By Mike Cumpston , GUNS Magazine
The “Wilson Beretta 92G Brigadier Tactical.” The name constitutes a precise description of the item in question here. But first we’ll look at the principal players. Bill Wilson is a household name among the cognoscenti of action pistol shooting. His shop, Wilson Combat, produces custom 1911 parts and much-sought-after precision 1911 pistols built to the highest level of the art. He is a founding member of the prestigious American Pistol Smith’s Guild and was named 2002’s “Pistol Smith Of The Year” by that organization. He is a master-level competition shooter and a founder of the International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA).
The Pietro Beretta Company has been owned by the same family since the 16th century and has been a leading light of the firearms industry for half a millennium. The association of Wilson and Beretta implies a guarantee of the highest possible quality and this 92G is the culmination of their partnership.
The Model 92 appeared in 1975 becoming the United States M9 service pistol in the ’80’s. The letter suffix identifies the mechanical safety type and its derivation. The “G” stands for Gendarmerie and denotes the simple decock safety selected by the French National Police. The name “Brigadier” has been a part of the Beretta handgun DNA since the mid-20th century when Beretta imports had names rather than numerical designations.
The Beretta Brigadier 951 was the immediate predecessor of the 92 and led the pack of Minx, Jetfire, Puma, Jaguar, et al familiar to shooters in the mid ’60’s. In the 1980’s and ‘90’s, Helwan of Egypt made an exact knock-off of the now, obsolescent Brigadier with the name intact. More recently, “Brigadier” is applied to the 92’s with the heavy slide preferred by competitors and others who subject their pistols to high round counts. “Tactical” of course, needs no definition or explanation. Applied to every thing from key-chains and tee shirts to battlefield nukes, it embodies all things uber-kinetic and quintessentially cool.
The Wilson/Beretta is the best-looking variation of the Beretta 92 or any of its Brazilian and Eurasian offshoots I’ve ever seen or handled. The barrel, shortened by about 2/10-inch, the sculpted heavyweight slide, accessory rail and the olive G10 grips present an overall symmetry much more exciting than variations heretofore available, and the front and back grip-frame checkering and finish work are in complete harmony with the overall package. This 92G, with its refined action and close-fitting match barrel delivers significantly better mechanical and user-available accuracy than the 92’s I’ve handled in the past.
The backstrap is nicely checkered, and the G10 grips give the gun a secure feel.
The front sight, set in a dovetail, has a tritium insert (left), and the rear sight (right) has a deep, wide U-notch .
While those service-grade pistols were 2.5-inch, 25-yard shooters, the best groups from this one rival the small tribe of dedicated 9mm target pistols. The stainless barrel has a recessed target crown. The Patridge front sight is dovetailed into the slide and has a tritium element inset. The Brigadier slide is wide and heavy adding a redundancy of strength to the basic design already morphed and modified from the test-to-destruction military environment.
Even with its alloy frame, the Wilson/Beretta 92G, is identical in weight to the all-steel 1911 Government model. The full-length guide rod is made of steel and fluted to retain lubricant. Beretta markets a kit containing steel recoil spring guide rod, steel trigger, safety/decock levers and magazine release to replace the box stock parts made from plastic or plastic over steel. The Wilson pistol has all-steel parts from the Wilson Combat shop.
The dovetail-mounted Wilson rear sight is U-shaped and wide to afford quick sight pick-up and is recessed and grooved in the rear to eliminate glare. It is retained by a setscrew and should be readily adjustable for windage. The slide release is reachable without losing the shooting grip and the magazine release is oversized but not so prominent it is prone to accidental release. The hammer is skeletonized and powered by the mainspring Beretta used in their double-action-only 92 model.
A fresh and tested Timney spring-gauge weighed the double-action release at 7.5 pounds—giving totally reliable primer ignition and the single action break at 3.5 pounds. Other reviewers report trigger pulls about a pound heavier than these—still very favorable values for practical shooting and transition from double- to single-action shots. Bill Wilson’s long affinity for the 92 has led to the emergence of specialists within his shop who know how to get the most from the 92 action.
The 92G comes in a plastic box with cable lock, and three 15-round Sand Resistant magazines polished inside and out and treated with a high-lubricity finish to promote reliable function in desert sand. The inclusion of two spare magazines with a pistol is emblematic of the determination of the maker to field a first quality arm.
An accessory rail with one locking slot is present under the aluminum frame.
The Beretta 92G is a decocker only variant (below, left). You can just see the firing pin block under the firing pin. Depressing the lever rolls the block and firing pin up and drops the hammer safely. The Wilson/Beretta 92G Tactical has the heavy-duty slide and an accessory rail requiring its own family of holsters (below, right). BladeTech models like this OTW Stingray Loop with adjustable tension are cataloged by Wilson Combat. It rides close to the body while providing enough separation for very fast access.
