Old Italian police-issue Beretta 92F’s have been appearing on the market of late. Dating back to the late 1970’s and lacking the typical Italian hallmarks (which weren’t required when the gun is sold for law enforcement or military purposes), these guns can now be found in the $250 range. It’s worth noting that the magazine release on these is at the heel of the grip (instead of near the trigger guard) and they do have the dreaded import marks on them, making them somewhat less interesting to fussy collectors. But at just a few Washingtons more than a High Point, they are worth exploring.
I picked up one such pistol from Robertson Trading Post and was delighted to receive a gun in much better condition than many of the usual duty guns found at gun shows. There was some holster wear and the lanyard loop on the bottom of the grip was dented a bit, but I’m not sure that this gun has actually seen all that many rounds down the pipe. All in all, having a classic, all-metal niner for about $250 isn’t a bad deal at all. But is it worth it?
I have a checkered history with Beretta 92’s. I brought my first 92FS to a critical handgun class I did with Steve “Yeti” Fisher some years back. My backup rig was a bone-stock, full-sized Smith & Wesson M&P, and I ended up running the M&P when I discovered that it was superior to the 92 in just about every regard. I quickly lost interest in the 92FS and sold it some months later, and never really thought about the 92’s until I started to see these old police guns popping up for so cheap.
I have also, of late, found myself curious about the connection between Beretta and the Egyption Maadi factory that produced the Helwan (a Beretta M1951 clone). The 92 is a lineal descendant of the M1951, and the 92’s importance on the world’s military stages can hardly be overstated. Another blog post for another time, but it does explain the rekindled interest in old Berettas. That, and my recent acquisition of the late R. L. Wilson’s The World of Beretta, which is equal parts gun porn and a monument to Wilson’s massive (and felonious) ego.
Back to the 92F. Unlike the original 92 (which can still be found, sans import marks, for around $600), this 92F has the decocking lever on the driver’s side of the slide. I’m ambivalent about its presence (I prefer training to manual safeties), but I understand why some agencies would want it. And as mentioned before, the magazine release is near the bottom of the grip, and only on the driver’s side (good for righties, bad for lefties). I’m used to releasing magazines with the thumb of my grip hand; with this 92F, it’s much easier to release the magazine by squeezing with my off hand thumb and forefinger, which also puts that hand into place to grab the old magazine. This isn’t going to be ideal for competitive or tactical reloads, but that’s probably not why you’re thinking about a $250 Beretta.
With a quick pull of a bore snake and a very light oiling of the usual critical contact surfaces, I brought this gun au naturale to the range with some American Eagle FMJ 9mm ball ammo. To my absolute delight, the 40 year old springs still did their job and the gun cycled a hundred rounds perfectly, albeit with the peculiar habit of throwing the spent shells straight back and over my head. The crisp trigger break in single action mode was undoubtedly due to the polishing and close fitting of the sear and hammer that comes from regular use; whoever owned this gun took care of it. I measured 5 pounds, 11 ounces of pull in single action and 10 pounds, 7 ounces in double action, which seems about right for a stock duty gun.
The 92F’s low sights keep the eye very close to the bore axis, and I found this configuration a lot more comfortable than I remembered. Accuracy was not disappointing in both single and double action, and I was surprised at how quickly my trigger finger adjusted.
By the way, Present Arms’ Sentinel Plate Base and MP-2A Magazine Post is something that no armorer should be without. The little well in the base is the perfect repository for the myriad of little pins and springs that comprise the Beretta.