Beretta M9 Hands On Part 4: Master the Basics

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):

  1. Embrace the gun
  2. Understand the gun
  3. Maintain the gun
  4. Master the basics
  5. Master the gun
Monday, you were advised to Embrace the Gun; Tuesday, to Understand the Gun, Yesterday, to Maintain the Gun. Today we address the need to Master the Basics before you get to Beretta Paradiso and Master the Gun. This is one of the briefer installments, because, as Napoleon said, “In war, everything important is simple, but everything simple is very difficult.” Indeed, there is no royal road to marksmanship. Just basic fundamentals, rigorously applied, and a quest for constant improvement that would warm the heart of a Japanese kaizen expert.
Master the basics

Did you zero the gun? What, they’re zeroed at the factory? No they ain’t. Beretta USA zeroes military M9s at the factory. The ones going to the corner gunshop (or the Mayberry PD), they don’t bother. Or to put it more politely, they leave it as an exercise for the reader. We estimate that 95% of the civil M9s and M92s out there have never had their sights touched. That’s one reason people don’t appreciate the accuracy of these things. Having seen a basic truckload of these, bet it shoots low. Rather than applying Kentucky windage (or is that Kentucky elevation?) you need to adjust the sights. This is never done in the military, but as I said, the military guns get a rough zero at the factory, and the military does not have high standards for basic pistol qualification.

While there are adjustable-sighted models, most Berettas have fixed sights. “Fixed” is relative — you can adjust windage with a drift punch, and elevation with a file. Where you want the pistol sighted depends on what you want to do with it. The military’s official manuals say that the effective range of a pistol — any pistol — is 50 meters, and the conventional Army trains that way. This is utter nonsense. An M9 will hit and kill at 100 meters and beyond, if you simply have the confidence to train and employ it that way. It doesn’t shoot as flat as the .38 Super, but  not much does. (Of course, if you’re a civilian training for self-defense, a 100-yard shot might take some ‘splainin’. But the confidence it gives you will reward you at closer ranges.

OK, so the pistol shoots from a rest to point of aim at 25 yards, good. Now it’s time to spend some quality range time with a good coach and work on your marksmanship. Use bullseye targets. Score every target and record your score in a notebook. Call every shot. Begin with slow fire. Don’t get ahead of yourself. This gun has x-ring potential, and so do you. Get there.

Sight alignment and trigger squeeze are the two places your shots are most likely going wide of the mark, and even if you’re in the black every shot, working on these two fundamentals will produce improvement. Focus on the front sight. Will the bullet on to the target, in to the X-ring. Repeat. This is not the time to whine about the trigger quality of your service pistol. The fact is, it shoots better than you do. Shut up and practice.

Once you have got slow fire down, go to timed fire. Only then do you graduate to basic drills such as controlled pairs (one double-action, one single) and reload drills. Ball and dummy drill is particularly useful. On this, your coach or partner loads your mags but sneaks in a dummy round, causing a misfire and forcing you to do a misfire drill.

Dry-firing is extremely useful. It will not hurt a 92, it costs nothing. Assuming you can do this without boozing, it can actually be a good drill to watch the tube, Beretta in hand. When the bad guys come on the screen, dry fire at them. Call your shots. (we leave the definition of bad guys as an exercise for the reader, all we’re going to say about that is that we miss Dan Rather’s newscast).

Tomorrow, we discuss how to Master the Gun and turn you loose on your environment to do exactly that.