me to the range for this project. Tactical Ted is a three-dimensional plastic target available from Law Enforcement Targets, Inc. I dressed Ted in an old shirt and he was ready for training. 

Final Notes
Many years ago a shooting instructor of mine advised the class to “run what you brung.” He meant that rather than complain about what you wish you had or what you would rather have, get busy and train with what you’ve got. 

When it comes to the M9 pistol, rather than focusing on what might have been or might be in the future, you need to focus on the tool at hand. That tool is the 9mm Beretta pistol. As an instructor it’s my job to help students focus not on “what ifs” but on the here and now. 

Beretta’s M9 can be learned and operated by any sized shooter. Before I sat down to complete the final edit on this piece I witnessed a young lady with small hands and a slight frame outshoot an older man with larger hands. 

It wasn’t their physical size that mattered most, but their mental dedication. The young lady worked hard and dedicated herself to learning how to operate and shoot the M9 pistol. That was the true deciding factor. Until next time, train as you want to fight and fight to win.

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  • A pleasant surprise, it occurs seldom, but the following we can speak of a real bonus value towards person who reads.

  • Neely

    Im getting really tired of the “one .45 round is all it takes” crowd. If you actually do research into incidents involving people being shot with anything between 9, 40 and 45, you’ll find that the difference between the 3 is NEGLIGIBLE. There are way too many variables concerning psyche and body types, shot location etc to label one round of the three as better than the other. Hollywood and hype has convinced us that .45 will “throw down a 300 ib. Man with one hit, bullshit. Pick one of the three, get good with it and keep your mouths closed.

  • Myles

    It doesn’t matter what kind of caliber it is. if you have a person high on PcP or Meth, they are going to take 9 shots to the chest with a .45ACP or 9 shot from a 9mm. All it takes is one bullet to the head. 9mm ammo is cheaper and is just as accurate as a .45ACP.

  • Armando

    DOC49 you are full of shit. You were probably one of those docs that let the weapon fucking rust before some grunt finally cleaned it for you. Doublefeeds and stovepipes galore even when properly maintained? Yeah okay buddy. Spew your agenda somewhere else. The article was excellent and it helped put into the context how the Beretta fits into the military.

  • doc49

    iv used the m9 as a qual weapon and will be expected to carry it overseas as well. in my opinion its a piece i would rather carry a .45 ACP of almost any make as opposed to carrying the m9. durable? ha thatl be the day i love how all these people give it props just because it is in service military wide. like a blind person following a buzzer. the fact of the matter is all mass produced weapons and gear commissioned for the us military are made by the LOWEST BIDDER and honestly in the case of the m9 they got what they paid for. doublefeeds and stovepipes galore even when properly maintained. maybe if theyre fresh out off the line there better idk. its a bad day when anyone gets put into a position where they are down to their m9 in combat and the firefight is still raging.

  • Chris

    I deployed to OIFII with this little gat as my backup weapon. It always proved reliable as long as ammunition was unloaded and reloaded into alternate magazines daily. I once grabbed a full magazine that had been in my buggout bag for a few weeks and attempted to fire it up during an impromptu range only to have it completely fail due to spring compression over time. Lesson learned. The M9 is very reliable and heavy duty sidearm. Rotate your mags and you should have no issues as long as you do proper maintenance. In fact I like this weapon so much I just bought a personal M9. I dislike the plastic recoil spring guide that came with it and have since ordered a hardened steel replacement from Brownelles. As for others complaining about the performance of this weapon down range, I will say you get out of it what you put into it. One commentator mentioned damaged sights. I have trained with this weapon since 1997 and witnessed weapons being dropped, slammed against walls, dug into rocky ground due to airborne ops etc and so fourth. I can’t recall any damaged sights though . . . hmmm

  • Humberto

    In 1995 I was in the Carabinieri Armi in Italy before I moved to Canada, and I remember that when we had our training formation with the 92SF the instructor was explaining important features.
    The first was safety:
    – the gun can be safely carried with loaded chamber and safety off, the firing pin is divided in two and one of them has a slot and a key is preventing the firing pin from hitting the primer in case of accidental impact.
    The key lift and clear the movement only when you are pressing the trigger on the last stage.
    – If you put the safety ON it automatically decock the hammer and turns the firing pin 90 degrees down.
    – when it fires the barel and the slide move back 10mm before the slide start to open, this allow all the gasses and deposit escape from the front (less deposit on the mechanism).
    – In the total dark if you put finger over the ejection port on the right side you can feel if there is a loaded bullet in the chamber, because the extractor is protruding.
    – Easy to clean and strip field. (for challenge purpose in the training it is mandatory to strip the gun and reassembly in no more than 16sec in low light condition)

    Another important feature is the low recoil and high accuracy.

    Today I’m doing IPSC competition in production category and I still use the 92, never a single malfunction and I rarely clean the gun.
    The reason why I did not change it is because I feel confortable and safe with this gun and in the IPSC I learn how to get the best out of it.
    I tried many other guns, like SIG, HK, few1911’s, CZ, Walter, Glock’s, all excellent and accurate but I don’t know them like I know Beretta 92SF.

    About stopping power, any gun can be deadly including a .22 it depends how and where you shoot, 9mm has a good compromise between flat trajectory and power.
    My conclusion is that the Beretta 92SF is a very safe and reliable hand gun and not too expensive, but if you are planning to buy your first hand gun my advise is to join a shooting club and try them all, buy the one you feel good and learn how to shoot safely.

  • Lavrentis

    Do you know anyone any website tha has BERETTA M9 15RD to delivering to Greece????? Pls reply me. thks!

