Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Beretta Love Affair

I was downstairs in "the bunker" this morning.  I was cleaning my Beretta M9A1 pistol.  It'd been just a few days since my last shooting trip with some friends down in Portland, OR.  Normally, I clean my guns the same night or the next day, but today was my first full day back from being out of town all week.  I'm also going shooting tomorrow, so I'm not entirely sure why it was necessary to scrub my gun down to perfection, just to blow another 200 rounds through it the next day.  I suppose it is because we are shooting with some friends who've never been out with my wife and me before, and I didn't want to appear as though I'm a complete slob with my pistols.

I really love this gun.  No, I haven't anthropomorphized it by giving it a name or calling it "she" or "her" or any of that stuff.  I don't normally name my guns.  The only one that might have a name would be my AR 15, and I only call that "The Bitch."  Normally, I just call it by its brand name or model.  Whenever I need my wife to get it for me, I normally say, "The black one."  She knows what that means.  Wow, what a digression!  I wanted to put to words the circumstances that led up to my current love affair with the 92 series of Beretta pistols.  It wasn't an accident.  It was the culmination of a ton of research, trial & error, and making sure it was right for me.  So, before that, I need to start with the history.

I grew up shooting revolvers.  I didn't shoot them all the time.  Dad taught his kids to shoot revolvers, but spent more time focused on rifles and shotguns.  To his credit, that made me a pretty good shot.  He taught me to shoot rifles since I was 5 years old.  We never could afford fancy optics, so we settled for irons.  I'm far more comfortable behind a good set of iron sights than a scope any day.  I'm no sniper, but I'd like to consider myself a pretty fair shot at medium distances.  Suffice it to say, I spent most of my childhood shooting .22 rimfire carbines and a fair amount of time shooting handguns.  Where I grew up, everyone seemed to have a rifle, so it wasn't a big thing.  Everyone also seemed to have a good sturdy revolver in the glove box of their pickup truck.  Dad was a cop, and his duty pistol for years was a good ole Smith and Wesson 357 Magnum revolver.  It was only in his last couple of years that his department made the switch from wheel guns to semi-auto pistols.  Even then, I never got the chance to handle a semi-auto until my late teens.

For my 18th birthday, I bought my very own first shotgun, a Winchester 1300 Defender.  It was on sale at the local Gart Sports, which is now under the name Sports Authority.  I already owned a SKS-D that my dad purchased for me on my 16th birthday.  I furthered my experience and kept my skills sharp.  Before I turned 21, some of my older friends had already purchased pistols, and I jumped at every opportunity I had to shoot them.

The first experience I had with high dollar pistols were Kimber 1911 style guns.  A good friend of mine, who remains my buddy to this day, had two Kimbers: a standard sized one and a compact version for carry.  Among those, he also had a couple of Ruger revolvers that I could relate to (Dad had a Security Six when I was a kid).  I was at home with the revolvers, despite the fact that it had been some time since I had shot them.  I guess the old saying that goes, "You don't rise to the occasion, you fall to your level of training" is true.  All those years shooting revolvers as a kid kept my competence high.  Sure, I was somewhat rusty, but after knocking the dust off, I was back in the saddle again.  At this time, I was in the market for a concealed carry pistol.  My 21st birthday was just under a year away, and I'd been stashing money under my mattress for the inevitable purchase of my first handgun.  I was still on the fence about whether or not to buy a revolver.  I knew them, I was comfortable with them, but I was also intrigued by semi-autos.  My optimism for semi-autos was tempered, however, with my experience with those two Kimber 1911 pistols.  What miserable guns they were!  They always jammed.  I don't think I ever got through an entire magazine without some sort of failure.  It wasn't for lack of trying either.  When you shoot 357 magnum revolvers your whole life, you learn not to limp wrist pistols, lest you suffer a nice imprint of the hammer on your fore head.  All the hype my buddy built up led to a complete letdown.  I was extremely disappointed.  How could I ever bet my life on a semi-automatic pistol if it wasn't going to be reliable?  The funny thing is, I started calling semi-auto pistols "bottom feeders" before I realized that a lot of old school revolver guys called them that.  I guess that revolver mentality is shared among enthusiasts.

