By Jay Grazio, Shooting Illustrated
There’s no denying the nostalgic appeal of the Beretta 92 handgun. For those of us of a certain vintage, it was “the” gun in a whole bunch of 1980s action movies and TV shows, in addition to being the U.S. military’s official sidearm starting in Ronald Reagan’s second term. We grew up with the Beretta 92, like VHS tapes, “Back to the Future” and the Rubik’s Cube. But, before I start yelling at you to get off my lawn, let’s circle back to the pistol in question, the Beretta 92X F Compact.
To start, let’s unpack the name. The “92” tells you it’s the standard, double/single-action pistol first released in 1976. The “X” notes the 2019 updates on the grip frame, slide and trigger, while the “F” denotes the presence of a safety/decocker, rather than the “G” that only functions to decock the hammer. Obviously, and most relevant to the concealed-carry licensee, the “Compact” means it has a shorter barrel and slightly reduced grip frame to make it more amenable to concealability.
But, you ask, Beretta’s had a Compact version of the 92 for ages, so why should this be of any interest? I’m glad you asked. The “X” series brought about a number of changes to the platform designed to make it more comfortable to shoot, such as a modular, Vertec-style frame with standard and wraparound grips, a target-crown barrel, high-visibility sights and an enhanced trigger, just to name a few. This may be the best-shooting 92 going. With the addition of the Compact, it’s easy (easier) to conceal. The barrel shrinks from 4.9 to 4.25 inches from the full-size, and the grip is also slightly shortened, bringing magazine capacity to 13 from the larger M9/92’s 15 rounds. Naturally, the Compact can still accept all full-size magazines, including aftermarket models with increased capacity, but they will stick out from the bottom of the frame.
As far as the “F” vs. “G,” well, that’s simple. The “F” designation means the lever located on the slide functions as both a decocker and a safety: Push down to safely lower the hammer and engage the safety, push up to fire. On the “G,” that same lever functions only to decock the hammer, springing back to the up position once the hammer is lowered. If you purchase one variant and decide you would rather have the other, don’t worry—the slides are interchangeable. Since the lever is mounted to the slide, simply fieldstrip the pistol and put the other slide in place. Alternately, the lever itself can be swapped, although Beretta does recommend this task be performed by a qualified gunsmith.
Whether you prefer a safety or a decocker-only, there are some extra considerations when choosing a DA/SA semi-automatic pistol. On the range, it is imperative to safely lower the hammer every time before putting a DA/SA gun back in a holster (or just on the range bench). It’s not too difficult to remember this step when shooting leisurely on your local range; however in a training environment, sometimes this step gets forgotten when others are already finished shooting. Of course, there’s also the bugbear of the two different trigger pulls, but that’s a training and practice issue. Quite obviously, neither of these are faults or reasons to avoid DA/SA handguns, just things to be aware of when choosing a pistol for daily carry.
With these caveats in place, it begs the question of who might be interested in the new Beretta 92X F Compact? While it probably would not be my first recommendation to someone brand-new to firearms—although it wouldn’t be a terrible choice, far from it—for a shooter familiar with DA/SA pistols, particularly the Beretta family that served our military for more than 3 decades, it’s a great choice. I had a good friend in high school who joined the Army after college, serving our country for more than a decade, who called me, all excited after buying his first handgun. When he told me it was a Beretta 92, I was curious why he chose that particular pistol. “Simple,” he replied, “I carried one for 12 years in the Army. I know that gun inside and out.”
There are a lot of people out there like my friend who have significant experience with DA/SA handguns, particularly those from Beretta. Even though the standard military sidearm has changed, I know from my son’s experience in Navy boot camp that recruits are still being taught on the M9. That’s a whole new generation of shooters who might have their first—possibly only—handgun experience with the 92 family. Some of them are going to come around to looking at a self-defense pistol they might carry. When you also consider that many police agencies issued Beretta 92s of some variant, there are even more folks who know their way around the 92 who might want to think about the new 92X F Compact as a concealed-carry option.
Here’s one more factor to consider. With many striker-fired pistols having manual safeties grafted to their frames, it’s obvious that many new shooters are looking for that extra level of protection. With the various models of Beretta 92s, there’s not only a safety option, but the heavier double-action trigger pull acts as a natural guard against inadvertent trigger manipulation on its own, requiring double-digit pull weight to manipulate the DA trigger. For someone new to concealed carry, having a manual safety and a long trigger pull might just be the winning combination that gets them to join the concealed-carry fraternity. That’s a good thing, indeed.