First Look: Umarex Beretta M9A3 Part 3

First Look: Umarex Beretta M9A3 Part 3

The civilian market wins when the military takes a pass

By Dennis Adler

The Umarex Beretta models are accurate in size and fit the same holsters as the centerfire pistols; however, the different triggerguard designs dictate different holsters. The new M9A3 with the squared off triggerguard requires holsters for that contour such as the minimalist design Galco Yaqui Slide Belt Holster. This allows most effective concealed carry for the full-sized pistol (outside of an IWB rig) but much less retention than a full size holster or one with a thumb break safety strap.

The differences between the 92A1 and M9A3 as discussed in Part 2 can be categorized in one of two ways, first, exterior changes to duplicate improvements in the 9mm model’s design and operation, and secondly those made to the CO2 pistol either as improvements or changes in manufacturing. The latter is seldom the goal as retaining as many parts of the original mechanical design as possible is the most cost effective when upgrading an existing pistol. With the Umarex Beretta models there is one mechanical or manufacturing change that is quite evident, the new barrel breech on the M9A3. This is actually more than just the interface of the barrel breech with the CO2 firing mechanism. That part is also different on the M9A3. From a purely functional aspect the 92A1 firing CO2 delivery system is a plunger that comes forward and with a lug on the underside strips the next BB in the magazine and chambers it as the plunger extends into the back of the barrel breech. The face of the plunger sits flush with the barrel breech. Secondly, when the slide retracts, either manually or recoiling from being fired, the plunger snaps back into the firing mechanism under the slide, and then extends forward as the slide closes. This is something you can see by simply looking down on the top of the slide and pulling it back an inch. The plunger will snap back.

The new M9A3 uses an improved lock up between the CO2 plunger and barrel breech, which locks them together via a lug extending from the plunger housing into a corresponding slot in the top of the barrel.
The 92A1 design has the flat face of the plunger flush against the barrel breech. The two designs also differ in how they operate, with the older-style plunger snapping back and into the slide when it retracts during recoil. The M9A3 plunger remains extended (though if the slide is locked open you use your finger to push it back inside the slide).
Here you can see the M9A3 plunger extended with the slide locked back, while the 92A1 plunger has snapped back under the slide.

On the M9A3, the design is entirely different, the plunger is always extended and the top has a locking lug that fits into a corresponding notch in the top of the barrel breech. The same type of lug on the underside is used to chambers the BB when the slide closes. However, the plunger on the M9A3 does not snap back into the firing mechanism when you retract the slide, it just moves back in unison with the slide and remains extended. With the 92A1 the plunger is simply not there when the slide comes back, so this is a rework of the firing mechanism. Why? From a purely mechanical standpoint it appears to be less expensive to build but the underside of the barrel lug and the guide rod and the recoil spring are also different, as is part of the firing mechanism in the frame. This is a new design on the inside as well as the outside. Whether this is simply more efficient to manufacture (like the polymer frame) or has an effect on the pistol’s performance will be decided with the velocity and accuracy of the M9A3 vs. the 92A1.

Looking at the field stripped 92A1 and M9A3, the two guns have very different designs inside the frame with different slide rails and hammer safety operation. The barrels are different as are the recoil springs and barrel lugs. You have a more modern or production efficient design with the M9A3, which manages to deliver faster action and higher velocity.

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Handling and Performance

The black Bruniton-type finish of the 92A1 CO2 model compared to the two-tone FDE (Flat Dark Earth) color of the M9A3 slide, grips and magazine, and contrasted by the anodized earth tone receiver make this new model a visually striking pistol that deliberately accentuates the Beretta 92 Series styling. Add to that the new grip design and M9A3 not only looks different but feels different in the hand.

There are two key differences in the handing between the 92A1 and M9A3 CO2 models. One, the safety decocker on the 92A1 is not used on the M9A3 which is set to either FIRE or SAFE. The loss of the decocking feature, in my mind, is a step down even though this combination can be ordered on the 9mm M9A3, as well as decock only, so if it is dollars and cents for the CO2 model, the authenticity is still there, though I prefer the safety decocker. Secondly, the resistance when racking the slide is different, rougher on the M9A3 than the 92A2 despite what appears to be a lighter wound recoil spring around the guide rod. This, of course, only matters when you rack the slide to chamber the first BB or when clearing the gun before field stripping or putting it away.