I kept an open mind, however, and whenever I could, I would rent different makes and types of pistols at the local gun range.  Among the guns I tried, Glocks, Springfield 1911's, Berettas, Sigs, S&W's, and Ruger semi-autos stand out in my mind.  I'm sure I tried others.  Gosh, I seems I probably rented the entire selection at the range, which was considerable at the time.  I shot everything from 9mm, 45 ACP, 40 S&W, and even 357 Sig.  I figured one of these cartridges was going to be my player for concealed carry, should I decide to carry a semi-auto pistol.  With as many guns as I rented, and as much as I paid to do it, I could have bought a pistol.  The trouble is that there would have been a chance that I would not have been satisfied with what I got without all the research and data I collected on each type.

I never could be happy with a Glock.  I know, I know.  They are reliable.  Their reliability is legendary.  But they just aren't for me.  I didn't like the blocky grip, the gun didn't point naturally for me, and I thought, and still think to this day, that they were ugly as sin.  Plus, I wasn't sold on the whole polymer thing.  I'm still not completely sold even though my concealed carry pistol of choice has a polymer frame.  Go figure, right.

I determined that I wanted a 9mm.  I warmed up to the cartridge fast.  No, it's not the biggest on the block, nor does it boast crazy ballistic numbers like some others, but for my shooting, I wanted something that was fast, accurate, allowed for fast and accurate followup shots, and would allow me to practice without breaking the bank.  9mm took it hands down.  I don't care for 40 S&W at all.  I just don't think that the much higher pressures are worth the somewhat higher gains over the 9mm.  As a note: nowadays, I feel compelled to explain that if I'm going to carry a caliber of .40 or above, I'm just going to get a 45 and call it a day.  Getting back on track, I turned down the 45 because of the limited ammo capacity of most guns back then.  Nowadays, that's becoming less of an issue, but remember that I turned 21 back in  late 2001.  My buddies would give me a lot of grief over my choice for 9mm, but these days, it's a moot point.  The 9mm produced these days isn't the same stuff we were shooting ten years ago.  Advances over the last decade has done a lot to bring the 9mm back to the fore front as a viable self defense option.

When it came down to it, my final decision would be between Beretta and Sig.  I think Sigs are just awesome.  I still want to get one some day, and maybe I will in the next year or so.  But back then, I had to give the nod to the Beretta 92 FS.  As much as I liked the Sig, I liked the Beretta 92 better.  I liked that it was longer, had an open barrel, the grips were fatter and boasted a slightly longer barrel than the Sig P226.  I also thought the 92 lines were more artistic and beautiful than the Sig.  What it really came down to, in the end, was how the Beretta performed.  In my research, I had both guns side by side with 200 rounds apiece (an expensive day at the range in any decade).  I dumped a bucket of ammo downrange that afternoon, and when it was all said and done, my groupings with the Beretta were somewhat tighter, and the Sig experienced a couple of failures.  The Beretta ran flawlessly.  When it came down to it, pointability, shootability, and reliability won the day for the Beretta.

After receiving my concealed pistol license, I drove right down to the same shop that had the indoor range and asked to look at two guns: a Beretta 92 FS and an stainless steel version.  The stainless version was $50 more than the normal blued version, and both were American made versions.  As a note, I still don't see the big deal of having an Italian made one over a gun made in Accokeek, MD.  It doesn't matter though.  My father owns a Pietro version made in Italy, and I'm listed as the beneficiary in the will.  Back on track, James!  I wanted to be different, so I bought the stainless steel Beretta.  After a quick background check, 4473 form, and WA State application for transfer forms in triplicate, I walked out of the store an owner of a brand new Beretta 92 FS pistol.

A concealed pistol license (CPL) is worthless unless you use it.  My good friend turned me on to Bladetech, and the holster I went with was a Bladetech IWB that I still own to this day.  I also bought a dual magazine pouch for it, made of the same kydex material as the holster.  I carried the 92 for a few years until my CPL lapsed.  In that time, I spent many a day at the range or out of the woods honing my skills with this pistol.  At some point, I decided to torture test the gun, and spent a year shooting 5,000 rounds through it without cleaning.  The only treatment it saw was a wipe down on the outside before sticking it back in my holster.  That year, my faith in the Beretta 92 FS became immovable.  It never jammed.  It fired every round I put through it without a single failure.  I shot various ammo varieties and brands, different powders, hollowpoints, FMJ, flat nose, solid lead with no copper jacket, +P... you name it, the gun shot it.  The gun survived many many mag dumps, tons of double tap shooting, controlled aim fire, bench rest shooting, triple taps, and so on.  It didn't care what it was doing.  It did just what it did.  It shot well.  After a year and 5,000 rounds, I field stripped it, removed the grips, blasted it with gun scrubber, cleaned it up, and reassembled it for use again.  Aside from normal wear, and some permanent discoloration of the front and back of the grips, not to mention some character from holster use, it looked fantastic!

