First Look: Umarex Beretta M9A3 Part 1

First Look: Umarex Beretta M9A3 Part 1

The civilian market wins when the military takes a pass

By Dennis Adler

Beretta is not known for making frequent model changes (some unusual guns, perhaps, like the Nano and Pico), but the upgrades to the 92 Series have always been to improve the gun either for the military or civilian market. The Model 92 platform dates back to 1976 and the latest models, now in CO2, are the 92A1 and M9A3. While similar, the centerfire and blowback action models have a number of different design features, aside from the FDE finish.

In 2017, after 32 years providing this nation’s standard issue military sidearm, Beretta lost its contract after failing to win the U.S. Army’s Modular Handgun System (MHS) competition. Back in 2012, Beretta was awarded a secondary contract to improve the M9 (Beretta 92) in use by the U.S. military since 1985 and the result was the M9A1, an upgraded 92FS for the military that also found its way into the civilian market. When the Army’s XM17 Modular Handgun System (MHS) competition was announced in September 2015 to find a replacement for the M9A1, Beretta again worked to upgrade the Model 92 to meet the new standards established for the MHS trials. The significantly upgraded M9A3, however, only met 86 percent of the Request for Proposals (RFP) outlined in the MHS program requirements. The most noteworthy issue for the MHS was not being a modular handgun design, of course, neither were most of the guns developed for submission to the MHS trials, including Glock and S&W, leaving Sig Sauer with a clear avenue given its already established and proven modular designed P320. read more


Semi-auto pellet pistol evolution Part 3

Semi-auto pellet pistol evolution Part 3

From perfection to perfection

By Dennis Adler

Take 10 paces, turn and fire. The very modern Sig Sauer P320 M17 ASP brings the highest level of blowback action CO2 pellet-firing pistol technology to the table, while the Umarex Beretta 92FS retains the look and feel of a classic pistol.

In the end, this review comes down to technology either improving an operating system or simply technology creating something newer and more appealing, but with the old, established platform of the Umarex Beretta 92FS against the outwardly advanced design of the Sig Sauer P320 M17 ASP, the truth of the comparison is, that outside of shooting accuracy, there is no comparison. For handling and authentic to the centerfire pistol design, the M17 cannot be touched by any other “pellet-firing” CO2 pistol. I have to unapologetically emphasize “pellet-firing” because even Sig Sauer’s own BB-firing Model 1911 WE THE PEOPLE blows the doors off the M17 for true authentic operation, construction and field-stripping capability. It is closer to the real centerfire gun because there are limits to what a pellet-firing semi-auto design CO2 pistol can do, and how it can do it. In that single respect, the 92FS and M17, though almost two decades apart in design and manufacturing technologies, are on common ground. With these pellet pistols, trigger pull, sighting, and accuracy are the only things that count from this point forward. read more


Semi-auto pellet pistol evolution Part 2

Semi-auto pellet pistol evolution Part 2

From perfection to perfection

By Dennis Adler

Top guns in their own right and in their own time, the Umarex Beretta 92FS has been manufactured for just shy of 20 years, the Sig Sauer by comparison has been around about 20 minutes. It has the advantage of the very latest air pistol technology while the Umarex Beretta is where multi-shot, semi-auto pellet pistol design began.

Almost two decades separate the technology between the Umarex Beretta 92FS pellet model and the Sig Sauer P320 M17 ASP. For air pistols it is a big difference, for the actual guns, the Sig replaced the Beretta as the primary U.S. military sidearm, but the M17 only succeeded the Beretta M9 (military designation for the 92FS) because it provided specific features that the Beretta could not, regardless of how the gun was updated as the M9A3. The improved military model failed to give Beretta the competitive edge it needed to retain the government contract it had enjoyed since 1985. In a way, this is like the advanced technology between the two pellet-firing CO2 models. It is also fair to say, that both the Beretta 92 series (and latest M9A3 pistols) and the Umarex 92FS CO2 model remain in production, so the advances in technology over two decades have not made either of them undesirable. They’re just not state-of-the-art handguns. read more


Semi-auto pellet pistol evolution

Semi-auto pellet pistol evolution

From perfection to perfection

By Dennis Adler

Sig Sauer designed the M17 CO2 pistol and it is an actual Sig Sauer product, not a licensed design for another company to build and sell, but, unlike the Beretta 92FS, which is still made in Germany, the M17 is built for Sig Sauer in Japan. That, combined with a less expensive to produce polymer frame and integrated grips, as opposed to a cast alloy frame with wood grips, makes the 92FS more expensive to build no matter where it is manufactured.

