Concealed Carry

Throwback Thursday: Beretta 92 Compact Pistol Review

Beretta 92 Compact Inox

Beretta has been making firearms for about 500 years, with a founding date of 1526. It has remained at the top of the heap in quality and respect. Beretta has provided high-quality firearms to the world’s armies and citizens in an unbroken line. Napoleon went to war with Beretta muskets among others, and the Beretta-made Garands are of excellent quality.

The Beretta Model 92 has seen extensive military service. The pistol — in military parlance the M9 — has proven reliable, accurate and easy to use well. Research indicates that there are fewer accidental discharges with the Beretta 92 than practically any other service pistol. While true safety is between the ears, a combination of a positive manual safety, a double-action first-shot trigger, a loaded-chamber indicator and a positive firing-pin block are good features.

The Beretta also seems to be among the least likely of any 9mm handgun to tie up or malfunction. The Beretta isn’t a small pistol, but it is light enough and features a good reserve of ammunition. There are special models, including stainless-steel versions and the Inox line.

Beretta 92 Compact Design

When it comes to personal defense, serious handgunners attempt to retain the power, accuracy, and reliability of the service pistol, while deploying a shorter and lighter version. The Commander size .45, Glock 19 9mm, and SIG P229 are examples. The Beretta 92 Compact isn’t seen as often, but it is a nice handling pistol with excellent performance.

The Beretta 92 Compact isn’t rare, but it is gives the owner real pride of ownership. The pistol illustrated was delivered in a hard plastic case with a cleaning rod, gun lock, and spare magazine, and the pistol is finished in a durable bluing that is flawless in execution. The pistol is serviceable as issued. The author added a set of Wilson Combat grips. The fit and feel are excellent.

The pistol is a double-action first-shot type. The initial shot is accomplished by a long trigger press that both cocks and drops the hammer. The slide recoils and cocks the hammer for subsequent single-action shots. The double-action trigger is tight, but smooth at about 15 pounds. The single-action trigger breaks at a clean 4.25 pounds.

The sights are intended for rapid acquisition at combat ranges and precision fire to at least 50 yards. The Beretta uses the oscillating-wedge lockup pioneered by the Mauser C96 pistol. The open-top slide is a distinctive Beretta trademark.

When examining this Italian-made pistol, the fit, finish and smoothness of operation seemed above average, but that isn’t the only noticeable mark of superior manufacture. The barrel crown was particularly well done with a true 45-degree cut in the crown. This is a step foregone by most makers. This crown aids in good accuracy and also in preventing damage to the rifling.

disassembled 92 compact
The Beretta 92A1 Compact comes apart just as easily as the full-size version for cleaning and maintenance.

Beretta 92 Compact Features

The barrel is clipped close to the slide in Beretta Centurion style, making for an attractive appearance and a slightly shorter pistol. The frame is shortened, resulting in cutting magazine capacity from 15 to 13 rounds. The pistol accepts all Beretta magazines, including the 20-round extended version.

The balance is exceptional. The Beretta 92 is among the lightest recoiling 9mm pistols and muzzle flip is subdued. The weight of the compact is balanced more over the hand in a pleasing combination. The geometry of the grip angle results in an S-curve that seems to give better purchase than the full-size service pistol grip.

Of all of the Beretta handguns that have crossed my path, from the Beretta 1934 to the latest Inox, this particular pistol impresses the most and is well worth its price.

barrel crown on pistol
The Beretta 9mm is an accurate, reliable, and nicely fitted handgun.

Manual Safety and Decocker

Occasionally, an exceptional shooter will perform beyond expectation with the Beretta, others just don’t get the hang of it. Once the double-action trigger is pressed, the pistol fires and the slide cocks the hammer for single-action fire. The single-action trigger is crisp with slight take-up and no creep or backlash.

The safety is positive, as with any Beretta combination decocker/safety. It is a personal choice whether you wish to carry the pistol on safe. The safety may be quickly manipulated to the OFF position with a strong forward thumb action.

An important advantage of the safety, is that if someone manages to gain control of your pistol, they may not realize how the safety functions and may not be able to quickly manipulate the safety. For this reason, I have known peace officers to grind the red dot indicating the safety is OFF from their pistols. You have to decide how important a manual safety is to your tactical mindset.

expanded 9mm luger projectile
This is an expanded USA Ready hollow point.

