Following a thread
The sound of faux silence
By Dennis Adler
In a recent article on “Why tan guns have great appeal” I pointed out that the Umarex Beretta M9A3 has a threaded barrel unlike the earlier 92A1 version, but that Umarex does not offer a faux suppressor to fit the newer Beretta semi-auto/full auto CO2 model. One of our regular readers, an avid collector and also one of the most astute when it comes posing questions, asked if there is a faux suppressor out there that fits the M9A3’s authentic-looking threaded barrel. The answer is yes, but it follows an idea that has long attracted air pistol enthusiasts to reproductions of military arms, some of which in their centerfire lives were designed for or altered to accept a silencer.
Most of the attention given silencers, suppressors, or whatever name you want to give them, comes from our cinematic familiarization. In real life, very few people actually used silencers outside of military and law enforcement, though that is changing as more people are drawn to the practicality of noise suppressors for hunting and general shooting as they are promoted as advantageous to protecting one’s hearing. It’s a subject best left to those on both sides of the silencer/noise suppressor issue. In airguns, permanently affixed noise suppressors are a well proven aid in hunting and shooting with larger caliber and high power air rifles. The operative words are “permanently affixed” as this makes them legal for use without federal approval, etc. Making functioning noise suppressors for airguns that are removable is another story. Silencers serve a purpose to reduce the sound or decibel levels (dB) of a firearm, but they do not “silence” them. The report of a fired shot, be it powered by air or gun powder, can be significantly reduced with a suppressor, almost to the point of silence with smaller calibers, but nothing will mute the sound of a gun’s action, especially a semi-auto. On the plus side, a suppressor not only reduces dB levels, it reduces felt recoil and muzzle flash, and that is almost as important with larger caliber guns. Still, most movies get it wrong, and we hear a muted sound that approximates the decibel level of a silenced firearm, but we never hear the sound of the gun itself, this is especially true in films and television shows that have silenced semi-auto rifles being used. Once in a while you find a director that demands total authenticity (and knows what the guns are supposed to sound like, and works with the sound and editing team to get everything as it should be), then you get the full spectrum of sounds created by suppressed weapons, and they are not silent. Still, we are drawn to the mystique, the inner James Bond threading a silencer onto a Walther PPK (or a Walther P99 in the first Daniel Craig Bond films), or any of dozens of action films where silenced guns are used effectively by both the heroes and the villains. While there is a false psychological certainty to seeing a silenced gun, the practicality is well founded in military history, and that is what makes a gun with a threaded barrel more appealing, even if it is an air pistol.
I hate to use that terminology, but once in awhile a CO2 pistol comes along that just rocks the very concept. One that immediately comes to mind was the first Swiss Arms 1911 TRS model with threaded barrel. I reviewed this gun a couple of years ago and it checked all the right boxes. When fitted with a faux suppressor and a Tanfoglio 27 round extended capacity magazine, this was a one of the best looking 1911 tactical style pistols around. A much less impressive example is the threaded barrel Sig Sauer P226 which fits a too skinny, too short faux suppressor. But getting back to the question of the Beretta M9A3, the threaded barrel on that CO2 model is the same thread design as the old Swiss Arms; 14mm counterclockwise thread.
The JBU 4.75 in. Suppressor
Some of the threaded barrels out there can be confusing because the caps thread on counterclockwise. The Beretta M9A3 is one of them. The cap turns off to the right. I can vouch for that because it is seated so tightly from the factory that at one point when I did the first review of the M9A3 I thought it was a fixed piece (because the slide opening clears the threaded cap). Later on I tried again to remove it. And I made a common mistake; I tried to turn it off to the left, and only tightened it more. Finger strength failed and I used a pair of Soft Touch (non-marring) pliers which have molded jaw pads that will not scratch or damage surfaces. The finely checkered alloy cap on the M9A3 will easily scratch and wear off finish if you use any unprotected tools on it. (I’m on my second cap in case you’re wondering, and they are not easy to come by, so heed my advice).
