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A Classic Reborn: The Beretta 92 Compact 9mm—Full Review.

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Beretta's 92 Compact INOX Model.

Beretta’s 92 Compact INOX Model.

For more information, visit http://www.beretta.com/en-us/92-compact-with-rail-inox/.

To purchase on GunsAmerica.com, click this link: https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.aspx?T=Beretta%2092%20Compact.

You never forget your first… gun.

My first “real” handgun was a Beretta 92 FS. If you’re not familiar, it’s become kind of a classic 9mm pistol, especially since a variant, the M9, was adopted as the standard US military sidearm back in 1985. You remember that year, right? The worst song ever (We Built This City) tortured the airwaves like a mutant virus, movies only cost $2.75, and rib eye steaks were just $3.89 a pound. Except for that song, it was a great year.

To this day, my trusty Beretta 92 FS is among my favorites. Well used, with holster wear on all the rights spots, I can pretty much guarantee that it’s never going to leave my “go-to” collection. In fact, I’ve bought a second threaded barrel so I can shoot it suppressed and added Crimson Trace Lasergrips to modernize it a bit. Given my good experience with the full size 92 FS, I was keen to try the new and smaller 92 Compact model.

The Beretta 92 Compact INOX (top) shown next to a 92 FS full size.

The Beretta 92 Compact INOX (top) shown above a 92 FS full size.

The 92 Compact comes in two flavors: a Bruniton black finish like my 92 FS and stainless steel-style INOX. A brushed, matte finish, it looks somewhat like unpolished aluminum. In fact, the stainless-color finish on the slide and barrel almost exactly matches the brushed aluminum finish of the frame. It’s not gaudy and shiny, but rather functional. You won’t see glare from the surface, and it does a great job of hiding the wear and tear of everyday use. With black grip panels, a black rear sight, black hammer, and black operating controls, it also looks great. Let’s take a closer look.

The contrast between the brushed stainless and aluminum and black looks great on this pistol.

The contrast between the brushed stainless and aluminum and black looks great on this pistol.

A Picatinny rail allows attachment of lights or lasers. This is a difference from the pre-A1 series models.

A Picatinny rail allows attachment of lights or lasers. This is a difference from the pre-A1 series models.

SPECS

  • Chambering: 9mm
  • Barrel: 4.25 inches
  • OA Length: 7.75 inches
  • Weight: 31.6 inches
  • Grips: Synthetic
  • Sights: Post and notch
  • Action: DA/SA
  • Finish: Inox
  • Capacity: 13+1
  • MSRP: $800 (Inox)

The Beretta 92 Compact Tour

The Beretta 92 Compact is a classic double-action / single-action pistol. From an uncocked status, the first trigger press cocks the hammer and releases it, hence the “double-action” description. Recoil from the first shot cocks the external hammer for the next, so the second trigger press is much lighter and requires much less travel distance.

Like most other Beretta pistols, this one features a combination safety and decocker lever. The frame-mounted lever, accessible on both sides, safely decocks the hammer with a downward stroke. However, it also disconnects the trigger when activated, so the trigger moves back and forth freely. So, technically, it doesn’t “lock things up” like a traditional frame-mounted safety, but it effectively accomplishes a similar purpose.

Even without the magazine pinky rest I could (mostly) get all fingers on the grip.

Even without the magazine pinky rest I could (mostly) get all fingers on the grip.

The stainless front sight housing contrasts well with the black rear sight - it was fast to acquire.

The stainless front sight housing contrasts well with the black rear sight – it was fast to acquire.

The hallmark Beretta 92 family features are all there. The slide is an open-top design, so most of the barrel is clearly visible. Beretta does this for both weight savings and reliability. When most of the slide is open, there’s no need to worry about fitting an ejected cartridge case through a relatively small ejection port, so malfunctions like stovepipes are exceedingly rare. Partly owing to the open slide cut and limited metal up front, the front sight is machined as part of the slide – there’s no dovetail cut that allows you to replace the standard front sights with night sights or something different. This is one of the very few things about the standard 92 design that drives me a bit nuts, although the new M9 A3 models remedy that gripe.

Controls are identical to the big brother 92 models. The takedown lever works exactly the same. Just press the button on the right side to rotate the lever on the left and the slide, barrel, and recoil spring slide right off the frame. As long as the magazine is removed, it doesn’t matter what the decocker and hammer status it, everything just slides right off. There’s no need to pull the trigger just to field strip the pistol. From the factory, the magazine release button comes on the left side, but it’s easily reversible.

I made it a point to test a couple varieties of Sig Sauer ammunition - it's proven to be very, very accurate.

I made it a point to test a couple varieties of Sig Sauer ammunition – it’s proven to be very, very accurate.

You can actually move the safety / decocker up into fire position by pushing it down. Read on for details.

You can actually move the safety/decocker up into fire position by pushing it down. Read on for details.

