Back in my Guns & Ammo days
Beretta Model 92FS XX-Treme
By Dennis Adler
This is a little trip back in time, about 15 years back, when I was primarily an automotive journalist, gun enthusiast and collector. Early on in my career when I was writing about rare and expensive vintage American and European cars from the early 20th century, I had determined that I was never going to be a car collector. My interests were in photographing and writing about them, not owning them, and I never kept that a secret even when I was editor of one of the (at the time) top-rated collector car magazines in America. This led one of my competitors to brand me a “non-collecting voyeur” which really has a pretty nasty connotation. But I wore it well for over 30 years and through authoring dozens of automotive books and running the magazine. I loved old cars; I just didn’t want to own them. (Truth be told, the ones I would have loved to own were so far out of my reach financially that I had long dismissed any thoughts of ownership).
Back to the second part of my earlier life as a “gun enthusiast and collector” the one hobby I had that I could participate in both as a journalist and collector. And back in those days, when the great Garry James was the editor, I wrote for Guns & Ammo. Garry was also a car enthusiast so we had common interests and a shared taste for the same kinds of guns.
Over the years I reviewed modern handguns and more than a few vintage arms and reproductions of the same, but one day, about 15 years ago, I asked Garry if I could write a piece about a new air pistol I had acquired from Pyramyd Air. It was an exclusive Umarex Beretta model built just for them.
Airgun articles were scarce in the pages of Guns & Ammo but this Beretta was a bit of a game changer for BB and pellet pistols in the early years of the new century. Interestingly, the gun that came to be known as XX-Treme Model 92FS was the opening shot at making air pistols suitable for a whole new level of shooting and practical training with CO2. Some of this will seem old as you read it now compared to today’s state-of-the-art CO2 training capable guns, like the Umarex Beretta 92A1, the soon to be released Beretta M9A3, and groundbreaking Sig Sauer P320 M17. But when the XX-Treme was introduced almost 20 years ago, it was the M17 CO2 model of its day!
No longer manufactured in the XX-Treme configuration, the Umarex Beretta 92FS pellet model is still one of the best CO2 pistols made, a testament to its German-built quality and the longevity of the design. So, here is the original story of that gun as it was written in Guns & Ammo.
This is not your father’s air pistol. In fact, there has never been any airgun quite like the Beretta 92FS XX-Treme. If you’re thinking, “Walther CP99 Nighthawk,” you’re wrong. The Walther is a very cool version of the excellent CP99, but the Beretta is a fully integrated tactical air pistol built to the same dimensions, specs, weight and handling characteristics as the real deal. The only difference is in loading and what comes out the end of the muzzle. This gun is good enough to be used for training exercises because everything is exactly the same as an actual Beretta 9mm.
Before we go patting Beretta and Umarex Sportwaffen on the shoulder for building what appears to be the ultimate adult air pistol, we need to bring in another shoulder belonging to Josh Ungier, president of Pyramyd Air, in Ohio. Josh came up with the idea for the XX-Treme and had it designed and built by Umarex Sportwaffen GmbH in Arnsberg, Germany, the parent company of Carl Walther.
The XX-Treme starts out as the very popular and hefty Beretta 92FS air pistol. Yes, it has identical nomenclature to the cartridge firing models, and for good reason. Laid side by side with a real 92FS, at a glance, even a long glance, the two are almost indistinguishable. The air pistol even has a 9mm sized muzzle, with the .177 (4.5mm) barrel opening recessed inside. It operates as both a single and double action gun; the manual safety and magazine releases are located in the same positions, and the sights, hammer, trigger and triggerguard are identical to the 9mm version.
The 92FS airgun was introduced at the annual Shot Show in 2000 and has since become one of the best selling air pistols in the world. With the addition of the Picatinny rails to mount the Umarex Top Point scope and Walther Tactical flashlight, the 92FS takes on a more sinister, militaristic appearance. When you screw in the reproduction silencer, effectively increasing the length of the rifled steel barrel by almost 1-inch (at the threaded mount) and stabilizing the .177 (4.5mm) lead pellets as they pass through the 4-15/16th inch long tube, you have an air pistol that looks like no other in the world.
The standard Beretta 92FS air pistol tips the scales at 44.4 ounces without accessories, and when fitted with all of the XX-Treme equipment, including the optional Walther Tactical flashlight, the gun weighs in at 4-lbs. even. That’s a handful, but the payback is in accuracy. At 10 meters, the standard test range for pellet-firing air pistols, the XX-Treme is again worthy of its name. Firing from a standing position using a two-handed hold, I placed 8 shots (I’ll explain why 8 in just a moment), less than ¾-inch from center-to-center. From a table rest I fired two 8-shot groups all hitting within a 5/8ths of an inch in the X-bull.
Why 8 shots? The answer is the Umarex-designed rotary magazine. It fits into the slide, which is opened by dropping the takedown lever, at which point the slide splits and moves forward at the juncture just behind the lever. The rotary magazine is inserted, and then with a light push on the top of the slide (or in the XX-Treme’s case, grasping the silencer and pushing the slide back), the gun is closed and ready to fire. In reality, the Beretta air pistol, (and all air pistols using this Umarex internal design) are revolvers! Despite the appearance of a semi-auto, the 8-round magazine rotates with each shot, just like the cylinder on a revolver. The only difference is it’s all happening on the inside.
A standard 12 gram CO2 cartridge fits inside the magazine well, accessed by depressing the magazine release, which springs open the right side grip panel. The CO2 sets onto a threaded platform under tension from what appears to be the bottom of a Beretta 9mm magazine’s base pad. This actually cantilevers down, and after the CO2 cartridge is adjusted up into position, closing the base pad seats the capsule, puncturing the seal and allowing the compressed CO2 to be drawn off in the required amount with each shot. Press the grip panel back in place and you’re good to go.
Our tests revealed consistent power and accuracy for up to a dozen 8-shot magazines (96 .177 pellets total) before the air pressure begins to drop off, evident both by the sound of the hits on target and a slow but continual drop from point of aim.
Having written the very first Blue Book of Airguns in 2001 with G&A Field Editor Steve Fjestad and air pistol authority Dr. Robert D. Beeman, I can attest to having fired more airguns than most people do in a lifetime, and none have impressed me more for overall quality, design, and an uncommon cachet than the Beretta XX-Treme. If I was going to have only one air pistol, and I wanted one that was fun to shoot, exceedingly accurate, and would attract more attention at the plinking range than arriving in a military assault vehicle, then I would have to own this gun.
All these years later, I still do. And if you happen to own one of these terrific early Beretta 92FS custom models, drop me a note in the comments section below!
Editor’s Note: Prices noted in this article are 15 years old, so please disregard them, though they do make for some interesting comparisons with today’s prices!