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Italian firearms manufacturer Beretta produces and sells the 92FS and M9 9mm pistols. Both guns evolved from the original design of the Beretta 92, a gun introduced in 1976. When the United States military announced a competition to find a new sidearm for its soldiers, Beretta built the M9 to suit the competition's specifications. Beretta modified the M9 into the commercially available 92FS in response to concerns over the M9's safety.
Both the M9 and the 92FS feature the same fixed iron notch and post front and rear sight. However, Beretta has painted the M9 with a two-dot sight configuration, adding white paint to the front post and the "U" or valley in between the rear notch. The 92FS features a three-dot sight configuration, with white paint added to the front post and each of the rear notches. Target shooters may prefer one style to the other; some argue that a two-dot sight configuration enables faster target acquisition.
A slight change in the shape of the stock distinguishes the M9 from the 92FS. Beretta narrowed the back of the 92FS' stock, giving it more of an arc as it approaches the pistol's beavertail (the flared end beneath the hammer). The M9 has a wider stock that lacks this arc. A narrower stock enables a person firing the gun to get more of his hand on the weapon and grip the gun higher up on the stock, giving better control during firing.
Beretta differentiates each weapon by the shape of the gun's dust cover, which forms the forward part of the pistol's frame beneath the slide. The front of the M9 dust cover runs in a straight line beneath the slide. On a Beretta 92FS, the dust cover has a slightly angled shape. A difference in dust cover shape can affect how a handgun fits in various holsters; shape of a dust cover can slacken draw speed by creating friction against the holster or cause the weapon to catch on the holster.
Beretta stamps the slide and frame of each pistol with its own unique marking that identifies each weapon's type, origin of manufacture and serial number. The slide of the M9 bears the insignia "U.S. 9mm M9 Beretta U.S.A." with the weapon's serial number imprinted on the opposite side. On the slide of a 92FS, Beretta prints the country of origin, either the US or Italy with the serial number stamped on the slide beneath. On the opposite side, Beretta stamps these weapons with "MOD. 92FS-CAL 9MM Parabellum."
Civilians can purchase the M9 and the 92FS for use in hunting, target shooting and personal protection. The United States Military currently uses the M9 as its standard sidearm, having adopted it as a replacement for the Colt 1911 in the mid-1980s.
During military use, soldiers began reporting instances of the M9 slide separating out the back of the gun during firing. In more than one case, the slide struck a soldier in the face. Beretta addressed this issue in the civilian 92FS by installing an enlarged hammer pin. This pin will prevent the slide from disengaging out of the back of the weapon.
Since 2005, James Rutter has worked as a freelance journalist for print and Internet publications, including the “News of Delaware County,” “Main Line Times” and Broad Street Review. As a former chemist, college professor and competitive weightlifter, he writes about science, education and exercise. Rutter earned a B.A. in philosophy and biology from Albright College and studied philosophy and cognitive science at Temple University.