How It Fires

In order to master gun-handling, it is important to follow the basics, particularly safety, and take things at a steady and smooth pace. Speed will come with practice and smoothness. (If you wish to become a safe shooter — and a good shooter — find a certified NRA instructor and take the basic handgun course.)

I began firing quickly by drawing and engaging man-sized targets at five, seven and 10 yards. Good results were turned in with X-ring more often than not. Next, was drawing and firing the first-shot double-action and continuing to address targets with the single-action trigger press. The balance is good and the heft is ideal for rapidly addressing multiple targets. Control the trigger, watch the front sight and you have a hit. Once the long double-action press is learned, speed to a first-shot hit is good.

The pistol isn’t as fast on target as a single-action handgun carried cocked and locked, but the handiness and simplicity of the double-action first-shot are considered a fair trade-off. As an example, the Beretta may be maintained in the same condition of readiness both on the belt and beside the bed: safety on or safety off, your choice. I recommend on-safe carry as long as the user practices manipulation of the safety extensively.

Man firing Beretta 92 Compact
The Beretta 92 Compact is a formidable handgun well worth its cost.

Accuracy and Reliability

If you have time in with the Beretta 92, acclimating to the Beretta Compact was no challenge and was actually faster on target due to the shorter sight radius, allowing rapid acquisition of the sight picture. Recoil control in a 9mm caliber handgun this size presents little difficulty and while rapidly addressing multiple targets, the pistol and the shooter produced good results. The 9mm has several virtues, but light recoil is one of the most significant.

Keep in mind that unlike larger calibers, there is a significant deviation between the wound potential of 9mm loadings. FMJ loads are predictably ineffective, producing ice-pick-like wounds. Choose a carry load that exhibits a good balance of expansion and penetration. The Beretta shoves the bullet nose straight into the chamber in a straight line feed and, as a result, open-nose jacketed hollow point bullets do not present a problem on the feed ramp.

Most of the ammunition fired was Winchester’s Active Duty, a full-power FMJ loading that offers good economy and accuracy. I also fired a few of Winchester’s newest personal-defense loading. I have recommended the PDX Defender 124-grain +P or the Winchester 115-grain Silvertip for many years. The new loading, with a gilded bullet similar in appearance to the Silvertip, but a polymer plug set in the generous hollow nose, has greater potential than previous designed.

The new ammunition features a distinctive HEX-VENT bullet design. Inside a jacketed hollow point cavity, the HEX-VENT rigid insert shields the hollow point from obstruction. It also channels material flow for positive expansion. The resulting bullet delivers highly consistent terminal performance. While there is nothing wrong with the earlier Winchester products, the new loads offer excellent potential.  

Pistol on test target
Combat accuracy is excellent.

Other Variations

I tested a similar pistol over a decade ago. While perhaps I am a better shot today, I may not practice as often, and this pistol is more accurate than the previous pistol. At a long 25 yards, the pistol put five shots into a tight 1.5 inches. This is more than accurate enough for any foreseeable chore.

There are other variations, including the stainless 92A1 with light rail. This is a desirable pistol. There is also a rare variation that is a single-column magazine type. The non-rail 92 Compact is my choice. I like the Beretta 92 Compact very much. So will you.

Are you a fan of the Beretta 92/M9 design? What do you think of the Beretta 92 Compact? Share your thoughts in the Comment section.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in April of 2021. It has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and clarity.

About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.

Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Rifle Magazine
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns

Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (9)

  1. The Beretta 92 is an excellent hand gun. The complaints from those who felt they had reliability issues back in the day in the military are largely because of poor magazine selection by the DoD. I spent 2 1/2 years in Iraq and my experience was that the 92 was as reliable as any other handgun in the sand and dust of that terrible place. This compact is intriguing because my wife and I both have 92s and she carried her 92 as an EDC for a couple of years, but the size made it difficult so she switched to something smaller and lighter. But if this new compact can ameliorate that issue we will definitely be looking into it.

  2. Chris: the Beretta contract was awarded in the mid 80s. They’re pretty worn out. I own 3 Beretta 92s. 1 is the FC-M. 8 +1. I’ve only had 1 mechanical breakdown but it was the locking block. A friend had his Beretta so I borrowed his. The DA/SA function is a bit tricky to master on a new pistol. Mine has close to 6000 rds thru it so that wasn’t much of an issue. I’m retired now and carry a Glock 27 with 27 rounds on me. Berettas are fine pistols but a bit heavy.