The safety design on the M9A3 looks identical but opperates differently as a SAFE/FIRE only while the 92A1 safety also functions as a decocker like the 9mm model. 

I think overall the new build for the firing mechanism, slide rails, and frame is more efficient, appears to employ fewer parts, and hopefully will be reflected in a lower suggested retail price when the gun is released. And this is all well and good is performance and accuracy has not been sacrificed.

First off, trigger pull. Double action pull averages 8 pounds, 11.5 ounces. This is equivalent to the 92A1 trigger. Single action pull is 4 pounds, 3.4 ounces with almost zero stacking, a short, smooth pull through and crisp break. This is much lighter and smoother than the 92A1 which has stacking throughout the pull and a stiff break as the hammer drops. Length of travel on the 92A1 fired double action is 1.18 inches, and the same on the M9A3 trigger. Take up fired single action is 0.625 inches on the 92A1 but only 0.5 inches on the M9A3. So, the triggers are not exactly the same and the overall advantage goes to the new Beretta model.

The M9A3 trigger operates a little smoother than the older 92A1, though both look the same. Fired single action the M9A3 is much lighter.

To test velocity I used Umarex Precision steel BBs and chronographed 10 consecutive shots with a fresh CO2 cartridge to get an average for maximum velocity. The M9A3 packaging, which is a very nice cardboard box for storage, lists velocity at 330 fps, which is 20 fps faster than the factory specs for the 92A1. The M9A3 clocked an as advertised 330 fps average with a high of 353 fps and a low of 321 fps for 10 rounds. The older (and in my case a 2016 gun) 92A1 did a little better than the factory specs and clocked an average of 316 fps with a high of 331 fps and a low of 302 fps for 10 rounds. Back in 2016 when I chronographed the gun new out of the box it averaged 320 fps. So, the newer design in the M9A3 gives you an average increase of 15 fps over the older model. Not an overly impressive increase but a fairly consistent one. Dust Devils, if you are wondering, averaged 345 fps in the 92A1 and 342 fps in the M9A3, so pretty much a dead heat with the frangible composite BBs.

About the only thing these two models share is the CO2 BB magazine. This makes the older magazines one may have for a 92A1 suitable for use in the new gun and probably the most important thing of all for anyone who adds an M9A3 to their airgun collection.
The Beretta magazines are among the easiest to load with a locking follower tab and a large, round loading port. Capacity remains 18 rounds. Also note with the safeties engaged, the 92A1 hammer is de-cocked while the M9A3 remains cocked on safe. 

The shooting test was done at the optimal 21 foot distance for blowback action CO2 pistols and the 92A1 had already proven itself capable of 10 rounds inside 1.25 inches with Hornady .177 anodized Black Diamond steel BBs. What I have with the new M9A3 is an interesting situation. I shot at a 10-meter pistol target with a six o’clock hold on the bullseye and placed 10 shots at 0.65 inches…2.5 inches below POA. The gun consistently shoots low and slightly left. Of course, this is one of only two sample guns available and may not be indicative of production models that will be on sale this year. I have had numerous blowback action pistols shoot low, in fact, it is more common than not, and without the benefit of adjustable sights you correct POA and carry on. But rarely has a gun that shoots low at the same time punched 10 shots in almost the exact same spot you can almost cover with a dime. The M9A3 has consistent accuracy, just not sights that are putting shots on target where you are aiming. It is frustrating, but so too are the fixed sights on a number of other otherwise excellent CO2 models. My next target was to correct POA by 2.5 inches over and slightly right (indicated by the red dot on the target), and that target gave me 10 shots in the black at 0.68 inches with multiple overlapping hits. It is a far more accurate gun than the 92A1 for shooting tighter groups.

Good news and bad news in one, the M9A3 shoots much tighter groups than the old 92A1 but the gun, at least this one, shoots 2.5 inches below POA and slightly left. Air pistols that shoot below POA are not uncommon but this is at the extreme for correcting aim. The near dime-sized group from 21 feet was shot using a traditional 6 o’clock hold.

