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Old 01-22-2002, 12:47 AM   #1
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Some history

The Beretta Model 92FS is the Italian gunmakers' flagship pistol. In the early 1970s, Carlo Beretta, Giuseppe Mazzetti, and the prolific Vittorio Valle began work on a successor to the Model 951 pistol. The Model 92, as it was dubbed in 1976, corrected many of the perceived faults of its forerunner. Foremost, were the 951’s akward cross bolt safety and limited 8rd magazine capacity. The Model 92 also introduced a double-action trigger mechanism and an alloy frame. However, it retained the tilting-block locking mechanism and distinctive open-top slide.

The new design quickly gained a 40,000 unit contract from the Brazilian military; however, Italian police agencies wished a redesign of the manual safety. The original 92 had a frame-mounted sear-blocking safety (much like the Colt 1911), and Europeans preferred a firing-pin locking safety and decocker like Walther designs. So later in 1976, the pistol was redesigned to incorporate the desired safety, creating the 92S. Italian police and military orders quickly followed as promised, as did an order from the Indonesian military.

Another boast arrived when the US military’s Joint Services Small Arms Program (JSSAP) began a search for a NATO-standard handgun to replace the venerable Colt Model 1911. The lead agency for this program was the US Air Force. While perhaps an odd choice at first glance, the USAF was particularly interested in replacing their hodgepodge of service handguns, which included a large number of .38 Special revolvers. The issue had been forced by the US Congress’ refusal to fund acquisition of additional .38 special ammunition.

Beretta made a special version of the 92S (92S-1) for the JSSAP tests which included a repositioned magazine release, an ambidextrous safety, serrated front and back straps, and enlarged sights with white inlaid markings. After a year of testing, the USAF announced that the Beretta had beaten out its competitors and recommended its adoption. The competitors included the Colt SSP, the Star Model 28, the Smith & Wesson 459A, the FN GP35, the FN ‘Fast Action’ Hi-Power, the FN Double Action Hi-Power, the HK P9S, and the HK VP70.

However, the US Army was still peeved over having the M16 rifle forced on it because of the USAF in the early 1960s. They seized upon the poor performance of the control M1911A1 pistols to suggest that the USAF tests were unscientific and flawed. (To be fair, the specific M1911A1 pistols used were at least 35 years old at the time of the test.) The US Army went as far to even disagree with the consistency of the mud used in the environmental tests! With the assistance of the General Accounting Office, the US Army was able to convince Congress to prevent procurement.

In 1981, the US Army was given control of the JSSAP pistol trials, and the search began again. 85 requirements were laid down for the winning XM9 pistol; 72 were mandatory while 13 were desirable. Only four pistols were entered this time: the Beretta 92SB (an improved 92S-1), the HK P7M13, the S&W 459A, and the SIG-Sauer P226. However, all four failed, and strangely, the Beretta now finished dead last, even behind the M1911A1.

Congress and the GAO were infuriated by the waste of money for no results. Procurement funds for additional .45 ACP ammunition was withheld until the US Army could formulate a test series that a manufacturer could pass. The XM9 trials started again in January 1984. During the mean time, Beretta had improved the 92SB again, calling the resulting pistol the 92SB-F. The competitors included the Colt SSP, the FN Double Action Hi-Power, the HK P7M13, the SIG-Sauer P226, the S&W 459, the Steyr GB, and the Walther P88. In the end, only the P226 and 92SB-F were considered to have passed all of the tests.

After a series of bids in which SIG-Sauer was the low bidder, Beretta was finally given the contract due to a lower price quoted on its spare parts. Needless to say, SIG-Sauer was extremely annoyed, and there were allegations that Beretta was fed SIG-Sauer’s final bid in order to under-cut it. Moreover, other manufacturers were upset for a variety of reasons. Several had worked up bids before they were told that in fact they were not eligible. Moreover, S&W had been failed due to a mathematical error while converting to English units from Metric in determining firing pin energy.

After a series of GAO and Congressional investigations, another series of tests similar to the XM9 trials were ordered for 1987. However, these started off with controversy as well. The US Army fought to keep the 92F (now the M9) from being retested since it had passed the XM9 trials. SIG-Sauer insisted that the P226 didn’t need to retested either since it had passed XM9 as well. On the other hand, S&W noted that the Beretta M9 were no longer being built to the standards of the XM9 trials, having received relaxation of several requirements including accuracy.

