By Dan Kidder
The venerable M9, carried in combat by the US military for decades, is receiving a facelift. While current issue M9A1s can be retrofitted to the A2 version, Beretta has gone a step beyond and released their new M9A3, and it blows every model before it out of the water.
Featuring an exterior that goes beyond mere aesthetics, it is coated with durable Cerakote, Bruniton, anodizing, black oxide, and PVD combined in flat dark earth coloring in a two-tone with black accents color scheme, combined to give the user an attractive, tacticool-looking firearm, with enhanced protection and lubricity. These finishes not only protect the gun from wear, but help repel dust and debris and minimize the amount of lubrication required. They also help minimize the visual and infrared signature of the gun; something that is a real benefit in combat.
Like the A1, it comes with three 17-round magazines, but also features slim Vertec side panels for improved grip and reduced size. This thinner grip allows easier carry and concealment, and use by those with smaller hands. For those not as concerned with the beefiness of the grip, Beretta includes a rubber overmolded wraparound grip that can be replaced with just the removal of the four grip screws. While the gun shot amazingly well with the standard Vertec grips, my beefy mits appreciated the option of a fatter grip.
The profile is the same as the standard Beretta 92 that the M9 was based upon, so it will work with most of the holsters on the market that fit the 92. The addition of a longer, threaded barrel for a standard ½”x28 threaded suppressor means that some closed end holsters may not allow the longer barrel to fit.
The barrel is chrome lined, as is the chamber improving reliability and accuracy.
An oversized magazine release allows easy magazine changes, even with bulky gloves, and a taper around the mag-well speeds up magazine insertion for faster reloads.
The trigger on the M9A3 is about the best I have experienced in an out-of-the-box factory gun. It breaks at a crisp and even 5.5 pounds in single action and a steady even 9 pounds in double. The short reset made rapid and accurate strings of fire easy.
The A3 comes with a convertible slide, allowing the user to easily convert the gun from standard FS safety/decocker combination to the G model with no safety and just a decocker, by swapping out the safety lever.
A three-slot MIL-STD-1913 Picatinny rail on the front allows lights and lasers to be quickly installed and removed while retaining zero.
The long 6.3” sight radius, combined with high visibility Trijicon tritium night sights make target acquisition and accurate shooting quick and repeatable.
All-in, the M9A3 is a great shooting gun, with vast improvements over its predecessor, while still maintaining the manual of arms that is so familiar to anyone who carried the M9. I picked it up and immediately cycled it using the front relief cuts on the slide as I have done thousands of times previous in a different life 25 years ago.