Swiss Arms The other Beretta Model 92
The P92 delivers an accurate 92FS semi-auto design
By Dennis Adler
Every so often a great airgun comes along, and in a year or so it gets forgotten, or worse, overshadowed by another great airgun…of nearly identical design. This is the case of the first great blowback action Beretta Model 92FS air pistol, the Swiss Arms P92. The Model 92 Beretta design, one of the Italian armsmaker’s most successful pistols (and with more than 500 years of gun making history behind them, that’s a lot to say), has seen many iterations and improvements since it was introduced in 1976. The 92FS variation arrived in1984, just in time for the 9mm model to be adopted as this nation’s standard issue military sidearm the following year. As an air pistol, the Beretta 92FS has been around since 2000 as one of the premier Umarex Beretta models, however, it has always been a non-blowback semi-auto with an 8-shot rotary pellet magazine. Umarex and Beretta did not jointly introduce a blowback action .177 caliber BB model until late in 2015. At that point in time, most Beretta enthusiasts already had or were familiar with the blowback action .177 caliber Beretta 92FS models from Swiss Arms, which preceded the Umarex by more than a year.
The Swiss Arms P92 was the first blowback action 92FS. When the Umarex Beretta 92A1 was introduced, it used the design of the newest Beretta military (M9A1) and civilian version (92A1), with a dustcover accessory rail and new rounded triggerguard. For extra measure, Umarex threw in a selective fire mechanism (with a small selector on the right side of the frame) to give the new model even greater appeal. Ironically, even that idea was not entirely new, since Beretta had actually manufactured a 9mm selective fire version of the Model 92 (the Model 93R) and airgun manufacturer Gletcher had briefly built a version of the 92FS (which was virtually identical to the Swiss Arms model), but with a left hand safety selector switch that put the gun into full auto burst operation when pulled all the way down. This is just as it had worked on the actual Beretta Model 93R. That was, however, a short-lived model for Gletcher, leaving the Swiss Arms semi-auto to stand as the best CO2 example of the 9mm Beretta until the 92A1 came along two years ago.
How good is the Swiss Arms 92FS variation compared to the 92A1?
Consider first, that the two guns are not identical, even beyond the different triggerguard and Mil-Spec 1913 (Picatinny) rail designs. The Swiss Arms model has the thumb safety located on the frame, rather than on the slide as it should be, and operates in the reverse order. Interestingly, the select fire detent from the Gletcher is still used on the Swiss Arms model. It should work as a decocker when lowered but does nothing. Lastly, the safety on the Umarex (like the 9mm models) can be set to SAFE or FIRE regardless of hammer position (cocked or lowered), while the Swiss Arms can only be set to safe if the hammer is cocked. This seems like a trivial difference, but for training purposes it is anything but. Nevertheless, the Swiss Arms model was the first blowback action CO2 .177 caliber version of the Beretta Model 92FS.
How much gun do you get?
We already know that the Umarex Beretta 92A1 is perhaps the best .177 caliber CO2 blowback action semi-auto pistol on the market for ease of handling, loading, and for accuracy; so where does the Swiss Arms P92 fall in comparison? In price they have the same MSRP of $149.99 but the average discounted prices put the Swiss Arms model at around $20 less. The Swiss Arms P92 has the same build quality and disassembles identically to the 92A1, and both models have ambidextrous safeties. One final difference is the use of three white dot sights on the Umarex Beretta while the Swiss Arms uses a single rear center white dot and black front blade. While this is not the standard arrangement on a 9mm 92FS (they come with three dot sights like the Umarex 92A1), it is an effective enough sighting system that it is used on a number of cartridge-firing semi-autos.
The Swiss Arms model is an easy takedown for detailed cleaning and occasional lubrication with RWS air chamber lube, and only takes seconds to disassemble to the two main components; frame and slide. The gun is a true short-recoil operated design with a free floating barrel and lug, recoil spring and guide rod arrangement based on the 9mm pistol design. The internal smoothbore barrel length is 4.5 inches and is recessed from the 9mm muzzle opening by 0.25 inches. A 9mm 92FS model has a standard barrel length of 4.9 inches.
The Swiss Arms trigger system is also a 92FS based DA/SA design with the first shot fired double action, if the hammer is lowered (de-cocked manually). Having an exposed hammer, it can be manually cocked to discharge the gun SA. Trigger pull on the Swiss Arms measures 6 pounds, 7.0 ounces average fired double action, and a light 2 pounds, 0.5 ounces average single action. This is a very good DA/SA trigger for an air pistol.
For the shooting test, the standard range will be 21 feet, optimum for blowback action, smoothbore CO2 pistols, and the ammunition will be Umarex steel BBs. All shots will be fired using a Weaver stance and two-handed hold, and the first round will be shot double action.
The average velocity for the Swiss Arms is rated at 312 fps, the gun chronographed at an average of 310 fps with a high of 321 fps and a low of 304 fps. The gun has a moderate degree of felt recoil with the blowback action, not quite as brisk as the Swiss Arms 1911s but the Beretta has a cutaway slide (over the length of the barrel) so it is much lighter, one of Beretta’s most distinctive design features. The airgun magazine has a total capacity of 21 rounds, for the test, magazines were loaded with only 10. The trigger pull is excellent on this gun which helps keep it on target. This example did, however, shoot 2 inches below POA so all of my shots were fired with a 2-inch hold over.
The best 10-shot group actually broke into two five-shot groups one measuring 0.75 inches and the second 0.625 inches. Total spread was 1.5 inches. This is equal to the test results for the Umarex Beretta 92A1 in Airgun Experience No. 33, with an equivalent best 5-shot group.
The Swiss Arms P92 can stand its ground against the majority of today’s best blowback action .177 caliber CO2 semi-autos, many of which are variations of Model 1911 designs. In the world of Beretta, however, there are only two, and this was the first.
A Word About Safety
Blowback action models like the Swiss Arms P92 provide the look, feel and operation of their cartridge-firing counterparts. All arguns, in general, look like guns, but those based on real cartridge-firing models even more so. It is important to remember that the vast majority of people can’t tell an airgun from a cartridge gun. Never brandish an airgun in public. Always, and I can never stress this enough, always treat an airgun as you would a cartridge gun. The same manual of operation and safety should always apply.