Bottom line with the M9A3 is that this is a more accurate gun but POA with the new sights is off by an almost unacceptable amount. Is that this sample gun or is it indicative of the sights on the new air pistol? The answer to that will be the first test of a production gun once they are in stock at Pyramyd Air.

Correcting POA is not unusual with fixed sight pistols, but for this test result with another tight, overlapping 10-shot group, POA was 2.5 inches above and right as indicated b y the red dot. This leaves the gun’s aiming accuracy in question until an off the shelf production model can be tested. But there is no question as to the M9A3’s group accuracy at 21 feet.

Overall, this is a better looking gun, with handling that is a little harsher racking the slide, but with a better feel, and with lighter weight, actually more balanced in the hand than the somewhat grip heavy 92A1. Simply put, aside from being a 92 Series model, it is a totally different gun. Does that make it new? I refer back to the Walther PPS and PPS M2; the same but different. That’s new.

9 thoughts on “First Look: Umarex Beretta M9A3 Part 3”

  1. I like these Beretta 92 replicas, but not so much when the fixed sights shoot so far off the bulls eye. This Beretta M9A3 looks like a prime candidate for a rail mounted laser.

    I finally mounted a scope on my Mosin Nagan M1944. Doing it was actually easier than I expected. The original rear sight is not actually mounted using the dovetail rail under it. Only two pins hold the rear sight on the rifle. The dovetail is an odd size however at about 14 mm wide. I managed to make a pair of 3/8″ variable dovetail scope mounts work (UTG Leapers Accushot 1″ Rings, RGPM-25M4). The scope is a Simmons ProHunter 4X32 Pistol Scope with long eye relief. Now I can really get a good aim on the target. The pictured target was 15 shots of Umarex Steel BBs at 10 meters from a bench rested position using the scope to aim.

    • I just bought the 6mm version of the M9A3, and when aiming normally POI is right over the right side of the rear sight, but it’s a tack driver. I’ve got a laser on there and next chance I get I’ll be adjusting it to aim with the laser. It’s just my backup in case I get caught reloading my Mac, so I’m not too concerned. Otherwise I’m very happy with the model.

  2. Regarding the cost comments, here in the Old World it is~40$ cheaper than the A1. I wish it performed better in the POA/ POI test since it was high on my wish list, especially with the barrel thread option.

    • That is a dandy job with the scope. The 15-shot group speaks for itself. Now, if you could find a vintage scope that would really be some piece of work. As for the M9A3, with its shot accuracy, POA issues aside, fitted with a sighted in laser it would be a tack driver. Nice shooting bench by the way.

      • After watching Enemy At The Gates, I just had to scope it. The M1944 is much more fun to shoot now. The only thing I might do different is to buy a pair of 14 mm dovetail scope rings and replace the 3/8″ dovetail rings. Pyramyd Air has some 14 mm dovetail scope rings made by BKL. The UTG 3/8″ dovetail rings work OK, but there appears to be a slight cant in the mounted rings because they weren’t designed for a 14 mm dovetail rail.

    • Bill, it may well perform better since this is an early sample gun. I’ll be running a follow up review on an off the shelf gun as soon as they are in the pipeline. Still, even if you have to hold over the groups are much tighter than the older 92A1.

  3. Creative award father week goes to the scoped Nagant. Would make for an interesting bundled package. I like the idea of the lighter weight thinner grip Beretta. The lack of sight regulation is the reason replica airguns need adjustable sights. My Sig226 bb Pistol was off by 4 inches rt and low, took extensive dialing in but finally was able to dial in. Will see what production model does. Looks like it has potential

  4. Absolutely agree that adjustable sights are a must. Anyway I still have high hopes for a laser sight with that tight grouping.
    By the way the scope on the Nagant has pistol eye relief?

    • Yes, the Simmons scope is a pistol scope. I think the specs for the scope say 20″ eye relief, but on the Nagant, I have full field of view with about 13″ to 14″ eye relief.

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