The Beretta Model 92: why is it an inefficient defensive handgun?

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Someone sent me a kind email the other day asking about something I’d mentioned on The Gun Nation podcast last week: why did I single out the Beretta 92 (his gun) as being ‘inefficient’, and what do I mean by an ‘efficient’ gun? It wasn’t because I dislike the Beretta specifically; there are a lot of similar guns out there which are inefficient too. The Beretta was just the first one that popped into my mind!

What makes an efficient handgun? It’s one which requires the least amount of handling to employ, the least amount of training time to become proficient, and imposes as little on the shooter as possible. Some guns are worse at this than others!

When you need to use your handgun, it should ideally come out of the holster in a ready-to-fire condition without you needing to do anything extra before pulling the trigger. An external thumb operated safety, for instance, is one more thing that you need to do (or can forget to do) before you can put rounds on target. The further the safety is from the fingers of your primary hand when it’s in a firing grip, the less efficient it is.

In the case of the Beretta mentioned the safety is way up on the slide, which is difficult (and functionally impossible for most people) to reach from a firing grip. Beretta isn’t alone in that placement, however; the older S&W autos have the same arrangement, as do some of the guns from Magnum Research/IWI (amongst others.)

Of course the shooter has to remember to decock the gun before holstering, just as a single action shooter using something like a 1911 must remember to apply the safety. The problem is the decocker on the Beretta serves two functions: to lower the hammer, and to keep the trigger from operating (a safety.) If the gun is decocked and the lever left in the decock position, it has to be moved before the trigger will work again. As I mentioned above, it’s difficult to do from a firing grip.

Some Beretta shooters, like some owners of the older S&W autos, choose to carry the Model 92 in the “off safe” position; after decocking, the lever is moved back to the firing position before reholstering. This adds yet another manipulation that the shooter has to remember to do! If he/she forgets (or the lever is inadvertently moved before the gun is brought on target), the shooter often pulls at a non-functioning trigger several times before figuring out that the safety is on. That process of figuring out what’s wrong and fixing it takes precious time!

(There was once a variant of the Model 92 where the decocker didn’t have a safe position, operating only to drop the hammer; it is not common and is no longer made.)

Aside from control inefficiency, the double action/single action (DA/SA) trigger system is in itself inefficient. It forces the shooter to spend valuable training time learning to transition from the long, heavy DA trigger to the shorter, lighter SA between the first two shots. Even then, without constant practice the shooter will usually pull his/her initial shots low, which often results in a round that impacts outside of the area of precision the target has dictated. Missed shots are the ultimate inefficiency, and those using DA/SA guns such as the Beretta have more of them. (Of course there are a lot of guns using this system; aside from Beretta, SIG/Sauer, CZ, some Walthers, and some HK pistols are of the DA/SA variety. They’re all inefficient as well.)

More specifically to the Beretta, their control arrangement often forces the shooter into a compromised grasp that results in lessened recoil control. A good thumbs-forward grip is difficult to do on the Model 92 without either a) actuating the slide lock lever and locking the slide open on a full magazine, or b) keeping it from being actuated when the magazine is empty. Both result in needless manipulation and time wasted.

Finally, the Model 92 is a huge gun that in my experience fits only a small percentage of hands well. This seems to be a Beretta trait; even the “compact” Beretta Cougar has a very long trigger reach and are difficult for anyone of average or smaller glove size to use well.

All DA/SA guns by their nature are inefficient, so Beretta is hardly alone in that regard. The Model 92, however, adds several design elements that make them among the least efficient personal defense guns one could choose.

What guns are efficient, and what does handgun efficiency mean in the context of defensive shooting? Check back on Monday!

-=[ Grant ]=-


About the Author:

Grant Cunningham is a renowned author and teacher in the fields of self defense, defensive shooting education and personal safety. He’s written several popular books on handguns and defensive shooting, including "The Book of the Revolver", "Shooter’s Guide To Handguns", "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals", "Defensive Pistol Fundamentals", and "Practice Strategies for Defensive Shooting" (Fall 2015.) Grant has also written articles on shooting, self defense, training and teaching for many magazines and shooting websites, including Concealed Carry Magazine, Gun Digest Magazine, the Association of Defensive Shooting Instructors ADSI) and the popular Personal Defense Network training website. He’s produced a DVD in the National Rifle Association’s Personal Firearm Defense series titled "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals" and teaches defensive shooting and personal safety courses all over the United States.
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