It was just 23 years ago that Umarex introduced the first semi-auto style pellet pistol, the Walther CP-88. It is still manufactured. In 1999, Umarex developed its second semi-auto style pellet pistol, the Beretta 92FS, which was introduced at the turn of the new century, becoming what remains, 19 years later, the best built CO2 pistol of its kind, still handcrafted and manufactured in Germany. Two remarkable guns that launched a generation of rotary magazine semiautomatic pellet pistols, but were they true semi-autos? The answer then and now is no. The Umarex Beretta 92FS looks, feels, and handles like its centerfire Beretta counterpart but its internal operation is that of a revolver with the cast alloy 8-round rotary magazine turned from chamber to chamber by pulling the trigger. It was a beautiful deception. read more


Sweet Inspirations

Sweet Inspirations

Borrowing from the past

By Dennis Adler

During the 1850s Colt produced .44 caliber Dragoon Models with detachable shoulder stocks. Although far from the first use of this combination to turn a holster pistol into a short barrel carbine, the Colt models from the 1850s through the 1860s are the most famous. Dragoons with shoulder stocks were generally fitted with a folding rear sight on top of the barrel lug (which you can see folded down). Accuracy with the stock attached was greatly enhanced and point of aim was more accurate than with the pistol’s hammer notch rear and half moon German silver front sight.

At the end of the article on the Crosman Backpacker Model 2289G I put in a picture of several Frank Wesson single shot .32 rimfire pistols from the 1870s which were fitted with shoulder stocks to make them into carbines. This shows that the concept for the Crosman was rooted in our past, but it is far more interesting than that. For so many of the very popular airguns we have today, the past is the source of their inspiration, like the early Gletcher Russian Legends, and Umarex Legends models such as the MP40 sub machinegun and M712 Broomhandle, among others. But this particular subject of making carbines out of pistols has its roots far more deeply planted in the past. Frank Wesson built his guns as simple, affordable single shot pistols, some with longer barrels that could be used to hunt small game and affixed with a metal skeleton shoulder stock to make the pistol more accurate, like a rifle, but removable for easier transport. In an airgun context the 2289G, Diana Chaser, shoulder stocks for any of the Crosman 1399 series models as well as other Crosman pneumatic pistols, even the shoulder stock for the Umarex S&W 586 (perhaps the closest relation to the Frank Wesson pistols) fall into this same category. read more


Back in my Guns & Ammo days

Back in my Guns & Ammo days

Beretta Model 92FS XX-Treme

By Dennis Adler

I originally wrote this caption because at the time very few CO2 pistols looked like the XX-Treme. “Not your father’s Crosman pellet gun, the Beretta XX-Treme raises the bar for intimidating design. Fully equipped, as shown, the price is just $318.99.”

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). read more


War Games: Uzi Pistol vs. HK MP5 K

War Games: Uzi Pistol vs. HK MP5 K

Two classic military arms air each other out 

By Dennis Adler

The Uzi (right) is more than 50 years old in design yet remains as viable a self defense and tactical pistol today as in the 1950s. The blowback action CO2 model sold by Pyramyd Air has a select fire system that allows both semi-auto and full auto. The Umarex HK MP5 K is a more modern design which is still in use today by military and law enforcement. The CO2-powered PDW (Personal Defense Weapon) version is a very authentic rendering of the compact H&K pistol with folding stock.

Few military arms have remained as universally accepted around the world as the Uzi pistol and Heckler & Koch MP5K. Neither gun in full automatic military versions is available to the general public without an ATF Form 4, local law enforcement approval, a federal background check and a $200 tax stamp, or a Class III license for automatic weapons. But, both have been spectacularly duplicated as CO2 blowback action versions by Umarex. There is a special select-fire Uzi Pistol with folding shoulder stock sold by Pyramyd Air, a semi-auto only model from Umarex, and the HK MP5 PDW semi-auto version. These 20th century firearms, one more than 50 years old in design, are still in daily use the world over; that’s how good they are and how well they perform in combat and law enforcement situations. As CO2 models they put at hand designs that most of us could neither afford nor use for practical shooting, but as .177 caliber airguns, they serve a purpose for sport shooting and, if need be, as training substitutes for the actual guns. Either way, both are great fun to shoot as CO2 models. read more