  • X MP

    I have read all your comments and cannot attest to the Baretta for I,ve always wanted this weapon along with a 70 series 45 Colt for I am an ex Military Police from the early 70’s. Although I know nothing about the M9’s capabilities I am a log admirer of MP weapons, and have longed to collect them.I can attest to the 45 as I have trained and qualified with this weapon. I can tell you back in those days the scuddlebutt was you’d want to throw it at them rather than shoot it, because of it’s accuracy.I qualified expert withstill not quite sure I achieved this but believe of it’s power and ability. Where with the M9 from what I’ve read reviews sounds like it has great constant repeatability. I believe it’s not the weapon but the way it feels and above all the way you train with every weapon!

  • Rhino

    my m9 is still running strong today!

  • kevin M

    I seen a 115 lb crack head walk inyo the emergency room after 3 rounds of 45 to the chest and a 300 lb man DOA with 1 9mm so I call bullshit to all this one shot one kill 45 man stopper crap!

  • Kevin

    A handgun is a handgun. Anybody who thinks that a single 45ACP round is an automatic stop is a monkey.

    Joe stated that it takes 4 9mm rounds to stop a man but only 1 45ACP. Somebody needs a nap.

    No matter what the application there are min and max caliber requirements. Bear hunting with a .22 is not so bright, perhaps as stupid as hunting squirrels with an M-16. There is such a thing as overkill.

    All you 45ACP lov’in big men are real tough until someone pulls out their 44 magnum.

    Shoot what works for your intended use. The military of many countries realize that the 9mm is the best platform for their purposes.

    Develop a mindset for survival, get some training and learn how to shoot what you have. If you don’t, any special forces type of guy will stick that 45ACP in a place that will cause you extreme discomfort.

  • Rhino

    I love to hear people talk crap about beretta. 11b if we run out of ammo we are picking up sticks and bricks to fight.. If you are a true warrior then you will master any thing of war as a tool. I love my m9!! and carry it with me no matter what!! I use Winchester pdx1 124+p ammo and Im just as happy with this as I was when I had my sigp220 for personal carry. I think back on my training and Im very confident on my skills with my beretta m9. Beretta has been in the buisness since the 1500 and is what the us military has to fight with and will stay for a long time!!!!! some people talk so much crap about this firearm and have never tried it not even one time and whould rather listen to the circle talk instead of going out and researching this product on there own!! the beretta shoots great and has never failed me.. I will take my m9 to a fight any time along with my skills and my stag arms m4..

  • Raul

    2 to the chest and 1 to the head and that does it.But with a 9mm round of course your gonna have to give them 2 or more rounds but either way it’s a good pistol smart and reliable and tough and that’s all you need.

  • I have both and opt to carry the Beretta M9 because I am able to shoot the weapon with more accuracy than my 45acp. I do prefer the stopping power of the 45acp.

  • HM3 Allen

    I think your all baised tured a small round; cause you think it want waste a sack of shit. But ive been the guy that gets to dig around these bullet holes, and stitch this shit up. Im saying it dont matter if you got an AK,M9, or a god dame Javilen “rpg”. If you hit the target its going down. and ive seen guys take multiple rounds from high power rifles and shot the mother fucker who shot them. So i think ya’ll need to worry about training. Not the size of a bullet. theres allways gona be that asshole that needs a little more lead, thats way you got 16 with an M9.

  • nsatoday

    being with the U.S.Army military police and having deployed twice for my country and having trained with this weapon on more than a few occasions, I have to say: 1) the sights are easily damaged built in and not replaceable 2)it doesn’t deal with sand well (in my personal experience)3) the weapon can produce reliable accuracy when cared for properly by armorers and replaced when worn out (almost never happens!! most of them are have really worn out parts, barrels, sights and so forth) 4)most issues with weapon could be resolved by proper maintenance, the use of dove tail sights and Better ball ammo (blame NATO and the Geneva convention)

  • jason black

    2 army snipers won the world sniper championship with M9’s. Less recoil due to slide cutout which provides more accurate shots.

  • Canukistanman

    It really doesn’t matter if you hit a “bad guy” in a vital organ (e.g., heart, lung, brain, liver) with a 9MM, .40S&W or .45 ACP JHP bullet – they will all do the job of fatally wounding or instantly killing him. I would agree that a .45 ACP round in a non-vital organ or other area of the body would have better stopping power than the other two calibre bullets.

  • Bud

    My issue weqapon is the Glock 23…too small for my hands, but reliable and accurate. I really don’t like it much. I have Colt, Dan Wesson and S&W 1911s..all excellent weapons…but off duty I carry an M9. yes it’s big, and it’s a 9. But I really shoot it well, and with Cor-Bon Powerball ammo I have no worries. The big old beretta ALWAYS works, and shot placement is more important than any other factor. Just my opinion.

  • If your goal is to stop an attacker in his tracks or an enemy who will die to kill you the answer is the 45acp.If you are trying to injure to get to safety then the 9mm in high cap mags can provide suppression till you reach safety.Providing you have superior firepower over the bad guys, thats your gamble.I recomend but am not affiliated in anyway the fn 45acp with 14rd mags.

  • Dominic Chan

    How is it when compared to the new Beretta 90Two?

  • Pezzman

    I own both the M9 9mm (92FS) and kimber .45. The venerable .45 is a man stopping round. Period. The Beretta, on the other hand, though lacking stopping power has never had a feeding/extracting jam, never stovepipes, and has never had a failure to fire. The recoil spring has never “needed” to be replaced, only done so out of my own gun training after every 600 rounds. This weapon has had over 4,500 rounds fired through it. Not a single problem. It has been dropped, scuffed, scraped, dropped in mud and water…it fires. All in all a great firearm, but I do agree with Joe when it comes down to carry or stopping power .45 ACP all the way.

  • JOE