The Ultimate Firearms Destination for the Gun Lifestyle

Patriot Defense Tanfoglio Vs. Beretta 92X Performance

Build or Buy?

Photos by Kenda Lenseigne

It’s easy to see why every kid dreams of owning an Italian supercar. A piece of art that looks like it can break the sound barrier is the apex of what life is all about. But age creeps up, and words like practicality, frugality, and comfort enter the vocabulary. This point of deterioration is where minivan and Prius — the bane of automotive existence — sales come from. For some, the idea of horsepower and torque are forgotten, whereas others use those metrics to measure life.

Eventually, automotive enthusiasts fall into one of two factions: those who prefer to buy their car and those who want to build one. Bought or built? The bought comes with the prestige of ownership that you’ve worked hard enough to afford something lavish. This is where you find Italian supercars that cost as much as the average home. The built comes with the honor of using your own hands to get what you want. Mustang, Camaro, Challenger — all names found in a builder’s garage, but each faction seems to have disdain for the other. Builders consider buyers spoiled rich kids, and buyers think builders are lowly peons with dirty fingernails. The fact of the matter is they’re both holding onto the same childhood notion — speed is fun.

This concept of “buy or build” carries over to the gun world, minus the hate for the fellow enthusiasts. Gun culture is more of a utopian society where every gun is loved. We appreciate all guns regardless of race, creed, or color. While most gun owners like to modify and add a bit of their own flare, there has been an influx of companies offering modified race-ready pistols out of the box. The question at hand is how these factory race guns stack up to their custom-built counterparts? We’re glad you asked. The topic for today is Italian thoroughbreds.

Beretta is one of the oldest companies in the world still doing business. The company’s first documented contract was recorded in 1526. That just means they were doing things before they got serious with a contract. Arguably, the most famous Beretta is the model 92 pistol — its design was solidified in 1976 and has been in production since. It wasn’t the U.S. military contract of the 92FS (M9) that made the gun a household name, but a happy face from Lethal Weapon’s Martin Riggs’ 9mm that cemented the gun’s place in history. Not to mention John McClane’s barefooted shootouts. (Die Hard is a Christmas movie.)

Although the outline of the iconic 92FS is still visible, the newest competition offering from Beretta offers changes that aren’t just skin deep.

The 92X has benefited from input from world-class shooters, such as RECOIL contributor JJ Racaza, who spent time at the Brescia factory working on prototypes. The resulting trigger is worlds apart from the original.

Fast-forward through almost every action movie in the past 30 years and you can find a Beretta 92. The exposed barrel, tapered slide, and extended muzzle all make for a beautiful, iconic package. Since its birth, the Beretta 92 has seen a few changes, most of which were to accommodate military or law enforcement contracts. However, the latest iteration of the ’90s movie star is the 92X Performance. This is Beretta’s foray into the heavy steel frame made-for-competition market.

The 92X Performance is touted as being designed by shooters for shooters. Some changes are minute, while others are major, but in the end the gun feels like a different animal than the original. The 92X features an all-steel Vertec frame and a Brigadier slide, which is thicker than standard. The added steel brings the weight to almost 48 ounces; for reference the 92FS weighs in at around 33 ounces. Almost a pound of weight added to a handgun is some serious porking-up.

The beefy frame features front and backstrap checkering. Normally, extended beavertails sweep up toward the top of the gun, but Beretta’s version has more of a downward slant. This seemed awkward at first, but it provides a solid fit to the web of the hand. Thumbs up. The magazine release button is oversized and reversible. The double-action pull came in at just under 7 pounds, and the single action broke at under 4 pounds. Beretta’s Extreme-S trigger reduces the single-action reset by 40 percent, and feels like the shortest reset on a DA/SA trigger we’ve tested in over two decades of shooting matches. Double-action-single-action triggers work mostly on a pivot point, and this can be an issue if the shooter isn’t careful, as the direction of the arcing pull can affect shot placement. The physical shape of the 92X trigger has been changed to mimic a straight back pull. Two thumbs up, as long as you don’t have short fingers.

Most 92 variants come with a slide-mounted decocker/safety. This version dons frame-mounted safeties only. A decocker would be a hindrance on the frame, as many hands have been known to unintentionally activate decocker levers in similar locations. The gun wears a “match” takedown lever. The idea that anyone would take down his or her gun in the middle of a match isn’t sane, but that’s not what Beretta had in mind. The match takedown lever acts as a “gas pedal” for the support hand thumb and works to keep the muzzle down. The sights feature a fiber-optic front and fully adjustable rear. The front serrations are a helpful addition, as the rear serrations proved to be hard to grasp with the burly rear sight and the extended safeties in the way. Overall, a beautifully designed piece of Italian engineering. Molto bene. (We ran out of thumbs.)

Tanfoglio (Tan-fo-leo, the “G” is silent) is the Italian version of CZ, whose claim to fame is their refined version of the CZ-75. Many copies of this platform are being produced, but none outside CZ are as cultivated as the Tanfo. The base for our build is a Tanfoglio Stock 1, and our builder is Patriot Defense (PD), which started in 2010 and has grown into a full-service firearms business. They’ve been carving a niche in the handgun world by focusing on the Tanfoglio.

