First Look: Umarex Beretta M9A3 Part 3
The civilian market wins when the military takes a pass
By Dennis Adler
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.