The “old” handgun I’m referring to is a couple of decades, not a century, old. In viewing these pages you have undoubtedly surmised that I’m talking about the Beretta 92FS, the military version of the 9mm that has become so popular over the years. In addition to military, federal and police sales, Beretta has
sold many, many 92FS to civilians—maybe you’re one of them.
I bought a 92FS, which has three-dot sights, not long after they became available. While I have not shot the pistol much, over the years several hundred rounds have gone through its barrel. Not too long after acquiring the 92FS, I put a handgun scope on it. The scope worked well, but then I discovered relief-type sights when I put a Burris FastFire on a Marlin Cowboy Action rifle in .45 Colt. I love that lever gun, but I really fell in love with the Burris relief sight.
The trigger on the 92FS is typical military—two-stage, which is never a problem—but I was looking for a trigger with crispness at the let-off and a lighter trigger pull. If I could pull off a better, lighter trigger and a relief sight, I’d love (and probably shoot) that 92FS even more. When it comes to centerfire handguns, it’s tough to find something that’s less expensive to shoot than 9mm.
First let’s take a look at the Beretta 92FS itself. One of the reasons the military liked this model was its 15-shot magazine. While the 9mm isn’t the same size as the .45 ACP, there are roughly twice as many cartridges—16 in the 92F with one in the chamber and a full magazine. Typically, the 1911 has room for only eight big .45 ACPs in the magazine. Another quality the military certainly liked was that the 92F had much less recoil than the 1911. While .45 ACP recoil wouldn’t bother serious handgun buffs, relatively few of those aficionados are actually in the military.
Then there’s the 92FS’ flip-off safety, a major difference from the 1911. To de-cock the 1911, you need a thumb on the hammer, which allows the hammer to come down slowly as you pull the trigger. With the more modern design of the 92FS, you just flip the safety to the on-position. If the hammer is back, the hammer will be released but will be blocked from getting to the firing pin. If the slide is already back, just release the slide with the safety in the on-position. Of course, always do either of these in a safe environment while having the barrel pointed in a safe direction. The 92FS’ safety switch is on both sides of the frame. As for the 92FS’ firing pin block, theoretically, even if this pistol were dropped and the hammer hit a hard surface, the hammer would be blocked from getting to the firing pin and thus to the shell in the chamber.
The 92FS is a relatively large pistol that fills the hand, not unlike a target handgun. So my thinking was that, first, a better trigger might not make my 92FS a target gun but would allow more accuracy, and, second, based on my experience with the Burris relief sight, it would help me hold on the target better than with the gun’s open sights. (I knew that, with the 92F, I wasn’t much better with a handgun scope.) Further, when I went from open sights on my Kimber 1911 .45 ACP to a Burris FastFire II relief sight, I saw a pretty dramatic improvement in my accuracy ability with that latter combination.
Consequently, my first effort to improve my shooting with the 92FS was to install a new sight from TruGlo, the Open Red-Dot Sight. Neither the TruGlo nor the Burris is what most of us have come to know as a red-dot sight. Typically the red dot is viewed through a “tube,” somewhat like the tube on a scope sight (though there is no magnification). I have a traditional red-dot sight on my Ruger semi-auto .22 rimfire, and it works extremely well. The TruGlo and the Burris, however, are tiny compared to a scope or a traditional red-dot. The technology may come from a so-called “heads-up display” that was developed for pilots in jet fighters. These pilots can, more or less, look straight out the cockpit and view critical information, such as airspeed and altitude, and put a target in an “X,” all while seeing the panorama of the sky in the windshield. With a TruGlo or a Burris, you look through the glass positioned above the grip area to view the red dot. The Burris’ glass viewer is considerably smaller than the TruGlo’s. With the Burris there is only one red-dot intensity. With the TruGlo there are red- and green-dot options, as well as light intensities running from one to five. Both relief sights have built-in bullet-impact adjustments. The Burris FastFire comes with its own mount to fit a variety of handguns and rifles. I fit the TruGlo Open Red-Dot to a B-Square rail mount, the same one I used when I had a handgun scope on my 92FS.
A hex wrench is included with the TruGlo for bullet-impact adjustment. A tiny screwdriver works great with the FastFire. The latter has a small on/off switch. With the TruGlo, turn the top rheostat knob to choose either the red or the green dot and to select the light intensity. Both sights run on small, flat, watch-type batteries, and I’ve used the same battery in the Marlin Cowboy Action .45 Colt with the Burris for years. That means these red (or green) dots use very little current. Covers come with these sights and keep the dust off the glass areas. And if you don’t remember to turn the switch to the off-position, I don’t think any battery life will be lost—the covers will still be in place.
