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Breathing New Life Into an Aging Warhorse, the Beretta 92FS Pistol

This article originally appeared in RECOIL Issue 39

Photos by RCP Photography and AZ Photo Man

Two Weeks to Retirement

As the oldest continuously operating gunmaker in the world, Beretta and their pistols need no introduction. Anybody who’s seen an action movie made after 1980 could probably pick a Beretta 92F out of a lineup, not to mention the thousands of military personnel who continue to carry them as a standard-issue sidearm, even as its replacement trickles slowly into the supply lines. But underneath the battle-tested creds and sheer sex appeal, this old warhorse leaves a lot to be desired.

Its overall size isn’t particularly friendly to shooters with smaller hands. Its slide-mounted safety is difficult to manipulate. And that double-action trigger pull feels about a foot-and-a-half-long and almost 25 pounds. We’re not saying there aren’t redeeming qualities. The relatively tame 9mm round shot out of a metal-framed pistol makes the recoil impulse downright pleasant. Field stripping is simple. Service life and endurance have been proven through generations of hard use and neglect at the hands of soldiers. But, considering that the 92 frame is older than some of our staff, it’s certainly lacking some of the creature comforts of its more modern counterparts.

Necessity, being the ever-loving mother of invention, gave birth to a niche industry of custom shops and smiths specializing in updates and modifications to one of Italy’s most prolific exports. Two of them, Langdon Tactical Technologies and Robar, have teamed up to offer a series of upgrade-and-refinish packages for 92 owners that we couldn’t resist putting through the wringer.

Part of the upgrade process included swapping the safety for a dedicated de-cocking lever.

Part of the upgrade process included swapping the safety for a dedicated de-cocking lever.

It’s What’s on the Inside

The big cheese at Langdon Tactical Technologies spent 12 years in the Marines and over two decades on the competition shooting circuit, in addition to his extensive career as a professional instructor and product consultant for Beretta. So when we looked at re-vamping our stock ’80s action hero gun, he seemed like a good person to start with. Ernest Langdon has years behind a Beretta 92 and has spent a significant amount of time bringing the aftermarket a better trigger for this legacy platform. He has performed thousands of trigger jobs on 92 series pistols, and his process is so highly refined that, at time of writing, you can purchase a “trigger job in a bag” direct from LTT’s website with the optimal combination parts needed to upgrade your trigger, pre-polished.

The excellent Robar finishes aren’t only easy on the eyes, but enhance both durability and dry lubricity.

The excellent Robar finishes aren’t only easy on the eyes, but enhance both durability and dry lubricity.

Our base gun received what LTT calls their Level 2 trigger job. This consists of chrome silicon springs, including a 12-pound hammer spring, and a trigger bar from Wilson Combat. The Wilson trigger fully cocks the hammer on the double-action pull. By pulling the hammer back almost as far as it sits in single action, you gain more energy on the forward “swing” of the hammer, allowing you to get away with a lighter hammer spring than normal, according to Langdon. In addition to these parts swaps, all contact surfaces, as well as the hammer and sear contact points, are polished.

Robar has à la carte options for both a nose bob, as seen here, and a hammer bob, which we skipped.

Robar has à la carte options for both a nose bob, as seen here, and a hammer bob, which we skipped.

Will a trigger job make you a better shooter? Absolutely not. Can you run your pistol effectively in stock configuration? Sure you can. But a well-tuned trigger can do a couple of things for you. As you progress through your training, it has the potential to reduce your learning curve, as heavy triggers with excessive travel or stacking will take longer to master. Once you start to achieve high levels of consistency with your other fundamentals, a good match trigger simply offers less mechanical disturbance to the weapon in the critical tenths of a second before that round leaves the barrel. The person behind the gun still has to put their work in. But, all other things being equal, a honed trigger offers the opportunity to achieve quicker, more consistent shot placement.

Of course, the trigger isn’t the only thing inside the pistol. Robar Companies offers a number of packages for Beretta 92 series pistols. The one we selected, their Mod 5 package, includes replacement of all the OEM plastic parts with steel, including the trigger shoe and guide rod. The recoil spring and all magazine springs were replaced with Wolff Gunsprings counterparts. Not only are all these bits and pieces more durable, but they’re all coated in Robar’s proprietary NP3 finish. For the uninitiated, NP3 is an electroless nickel base impregnated with Teflon. This little bit of science provides the end user with a firearms coating highly resistant to both corrosion and carbon buildup.

Part of the upgrade process included swapping the safety for a dedicated cocking lever.

The inclusion of Teflon in the chemical makeup also adds an inherent dry lubricity regardless of how much or what kind of liquid lubricant you use as part of your maintenance plan. Metal parts coated in NP3 sliding against each other results in an incredibly smooth, gliding sensation when running the gun. Not to mention that our experience shows that NP3-coated parts can usually be wiped clean by a dry rag even after high-round-count training. With Robar’s Mod 5 upgrade package, NP3 plating is used on the barrel, trigger, hammer, mag release, slide release, lanyard loop, grip screws, and up to three magazines.

