Beretta M9 Review: Old Italian Warhorse

by Travis Pike

June 14, 2022

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The Beretta M9 served the United States military for decades. While the SIG M17/18 might be replacing the old Italian warhorse, it’s still likely to serve for many years to come. Today we are taking the Italian stallion for a run to discuss what made the M9 such an awesome service sidearm. 

Beretta M9 Specs

  • Barrel length 4.9″
  • Caliber 9mm
  • Overall height 5.4″
  • Overall length 8.5″
  • Weight unloaded 33.3oz

Introducing the M9 

In 1985 the United States military went shopping for a new handgun. The Italian firm Beretta threw their hat in the ring with the Beretta 92 series pistol. The 92 won two trials but required some updates to become the M9, with the commercial model being known as the 92FS. The pistol is a semi-automatic, short recoil-operated, DA/SA, 9mm pistol. 

The M9 featured a very interesting design. The open-top slide design had been a staple of Beretta’s pistol since the Beretta 1915, 70 years before the M9 won the military trials. This open slide design presents a massive ejection port to help enhance reliability. This fascinating slide design also reduced weight and helped cut recoil by reducing rearward weight as the slide reciprocates. 

The M9 also embodies the wonder 9 generation. This generation of firearms and 9mm pistols encompassed double stack magazines, DA/SA firing mechanisms, and all-metal frames. These would give way to the polymer frame fantastic, but the Wonder 9s ruled in their heyday. The M9 carried a 15-round magazine, but various capacities have been released over time. 

Beretta built the M9 specifically for the military, and it’s a fairly spartan pistol. It had a dark black Bruniton finish, simple plastic grips, and standard three-dot iron sights. It met the needs of the DoD and ended up serving the Armed Forces exceptionally well. 

I can speak to that service. As a Marine Machine Gunner, I carried an M240 and a Beretta M9 as my issued weapons. I toted the M9 around the world a time or two, and it was a constant companion in my many adventures. 

Beretta M9 Features

1 DA/SA Design
2 Ambidextrous Safety/Decocker 
3 Reversible Magazine Release 
4 Military Lanyard loop 

The Other M9s Models

Beretta M9A3

Modern model with extensive changes

Beretta M9A4

A3 Model with Optics Compatibility

Beretta M9 – Our Take

I shot my M9 a fair bit while I served and even owned one post service. It’s one of my favorite pistols. Some of that is nostalgia and my memories of my time in the Marine Corps, but the other part is that it’s a damn fine pistol. Admittedly it’s often not a cheap pistol, and it’s also a dated gun. In a world where weapon-mounted lights and optics rule, the M9 feels a lot like 1985 rolled up into a handgun. 

The standard M9 lacks a rail, and you certainly won’t easily toss an optic on it. The M9’s capacity is even a bit low by current standards, but aftermarket magazines have shoved an extra two rounds into flush-fitting magazines. Compared to modern polymer firearms, the M9 feels dated, and as such, the high price might make it a tough sell in the face of more affordable, more modern pistols. 

Part of the weapon’s age is also its ergonomics. The M9 does feature a massive grip that’s a wide bottom gal. You won’t mistake it for a compact pistol. It’s huge and doesn’t fit a lot of hands well. On top of that, the double-action trigger presents a pretty long reach to the trigger. That makes the gun a tricky one for those with smaller hands. 

It’s a heavy beast too, at 33.3 ounces unloaded. You won’t want to carry it IWB by any means. The slide-mounted safety and decocker require some practice to use efficiently, and it’s not as intuitive as the P226 decocker or the M1911 safety. 

The slide lock and release are absolutely awesome and are very easy to manipulate and use. Popping a magazine outtakes no effort, and the button is huge and easy to press. However, the wide grip might make it tough to engage.  

Slinging Lead 

I love shooting the M9. Some of the gun’s ergonomic problems make it a solid shooter. Between the weight and thick grip, the recoil is fairly minimal and fairly comfortable. The little 9mm doesn’t offer much resistance to shooters in this gun. You can control this weapon with minimum difficulty, and shooting fast and straight doesn’t provide a lot of issues. 

Shooting straight isn’t tough to do. The double-action trigger is fairly heavy, and the trigger pull is long, but it’s smooth. Double action triggers take some practice to master, and the M9 is no exception. The single-action is remarkably smooth with a short trigger pull and a short reset. Landing shots inside a two-inch circle for dot torture isn’t difficult. 

Scoring headshots and accurate double taps at 25 yards feel simple. One of the Marine Corp’s favorite drills is the failure to stop and box drill, and you can do both quickly and accurately with the M9. 

