Fans of the Beretta 92 are a loyal and dedicated bunch. I have found over the years that most folks who are quite fond of the model 92 are so because it was the handgun they were issued and trained on in the U.S. military. I don’t have that particular life experience, but I have observed this to be a very special bond for some people – not at all unlike that between soldier and 1911 beforehand, or soldier and M1 Garand. And like the military issued model 1911 before it, the Beretta 92 was built for battle use. This means it is built to lose tolerances that serve it well in harsh environments with minimum maintenance, but those qualities don’t lend themselves very well to a competition handgun. So, the market for pre-military men and women shooting sports like USPSA and IDPA or IPSC, and wanting to shoot their familiar model 92, was a large one. This led to aftermarket tuners and gunsmiths making a living on the Beretta 92, as well as “best in class” model 92s being custom produced by Langdon Tactical Technology (LTT) and Wilson Combat. If you wanted out-of-the-box performance from a model 92 pistol – you went to them for it. Earlier this year, Beretta announced a new model that was clearly targeted toward this same buyer market. With Langdon and Wilson so well established and trusted, this means that Beretta has some fairly large shoes to step into. Did they succeed?
For starters, Beretta built the 92X completely out of steel. This adds significant weight, compared to the more frequent alloy frame models. It seems that heavy is the new black. All the well-known brand names that take pride in building competition pistols are making something in 9mm that approaches 50 oz. in weight. There are reasons in favor of, and against, such a heavy handgun – the most common of the former being recoil control. To max out the weight, Beretta tops the 92X with a Brigadier slide. For those unfamiliar, the Brigadier slide is significantly thicker and therefore heavier. It provides a different feel of balance to the handgun and is more durable to high pressures. It also means that more slide weight is reciprocating with each shot. Whether this cancels out the benefit of the heavier frame in terms of recoil impulse, I will leave to each shooter to decide. My first shots with the 92X were focused on trigger and sights, more than hard grip and recoil management, and the gun was a bit jumpy. But after I settled in and took a solid high grip, I found that it shot pretty flat. With the naturally undercut trigger guard and the extended beavertail, getting that high grip on the gun is easy to do.
Beretta also chose to build the 92X on the Vertec frame – a move that will no doubt stir up some energetic debate on the forums. Making this move slightly less controversial, Beretta also provides an alternate one-piece grip with the gun that effectively changes the entire ergonomic feel. It adds a significant curve to the back of the grip and increases the feel of texture. After trying it both ways, I found that I much prefer the Vertec grip. For smaller handed shooters, the Vertec provides better trigger reach and control. It also gives the pistol a grip angle almost identical to a 1911. But as I always say – choices are good – and Beretta packs the choice in the box.
Besides the all-steel construction and the Vertec frame with alternate grip, Beretta packs this pistol full of extra features, almost all of which are focused on the performance-minded shooter. Here is a short list of the primary features that help separate this pistol from the standard model 92:
- Front slide serrations that match the sawtooth pattern of the rear. Very effective, and provide a perfect alternative way to run the slide or do press-checks.
- Skeletonized hammer
- Ambidextrous thumb safety – frame mounted. Even right-handed shooters sometimes must begin a course of fire with the gun in the non-dominant hand. For guns that begin in condition one, this is essential.
- Extended beavertail – helps the shooter get the highest grip possible before drawing the pistol from the holster.
- Oversized magazine base pads
- Oversized mag release button
- High-quality pistol case with integrated combination lock
Oh, but wait – there’s more! The list above is nice – but that’s like saying your new sports car comes with bucket seats and a thicker steering wheel. Let’s look under the hood at what makes this gun something to get excited about. Perhaps I should say, let’s look inside the trigger guard because that is where the real performance of any race gun lies. The model 92 employs a DA/SA trigger system, and it is not known for being particularly light or smooth. But remember, Beretta is out to prove they can match the output from tuning shops like LTT and Wilson, and they held back nothing when they worked up the trigger in the 92X. For a baseline, I took measurements fresh out of the box. The double-action pull was 7 lbs. 3 oz. and the single-action was just 3 lbs. 11 oz. Those are numbers that you’d expect to see after sending your gun off for a good trigger job. While trigger pull weight is an easy observation to communicate and compare, it is, for me, the smoothness of a trigger (or lack thereof) that gets my attention. The trigger in the 92X is silky smooth through its entire range of motion, in both DA and SA. The double-action is so good, I almost wish there were a DA-only variant available. The break is crisp and decisive. The face of the trigger has vertical striations to keep the finger pad exactly where you want it.