I stopped carrying for a couple of years because the place I worked and the college I attended had a dim view on guns.  I was also a newlywed and was trying to warm my wife up to the notion of shooting guns for herself.  Suffice it to say that strapping myself in everyday would have been a serious culture shock for her, as she had never even seen a gun before she met me.

A few years later, I reapplied for, and got my CPL again, and started buying some more pistols.  With a few more years of experience and some revolutionary gun designs hitting the market, I wanted to try some other stuff.  The world of compact pistols has really taken off in the last 5 years, and it has been exciting to see.  I started carrying a Ruger SP-101 revolver around because for some reason, I wanted to take a step back in time.  If you've read this blog, you know my mentality on carry issues, so I don't need to expound on it here.

All this time, I was still left wanting another Beretta 92 FS.  The problem was that I wanted a "Hell and back" pistol.  Aside from the Vertec, which is rare, and the butt-fugly Beretta 90-Two, I didn't see any that offered a rail in which to mount a light.  I wanted to wait awhile longer because with every maker putting a rail on their handguns, I just knew Beretta would step up.  Boy am I glad I waited!

I remember when the Beretta 92A1 was announced.  I was checking out The Firearm Blog when I saw it.  I could not believe my eyes.  Beretta finally did it!  I was staring right at the new Beretta 92A1 pistol!  I liked everything about it except the rounded trigger guard.  To me, a 92 is just not a 92 without a square trigger guard.  Call me a traditionalist.  As soon as I found out that Beretta was also producing a M9A1 variant, I made every effort to get it in short order.  I had to make one concession to get the M9A1, however, and that was the non-removable, non-adjustable front sight.  The 92A1 has a removable front sight.  Well, I guess it wasn't much of a concession since I'm used to the sights on the Beretta 92 FS.  I don't consider it a sacrifice.  The squared off trigger guard was worth it in my opinion.  It lends itself to the more traditional lines of the Beretta M9 and 92 FS than the new rounded trigger guard does.  I know why Beretta did it; I'm just glad they left me with options.

With my more recent experiences with thinner grips on the Ruger SR9, I felt that instead of trying to thin out the fat grips on the Beretta, I wanted to go larger.  I dropped some money on Beretta licensed Hogue grips from MidwestGunWorks and never looked back.  After years of shooting the Beretta 92 FS with factory rubber grips, I instantly fell in love with the bigger wrap-around grips.  They made my shooting a lot better and the gun more comfortable.  After dumping a thousand rounds downrange with them, I bought a set of grips for my dad's Beretta 92 FS.

Over the course of my life, I will definitely own many different makes and models of pistols.  I may even buy a Glock one day, although I don't foresee it anytime soon.  No matter what brands, calibers, finishes, types, I will always have a soft spot in my heart for the Beretta 92 series of handguns.  It just fits me best.



-James

5 comments:

  1. Dude this article kicks ass. I had a US made Beretta 92fs for about 6 months, but unfortunately it was stolen. I plan to get a 92a1 soon and set it up just like you have your m9a1, I personally don't like the rounded trigger guard either, but I consider night sights a must. Thanks

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  2. If you don't like the rounded trigger guard, but still want night sights, you might consider sending it to ToolTech Gunsight. They can drill your front sight and install the rear so you have a 3-dot night sight system. This is how I'm going to do it - No compromises.

    http://www.tooltechgunsight.com/index.html

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  3. The best looking version made was the 90-two, its got it all, wrap around grip, recoil buffer, rail and sleek lines.

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  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  5. James, I've been searching for a while for that grip for my M9A1,
    where can I get it? I've seen some kind of similar by Hogue but it does not have the Beretta logo on it. Thank you in advanced.
    Daniel

    ReplyDelete