Beretta M9A3 Review

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With its 30 service year history, the original Beretta M9 series was standard issue for the US army and the Navy since 1986. 

From that no-frill DOD design that spared budget against reliability, the Beretta M9A3 is a refined version of the M9s combat heritage. 

Starting in 1985, the US military started refreshing its aging armory from the WWII era. They settled on an Italian model, the Beretta 92/M9. 

The M9A3 represents the latest chapter of a global history that spans 45 years. Apart from the US military, the 9mm handgun by the Italian gunsmith has proved to be the best double-action pistol ever produced. Berettas M9 became synonymous with the police and armed forces of more than 50 countries globally.

Why is this Gun Still Valuable?

The company was established in 1526, making it the oldest gunsmith that’s been in continuous operations through the centuries. Beretta is a family-owned corporation and has been passed down more than a dozen generations. The level of pride and tradition ingrained into this gun maker is merely unparalleled globally. 

The M9A3 is the modern version of that quintessential M9, and an iconic handgun featured in countless films. However, a much-improved design was lost to the Sig Sauer P320 during the modular handgun system selection competition by the US army. 

Having parted ways with the US military, the definitive Beretta M9A3 is now available to the public. Being an Italian-designed pistol, this handgun has failed to age well relative to the other modernized classics.  

While being reliably functional, the M9A3 lacks the panache of its predecessors, such as the wooden grips of the 92FS. I was very eager to check out the upgraded M9A3, and especially to compare it with the Beretta 92FS M9. 

Specific Features on the Beretta M9A3 That Piqued My Interest

Let’s examine the new M9A3 and find out why it lost traction with our military, despite the improvements adopted for this century by Beretta. 

What the US military was looking for articulated its desire for a handgun that offered reliability, terminal performance, and accuracy. The modular handgun system stacked up this specification against an improved M9A3, and the plan to replace it went ahead.

Enhanced Durability with the Tilting Block, PVD Coating and Teflon Finish

Beretta has redesigned the tilting block for durability and longer service life. The M9A3s magazine has a PVD coating and holds two more rounds than the original design. 

The handguns barrel and slide have a two-tone Cerakote finish that appeals to combatants using it in desert conditions. This provides the handgun with corrosion resistance, durability, and lubricity while reducing its infrared signature.

All the steel components of the M9A3 have been left in Bruniton black, a Beretta special. This is a Teflon-based finish that provides superior resistance to corrosion. 

Convenience and Compatibility with Common Accessories

The Beretta M9A3 has a chrome-lined chamber and barrel bore, which is extended to 5.1 inches. Its threaded muzzle accepts standard suppressors, while the handgun features knurled thread protection. 

The M9A3s frame has been ionized with an earth color, an upgrade that responds to various militaries’ shifting needs.

Beretta has added a MIL-STD 1913 Picatinny rail with three slots on the handgun’s front dust cover. This improves significantly over the M9A1s single slot, as the original army M9 didn’t have a rail at all.

The handguns trigger guard is much flatter, machined off from the predecessor’s square one. The flat guard makes the M9A3 easy to accommodate the standard raid mounted sight.

A reversible mag release button makes this handgun much appreciated by left-handed shooters. The switch has also been enlarged for easier access and quicker manipulation.

The Beretta M9A3’s Single and Double Action Trigger

The Beretta M9A3 handgun’s double or single-action trigger provides a heavy, long pull for the first shot. If you cock the hammer first, or take a second shot, the trigger is short and crisp.

This is the most effective way to avoid accidental discharges since the best combat-ready position is to keep the hammer down and the safety off.

Carrying a semi-automatic this way is equal to having a loaded revolver. The double-action trigger of the M9A3 will deter any accidents, which is lacking in a striker-fired handgun.

You can change the M9 series trigger pull weight by switching the mainsprings. The military M9 had a heavier mainspring to detonate ammo with hard primers conventional with their munitions efficiently.

Suppression Friendly Beretta M9A3 

No handgun is more suppression friendly, which was one of the military’s requirements than the Beretta M9A3. Its threaded barrel also makes for reliable use, and the centerline axis of the handgun makes sure there’s no movement during a cycle. 

The chamber end of the barrel is dropped to allow cycle slides without hindrance, minimizing muzzle rotations. This setup gives reliability, as there’s no need to hang a suppressor on a barrel that doesn’t rotate. 

As one of the military MHS program requirements, suppression gives a shooter the ability to shoot in an enclosed space. Without a suppressed barrel, the muzzle flash will make your eye pupils constrict in low light situations, diminishing visibility.

Improvements Done on the Original Beretta 92 to the New M9A3

The Vertec range of handguns was first produced in the early 2000s by Beretta. These series feature a straight backstrap and an accessory rail.

After the rear hump was removed, the grip became shorter, and the trigger-reach more comfortable. On the M9A3, the Vertec grip leverages double-action shots and makes subsequent single-action firing easier.

As a G style handgun, the Beretta M9A3 has a de-cocking lever in place of a safety catch. This has reduced the complaint from many shooters regarding the redundancy of having a manual safety on a double-action handgun.

The M9A3 has been machined to accept G-style de-cocking only lever, though it comes with a traditional de-cock cum safety lever. This gives users the ability to swap out the parts and convert the handgun without sending it off to a gunsmith.