The JBU 4.75 inch Suppressor is designed for Airsoft pistols with 14mm counterclockwise threaded barrels, (because Airsoft is where all the fun stuff comes from), but since it has a copious .45 ACP muzzle opening and the same thread it will fit the Beretta’s barrel just fine, and it only costs $30. It is a well made aluminum piece with a black matte finish and laser engraved JBU markings. And that is all the good news.
Point one. The threaded barrel on the M9A3 is itself threaded into the pistol’s barrel and tightens clockwise. You need to make sure it is tightly secured to the barrel before threading on the JBU counterclockwise, because as you screw on the suppressor you are also unscrewing the threaded barrel adapter from the front of the pistol. It has to be a perfect combination of tightening. I gave the barrel thread adapter a little tightening and then held it with a fingernail as I slowly threaded on the suppressor. When you get to the very back of the muzzle there is a little play and you can turn the suppressor to position it with the wording facing down or to the left side of the gun, I prefer down. Once you have that done, the M9A3 looks pretty bad in a good way. The JBU is close to the dimensions of an actual short pistol suppressor. But here is the rub.
Point two, guns built for mounting suppressors not only have threaded barrels they have raised front and rear sights to clear the circumference of the suppressor, especially guns with a low bore axis. The M9A3 does not have raised sights, so you are sighting squarely into the top back edge of the JBU. You can still aim but you are actually pinpointing the suppressor on the target and estimating POA and POI. At close range this is not that big of a deal, and in real world use must suppressed handguns are fired at close range (this goes all the way back to the use of suppressed semi-autos during WWII). Sighting the M9A3 with the JBU is a slight detriment to accuracy and the suppressor does nothing to increase effective barrel length as a trade-off, the inside of the aluminum housing does not step down in size to .177 caliber, it is just a big hole that runs the length of the suppressor housing, a housing which is devoid of any noise reducing components. It offers no improvement to velocity.
Suffering the details
You can’t call the 9mm M9A3 or the CO2 version a clean sheet of paper design, more like the same sheet with a lot of lines erased and redrawn. For the CO2 model incorporating the key design changes were the most important part of recasting the Beretta in its new image. Internally, the two CO2 models are almost entirely the same, however, there are some minor differences and you can feel this in trigger pull, which is slightly heavier in the new model, fired double action for the first shot. Single action pull is almost the same, perhaps a bit smoother and a hair lighter on the M9A3.
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 factory specs list velocity at 330 fps, which is 20 fps faster than the factory specs for the older Umarex Beretta 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.
In my initial reviews of the M9A3 the gun consistently shot 2.5 inches low and slightly left at a 10-meter pistol target using a six o’clock hold on the bullseye. It did put those 10 shots at 0.65 inches. 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 that 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. Shooting over the top of the faux suppressor is going to compound the problem.
New accuracy tests with a new M9A3
It has been about a year since I have done accuracy tests with the Umarex M9A3, and this is not the original sample gun I reviewed in 2019. So I am going to retest the gun with the fixed sights and then add the faux suppressor.
The new gun shot a little low but not as much as the original test gun. Even correcting POA I still hit a little below the bullseye, but the total 10-shot group had a spread of 0.68 inches in one ragged tear with a best five at under 0.5 inches. With the JBU threaded onto the barrel, the sights, as noted, are totally blocked and my best POA was placing the sights squarely in the center of the suppressor and the top rim of the JBU over the center of the target. This put shots all around the black at a spread just under 2-inches from the 7 ring at 11 o’clock to the 8 ring at 5 o’clock. All good hits on a B27 silhouette target. I then placed the top rim of the JBU at the top center edge of the target and held that for five consecutive rounds that grouped into a dime-sized cluster high and a little right of the black center. As close to aiming as you can get from 21 feet with the faux suppressor mounted. With some added trigger time I think one could get a sense of where to place the top edge of the suppressor on the target to get consistent groups around an inch. Not great but close enough to where the gun shoots with open sights, which is consistently under an inch.
Accuracy with the addition of a faux suppressor to the M9A3 is, like the suppressor itself, just for the heck of it. But it looks good and for CO2 pistols that’s half the battle. Question answered.