The Stock 1 is a full dust-cover version of the CZ-75, and it’s described as an entry-level competition pistol. Forty-two ounces isn’t considered light for a handgun but is lighter than the Beretta — definitely a good foundation for our build. The magicians at Patriot Defense fitted the Tanfo with a long list of go-fast parts that enhance the already able blaster. Our build gun came with a red dot mounted on the slide. While in some instances this is an advantage over iron sights, we have to be careful to keep an apples-to-apples comparison in order to measure how the guns perform and function side by side.

The shiny PD aluminum grips offer a very aggressive pattern; there’s nothing worse than slippery grips when trying to keep up with sights. The stock trigger parts were replaced by an Xtreme titan hammer and sear. Coupled with the PD competition trigger tuning package, this brought the double-action pull under 6 pounds, while the single-action pull tipped the scale at a crazy light 1¾ pounds. It isn’t so much the weight of the break that’s insane; it’s more about the feel. A rolling break offers little “wall” to prep before breaking a shot. If the shooter isn’t careful, negligent discharges can occur, so this definitely isn’t for the inexperienced trigger finger.

All of the springs were replaced with PD’s lighter weight options. The firing pin was replaced with an extended version to help in setting off primers, and an extended magazine release button adds material where it’s needed. Conversely, a flat safety takes away metal where it’s not. The Tanfoglio is an Italian machine, but it’s more of a hot rod than a refined supercar.

The Patriot Defense grips seen here are some of the most aggressively textured we’ve encountered. Note slide lightening cuts and forward checkering.

Start Your Engines
The differences in sighting systems on the guns proved to be challenging to equalize the testing. So we did fundamental drills that focus more on the timing and movement of the guns versus the time it takes to line up the sights. Timing is the measure of time it takes for the gun to return to the same spot on target after a shot is fired, and the Bill Drill is the best way we’ve found to test a handgun’s timing. Set up a single IPSC target at 7 yards. The shooter must draw the gun and fire six rounds as fast as they can, while keeping all impacts in the A zone. The Beretta edged out the Tanfo in the Bill Drill (2.15 versus 2.21 seconds). In a competition setting, fractions of seconds separate winners and everyone else. At 7 yards, the benefit of the lighter trigger seemed to be outweighed by the shorter reset of the 92X. Split times were faster with the Beretta, but more consistent with the Tanfo. Not a big difference.

The next test is a setup of three targets at 7 yards with about a yard in between each of them, akin to the infamous El Presidente drill. The shooter draws and shoots two shots in the center of each. This will measure the time it takes each gun to transition to the next target. The focus wasn’t to push the times to see how fast we could possibly go, but to get a consistent representation of the gun’s capability. This time the Tanfo had the better result (2.48 versus 2.56 seconds). Consistency can be hard to achieve when measuring movement, but the numbers don’t lie. Naturally, a lighter gun is easier to move than a heavier one. The differences were in the hundredths of seconds, but they were consistently there.

Accuracy is an exact measurement that’s hard to accomplish without exact tools, but then again, when has anyone shot a gun in a Ransom rest for fun? So supported on a table is good enough to see what the guns can do. We used a target at 20 yards and three different types of ammo to test the guns’ ability to make a ragged hole, with 115-grain Remington, 121-grain hand loads, and 124-grain Sig Sauer ammunition as the fuel. The Tanfoglio was the winner again, with the tightest group achieved with our hand loads, measuring 0.83 inch, while the tightest group for the Beretta was accomplished with the same load at just shy of an inch.

Both guns are accurate enough for the intended purpose, but the modified trigger parts of the Tanfo proved to come at a cost. The hand loads tested use rifle primers instead of softer pistol primers, which led to a few failures to ignite with the lighter trigger of the Tanfo. This isn’t unheard of in the competition world ­— you can get an amazing trigger at the cost of being selective with the ammo. The primers that didn’t get ignited were shot through the Beretta to make sure they weren’t defective. Neither gun had any issues with factory ammunition.

Finish line
Both guns are more than suitable for the game. The build quality of the Beretta makes it an Italian supercar, while the performance of the Tanfoglio makes it a hot rod. The idea of buying or building seems to be reversed for the gun world. The bought gun ended up costing less than the built version. The Beretta comes in with an MSRP of $1,399, and the built-up Patriot Defense Tanfoglio broke the bank at $1,936 without the optic. Which would you rather have? The Italian supercar designed for beauty and performance or the hot rod that has been built for speed?

It’s a close race, but if the Beretta had a lighter trigger pull it’d be a blow out. Owning a sports car is for those who can appreciate what it is and what it can do. The same goes for these bought and built pistols. If you can’t appreciate what they are and what they can do, just buy a Prius. For those who like horsepower, these guns will definitely put a childlike smile on your face.

Beretta 92X Performance

While both pistols are great examples of the gunmaker’s art, look for the Beretta to form the basis of a full-house Open division blaster in the next couple of months. We’re in line to get our paws on one …

Caliber: 9mm
Barrel Length: 4.9 inches
Overall Length: 8.7 inches
Weight: 47.61 ounces
Magazine Capacity: 15 rounds
MSRP: $1,399

Tanfoglio Stock 1

Caliber: 9mm
Barrel Length: 4.45 inches
Overall Length: 8.54 inches
Weight: 42.4 ounces
Magazine Capacity: 17 rounds
MSRP: $915
Price as tested: $1,936

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