The M9 Beretta: An Overview

In today’s post, we are going to touch upon what may very well become a controversial subject. We are going to provide an overview of the M9 Beretta handgun. This is the standard issue handgun of Soldiers in the United States. If we were to take a poll right now, I believe it would be a 50/50 split on the love and hate relationship with the M9 Beretta. Hopefully, I can be a proper journalist in writing this article and not let my opinions of this firearm become evident, but the odds are, I will.

Over the years, I have owned a vast amount of handguns, and I have opinions of them all. I must admit that my all time favorite was my Dan Wesson 22 revolver that has killed many rabbits. But enough of my favorite handgun opinion, here is an overview of the M9 Beretta.


From 1911 up into the Vietnam war, the standard issue sidearm for Soldiers was the M1911 .45 caliber handgun. Many Soldiers have a love affair with the M1911, and many still use it with permission from their commanders.

For various reasons with the primary one being a typical ammunition, the United States armed forces and the Joint Service Small Arms Program started researching, and testing options for a 9×19 mm handgun to replace the outdated M1911’s. The search began in 1979 with tests being done on handguns supplied by many manufacturers which included:

  • Beretta

  • Colt

  • Browning by Fabrique Nationale

  • Heckler & Koch

  • Smith & Wesson

  • and others

In this process, the Air Force for some reason would be the final judge. When the Air Force chose the Beretta as the winner, the Army appealed the decision. A testing period was given to the Army and all the entrants failed the Army’s rigorous testing procedures. So in a controversial decision, Beretta won.

In 1983, the standard issue sidearm for all Soldiers would be the Beretta M9. It uses the standard NATO 9mm ammo, which is seen as a strong advantage in war situations.

Issues With Beretta

The original Beretta handguns were being manufactured in Italy. The Army ordered a vast amount and for the most part, everything was fine until 1987. Military issued Beretta’s were injuring both civilians and Soldiers. The slides were malfunctioning and would fly apart striking the shooter in the face.

The Army started testing all the handguns and found this was a problem in a large percentage of the handguns. They discovered the metal being used on the slides was not of the quality that kept shooters safe. An ultimatum was given to Beretta; the corporation must have a United States based plant where control of manufacturing could be monitored.

It took some time for the plant to become operational, so manufacturing continued in Italy, and the problem with the slides continued. Beretta did make a design change so fractured slides would not come back and hit the shooter.

Once all production began at the Beretta plant in Maryland, these malfunctions ceased completely.

There has been recent problems reported with the magazines for the M9. These reports have come from Soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. It seems these “after market” magazines are prone to problems from sand and dirt, but when the original Beretta magazines are used, the problems disappear.

Pros And Cons Of The Beretta M9


If you were to ask 10 Soldiers or officers their opinion of the M9 Beretta, I believe you would have 7 say they are, for the most part, happy with it. Many of the negatives are because of the old issue in which the slides malfunctioned. Within military circles, rumors spread quickly, and some hear the stories of that issue and they think it still happens.

One huge issue that has been found is the fact that these handguns are reissued to multiple Soldiers with no maintenance being performed on them. When you get a sidearm that has been used by 4 other Soldiers, it just will not work like the one that came out of the factory. They have used them as hammers, dropped them in sand and mud, and who knows what else they put these handguns through before it is issued to the next Soldier.

I believe everyone should try a brand new M9 straight from the Beretta factory before judging their performance. They have been tested in the utmost extremes including:

  • Low temperature of -40 degrees

  • High temperature of 140 degrees

  • Buried in sand

  • Buried in snow

  • Dropped in water

  • Dropped on concrete

And these handguns keep firing. They are extremely accurate with 10 shot groups being within 3 inches of each other at a distance of 50 yards.

As for stopping power, this is where I will have to give my opinion. I am back to my Dan Wesson 22 caliber, because I believe it had as good, or better stopping power than the M9. The armed forces were set on going to the standard NATO rounds, and here in lies the problem. It isn’t the Beretta, it is the ammo used in my opinion.

What Is The Future Of The M9 Beretta?

The answer that has hit the top media outlets to that question is: Not with the Army. Sources claim that the Army has turned down an offer by Beretta to upgrade the M9. It is common knowledge the Army is on the search for a new sidearm.

There are many who are trying to predict what that new military handgun will be. Some have the impression that Glock is high in the running, but I disagree. Glock is lightweight on safety issues, and the Army stresses safety.

I believe the top 3 contenders are:

  1. The FNX 9mm made by FNH USA. Yes, this is the same company that produces the M16 and other military weapons. Why not allow them the production of our sidearms too?

  2. The P229 Combat 9mm made by Sig Sauer. If I were in charge, this fine work of art would be my choice.

  3. The M&P 9mm made by Smith and Wesson. These are also great handguns, but I believe they may be just slightly too heavy for Army liking.

Final Thoughts

Well there you have it. That is my prediction, what is your prediction? What do you think of the M9 Beretta? Would you keep it in service, or look for a different sidearm?

The M9 has been good, but I believe there are better options now. Whatever the choice, we hope it is the best one for the protection of our Soldiers.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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3 thoughts on “The M9 Beretta: An Overview”

  1. I can remember old M9 Beretta that my Grandpa owns. He got it when he retires from the Army as a gift. It is still framed in our living room, loved it!

  2. For what looks like such a basic and simple weapon, this gun is actually super interesting. I love learning, about anything, so I eat all of this up. Awesome post, as always.

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