The frame on the 92 Compact borrow from the A1 family and offers some cosmetic and functional differences from the original shape. Most obvious is the addition of the single-slot rail for attaching nifty accessories like lights, lasers, or even a bayonet if you want to deck it out like a video game piece. You’ll notice that the backstrap of the grip has a checkered pattern for improved grip as opposed to the vertical-only cuts on the classic 92 models. The front of the grip has the same checkering pattern as compared to the vertical cuts. The trigger guard is the same shape, with a slightly squared-off front edge, but there is no texture there. That’s fine with me; I don’t really care for the “support finger on the trigger guard” style anyway. The magazine well has a nice bevel to it for easy magazine insertion. The double-stack magazines narrow to single-cartridge width at the top go in effortlessly – it’s hard to miss even when you’re going for speed in a magazine change. While we’re in that area, I should mention that the Compact model has a lanyard ring at the rear of the magazine well just like the full size 92 and M9 pistols.

A lanyard ring is there if you want it.

A lanyard ring is there if you want it.

Both front and rear grip surfaces use this checkering pattern.

Both front and rear grip surfaces use this checkering pattern.

The sights are interesting. While “mechanically” they’re the same as the older 92 FS models, they’re a lot more visible. The front sight body (machined into the slide) is finished in the gray INOX texture. It has a painted red dot in the center. The rear sight body mounted via a dovetail, but it’s all black, also with inset dots painted red. While I would always prefer the option of dovetail-mounted sights front and back, I liked these and found them fast to acquire.

The magazines are steel and those for this compact model hold 13 rounds of 9mm, so total capacity is 14 including one in the chamber.

The standard magazine holds 13 rounds so total capacity is 14 if you keep one in the chamber.

The standard magazine holds 13 rounds so total capacity is 14 if you keep one in the chamber.

Compact vs. Full-size

As you might guess, the major difference between the full-size 92 models and the 92 Compact models is size. The original big boys are about .75 inches longer overall and .15 inches taller than the compact model. Here’s a full dimension comparison:

92 FS92 A192 Compact
Length8.5”8.5”7.75”
Height5.4”5.4”5.25”
Width1.5”1.5”1.5”
Barrel Length4.9”4.9”4.25”
Weight33.3 oz33.3 oz31.6 oz

 

As you never really know where the dimensions are taken (grip, slide, safety, etc.) for published factory specifications, I whipped out my trusty set of Lyman calipers and started measuring. Even through the slide on the 92 Compact INOX model appears a bit wider, it’s not. I suppose that’s just an optical illusion created by the shorter length or color. Both the 92 FS full size and 92 Compact slides measure exactly 1.11 inches wide.

You can’t assume that holsters are interchangeable. The biggest issue with trying to use the same holster between standard 92 series pistols and the 92 Compact is the rail itself. The dust cover area on the standard 92 FS models is rounded, much like a classic 1911, so it’s much narrower under the barrel. The 92 Compact presents a more blocky and squared-off profile underneath to accommodate the rail area.

The important controls are either on both sides like the safety / decocker or easily switchable like the magazine release.

The important controls are either on both sides like the safety/decocker or easily reversible like the magazine release.

Shooting the Beretta 92 Compact

Being a classic Beretta, there are two different trigger sensations. The double-action (DA) pull is much like that of a double-action revolver and in the 12-pound pull weight vicinity. Total travel, by design, on the double-action movement is over a full inch. You won’t fire this pistol inadvertently in double-action model unless you’re a complete spaz. Once the first shot is fired, the pistol transitions to single-action (SA)mode with the slide cocking the hammer as it cycles. I measured the single-action weight on this Compact model at a consistent 4.75 pounds of pressure. In single-action mode, total travel is under ½ inch, with the first 1/4 of an inch being weightless take-up. The break happens over the next 1/8 of an inch, and it’s smooth, grit-free, and crisp. I’ve always liked the triggers on Beretta 92 series guns, but that’s a personal preference for sure, especially the double-action/single-action part.

Field stripping is easy - just rotate the lever and no trigger release required.

Field stripping is easy – just rotate the lever and no trigger release required.

The magazine well features a moderate bevel.

The magazine well features a moderate bevel.

This gun is designed to be carried with a round chambered, the hammer decocked, and the safety/decocker lever in the “safe” position. In this mode, the trigger is disconnected, so the gun can’t fire until you flip the frame mounted safety up. Here’s a nifty trick that Beretta guru Ernie Langdon taught me a while back. That Beretta safety lever moves “up” into the fire position, so naturally, we assume that we have to use our thumb to “lift” it upwards into position. Makes sense, right? However, that’s counter to other safety designs like that on the 1911, so if you shoot other pistols, you might think you have to learn different motions. Not so. You see, the Beretta folks spring loaded this little lever so by swiping your firing hand DOWN across the lever, it’ll pop up into the fire position on its own. It’s basically the same motion you would use on a safety that moves down to fire. You just don’t have to press it through its entire range of motion. Try it; it’s a nifty technique and all your range buddies will be suitably impressed by your high speed, low drag technique moves.

