Beretta’s follow up to the M9 is now available for private shooters in the new M9A3 pistol. The M9A3 is a tactical semi-automatic pistol chambered in 9mm just like the M9, but it is specifically designed to address many of the criticisms that have been leveled against the M9 during its service time as the primary sidearm of the US Military. But the real question remains: how does the M9A3 improve on the M9 and is it a worthwhile purchase for fans of the M9?

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A Brief Word On The M9

Beretta won the US Military evaluation to replace the M1911A1 in 1985, and their M9 (Beretta 92FS on the civilian market) entered service in 1990. The M9 used the 9×19 Parabellum round that met NATO requirements, and it fulfilled a host of other requirements set by the US Military like 100% interchangeable parts and a hard chromed barrel bore. During the service life of the M9, many criticisms have been leveled against it, but the biggest qualm has always been with the stopping power of the 9mm, which was especially prominent in the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts. The older M9 magazines were also criticized due to their sand-resistant finishes required for desert use, but the issue has been corrected in updated M9 magazines.

Call To Replace The M9

The life cycle of most of the M9s in service is nearing its end, and a new competition for the next service handgun called the Modular Handgun System, or XM17, has just begun. Interested companies have until January 2016 to submit their designs, and since evaluations like this can take several years, the goal is to begin replacing the M9 by 2020. Unlike the M1911, the M9 will only serve as the US Military’s primary sidearm for one life cycle.


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Enter the M9A3, Beretta’s attempt to update the M9 and retain the contract to supply primary sidearms for the US Military. Beretta submitted the design ahead of the Modular Handgun System program as the US Military evaluated the costs of replacing the M9, but much to the disappointment of Beretta, the plan of replacing and updating the M9 with the M9A3 was officially rejected. Long story short, if you were looking to get your hands on the next service firearm in the M9A3, that is not going to be the case. The new winner of the Modular Handgun System has yet to be announced, and it likely won’t be announced for several years.

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Features Of The M9A3

What you can get in the M9A3 is a modern update to a firearm that has seen a lot of military service. The M9A3 is also designed to meet many of the shortcomings deemed by the military over the service life of the firearm. The first and most noticeable update to the M9A3 is its finish. The Modular Handgun System calls for a neutral, non-reflective color and the sand color of the M9A3 definitely fits the bill. Initially tailored for desert environments, the flat sand color of the M9A3 definitely gives it a distinct look. Other prominent updates include:

  • A 17 round double stack magazine as opposed to the M9’s 15 round magazine.
  • Vertec-style thin grip that accommodates users who have smaller hands with an optional attachment grip that provides the similar width and feel of the old M9 grip. The Vertec-style thin grip is also designed to make the pistol easier to conceal for those who decide to use it for that purpose.
  • 3-Slot Picatinny rail standard on the M9A1 update but not part of the initial M9 release.
  • Universal slide that can be used in either safety-decocker mode or decocker only mode depending on the user’s preference.
  • Barrel threaded to accept a suppressor.
  • Removable front sight.
  • Beveled magazine well.
  • Accepts sand-resistant magazines.
  • The pistol weighs 33.9 oz when it is unloaded.

Final Thoughts

The bad news for collectors and Beretta fans is the M9A3 won’t be making an appearance on the battlefield, but there is certainly an upside here. The M93A corrects much of the issues of the M9, and it represents an update of nearly 30 years of firearm technology since the M9 was released. The US Military is extremely picky about their service firearms, and the M9A3 is designed with much of their stringent specifications in mind. In fact, part of the reason the M9A3 was declined is because it represented such an overhaul of the M9 that the military wouldn’t accept it as an update.

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Beretta will be submitting a new design along a host of other manufacturers this January called the APX, but for now, those who want to experience a modern tactical pistol with a unique look and design should definitely take a look at the M9A3. Beretta lists the pistol at $1099 MSRP for all four models: two de-cock only models with 10 or 17 round magazines and two universal slide models with 10 or 17 round magazines.