  3. I purchased my Beretta 92FC in the early 80’s. It held 13 rounds, It was made in Italy and has oversize white dot sights. I loved the fact it had an ambidextrous safety, being a lefty there were fewer ambi’s then than there are now in fact they were pretty much non existent.

    As stated by the author the build quality is excellent. And that’s about where it ends for me. The mechanics of the pistol are such that to pull the trigger felt like a slush bucket of parts, very discomforting with a feeling that you are shooting a much more inexpensive pistol. The single action did not impress me at all. It never did shoot extremely accurate, maybe accurate enough for a body shot at 25 yards and this was when my eyesight was perfect and my physique was in top condition. Of course maybe my 92FC is different from the new ones.

    I still own it, for the money I paid and it wasn’t spare change I thought maybe I’ll have the trigger worked on; and it was made in Italy and represents a shining light in my collection. I never did anything with it and cleaned it up and put it away.

    I have other pistols I shoot now and they all outperform the 92FC. Even with my old eyes and other failing of the central nervous system..

  4. I taught for seven years with many hundreds of M9s. I’ve also been teaching with the same M9 compact for over 30 years and I cannot even estimate how many thousands of rounds I’ve fire through it. I’ve never had a single reliability issue with any of them. I would consider the failures to be anecdotal, not the expectation.

  5. 92FS was one of the best designed and functional weapons chosen for us to carry. The Glock design is more prone to shooting accidentally and having to suffer the regrets. In our “see you in court” society the quick proverbial double tap has caused more police shooting problems than anything previous. Did you have to think before pulling or was it spontaneous nerves. The multiple safety aspects of the Beretta 92 set it apart.

  6. I too, have an extensive background of 21 years in the military, much of it with the Beretta M9. The catastrophic failures relate to constant use by different Troops as they are relocated from base to base and the firearm remains in the armory to be assigned to another Troop. This cycle continues for the service life of the weapon. Some Troops realize the importance of keeping their firearm clean with necessary maintenance and others, just doing one tour in the military, carry it without proper cleaning. The same goes for a unit armorer or small arms maintenance Troops. Firearms should be routinely checked by the armorer and small arms maintenance. It is part of their directly assigned duties. And, It’s like anything, take care of it and it’ll take care of you. I own an M-9 and two model 92FS pistols. Just like the military, I trust my life to them. And, if you follow the cleaning and routine maintenance on your personal Beretta, it won’t fail you when needed. (Retired SF NCO)

  7. My experience with the Beretta 92 (M-9) pistol in the military including a year in Afghanistan as an infantry soldier was positive. I own several pistols including a Glock 17 and Kimber 1911, and the Beretta is most accurate of all. Over the years, the only malfunction I can think of was a one stove pipe of a case when using my Beretta Compact Type M; I have never had any other malfunction. The Type M Compact wasn’t mentioned in the article and is a great pistol if you like this platform. The biggest difference with the Type M is magazine capacity is 8 rounds making it great if you have smaller hands. The only problem is finding magazines is virtually impossible through Beretta or aftermarket; fortunately, I bought extra magazines when they were still available. If you get a chance to find a Type M Compact, check it out, you might like it.

  8. I have the full-sized 92FS and love it. It’s reliable & easy to shoot well. re: it’s DA/SA trigger — I simply pull the trigger back with my thumb and fire in SA mode and unlike the Glock, if the round doesn’t go-off, I can pull the trigger again for a second strike. Also unlike the Glock, it has a solid steel recoil spring rod, so I don’t have to worry about it deforming over time and jamming the gun.

  9. I’d have to respectfully disagree with the assessment of the 92. Having shot them in the military for several years before switching to Glock, we had extensive reliability problems with them, including what would be considered catastrophic failures. This includes locking block breakages. Which is not something easily fixed without time and tools. Also one of the benefits mentioned in the article is the double action first shot, which most of us found terrible. It’s incredibly long and heavy, and also different than follow up shots. Consistency is a good thing when shooting, so different triggers pull for first and second shots is not helpful. Just my humble opinion though.

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