The Beretta M9A3 handgun is a large pistol, though it’s not cumbersome or overbearing during manipulations. I prefer guns without manual safeties since these can hinder the reaction time in scenarios of self-defense.

With an overall length of nearly 9 inches, the M9A3 has a 5-inch threaded barrel for its single/double action capacity. The 9×19 mm caliber handgun carries 17 plus one round and comes with three magazines as a standard.

Weighing 33.4 ounces, the Beretta M9A3 is 1.5 inches wide and 5 inches high. Its threaded muzzle provides a point of attachment for compensators, silencers or competition oriented flash hinderers. 

This handgun features a slide release stop that is accessible, not getting in the way because of size. The grip angle feels excellent in my hand, which is straighter than the previous model.

Beretta has added a night sight as standard, which adds immense value to the M9A3 as an out-of-the-box handgun.

What I Particularly Noted on the Beretta M9A3 

A noticeable difference that quickly jumped out at me, except for the aesthetics, was the threaded barrel. While nailing the M9A3s barrel rifling with a clean, textured thread, Beretta added a rail to the assertive pistol.

This well-made handgun also features a rubber O-ring that holds the base of its barrel threads, a red thread protector. Tightening the thread protector puts pressure on the O-ring, which in turn locks the protector in place. 

You can still, however, remove it by hand. 

The All-Inclusive Grip Circumference

A big gripe that I had with the 92s design was the breadth of its grip circumference. For a double-action trigger, most small-handed shooters couldn’t even sustain a sustained hold on the Beretta M9s grip.

The improved M9A3 has a Vertec-style grip that forms its modular backstrap. This has resulted in a better experience for shooters with small hands due to its noticeably thinner grip.

If you are a big hander and liked the old M9s rifle-size grip, Beretta has designed a wrap-around that brings the handle’s size back to the original size.

I would have preferred the 92FSs wood grip to the plastic handle and texturing on the M9A3s rear. This new offering, however, appears more aggressive than the old M9, particularly on its blackstrap.

Safety Lever and De-Cocker Locations 

Similar to its forefathers, the Beretta M9A3 features a combined safety-catch and decocker lever on its slider. I wasn’t as bothered by this feature in comparison to more discerning shooters until I also gave other handguns a go at the range.

Though not a deal-breaker for me, after shooting a few other non-slide-mounted pistols, I ended up marking Beretta’s combination against the M9A3. 

If you don’t see the need for the double action’s manual safety, you can convert your M9A3 to a G-type de-cocker only handgun. 

The M9A3’s Target Sights

There’s a clear upgrade from the M9s low sight to a height that clears the suppressor on the M9A3s threaded barrel.  A night sight, the 3-dot tritium is standard on the new Beretta, while the rear sight is fixed. 

You can dovetail or remove the front sight, while the three-dot is an upgrade over the original. The sights are well worked and durable to get on target. 

Magazines 

The M9A3 has a 17-round magazine, which is an upgrade from the standard M9 by two rounds. A sand resistant PVD coating on the new Beretta handguns magazine is probably designed to withstand the recent military excursion environments.

This has resulted in a better magazine make than its predecessor, so the new M9A3 wins on this one.

Accessories of the M9A3 Beretta Handgun

Other than the handgun itself, the Beretta M9A3 comes with other exciting accompaniments. Top among these is the ammo case made from hard plastic and lined with foam inserts to hold the gun and its magazines.

Alongside the larger Hogue grip overlay, the M9A3 is sold with three 17-round magazines. The gun case contains the standard out of box accessories with Beretta logos. 

This pistol was a long time coming, and despite the US army’s rejection, Beretta’s research might develop from the original 92 design. A total of 51 rounds is the handguns capacity when I am carrying the loaded M9A3 and its two spare cartridges.

Testing the Accuracy of the Beretta M9A3

Beretta M9A3 Compared to the Original 92fs

The Beretta M9A3 is more accurate, noticeably so when compared with the old 92FS. This is mainly because of the trigger upgrade. 

This is smooth, crisp, and with a perceptibly shorter reset for the break. The exceptional trigger, threaded barrel, Picatinny rail, and new magazine are definite improvements over the older series. 

At personal defensive distances, the M9A3 is very capable, but it’s not a competition handgun. I can get a 5 round unsupported group at 10 yards, which is less than a second of bad-guy. 

This handgun is very much an on-duty pistol, and that works pretty well for me.

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Taking the Beretta M9A3 on a Range Day

I took this fantastic pistol out to the range to get a grip on the new features, and here’s what I found out.

I enjoyed shooting the Beretta M9A3, as recoil management was easy. Its size and weight helped considerably while the handgun proved fast on transitions.

Due to its weight and balance, the M9A3 is comfortable and less snappy than the original M9. I derived a considerable amount of confidence from shooting steel at a driven course of fire.

Though its trigger doesn’t have the shortest reset in handguns I’ve shot, the M9A3 is battle-ready. When shooting against the clock, I found myself selecting this pistol over its competitors.

The next time I took the Beretta out was during winter, and I had put the large grips on due to my large hands that autumn. This time around I was shooting with gloves on my hands, and I found the M9A3s large trigger guard helpful.  

I also found the gun not easy to conceal carry due to its monstrosity, and the 5-inch barrel. You may be one of those that will find it comfortable when conceal-carrying but am not.

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