Around the same time, reports of M9 slide separations were becoming rampant in both the US Navy and Army. The Navy SEALs were arguably abusing their pistols by firing over-pressure ammunition in suppressed examples, while the Army’s separations were blamed on the use of recycled slides from a French contract which contained tellurium. Events were becoming so bad that a Safety-of-Use message recommended that slides be replaced after 3000 rounds had been fired; however, this recommendation was lowered to 1,000 rounds after a M9 suffered a slide separation with less than 3,000 rounds fired.

Beretta took a two pronged response. First, they sued the Department of the Navy because the SEAL Teams had leaked info of the slide separations to Ruger. Second, they designed a hammer pin with an over-sized head to fit into a groove machined in the slide. Thus, if the slide separated, it would not strike the user in the face. Commercially, these pistols are known as the 92FS

The XM10 test were finally rescheduled for the 1988 after being canceled the year before for lack of participation. Beretta refused to submit samples, so the US Army used off-the-shelf M9. Beretta protested this, but since they had already refused samples, this protest was rejected. SIG-Sauer also refused to submit samples, standing on principle that they had passed XM9 the first time. S&W submitted their 459 again, and Ruger submitted their new P85.

Again, there was allegations of impropriety. The Army refused to relax their requirement for a chromed bore, even if the barrel was made from stainless steel. Moreover, the S&W failed tests that they had passed in XM9. They were the only pistols to pass the XM9 accuracy requirements, but failed the XM10. The S&W also failed the corrosion tests inspite of the fact that the effected parts which failed XM10 were made from stainless steel while the same parts in the successful XM9 samples were made from carbon steel. Ruger wasn’t provided any reason why their samples failed.

However, inspite of the military controversy, the Beretta 92F has an excellent reputation in US law enforcement agencies, including the Los Angeles PD. (The largest vocal exception is the NYPD’s Emergency Service Unit.) No slide separations have been reported, and the only part known for excessive wear has been the locking block. This was recently redesigned with radiused corners to prevent breakage. The 92FS has a stellar reputation for accuracy and reliability, and as long as the user has large enough hands, it is an excellent choice for a 9x19mm pistol.


©D.E. Watters
 
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Old 01-22-2002, 12:48 AM   #2
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More interesting stuff:

The origins of the Colt Model 1911 pistol go back to the Spanish-American War of 1898. While the US 'liberated' the Philippine Islands from Spanish control, the Filipinos were no more pleased with the conquering Americans than the previous Spaniards. A growing independence movement had already been underway before the war, and its leaders saw a chance to grab power during the war's aftermath. On January 23, 1899, the Malolos constitution was proclaimed and Emilio Aguinaldo was elected president. However, the US didn't recognize the new government, making a conflict inevitable.

On the night of February 4th and the morning of the 5th, US garrisons and troops were attacked across the islands. While the military units of the Filipino government were routed, guerrilla attacks continued for the next decade. US troops particularly feared the Islamic Moros, who saw the fight as a Jihad. Many stories were told of the fanatic Moros taking multiple hits from the Krag rifle in .30-40 and especially the 1894 Colt New Model Army revolver in .38 Long Colt. Reserve stocks of the 1873 Colt Single Action Army and the 1878 Colt Double Action Army revolvers, both chambered for the powerful .45 Colt, were refurbished and shipped to the occupation troops.

The US Army had already begun experiments with semi-automatic pistols, but the question of caliber had not yet been settled. In 1904, a board was established to conduct scientific tests to determine the ideal caliber, shape, size, and construction for a military handgun cartridge. This board was comprised of Colonel John T. Thompson (later the inventor of the Thompson Submachine Gun) of the Ordnance Corps and Colonel Louis A. LaGarde of the Medical Corps. Several cartridges were tested including the 7.65x22mm Luger, the 9x19mm Luger (the current NATO cartridge), the .38 Long Colt, the .38 ACP, the .45 Colt, the .455 Webley, and the .476 Eley. Bullet styles ranged from lead to jacketed, roundnose to truncated cone, hollowpoints to softpoints, and even an exploding projectile! The ten different cartridge types were tested on 10 human cadavers, 2 horses, and 16 cattle. In the end, Thompson and LaGarde concluded that the ideal cartridge would use a .45 caliber projectile weighing between 200 and 230 grains and traveling around 800 fps.

