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Beretta 92X Performance Carry Optic [Hands-ON Review]

THE PERFECT BERETTA 92?

Photos by Kenda Lenseigne

A common refrain is that there are no new ideas; we only innovate old ones. In 1970, Bernard D. Shadow had the brilliant notion of putting wheels on a suitcase. Carrying a suitcase before this was a two-man job. Traversing the airport with screaming kids, the fog from the smoking section, and a suitcase over your shoulder wasn’t for the weak. 

Rollers on luggage were a no-brainer, but for some reason, the change was slow to take hold. Eventually, travelers saw the light, and demand went through the roof. Today, you’d be hard-pressed to find a piece of luggage without wheels. By themselves, wheels or luggage weren’t new — but putting them together was a revelation. Small innovations can have a big effect. 

RED DOTS EVERYWHERE

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not a new idea to put a red dot on a pistol. The overnight phenomenon of putting a dot on a pistol has taken just 30 years to bring about. Red dots have been used on competition pistols since the early 1990s, but they were cumbersome and delicate optics screwed to the frame of the gun. 

The Open Division of USPSA/IPSC was the only place to find pistols with optics mounted, but these top fuel dragsters were out of reach for the normal guy living on a paycheck. Red dots shrunk and eventually found their way screwed directly to the slide. The problem was the reciprocating mass of the slide would beat them to death. Being in the middle of a match and having a sight go down is bad, but the same scenario in a self-defense situation is more than a bad day. Nonetheless, the seed was planted. 

Micro dots have evolved into rugged and reliable pieces, and the reluctance to rely on them is melting away. These durable dots gave birth to the USPSA Carry Optics division. This is where you find off-the-shelf production guns fitted with slide-mounted red dots. To facilitate an even playing field, modifications are limited on a carry optics gun. The division is only a few years old but is already the most popular at many matches. 

Having a dot on a handgun isn’t a magic cure-all. There’s no substitute for good marksmanship, but red dots are a way for the shooter to process information easier. Iron sights have three planes of focus to contend with — the rear sight, front sight, and the target. A red dot condenses all that into one. 

Progress wasn’t just limited to electro-optics. Companies have been developing better-shooting guns too. The progression has sent guns down a path of added weight, lighter triggers, and other go-fast goodies. Companies are revisiting old pistol designs with modern revisions. Adding weight is one surefire way to make a pistol shoot softer. Mate a heavy gun with a red dot, and you’ll have a great performing machine. 

These guns shoot so well that the tactical crowd who once complained about impracticality has seen the light (or dot, as it were). The merits of a soft shooting gun with a sighting system that’s easy to track are quite clear. The end goal for every shooter is to put rounds on target, bringing us to the newest iteration of a game gun from the oldest surviving gun manufacturer.

The Beretta 92 series has been around since the 1970s, about the same time as wheels on luggage. Beretta’s most popular handgun has decades of service under its belt and has been refined to a sharp edge. This refinement was largely confined to the military and LE market until recently. All this progress gave the 92 a head start for something better, and the Beretta 92X Performance Carry Optic takes the iconic Beretta 92 to the ultimate level.

The 92X Performance Carry Optic is basically a 92X Performance with an optics mounting system built into the slide. The 92X Performance version of the old workhorse has a different feel than any previous model while still using familiar parts. For production class guns, the 92X Performance is toward the end of the evolutionary spectrum, full of features specific to the game. 

This Frankenstein monster was created from all the best parts in the Beretta factory. The steel frame comes from the Vertec model, and the beefy slide is from the Brigadier version of the Beretta 92. 

The parts can’t just be slapped together; they need to be sculpted into the Italian work of art you see. The frame features extra checkering and an undercut trigger guard to facilitate a proper grip. The flared magazine well makes mag changes easier. The magazine release is reversible and oversized. The Extreme-S trigger makes the single action reset one of the shortest we’ve tested on a DA/SA gun. 

The frame-mounted safeties give your thumb a place to ride during recoil, while the “gas pedal” takedown lever serves double duty to help keep down the muzzle. The front serrations are a must for quick manipulation of the slide, as the rear serrations are a bit hard to access with a red dot mounted. The blackened barrel nestled in the Nistan slide further accentuates that iconic Beretta 92 look. 