Did I mention it gets better? Just in case you aren’t satisfied with the amount of over-travel, there is an adjustment for that. And in the event that the already short and crisp reset is not to your liking, there is even an adjustment for that! Beretta has not only sweated all the details tuning a very nice trigger for us – they have empowered us to make the final tweaks to fit our preferences. Sounds like Beretta is serious about giving action pistol shooters what they want. Beretta calls this trigger mechanism the “Extreme-S” and claims that it decreases trigger reset by as much as 40%. I will tell you that putting a string of brass cases in the air is a “can do” with this gun.
The sights on the 92X Performance are good quality and should meet most shooters’ expectations for a stock set on a match pistol. The rear sight is wedge-shaped, fully adjustable, with an all-black serrated blade to reduce glare and focus attention on the front sight – which is a bright red fiber optic, set into a dovetail. During live fire, I found the sights easy to acquire for faster repeat shots, and yet precise enough to focus at 25 yards.
Possibly the only modification for the 92X Performance that I didn’t care for is the takedown lever. Beretta indicates that they modified it to provide a place for the shooter’s support-hand thumb, but I found it awkward and in the way. Maybe their test subjects had much larger hands, but I wound up tucking my thumb beneath the “shelf” of the takedown lever, rather than resting it on it as I’m sure was the idea. I felt that if I tightened my grip enough to keep my thumb perched on the lever, I would be riding the slide with some pressure – and we all know that is a sure way to induce malfunctions.
The pistol comes with two 15-round magazines that have extra thick base pads. This serves two purposes for the action shooter: It helps ensure positive seating during reloads, and it helps protect the magazine from damage when it falls to the ground empty. The magwell is nicely flared to aid in those speed reloads. In the accompanying video, I mention that they were achieved without adding any girth to the grip frame, but that is not entirely accurate. The frame is a tad wider at the handle and the grip panels are set in so that they are flush at the bottom edge. To compensate, and keep the grip feeling narrow, the panels themselves are very thin polymer.
As mentioned, this Beretta 92X Performance is equipped with ambidextrous safety levers, mounted on the frame of the pistol rather than the more familiar slide mounted control. This is a more traditional design and more conducive for competition use. However, the sacrifice is the loss of a de-cocking mechanism. It seems a shame that such a light and smooth double-action pull is limited to serving as re-strike capability only, but sadly for most applications that is true. If you do wish to fire the handgun in DA mode, you will need to manually de-cock the hammer for that first shot. Of course, in dry fire you can get full use of the DA function.
SHOOTING THE 92X PERFORMANCE
During the course of multiple range visits with the 92X Performance, I put roughly 600 rounds of ammo through the gun. It consisted of a very wide variety that crossed many brands, bullet weights, and bullet configurations. I shot affordable range ball ammo and expensive hollow points. I even shot some of my own handloaded match ammo – because I wanted to see if the gun runs low-power ammo without any ejection or feeding errors. I did not experience one single malfunction. Not even the slightest hint of one. I used a weak grip and a strong grip, shot with strong hand only and support hand only. At times, I ran the trigger as fast as I thought I could safely do so – and still, this pistol ran and ran.
Testing the accuracy of the gun after shooting hundreds of rounds at steel targets seemed like merely an exercise, but it does help to show any consistency questions or indicate a favoritism for certain bullet weights, etc. I select a few top brand defense loads because I trust their consistency, as well as a few examples of ‘range ammo’. Giving room for shooter error (with me on the trigger, this is a wide margin!) the groups were pretty consistent. The best performer of the day was Speer Gold Dot 115 gr. LE JHP.
Ergonomics of the 92X Performance is very good, bordering on excellent. I take some marks away for that awkward takedown lever, but others might love it. This was my first time shooting a 92 Vertec and I found that I like the size and angle of the grip very much. Controls are easy to find and operate at speed, magazines drop quick and free, and the trigger stays planted to the finger via the vertical grooves. This is a fun gun to shoot, and one that can be shot very fast. Recoil management is excellent, once you find the grip that works for you.
JUST MY OPINION
I have experience with both Langdon Tactical and Wilson Combat model 92s. I know what the trigger of a finely tuned and finished Beretta 92 can feel like, and that is where I set the bar when I received this test gun from Beretta.
So, did Beretta measure up? Yes! This trigger is at least as good as any I have shot on a tuned 92, and it might even be the best. Whatever the secret sauce in “Extreme-S” is, it works. If it were a fantastic trigger in a so-so gun, it might not be as interesting, but Beretta ticked all the boxes with this pistol and has built us a bona fide shooter. As I write this, Beretta indicates that the 92X Performance is still a bit of a unicorn, but they are on their way. Run, do not walk to your nearest dealer if you’re interested because availability might be spotty for a while.