Colt didn't wait for the Thompson/LaGarde tests to start before attempting to convert the John M. Browning-pattern Colt 1902 Military Model pistol to a .45 cartridge. The first prototype in 1904 used a rimless version of the .45 Colt revolver cartridge, but this caused the grip to be too bulky. Work with UMC, Winchester, and Frankford Arsenal led to a shortened .45 ACP cartridge in 1905 with a new pistol model to match. The Colt 1905 was offered up for military tests in the US and Britain, but all of the bugs had not yet been worked out of the design. John Browning was called in to help improve the design for future tests.

In 1906, the US army sent letters to inventors and arms makers informing them of the Army's intent to conduct tests leading to the procurement of a new .45 caliber pistol chambered for the .45 ACP cartridge. Ammunition would be provided upon request for the price of $2.86 per hundred cartridges. The tests were delayed until early 1907, and out of nine designs submitted (including a .45 Luger), only the pistols of Colt and Savage were considered to have any merit for future development and troop trials.

Savage had a difficult time producing enough pistols for the troop trials. While they had accepted a contract in 1907 for 200 pistols, Savage did not complete delivery until December 1908. Moreover, the pistols were costing more to produce than the price that they had quoted the US Army. The pistols were also expensive, costing five times as much as the later Colt 1909 revolver ($65 vs $13). The US Army nearly dropped Savage as a result, and approached DWM (makers of the Luger) to submit pistols instead. Luckily for Savage, DWM declined not wanting to take the financial risk. When the Savage pistols were tested, a variety of faults were found: the pistols were unreliable in feeding, magazines were difficult to insert yet would fall out when the pistol was fired, and the parts would not interchange between pistols.

In contrast, Colt had delivered their 200 pistols nearly a year earlier. The 1907 'Contract' Colts were not without their own unique problems (sear breakage), but the early submission gave Colt and John Browning a head start on their next submission, the Model 1909 (not to be confused with the revolver). These were found to be superior to the 'Contract' Model 1907, but more tweaking was to be desired. By 1910, the Colt prototypes were very close in appearance to their final 1911 form. However, the Colt prototypes from 1907 to 1910 had only a grip-activated safety. Cavalry troopers were concerned as to the difficulty and safety of lowering a cocked hammer while on horseback.

Colt thus began development of a frame-mounted thumb-activated safety which would allow a Cavalry trooper to safely reholster his cocked pistol until such time that he could safely lower the hammer. A formal test in November 1910 pretty much finished off Savage’s chances of becoming adopted. While the Savage had less parts and was more easily detail stripped, the Colt was more far more accurate and comfortable to shoot. The Colt suffered a cracked barrel during a test with overloaded cartridges, and during subsequent testing, the barrel broke completely damaging the slide.

By March 3, 1911, Colt had submitted improved prototypes with a strengthened barrel and the new thumb safety. The same test protocol as the November 1910 tests was repeated. This time the Colt passed without malfunction while the Savage prototype repeated its same dismal performance. On March 29, 1911, the Secretary of War officially approved the adoption of the Colt as the "US Pistol, Automatic, Calibre .45, Model 1911". And thus, with only minor additional modifications over the years, the Colt 1911 and 1911A1 soldiered on through most of the US’s military conflicts during the 20th Century.

Despite its "official" replacement by the Beretta 92F, J.M. Browning's classic design continues in military and police service. The 1911 combines a relatively thin profile which fits most hands, a user-friendly trigger pull, and the powerful but controllable .45 ACP cartridge. Most of the design's supposed and real faults can be corrected by a competent armorer. In fact, the 1911-style pistol has been undergoing a renaissance with custom versions being adopted/used by the USMC's MEU(SOC), the FBI's SWAT and HRT, and the LAPD SWAT.


©D.E. Watters
 
Old 01-22-2002, 04:17 PM   #3
 
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:wink: Actually enjoyed that!

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<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Jester on 2002-01-22 16:18 ]</font>
 
 
Old 01-22-2002, 07:36 PM   #4
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45, well done.
 
Old 01-22-2002, 08:58 PM   #5
 
Join Date: Sep 2001
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Did this little adventure in imperialism not also lead to the development of the .38 Special cartridge? As I recall, the utter failure of the .38 Long Colt against tribesman (wrapped in vines to prevent bleed-out when shot, if I have my story straight) was the impetus of that particular design.
 
Old 06-13-2002, 01:08 AM   #6
 
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Dear Mr. Martens,

I'm glad that you enjoyed my thumbnail weapon histories enough to post them here. However, in the future, could you at least put a link back to the host webpage where you found them?
 
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