Companies have gotten really good at naming things to make them sound cool — Nistan is a tin and nickel alloy giving a bright look and corrosion resistance (we had to look it up). It’s pretty slick both literally and figuratively, as nickel finishes tend to use less lube. 

The 92X is made specifically for competitive shooting and being of Italian birth, it’s made for the international game, IPSC. 

This explains the two included 15-round magazines, because in international rules production guns are limited to 15 rounds. This is yet another clue as to what this gun is all about. The good news for us in the free states is that full-size Beretta 92 magazines are readily available and abundant. 

This gun is all about the micro dot ability, but the iron sights are still there if you want to go old school. Prior to the Performance Carry Optic model, you had to remove the rear sight and add an adapter plate. Just milling a flat spot on the back of the slide wouldn’t work as there’s not much meat on the back of the slide, plus there are various key components in the way.

Langdon Tactical created a red-dot slide for the 92 by re-engineering several parts, such as the firing pin, firing pin block, extractor pin, safety levers, and safety plunger to make room for a low-mounted optic. 

Beretta’s solution included partnering with Toni Systems, whose plates solve the issue of having a bag full of specific plates for each model of red dot. The system consists of two plates and a series of pins to work with a wide variety of dots. Just look up your optic. 

There were some issues trying to mount the plate to the slide. The plate fits into the notches cut into the back of the slide, but the tabs were a bit oversized and needed to be filed down to fit into the slots. It wasn’t difficult; just make slow single passes with a small file until they fit. The problem was trying to figure out what was going wrong and why they wouldn’t fit straight out of the box. This took some guesswork as there are limited instructions included with the mount. However, a tight fit is better than the alternative. 

GO FAST

After the plates finally went on, a SIG Romeo1 was mounted. The dot sits fairly high on the Beretta. In and of itself, this isn’t a problem, but it can add extra time to the learning curve of the gun. It puts the sighting system in a much different place than the iron sights. This is a reason so many companies fight to mount the red dot as low as possible on the gun.

Shooting a handgun at speed is almost a juggling act. You have to have proper grip, stance, and technique while paying attention to the sights. The softer a gun shoots, the easier it is to watch the sights. And the flatter a gun shoots, the easier it is to keep the sights on target. The 92X Optic is a soft-shooting gun, but everything comes at a cost. In this case the price of softness is muzzle flip, the amount the muzzle lifts during recoil.  A soft recoil impulse is great but minimizing muzzle flip is even better when putting multiple shots on target. 

Having a gun tailor-made for competition is a major plus when visiting the range. The Beretta has all the features that make for a great shooting gun, but it’s all for naught if it’s not accurate. 115-grain Blazer FMJ, 115-grain SIG HP, 124-grain Sierra HP, and 147-grain Federal HP were all tested. 

Competitive shooters like to find the ammo that a gun likes the best and train with it. Groups were shot at about 25 yards resting off a table. In this case, the heavier Federal hollow points shot a group measured at 0.879 inch, the Blazer shot the widest group at 1.78 inches, and the others fell somewhere in the middle. 

This gun is accurate enough for any job you want to throw at it. The dot makes watching the sight easier, and in turn made group shooting easier. 

Micro dots on pistols are the new wheels on luggage. It’s easy to see the allure, and it’s only a small matter of time for them to completely take hold. Watching the dot track up and down on targets brings back memories of follow-the-bouncing-ball songs from childhood. 

The 92X Performance Carry Optic goes to the extreme for the competition world. This 47.6-ounce beast just soaks up recoil. The weight makes for a great competition companion, but the same attribute dashes the allure of an everyday carry gun. Then again, there’s no rule against it … yet.

Beretta designed this gun for the game, and it shows. The specs on the 92X Performance Carry Optic read like a wish list for competition shooters. Hefty weight, extended accessories, a great trigger, and readily available magazines. In the end, this is the best shooting version of a 92 that Beretta makes, and if you’re a 92 fan, it definitely needs to be on your itinerary. 

SPECS:

Beretta 92X Performance Carry Optic

  • Caliber: 9mm
  • Capacity: 10, 15 rounds
  • Barrel length: 4.9 inches
  • OAL: 8.7 inches
  • Height: 5.8 inches
  • Weight (unloaded): 47.6 ounces
  • MSRP: $1,799

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