High Performance Pistol & Ammo
The popularity of the 9×19 cartridge has given rise to a multiplicity of highly refined loads. Our array of test ammo featured bullet weights ranging from 95 to 124 grains, and construction varying from full-jacket ball, lead-free Barnes hollowpoints, jacketed hollowpoints and the highly refined, much tested Critical Defense/Critical Duty loads developed by Hornady. Five-round strings produced small extreme spreads ranging from 9 to 48 fps with 11 of them at or under 26 fps. Best bench groups ranged from 1.3 to 2.5 inches at 25 yards with about half of them under the 2-inch mark. My worst groups did not exceed 3-1/2 inches and can be blamed on me and/or less than ideal lighting.
Accuracy-wise, the Beretta showed no preference for bullet weight or velocity. Point of impact was 2 to 3 inches below point of aim either from the bench or when shooting unsupported and this is my usual experience with fixed handgun sights. Velocities ranged from the lower end expected from SAAMI standard-pressure loads through +P. The Buffalo Bore 95 and 115-grain samples, the CorBon 115-grain +P and DPX 115-grain +P, and the SIG 115-grain Ball load produced velocity/energy figures reaching the bottom edge of performance for the .38 Super.
Several of the Hornady loads and two of the three Wilson proprietary loads employ the XTP bullet—a long-standing general-purpose design developed to provide moderate, reliable expansion and ideal penetration. The Critical Defense load is optimized for use in short-barrel pistols and designed to deliver expansion and penetration when heavy clothing is encountered. The Hornady Critical Duty load is geared toward full-sized 9mm pistols and developed to be “barrier blind” when encountering wood, wallboard, steel or automobile glass.
The Wilson/Beretta Brigadier with its accessory rail and wide slide has specific requirements as to holsters. Accordingly, Wilson Combat catalogs a selection of Blade Tech Kydex belt holsters for this model. I selected a basic OWB Adjustable Stingray Loop. It rides close enough to the body for discrete carry under an untucked shirt but has enough room for rapid access to the grip and manipulation of the mag release. It is very lightweight and comfortable.
Disassembly is legendarily easy (above). Remove the magazine and lock the slide to the rear ensuring the chamber is empty. Push in the slide release lever on the right side, and swing down the slide release. Pull the slide off the front of the pistol. Wilson’s proprietary load delivered excellent bench rest accuracy (below). Pinnacle round using the 115-grain lead-free hollowpoint produced this 1.4-inch, 5-shot group from 25 yards.
The grip configuration of the Wilson/Beretta is so well engineered it seems impossible to obtain anything but an ideal shooters grip. Retention is via adjustable pressure with no manual devices to disengage. My goal was to shoot controlled pairs from 7 yards at a speed allowing complete confidence I would place the initial double-action shot and the follow-up single action within the 9-ring of the B-27 Target. I wanted to maintain enough control to “stop the drop” on the second round if, for whatever reason, it seemed prudent to do so. After some familiarization, I recorded three consecutive runs with my Pact Club Timer. Total times ran: 1.48, 1.46, 1.48 seconds. The double action’s first shots were deployed at 1.09, 1.14,1.16 seconds with single-action “breaks” at .39, .32, .32 seconds. All of this was done with the holster in the open and my hand hovering above the grip in fevered anticipation of the dead air inside my electronic muffs telling me the countdown had reached zero and people with real hearing would be listening to the buzzer.
The transition from the light double-action pull to the lighter single-action release was, as anticipated, as seamless as such a thing ever can be. At 25 yards, firing from isosceles, the initial DA shot melded with the gratifyingly tight groups. After short familiarization, both the 2-handed groups and those from the traditional “NRA Slow Fire” stance were comfortably contained within the head of the B-27, often with about half of the rounds clustered in a void significantly smaller than my bench groups.
After some early catastrophic failures in the service pistol (likely associated with firing proof-level ammunition) several modifications to the slide and locking blocks took place and the 92 family has earned a reputation for being “bank-vault” strong and extremely durable. At the time of its introduction, it stood apart from many of its rivals in terms of functional reliability. The state of the industry in that regard has undergone revolutionary improvement, but the Beretta remains second to none and the Wilson/Beretta review gun functioned perfectly as expected.
After several hundred rounds and considerable work from the holster, the Bruniton and hard-anodized finish is intact with no indication it has even been fired beyond a light scuff on the forward underside of the barrel. The Wilson/Beretta 92G Brigadier Tactical is distributed by Wilson Combat through its stocking dealers. Production total, at least initially will be 1,000 units in four runs of 250 units. The Wilson/Beretta 92G Brigadier Tactical is approved for use in both IDPA Stock Service Pistol, and USPSA Production Division. And it would be ideal for personal defense.
Photos by Joseph R. Novelozo
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92G Brigadier Tactical
Maker: Beretta USA
17601 Beretta Drive, Accokeek, MD 20607
Customizer: Wilson Combat
2452 CR 719, Berryville, AR 72616
Action type: Locked breech, semi-auto
Caliber: 9x19mm, Capacity: 15+1
Barrel length: 4.7 inches
Overall length: 8.25 inches
Weight: 36 ounces (43 loaded)
Finish: Bruniton, Safety: Frame-mounted ambidextrous decock
Sights: Wilson U-notch rear, front dovetail with tritium element
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