We Shoot the Wilson Combat Beretta 92–SHOT Show 2016

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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.

The new Compact Carry 92 from Wilson and Beretta.

The new Compact Carry 92 from Wilson and Beretta.

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.

Making the hand-off at Wilson Combat.

Making the hand-off at Wilson Combat.

The same gun after the overhaul.

The same gun after the overhaul.

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 old trigger guard.

The old trigger guard.

The new guard is rounded over.

The new guard is rounded over.

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.

The old safety in the safe position.

The old safety in the safe position.

The new decocker won't stay in the safe position, but decocks the hammer like a champ.

The new decocker won’t stay in the safe position, but decocks the hammer like a champ.

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 SFWilson 92G
Weight unloaded (OZ)33.334.2
Single Action Trigger5lb 3.2oz3lb 9.7oz
Double Action Trigger12lb 3.2oz7lb 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.

Results like this were easy.

Results like this were easy. Every 92 should shoot like this one.

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.

Enlarged mag release.

Enlarged mag release.

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.

10 rounds? No excuse for this, not even California.

10 rounds? No excuse for this, not even California.

I'd like to see Wilson take on the mags, too. They should be standard with any overhaul.

I’d like to see Wilson take on the mags, too. They should be standard with any overhaul.

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!

Final Thoughts

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.

The new gun.

The new gun.

New front sight.

New front sight.

The action has been cleaned up and it is noticeably smoother.

The action has been cleaned up and it is noticeably smoother.

This gun has two color variations--slight and subtle.

This gun has two color variations–slight and subtle.

Old.

Old.

New.

New.

Stripes.

Stripes.

Checks.

Checks.

Parts in process.

Parts in process.

Tools of the trade. Wish my workbench was this neat.

Tools of the trade. Wish my workbench was this neat.

Spare parts.

Spare parts.

Inside the warehouse.

Inside the warehouse.

Another custom almost ready to go out.

Another custom almost ready to go out.

But not as handsome as the one that just came back.

But not as handsome as the one that just came back.

{ 12 comments… add one }
  • JtothaK July 22, 2016, 6:28 pm

    I just fondled a new WC/B 92G at my LGS. Here are some of my thoughts:
    Positives:
    – Very smooth slide to frame action but a surprisingly tight fit. I have a Les Baer TRS for perspective.

    – DA/SA trigger extremely good. Probably dry fired 100 times standing in the shop. Makes my well-worn Sig 229’s trigger feel very subpar.

    – Ergos: Actually felt great but I have pretty big hands (6’2″). G10 grips feel good. Grip serrations feel pretty good and not too aggressive. Decocker was easy to reach. Mag release didn’t seem too big although I didn’t actually get to shoot it.

    – Sights: Really good combo for stock sights. I’m pretty used to shooting a hi-vis front with all black rear on my TRS so it felt right. Awesome that it comes with a Trijicon front sight as I would probably have added one/set anyway.

    – Decocker: I’m familiar with Sig’s manual-of-arms (decocker only; no safety) so the WC 92G felt normal.

    Cons:
    – I’m used to press checking Glocks, etc. using the front of the slide. This isn’t really practical to do with 92G.

    Overall, I may very well end up with the WC 92G for IDPA and maybe home defense. It probably won’t replace my G19 for all around carry but would be fun to run through some tactical classes and training mounted to my battle belt.

    Regarding rounded trigger guard for placing a finger during shooting: lots has changed in regards to hand placement. I will comment that not a single person that I have either trained with (SFOD-D, etc.) nor compete with, uses the trigger guard for support. Kudos to WC for building a weapon around modern, effective shooting techniques.

    Decocker only: the WC 92G is the same as any Sig. Decocker only with no safety. Many, many good shooters and teams have used a Sig safely and effectively so this is really a non-issue. I can understand if you are used to the M9 safety/decocker but should be able to quickly get used to a decocker only assuming you actually train.

  • Woody January 26, 2016, 10:14 pm

    I just recently acquired the 92FS Compact L. It already has the checkered front and rear strap not the straight up and down grooves you show. I love most everything Wilson does and really admire their work. But this gun was a “keeper” when it came out of the box and certianly after the first full box of ammo I run through it. I would not change my de-cocker to what they have done……….to me it defeats the purpose. Now the finish they put on it…..that I like…..and I may go for that at some point. Otherwise I like my Baretta just as it is.

  • Mikial January 25, 2016, 9:11 pm

    The 92 is a solid gun. The problems that so many people like to cite in Iraq were the result of poor magazines, not a failure of the gun. Likewise, the slide issues were an early flaw that was quickly corrected. The 92 is a reliable, accurate gun that I would take into combat if I couldn’t carry a .45.

