This is the third step in your journey to get the most from a Beretta M9 or M92 series weapon. The five parts of the series are (with the past ones linked for you, in case you’re playing catch-up):
Maintain the gun
There’s a famous old saying, “only accurate guns are interesting.” Only working guns are useful, and maintenance ensures your gun will be useful when it alone stands between you and eternity. Fortunately, a Beretta is well designed, well protected from structural corrosion, with a chrome bore and chamber and good anticorrosion coatings. You don’t need to do much to maintain it. (You could probably get away with throwing it in a drawer for ten years and it would still work, but that’s a hell of a gamble to take. Not recommended!)
You should visually inspect the pistol overall every time you take it and strap it on, and every time you put it away. This is analogous to a pilot’s preflight inspection. You know what right looks like from your familiarity with the weapon; look for anything out of the ordinary. Pay special attention to the locking recesses in the slide, through which you can glimpse the locking block ears. Are they OK? Do the sights look like they’re still in the right place? Is the weapon loaded properly for where it’s going? (mag and chamber if you’re carrying, ditto if you’re positioning for home defense — assuming kids can’t get it — and empty if you’re storing it).
You should inspect the pistol thoroughly when it’s disassembled. This is like the 100-hour or stage checks they do on airplanes — it’s a lot more detailed than the Look for unusual wear patterns, anything broken, or hairline cracks.
You should thoroughly inspect a weapon that you are considering buying used, including under a magnifying glass. This is like an annual or pre-purchase inspection on an airplane. Pay particular attention to the stress areas where the locking block engages the slide (both slide side and block side). There’s no need to worry about the area where the underside of the block engages the steel bumper in the receiver.
Look at the condition of the barrel. Normally, you shouldn’t need to headspace-check or check the muzzle or throat erosion — there are gages for this, but unless you’re going to fire 40,000 rounds out of the thing, immerse it in salt water for long periods, or swap critical parts with abandon, you should never need them. But give a gun that will be new to your locker a thorough going-over, under magnification.
Know how to do a function check — safety, and semiauto function — and do one from time to time.
Along with the knowledge that your weapon is safe and solid to fire, frequent and systematic inspections increase your bond with the weapon and move you along towards mastery.
Nothing special is needed for PM for the Beretta beyond the inspections, unless you have a very heavy firing cycle. Whether you do or don’t, for any weapon it’s a good idea to maintain a logbook recording shots, groups, and especially malfunctions. You don’t need anything fancy to do this — a little green pocket notebook is perfectly OK. If your malfunction profile changes, you might need to consider repairing or replacing parts ahead of time.
To be absolutely sure, you can replace critical stressed items (barrel, slide, and locking block, most importantly the locking block) at a specific round count, say 5,000 or 10,000 rounds. (Most private users will never fire 5,000 rounds from a centerfire pistol). In the late 1980s, the Army was replacing slides at 3,000 rounds, which is — in most cases — overkill. Except for the early weapons, the bulk of M9s are designed to fail in a safe mode if the slide fails. If you do replace the block, it’s a good idea to replace the slide also, otherwise you’d be putting a fresh part against a worn one, producing faster-than-expected failure.
The Berettas supplied under the contract to USG were shipped either without a magazine or with one magazine, and a contract for magazines was let separately. Contract magazine suppliers have included Mec-Gar, Check-Mate and Airtronic; in addition, unit arms rooms often contain mags bought commercially, from Triple K or Mec-Gar. Mec-Gar is the Italian firm which supplies the magazines to Beretta in the first place. GI magazines tend to have a heavy black parkerized finish, a finish that feels rough to the touch. These mags, especially the Check-Mate production ones, have acquired a bad reputation in the field. Current production mags from Airtronic have a dark plated and dry-lubed finish that is smooth to the touch.
Taurus magazines may be modified to fit the Beretta, but in most cases that is not necessary as magazines are plentiful and cheap. The measure of a magazine, though, is this: does it work? So do what you should be doing with rifle magazines. Label each one with a number (on the body and baseplate, light colored Sharpie works) and keep a running log of malfunctions. If any of them appears to be a problem child, see if an examination will tell you why. Use that magnifying glass.
Do not do what most people do and keep a mag that doesn’t feed with your practice or defense loads in your defense mag rotation. Do not take counsel of the fact that it came with the gun or cost $50 (that’s what economists call a “sunk cost.” It’s gone now, regardless). That’s why you numbered your mags, so you can see who the problem child is. It’s OK to keep a bad mag in your training rotation. Have a friend mix up the mags so that you don’t know where the bad one is when you’re ptacticing… three-mag Monte style. But leave it in your range bag for next time. Color coding works for some people but “bad mag” in Sharpie is unambiguous.
The Sharpie is also good for, after thirty guys have shot the same gun on a range, finding your own mags. If OPSEC is a concern, use a code or a symbol. Think of it as branding your dogies so they don’t get rustled.
Dropping a magazine on a concrete range floor will do it no good, especially if it lands on the feed lips.Bent feed lips are often a cause of malfunctions, especially double-feeds and failures to feed (where the round jams nose-first into the magazine instead of tracking into the chamber). You can bend the lips straight but we recommend that you do not ever trust that mag again. This is an exception to the main rule: know magazines by their performance. Performance yes, but history too. If it’s let you down once, it becomes a range-bag mag, not a go-to-war mag.
The two most common improvements are a trigger job, and spring changes including altering the recoil spring weight. Wolff sells an entire set of springs. In most cases, they are not necessary (it’s nice to have the Wolff spring set if you are fitting a suppressor, however, to tune the system for the added recoiling mass). The steel trigger used in most 92s and M9s can be improved by a smith. The recent plastic trigger, not. We have been told that the older trigger does not retrofit into the new guns, but we’ll try it and get back to you.
The most important spare part to have on hand is a barrel with locking block (they come together). Locking block failure is very unlikely, but its consequences are very severe: if it happens to you, you’ve got an awkward club instead of a precision firearm. Spring sets are commonly held, but seldom needed. We keep trigger-group parts, but have seldom needed them. There are surplus slides available on GunBroker and in gun shows, but they tend to be military surplus or police surplus and come to you with an unknown round count.
One thing you might want to think about, even if you have no desire to own a suppressor now, is a threaded barrel. What if you change your mind in ten years, but the Beretta is less popular and the threaded barrels are hard to find and very expensive? If you think you might ever want it, now is the time to salt one away. And if you do that, get the Wolff spring set.
With those few parts, and a lot of ammo, you’re prepared for the Zombie Apocalypse. Head shots.
Tomorrow: before you master the gun, you must Master the Basics.