Editor’s Note: This collaboration has been a long time in the making. That the rebuilt gun arrived during our coverage of SHOT Show may seem like a coincidence, but it also corresponds with Beretta’s announcement that they will be offering a Compact Carry 92 G. If it performs anything like this full-sized 92, we’d have to give it our endorsement. This is one of the finest iterations of the 92 I’ve ever seen.
Read about the Compact Carry: http://wilsoncombat.com/new/handgun-beretta-compact-carry.asp#.VqVWZcq09-I
Or customize your own 92: http://wilsoncombat.com/new/custom-beretta.asp#.VqVVCMq09-I
Buy a Wilson Combat on GunsAmerica: https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.aspx?T=wilson%20combat
Turning a Workhorse into a Racehorse
The Beretta 92 was designed in 1970 by Pier Carlo Beretta, Vittorio Valle and Giuseppe Mazzettti. The United States military adopted this pistol as the M9 in 1985. This gun has been the workhorse of the United States military for 21 years. Save for an issue with magazines, the Beretta 92 has served as a relatively faithful steed, although it has always had some areas that could use some improvement, such as the trigger, sights and magazine release.
Wilson Combat is now in full swing on their revisions of the Beretta 92/96 platform. They re-designed some parts, with improvements that really bring out this utilitarian gun’s full potential in reliability and performance. Their custom-manufactured parts start at the sights, and include replacement parts running all the way back to the magazine well. Wilson doesn’t just design and manufacture the parts- they also have the ability to install them and blend them to the pistol, for maximum results without sacrificing appearance. They also offer a variety of finishes that will make your pistol look as good as it performs.
The Idea Man
Ernest Langdon is the person I credit with conceiving of this awesome project. Ernest served 12 years of active duty in the U.S. Marine Corps, participating in all sorts of high-speed, low-drag activities. Once he was out of the service, he established himself as a very remarkable shooter, holding both Grand Master and Distinguished Master classifications in USPSA and IDPA, respectively. While serving as an instructor at Beretta USA, he began customizing and designing parts for his own Beretta 92. Ernest famously ran this gun to win not only his division in class, but the entire IDPA Nationals one year. His dual experiences as a military serviceman and world class shooter gave him the unique perspective required to modify an existing military platform into a competitive racehorse, without giving up reliability.
I’ve had the pleasure of hosting Ernest through his company, Langdon Tactical, Inc. and he is every bit as great of an instructor as he is a Marine and gunsmith.
The Work Man
Bill Wilson has a fine team in Berryville, Arkansas that has taken the design innovations from the hands of Ernest Langdon and begun manufacturing his parts for the Berretta 92/96. This project is in collaboration with Beretta USA, who is supplying Wilson Combat guns to create the Beretta/Wilson 92G Brigadier Tactical. In addition to manufacturing parts and building complete guns, Wilson Combat will also customize Beretta 92s/96s.
The Process and Your Options
The result of this collaboration process is a choice between two guns: The Beretta/Wilson 92G Brigadier Tactical, or a Beretta-manufactured pistol that the buyer sends to Wilson for modification. Let’s talk about the Brigadier Tactical, which retails for $1195. (At time of writing, this gun has a 6 to 8 week waiting period). This gun begins life as a M9A1 frame, with a 92A1 round trigger guard profile. A brigadier slide is then fitted, after it is completely dehorned. The Wilson steel trigger is installed, along with the fluted steel guide rod. Checkering is applied to the front and back strap, followed by the application of G10 olive grips, featuring the Wilson Combat medallion. The sights are Wilson Combat rear U notch battle sights, with a tritium dovetail front sight. Both the magazine release and D cocking levers are oversized for easy access they are also made of steel for a lifetime of use. The hammer is replaced with a skeletonized Elite II hammer. Finally, the complete gun is coated in Armor-Tuff for a lasting finish.