  • Paul January 25, 2016, 1:53 pm

    Will they do the smaller version: .380, 13 round, 84FS Cheetah?

  • Dave Hicks January 25, 2016, 11:38 am

    Doesn’t the Model 92 go back to the Model 51 or 1951 and take from the Walther P-38 and oversize the mag well ? Combine the two and get the The Model 92.

  • Ron January 25, 2016, 9:36 am

    I like some of the improvements on the 92….but, some don’t make sense. I don’t know why they changed to a rounded front end trigger guard….maybe in competitive shooting it’s an advantage(???) but I prefer having the trigger guard setup to allow for a double handed grip with the index finger resting on the front of the trigger guard. Also, the magazine release seems too big as noted by the uncomfortable grip experienced by the author of the article. I agree….maybe it’s good for fast magazine changes in competition, but in the ‘real world’ I don’t want to take a chance that my magazine release gets activated and drops my bullets out! I would never want this done to my gun. So, the scroll work on the grip sure looks nice, but it’s a moot point for me as I tend to outfit all of my handguns with Pachmeyer grips. You sweat a lot in the real world and I’ve never kept the slippery factory grips no matter how much checkering and scroll work is done to allow for a good grip. So much for progress; I do like the armor coating idea.

    • John Everett January 25, 2016, 10:48 am

      I recently examined the full size gun at my local gunshop. I didn’t think the D.A. or S.A. trigger
      pull was any better than the standard 92. I liked the dovetail front sight but like all 92’s the
      reach to the trigger is long and the gun is bulky. I didn’t see where it was worth $1,200.00

  • John January 25, 2016, 9:28 am

    I love the Berettas. ALL the Berettas. I have a 92FS and 96FS. A Cheetah, a Model 34, and BDA-380. Also a PX-4 Sub-Compact in .40 and probably a few more floating around that I forgot about. – I see a BIG problem with this iteration of the 92. WHY in HELL would you take the Decocker’s SAFETY FEATURE AWAY??? Decocking and DEACTIVATING the trigger is a key and genius feature of the 92/96, etc. I will bet any amount of money that someone, even someone VERY familiar with the standard decock/deactivation feature will have an unintentional discharge of these weapons on that basis alone. The amount of damage will only be luck versus fate. I hope no one is killed.
    It would be like changing the definition of the word “safe” to include “fire” and not tell anyone!

    Ones’ knowledge and experience of the weapon will work against it’s subconsciously safe operation. This will cause an accident!

    Another less dangerous feature that has been lost in Wilson’s options is the rounding off of the front trigger guard. The originals have a nice, slightly trigger-shaped front, with mild serrations. This is in itself a safety feature of the original configuration. It allows for the weak hand to place a finger on that front trigger guard to help control muzzle flip. Although Berettas do not suffer from harsh muzzle flip, this feature makes the gun rock solid during firing.
    But with Wilson’s options, it rounds off this feature for no apparent benefit in my view. In fact just taking away the “look” of that feature is a huge minus. It makes an otherwise distinctive firearm look run-of-the-mill plain.
    Next – since when was the original mag release “hard to operate”? Now, this new “belly-button outie” of a release can snag on just about anything.
    I haven’t even mentioned the price for all these “deaths of one thousand cuts” that will cost you way too much money and take away much of the value and safety of an otherwise nearly perfect firearm!!
    I have no issue with Wilson as a company, and believe that they do phenomenal work. But the decision process to come up with these “tweaks” is just crazy-stupid.

  • Cary January 25, 2016, 8:58 am

    They say the wait time is 8-12 weeks. But the truth is around 24 weeks. Which it took on mine to deliver. It was sent back twice. Once for the red decock dots still tacky and removable with a Q tip. And a dead trijicon front sight that I somehow missed from initial delivery. While it was there I did throw more money at it and have the pistol Armor Tuffed. Slide Grey and Barrel Green. I’m happy with it now. Smooth accurate precise. Right out the box. Note I also paid for the custom tuned trigger kit. So I don’t know how the stock one felt.

    • Carl LaFong January 25, 2016, 12:05 pm

      I believe that that “crazy-stupid” idea originated with the insistence of the French Air Force that decocking the hammer should still make the pistol ready to fire immediately

    • Chris December 25, 2016, 1:55 am

      Can you post a pic of the grey slide? I am trying to decide between grey or black and I haven’t found a good picture of one elsewhere!

  • Dan Hamilton January 24, 2016, 10:47 pm

    I read one of your articles on the Sig Sauer pistol(s) the other day and was impressed. Please answer if you will the following question;
    – The Sig Sauer P220r3 SAO is a wonderful weapon however, I would really enjoy it so much more if I could get my hands on an extended thumb safety for it. Can you help me out. Do they even exist? Many thanks in advance for any information you may afford me. Dan Hamilton

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