The final major internal change that comes with the Mod 5 package is what’s commonly called the “G conversion.” The original Beretta 92 FS comes equipped with one of the most awkward safety systems we’ve had the misfortune of being ordered to carry into combat. The lever itself is mounted as high on the slide as physically possible, directly flanking the rear sight notch. Mechanically, the safety’s function is inverted from what most folks would consider “normal”’ function. That is to say that the lever must be flipped upward to be in the “fire” position and flipped down to be in the “safe” position.

The plastic guide rod and trigger shoe were also replaced with steel counterparts.

Also, the pistol cannot be run cocked-and-locked in single-action mode. Putting the pistol on safe automatically de-cocks it. In the author’s opinion, there’s absolutely nothing whatsoever even remotely redeemable about this safety configuration. By comparison, the Beretta 92 G is equipped with simple spring-loaded de-cocking levers. Chamber a round, drop the hammer, holster. When you need to go to work, draw and press through the now-buttery-smooth double-action first stroke. This conversion, paired with the LTT trigger job, gives you a silky double action that not only runs more quickly than the stock trigger but also leaves the manual of arms greatly simplified.

A Book By Its Cover

While internal parts are what make the gun function exactly how you want, the outside is what the shooter actually interacts with. We already discussed Robar’s NP3 coating and the functional benefits it offers when applied to the right parts. But the Mod 5 package includes a complete exterior refinish as well. Customers have the option of getting the frame and slide finished in NP3, Roguard, or PolyT2. We chose the latter — an epoxy-based finish that’s also impregnated with Teflon.

Robar has à la carte
options for both a nose bob, as seen here, and a hammer job, which we skipped.

Unlike NP3, PolyT2 is available in an array of colors. We selected desert tan, with a set of matching thin panel grips from VZ Grips. Finally, Robar’s smiths cut and re-crowned the barrel so that it sits flush with the slide. This doesn’t make any noticeable change to function, but we liked the aesthetic. For those interested, the Mod 5 package includes an additional option to bob the hammer as well as the barrel. We didn’t go this route, but there’s no extra charge for it.

Rounds Downrange

Gutting an old gun and rebuilding it from the inside out is a pretty cool project. But what good is it, actually? We previously mentioned that a customized pistol doesn’t inherently make you a better shooter. But if you already have a firm grasp of the fundamentals and an effective training plan, these improvements can reduce the number of mechanical variables that must be overcome to make that perfect shot. In order to collect some data on this point, we took LTT’s tactical pistol skills class with our bone-stock Beretta 92.

It wasn’t particularly enjoyable. But it gave us a good baseline. We used two drills to get our initial data points — the FAST drill and LTT’s own 6-in-5 drill. The FAST drill consists of two rounds fired at a 3×5-inch headshot target followed by a slide lock reload, finished with four rounds to an 8-inch circle. Max par time is 10 seconds. Anything under 10 is considered “intermediate.” Anything under 7 seconds is considered “advanced.” Add one second for each missed shot.

The LTT/Robar 92 not only gives you plenty to look at, but offers significant performance increases for those who struggle with the longer, heavier factory trigger.

With our OEM Beretta 92, we shot the FAST in a disappointing 8.56 seconds, with three missed shots, for a total time of 11.56 seconds. Certainly nothing to write home about. But the same shooter, with the LTT/Robar Mod 5 Beretta, shot the FAST in 6.53 seconds with no misses.

Our second verification drill was the 6-in-5 drill. This is shot on an 8-inch circle from 10 yards. As the name implies, you draw and fire six rounds in five seconds. The drill is repeated four times for a total of 24 rounds fired. With our out-of-the-box Beretta, we turned in an average time of 6.34 seconds across the four runs, with a total of five misses. With the Mod 5, that total average dropped to 4.44 seconds with a single miss out of all four runs.

What Did We Learn?

In the overwhelming majority of cases, it’s the shooter who needs work, not the gun. Having said that, the right set of modifications can make a significant difference, particularly on an aging pistol that doesn’t come out of the box with all of the most recent lessons learned. LTT’s vast experience with the Beretta 92 platform gives them a particularly poignant insight into what that particular pistol needs to run like a scalded dog.

Robar’s top-of-the-line coatings and well-executed modifications leave you with a literally Teflon-slick sidearm that performs more efficiently and consistently than it could ever hope in factory configuration. If your action movie icon or military service relic is collecting dust in the safe, consider letting a well-regarded Beretta ’smith take a run at it. You might just see a perk in performance and a newfound love for this oft-maligned pillar of firearms pop culture.


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