The second option is to send your Beretta pistol to Wilson, and have them apply the Wilson treatment to it. They offer several packages of their most preferred options, for your convenience. This is definitely not McDonald’s- you can have it any way you want if one of the packages does not work for you. We actually sent Wilson a stock stainless steel Beretta 92 FS and requested the custom carry package. This package gets you the works, including their famous action job that produces a double-action trigger that is second to none. The external controls are given a complete makeover, with parts that are both made from steel and oversized, allowing you to easily find the de-cocker or magazine release on demand. They also nicely checker the front and back strap of the gun and add their very tasteful dirty olive G-10 grips. When all of the heavy lifting has been done, they etch the Wilson Combat logo into the slide before refinishing the complete gun in Armor-Tuff.
One fine detail worth mentioning is that they converted this gun to a “G”model. The “FS” has a combination decocker/safety, which means that if you choose to decock the gun, the lever remains in the lowered position, resulting in a dead trigger until the lever is moved to the fire position. The “G” model allows the decocker to return to the fire position, and the trigger is live with the hammer lowered, allowing for a double-action first shot. No more thumb safety.
The gun gained some weight, but also lost some- both in the right places! See below.
|92 SF||Wilson 92G|
|Weight unloaded (OZ)||33.3||34.2|
|Single Action Trigger||5lb 3.2oz||3lb 9.7oz|
|Double Action Trigger||12lb 3.2oz||7lb 9oz|
On the Range
I was eager to take this gun to the range! Having had an opportunity to dry-fire at inspection, I had high expectations for the gun. It fit my hand well, and the trigger reminded me of a favorite double-action revolver from my youth. I was not disappointed when I got to the range and began firing. With the first long stroke of the trigger, I noticed that the pull was smooth and manageable, allowing me to keep the sights aligned as the trigger broke. With a modest amount of practice, the gun came quicker and quicker from the holster. The single action trigger pull reminded me more of a long 1911 stroke than the firing of a traditional double-action pistol. There was virtually no stacking with the single action pull, the trigger had a small amount of take-up, and practically no over-travel.
The gun proved itself reliable shot after shot, with both round-nose practice ammunition and a variety of hollow points. To say this gun was soft shooting would be an understatement- with even the hottest loads, it still did not feel like a 9mm. With the practice ammunition in the magazine, I would even say it seemed to closer to a .22 pistol in terms of recoil and manageability compared to some of the polymer wonder pistols.
The large controls were easy and intuitive to find. Magazine changes were almost effortless with the huge button and beveled magazine well. The de-cocker was easy to locate without using my eyes, and allowed the gun to be holstered safely.
The combination of the Wilson Deep U rear sight and the fiber optic front sight worked wonderfully for this pistol. It allowed for quick pick up and easy detail work when required. The rear sight is not cluttered by any dots, and I think this helps the eyes to focus on the bright green fiber-optic insert in the front sight. I’ve quickly begun to favor this combination of black rear and fiber-optic front sights. If this is not one of your favorite combinations, a quick glance at the Wilson Combat webpage should provide you with a choice of sights more to your liking.
The only negative experience I had while firing the Wilson Combat-modified Beretta 92 actually had nothing to do with the gun- it had everything to do with the 10 Round California-legal magazines that I sent when they shipped me the gun. They just seemed to run dry to quick and bust up my groove- but I guess I have no one to blame for that but myself!
I had only one small issue with this gun- the oversized checkered magazine release tended to find the tender spots on my hand when shooting. This awkward positioning coupled with the death grip I tend to keep on most pistols resulted in a bit of a nagging rub. I think that a small amount of file work and some touch-up paint will cure this problem- I just haven’t been able to bring myself to do it yet.
With a complete gun running at just under $1200 or the package we chose for $795, the Beretta 92 via Wilson Combat puts a custom gun within the reach of some folks that would not normally be able to afford one. The best part is that the à la carte menu that Wilson Combat offers allows you to send in your own gun and choose to pay only for the features that are important to you. Heck, if you are the handy do-it-yourself type, you can order the parts from Wilson Combat today and do the work yourself! With all of these options available, I think there’s a solution for anyone wanting to upgrade their Beretta 92/96 series guns.