The front sight is fixed to the slide and non-adjustable and non-replaceable. You get what you get, and if you don’t like it, then tough. However, the standard 3-dot iron sights do a great job of getting you on target anyway. 

Just Chugging Along 

If there is one gun in which I can speak to its reliability, it’s the M9. My issued model was ancient, beat up, and still went bang every time I pulled the trigger. It went to Spain, Italy, Africa, Romania, and more, and it went on numerous training ops, and from ship to shore, and in every situation in which it was tested, it never failed. 

The M9 delivers a high level of reliability and doesn’t fall apart when things get rough. After more than 25 years of service, the weapon certainly proved itself. 

Beretta M9 Pros and Cons

  • Reliable
  • Easy to Shoot 
  • Great DA/SA Action 
  • Accurate 
  • So So Ergonomics 
  • Outdated 

Report Card

Shootability

The Beretta M9 handles like a dream. Recoil is very minimal, and the weapon doesn’t buck much and has zero snap to it. 

A
Reliability

The Beretta M9 and 92 series are rock solid shooters. They are incredibly well made and can soak up thousands of rounds without complaint. 

A+
Ergonomics

For my big hands, it’s not a problem, but it’s not for everyone. The gun’s thick and heavy, and some of the controls are awkwardly placed. 

C
Accuracy

There is a reason the armed services can take someone who has never fired a gun and have them qual with an M9. It’s quite accurate in both double and single-action modes. 

A
Value

The M9’s MSRP of $649 is a tough sell in a world of cheaper, more modern polymer frame pistols. The M9 these days is for collectors and nostalgic old Marines like me. The M9A1, A3, and A4 might be a better choice for a modern handgun. 

C

Our Grade

B+

Reviewed by Travis Pike

Reader’s Grade

B

Based on 1 Reviews

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Beretta M9 Ammo

Range Rounds

MagTech-9mm-Ammo

MagTech 9mm 115 GR FMJ Ammo

Marketplace
Cost Per Round
Natchez Shooter’s Supply $0.24
Brownells $0.23
Palmetto State Armory $0.34

Best Defense Rounds

Box of Hornady 9mm pistol ammunition

Hornady Critical Defense 115 GR

Marketplace
Cost Per Round
Cabela’s $1.24
Midway USA $1.24

Beretta M9 Starter Pack

So, you’re planning on picking up a Beretta M9? If so, you’re going to need more than just the gun to make it safely go bang. You’re going to need proper protections, extra mags, and something to clean it with at the end of a long day at the range. Here are our recommendations:

  • Gun Cleaning Kit: Otis All Caliber Elite Range Box on Amazon or build your own personalized cleaning kit with premium components.
  • Shooting Glasses: All it takes is one piece of rogue hot brass, and you’ll learn the importance of shooting glasses. But not all glasses are built the same. See our recommendations for the Best Shooting Glasses.
  • Hearing Protection: Firing a gun without wearing proper ear pro can be very dangerous and detrimental to your hearing. Find out the best hearing protection for you in our full length review.
  • Storage: Check our our article on the Best Biometric Gun Safes
  • Targets – If you’re wanting a great resource for shooting practice or zeroing your optics on your optics rifle or pistol, download our FREE Sighting in Targets below.

Beretta M9 Upgrades and Accessories

If you’re going to pick up the Beretta M9 or another pistol that suits you more, you may also want a few accessories to complement your purchase. Here’s our picks for some extras;

Beretta M9 Accessories

Streamlight TLR-7 Weapon Light
  • White LED produces 500 lumens
  • IPX7 Waterproof
  • Low Profile
Check Amazon
Pineworld Biometric Gun Safe
  • Reliable Biometric Scanner
  • Sturdy and Well Built
  • Cheaper Than Most Biometrics
Check Amazon
Decibullz Custom Molded Earplugs
  • Great In-Ear option
  • Custom molded – super easy and comfortable
  • NRR: 31
Check Amazon
Beretta M9A1 9mm Magazine
  • Fits Beretta 92FS, M9A1
  • Chambered in 9mm
  • 15-Round Capacity
Check Price

Beretta M9 Review Video

Below is a great video we’ve found for you showing the process to field strip your Beretta M9 ready for cleaning. Check it out below.

Looking for more info on the Beretta M9? Or did you lose your manual? Don’t worry we’ve got you covered. Check out our links below:

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About Travis Pike

Travis is a former United States Marine Corps Infantryman and currently a firearms writer, instructor, and works in Emergency Management.

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