Beretta’s M9 is a semi-automatic pistol that was adopted by the US military in 1985. This 9 x 19mm Parabellum pistol is formally known as Pistol, Semiautomatic, 9mm, M9. The adoption of this weapon came after a 1980s competition when the United States military began seeking a primary handgun replacement for their current M1911 A1.
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History of the Beretta M9
During the 1970s, the US military had decided to sync the weapons of each of its five branches. At that time, the Joint Services Small Arms Planning Commission was started. The commission began testing a number of guns searching for an appropriate weapon to replace the M1911. Due to NATO standardization, a 9mm round was chosen. The weapons being considered were put through a number of different stress tests, which included immersion in sea water, being buried in mud and exposure to extremely cold temperatures (-40 degrees Fahrenheit). The Berretta defeated a number of contenders, including the SIG Sauer P226, which the M9 narrowly defeated due to its overall lower cost.
Results were, however, questioned by the US Army, and trials were once again started in 1984, at which time, several of the companies from the first competition – including Beretta – submitted updated entries. Beretta once again came out on top.
Congruent to the testing, in 1979 Bianchi International Holster Company started to develop a multi-functional military holster. The holster – known as the M12 – was designed in preparation for the weapon being selected. It was adopted in 1985 at the same time as Beretta’s 92F. This holster has since served for decades in the US Armed Forces.
Technology and Design Improvements
A major feature of Beretta’s 92F was its ability to survive extreme temperatures – from as low as -40 to as high as +140 degrees Fahrenheit. It could also withstand immersion in salt water, could be repeatedly dropped (even on a concrete surface) and survive burial in mud, sand and/or snow. The Beretta proved to be capable of 35,000 rounds or more before failure.
This short recoil pistol has a reversible magazine release switch which allows the weapon to be positioned for either a right or a left handed shooter. It is single-action and double-action and has a 15-round staggered box magazine.
In 2006, a newer variant, M9A1 was produced. This newer design allows the attachment of various accessories such as lights and lasers. The M9A1 has features that make reloading easier. This variant also is sold with a PVD – or physical vapor deposition – coating on the magazines in order to withstand the sandy conditions troops face in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
Below is a list of specific modifications created from the Beretta 92:
1) All parts are 100% interchangeable. This simplifies the maintenance for the larger government organizations.
2) The front part of the trigger guard is modified to provide easier aiming by use of a finger support.
3) Aiming is also aided by the re-curved, forward-base of the grip.
4) The barrel bore is made of hard chrome, which protects the weapon from corrosion and also reduces wear.
5) Plan blued finish upgraded to Bruniton – a newer surface coating which purportedly provides more resistance from corrosion.
The Beretta M9 also includes a number of internal safety features in its design which includes a firing pin block and a firing pin strike. The M9 also features an external safety lever that permits either a left handed or a right handed person to connect with the safety mechanism.
The M9 and M9A1 are not without their downsides. Soldiers were leery of this pistols stopping power. The US military also did not purchase the magazines for this pistol from Beretta due to the high cost. Another negative feature was the heavy phosphate finish on the weapon which caused weapon failure in Iraq due to the unusual environmental conditions. Eventually, the original Government specifications were corrected and the magazine finish was changed. Since the new magazines were distributed, no further malfunctions have been reported. Despite these problems, the M9 and M9A1 remains the primary sidearm issued to American soldiers.
Specifications for the Beretta M9
- Originated: Italy and United States
- Service History: 1990 thru present day
- Operation Just Cause
- Gulf War
- Afghanistan War
- Iraq War
- Manufacturer: Fabbrica d’Armi Pietro Beretta
- 33.6 oz empty
- 41.0 oz loaded
- Length: 8.5 inches
- Barrel Length: 4.9 inches
- Cartridge: 9 x 19mm Parabellum
- Action: Short Recoil
- Muzzle Velocity of the M9: 1,250 feet per second
- Effective Range of the M9: Approximately 164 feet
- Feed System: 15 round detachable box magazine
The M9 remains active throughout the US military, though some branches are utilizing them more so than others. The US Army and US Air Force also have a General Officer’s Model, which is a special M9 which began being issued to General Officers in 1986. The serial numbers for this model of the Beretta M9 – Semi-automatic Pistol start with ‘G’ and comes with a gold metal belt buckle for Army generals and a silver metal belt buckle for Air Force generals.