20 Years With The M9 Beretta

    With the upcoming planned replacement of the M9 handgun with the as-yet-undetermined XM17 MHS, Rifleshooter reminisces about his 20 years serving with the military Beretta, a story that takes the reader through everything from the bad rap the pistol has gotten for reliability, through its advanced age and obsolescence:

    Security forces and military police were provided additional training.  Individual units would also provide additional training opportunities.  For instance, at one point we were scheduled to deploy with 15 MEU(SOC) and we received a comprehensive package of tactical pistol shooting.  It was similar to what you’d consider best practice for a fighting handgun today.

    During the entire time I was in the service, I don’t recall seeing an M9 malfunction.  I did see one bend in a 6″ radius when a tank mechanic had his pistol get sucked into and over the winch on an M88 tank retriever (sorry, no pics, pre-digital camera days- but it looked awesome).  Nothing else noteworthy, they just shot.

    Until 1998, the biggest concern the Marines I knew had with the M9 was someone pushing the muzzle back and taking the gun out of battery so it wouldn’t fire.  It happened in a movie so the older guys would tell lots of stories to the boots.  Occasionally some burnt out Lance Corporal would chamber a round, press the pistol against his hand and pull the trigger to demonstrate the flaw.  Incredibly stupid- but Marines aren’t known for being the most reflective bunch.  The floor of one of our company’s barracks rooms had an odd colored tile where a Marine had done this, but the M9 fired, landing him in the hospital.  When he recovered he received nonjudicial punishment.  This all changed in 1998 when Lethal Weapon 4 came out and Jet Li showed the world you could easily disassemble an M9 in a gun fight (see video below), that became the biggest concern amongst the guys(that’s how the desert works, when you have nothing to do, this is the stuff you think about)

    The civilian Beretta 92FS on the market at the time looked nearly identical to the M9s we were issued.  The problem was our guns had a two dot sight system (only one white dot in the rear) and different markings.  In the late 90s, Beretta started releasing civilian M9s with the correct sights and markings, I immediately bought one.

    m9 left side redacted

    My personally owned Beretta was a thing of beauty.  Unlike my work gun, it was pretty and refined. Magazines were everywhere and reasonably priced.  Recoil was minimal.  While the double action trigger was heavy, it was something I had become accustomed too.  The only time the M9 didn’t seem great was when you held it next to a Glock 19, it just looked big for what it was.

    That’s the thing about the M9.  They shoot great, feel great when you rack them, they are reliable and have a wonderful single action trigger.  They are just really big for what they are.

    The M9 is certainly a fine handgun, but its 30 years of service are now showing. Against more modern handguns that are smaller, lighter, and easier to shoot, the Beretta can come across as a bit of a dinosaur, but though it’s creeping into obsolescence, it’s still an effective, reliable weapon.

    Nathaniel F

    Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. He can be reached via email at [email protected]