What about the trigger? The Beretta 92FS has a two-stage trigger—typical military. That’s fine, but, as it came from the factory, the pistol had a bit of creep and a relatively large let-off. I went to gunsmith Jim Woodside to get his advice. Jim works at Schultz’s Sportsman Stop in Apollo, Pennsylvania. During the initial inspection, Jim pulled the 92FS’ trigger several times on an empty chamber. “Yes, Nick,” he came back. “I can improve on this trigger. It’s still going to be two-stage, but I can take the creep out and reduce the trigger let-off a bit.” Jim went on to say he didn’t want to make the trigger too light, for fear of the gun doubling or worse. I left the 92F in Jim’s capable hands.
He ordered a 92 trigger conversion kit from Wolff Gunspring Makers in Newton Square, Pennsylvania. Directions were included with the trigger conversion kit. (A non-gunsmith could probably handle this job, as it’s not that compli-cated.) Jim showed me what he was doing each step along the way. Essen-tially, the job consists of dismantling the 92FS according to the manufacturer’s instruction manual. Next you remove the gun’s trigger spring, an original part that you may want to save if you ever plan to sell the gun. The original trigger spring, normally called a torsion spring, is a small circle with two legs sticking out to each side—it was known for breaking. Interestingly, the Wolff kit comes with a cam on a return pin that has a coil spring attached. There’s no fitting necessary. The return pin with the coil spring, cam and trigger fit right in. Woodside says the cam on this unit makes for slicker operation of the trigger.
Next comes changing the hammer spring, which the gunsmith replaced from one of three in the Wolff kit. (He
chose the one rated at 16 pounds.) Finally, Jim lightly polished and honed the hammer and sear, put the gun back together and tried his and the kit’s work. Once he was satisfied, I boxed the 92F up and headed for the range.
As mentioned, the Beretta 92FS is not a target gun, and I didn’t intend to turn it into one. My goal was simply to shoot smaller groups, especially off-hand. Sure, on this military offshoot it would be great to have a super trigger, like the figuratively and literally well-honed triggers on my S&W K-22, Model 19
and Model 41. But I don’t think that’s in the cards, especially for the small expense involved in a Wolff trigger kit.
I tried five different loads using Hodgdon’s Longshot and Hornady 115-grain XTP. Four loads were factory fodder; the fifth, a reload I previously developed and that was very reliable in this autopistol. I was looking for a handload that came close to matching 115-grain 9mm factory ammunition muzzle velocities—easy enough to do—but that only goes part way into the reliability realm. We all want a 9mm pistol to eject empties and chamber the next round flawlessly. I’ve always known my 92FS to function without a hiccup, with virtually all the factory stuff. And using my Longshot recipe with the Hornady XTP, there has never been a malfunction.
The factory loads I tried were the Remington 9mm 124-grain brass JHP, the Federal 147-grain Hydra-Shok JHP, the Federal 135-grain Hydra-Shok JHP (personal defense, high energy/low recoil) and the Winchester 115-grain Silvertip HP. All these loads shot well off sandbags at 25 yards and off-hand with two hands at 50 feet. The Longshot handload with the 115-grain XTP wasn’t the very best group I shot, but that group was representative of the others. The slightly better groups were on targets that absorbed multiple factory five-shot groups.
Bottom line, without a doubt I know I shoot the “old” 92FS better with the trigger and sighting upgrades. I’ve been sold on relief-type, open red-dot sights for several years, for handguns and short-range centerfire rifles. It’s my bet that many haven’t heard about or had the opportunity to try these relief-type sights. If you count yourself among them, I heartily recommend you try one on a pistol or a short-range centerfire rifle.
As a side note, an older FastFire II was mounted on the Beretta. A new generation FastFire III features two
different MOA dots, variable light intensity and easier windage and elevation adjustment. They look very similar but the III is a better mousetrap.
Trigger jobs have been around since the early days of firearms. You probably have one or more guns with a trigger that has been worked on, which may have cost you an arm and a leg, or perhaps a lot less—it depends on what you were trying to pull off. But the trigger job on my 92F was very inexpensive and resulted in significant improvement to the gun. So if you have a 92F or any other pistol, I suggest you give your old-timer a couple new twists.
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