One of the only things I don’t like about the Beretta safety design is its position. If you rack the slide vigorously, as in a malfunction clearance, you’ll feel that safety lever and you might even knock it back into the safe position if you’re not paying attention. Just something to be aware of. On the plus side, the slide on this gun is very easy to rack so you can choose the overhand technique or a simple two finger slingshot with thumb and forefinger.

The rear sight does use a dovetail mount unlike the front.

The rear sight does use a dovetail mount unlike the front.

Unless your holster is a one-size-fits-many, it probably won't work for the standard and rail models.

Unless your holster is a one-size-fits-many, it probably won’t work for the standard and rail models.

As for handling and felt recoil, the 92 Compact is a dream to shoot. It’s an exceptionally soft shooting gun for a mid-size 9mm pistol. The large grip and extra weight from genuine “not-plastic” construction really mellow out recoil and muzzle flip, so you’ll find it easy to shoot both accurately and fast.

As for reliability? Don’t worry about it. The combination of ramped barrel and open side design mean that this gun will eat anything you want to feed it. It’s not at all sensitive to the point of requiring a crusher grip and rock solid stance like other pistols. Pick it up with enough pressure to prevent it from falling to the ground and it’ll run. I’ve got somewhere near 10,000 rounds through my 92 FS, and it just keeps going, and going, and going. Bullet profile, lead bullets, hollow-points, varying bullet weights – it just doesn’t matter.

 

OK, so it looks a little dorky, but the scope allows real accuracy testing.

OK, so it looks a little dorky, but the scope allows real accuracy testing.

Since this pistol has a rail, I was able to do some precise accuracy testing. For rail-equipped guns, I always like to mount a handgun scope. Most of the “group size” error in handguns comes from the imprecision of the eyeball, iron sights, and down range target. When I mount a scope, groups almost always shrink in half using the same gun and ammo. Using a UM Tactical rail mount, I stuck a Bushnell Elite 3500 Handgun Scope on the 92 Compact and set up targets 15 yards down range. Yes, the gun looked ridiculous. But also yes, I had a perfect sight picture with no optical alignment error. Here are the results. The group sizes shown are averages of three different five-shot groups. Oh, and just for the heck of it, I set up a Shooting Chrony Beta Master Chronograph so you can get an idea of real world velocity from the Compact model’s 4.25-inch barrel.

VelocityAccuracy
Federal FMJ RN 9mm 115 grain1,0801.68”
Sig Sauer FMJ 9mm 115 grain1,1401.50”
Sig Sauer V-Crown JHP 9mm 147 grain9801.33”
American Eagle Syntech 9mm  grain1,1341.41”

 

As a random note, I did pop my 92 FS magazines into the 92 Compact model and found them to be interchangeable. Of course, the longer magazines give you two additional rounds, but it does extend past the base of the shorter grip on the 92 Compact model.

Summing It Up

I think it all boils down to this. The 92 Compact is intended to be a more carry friendly version of the 92 FS / M9 full-size pistols. It is not supposed to compete with the tiny pocket rocket compacts that weigh 43% of nothing. To me, that’s a good thing. While I still own some, I gave up carrying puny guns a couple of years ago. Yes, they sure are convenient, and you can stick them anywhere. No, they are not fun to shoot. As a result, it’s hard to become really proficient with them. For a carry gun, I want confidence. I want to know that I can hit what I’m aiming at, and that takes practice.

The open top slide design is one of the primary reasons that Beretta pistols are so reliable.

The open top slide design is one of the most distinctive features of Beretta 92-pattern pistols.

I like this gun. The capacity is respectable, but more importantly, it’s easy to shoot well, at least for me. Reliability and longevity are a no brainer for this gun. If you’re willing to carry some extra ounces, it’ll serve as a great multi-purpose gun: carry, home defense, competition, and plinking fun at the range.

 

As of now, the only chambering for the 92 Compact is 9mm.

As of now, the only chambering for the 92 Compact is 9mm.

For more information, visit http://www.beretta.com/en-us/92-compact-with-rail-inox/.

To purchase on GunsAmerica.com, click this link: https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.aspx?T=Beretta%2092%20Compact.

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Thomas Davis January 13, 2017, 12:17 am

    Is the cost of the Bruniton Black Finish the same as the Inox finish . Don’t like stainless or Aluminum finish in my opinion there to flashy and bright for a CCW . Interested in the black .I also have a 92fs . Also will they make a laser guide rod for the 92 compact . Thank you for your time .

    Thomas Davis .

  • Greg Walkiewicz January 12, 2017, 11:58 pm

    I have shot over 5000 rounds through my 92 fs . This has to be the perfect gun for anyone.

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