With the ongoing gun-buying frenzy, rampaging gun shops and online dealers alike, it’s hard to determine what might be available to someone in the market for a new handgun (or a used one, for that matter). Despite this, the question will always stand to those uninformed purchasers, nervously waiving their handgun permits in the air, trying to get noticed, that the question “Which gun do I buy?” will always be prevalent.
Harder still, is to get the time with a gun professional to answer your question, as they frantically try to fill orders and help those buyers who will literally buy anything they can get their hands on. With this Shootout!, we strive to answer some of those concerns with two of the most common and sought-after, mid-sized handguns in the 9mm caliber; the Beretta 92FS and the Glock 17.
The Beretta 92FS
How could the US Army be wrong? Called the “M9” by our armed forces, the Beretta 9mm pistol has been the standard sidearm of the US Army since the late 1980’s. As can be expected with all things Beretta, the 92FS is a superb piece of firearms craftsmanship. It’s open-slide design and super clean lines on its all-steel frame make it tough and beautiful at the same time. The 92FS holds 15 rounds of 9mm in it’s standard magazines.
Out of the box
Opening your new Beretta presents you with your standard array of handgun appurtenances, which includes: Th plastic box. This is worthy of a toss to the next recycling day. The cable lock that no one uses. Instructions and guides that no one reads (almost no one). Two magazines (nice). A plastic cup emblazoned with the Beretta logo that no one outside of the Beretta factory can figure out what is for or why it’s included.
Your new Beretta features some very well thought out and finely crafted operational and breakdown controls across the surface of the gun. These include: the magazine release, the slide release and the ambidextrous, slide-mounted, thumb safety.
All of these items are superbly placed and obviously well machined for both functionality and aesthetics. This also keeps the design of the gun tightly contrived. The thumb-safety also acts as a de-cocker mechanism, which will not only drop the hammer without firing a chambered round, but also disconnect the trigger mechanism while the safety is engaged. The pistol also features a loaded chamber indicator.
The 92FS grip is quite robust. Thick enough, in fact some shooters with smaller hands can have some trouble formulating their permanent grip placement around the Beretta. Others have expressed discomfort or just a general dislike of shooting the pistol due to the wide grip. Still, others, and especially those with larger mitts, have no problem with this feature of the handgun.
Breaking down the 92FS is simplicity itself. The pressing of a button and the flip of a lever releases the entire slide mechanism of the pistol, allowing for easy access to the internals and for cleaning. Doing it once means that you can pretty much do it forever.
While a 3-dot, low profile site set is usually a tremendous boon to most handguns, the unfortunate fact that the sights are fixed only represents one of the few 92FS design flaws. It’s clear why the sites were designed as fixed, as soldiers tend to get bumped and banged around a bit, but adjustable sights would have made the Beretta a much better hitter, especially beyond the typical 14-foot encounter distance. Lining up the three dots resulted in consistently low hits until this shooter began lining up the center dot above the two rear dots for a triangular sight picture in order to hit center. This is not the case for everybody, but enough people have “mentioned” it to make it worthy of brining up here.
The trigger on the Beretta can be a strange thing to get used to. Your first shot from a loaded magazine and a dropped slide will offer your shot in double action. A seemingly endless trigger pull will result not only in your first shot fired, but then every subsequent shot available to you in single action (your external hammer now having automatically been cocked thanks to the recoil action of the slide). In single action, your trigger pull is less than half the distance of your double-action first pull, but still has a little more creep to it than this shooter would like to feel in a single action shot.
When your shot finally goes off, after having dealt with the odd sight picture and rolled your eyes at the trigger pull, the gun launches your projectile like music off a violin. After five-hundred years, Beretta knows how to make a bullet fly. I would have to say that the only issue to be had with the way a Beretta 92FS shoots is the slightly higher muzzle jump that occurs in the pistol, but it is easily compensated for with a robust forward support grip of your off-hand. But again, this is just being nit-picky. The gun is a great shooter.
The Glock 17 (Gen 4)
If the word “revolutionary” has any placement in the world of firearms today (and is usually associated with John Browning-but not this time) it must be applied to the first polymer-framed pistol the world had seen. At first, controversial, to say the least, the Glock 17 has served as proof of concept since its first introduction in 1979 to the point where every major handgun manufacturer in the world today offers a polymer framed pistol. The Glock 17 holds 10 rounds of 9mm in its standard magazines.
Out of the box
Pop open your Glock 17 and the first thing you might notice is that it is one of the few pistols offered with an outer case worth keeping. Other than that, your one magazine (cheapskates), instruction manual, lock, a few interchangeable back-straps to alter the grip size, and not much else comes with your new plasti-pistol.
For as ergonomically pleasing as the Beretta controls are, by contrast, the Glock controls are… well, functional. Yes, that’s it. They are quite functional. The rectangular magazine release is decent enough to where it can be easily felt by the thumb and will help a fast ejection for a fast reload. The standard slide release leaves a bit to be desired and many people change this out for an aftermarket better one. The safety… you knew I was going to say it… “What safety?” The concept of a safety mechanism in most of the hand-gunning world before Glock was that a safety either disabled or prevented the pulling, of a trigger. Being that the Glock’s safety is ON the trigger and is deactivated by PULLING the trigger, this escapes me as a concept of a safety. Whatever, Smith and Wesson is doing the same thing in the M&P… Moving on.
The 17 has some excellent ergonomic grips. Checkering on the fingered groves as well as the changeable back-strap offers sure purchase on the grip of the gun. Textured sides offer that much more. There’s even checkering on the front of the trigger guard, something I thought was useless at first glance, until I held the pistol with two hands and used it for my off-hand index finger. Nice feature if you care to use it.
The Glock is in no way a difficult gun to take apart for cleaning… provided, of course, you know how. Clear the gun of ammo, pull the trigger to release the firing pin and then pull back ever so slightly on the slide before moving the frame-takedown switch into the bottom position to release the slide from the lower frame. Again, it’s really not difficult and once you do it a few times it’s nothing to every think about again.
Fixed sights, but instead or a more traditional 3-dot system it’s more of a center dot and surrounding “U” shape rear sight. Keep the dot in the middle of the “U” and you’ll hit your target. Considering that they are fixed sights, I do like the Glock sights and find that they work very well.
I have heard the Glock triggers described many ways for an “out of the box” gun. Some of the more memorable ones were; “Mushy”, “Squishy”, “Oddly soft”, “Like sticking my finger in Jell-O”. In truth it’s not all that bad and considering that there are some REALLY good after-market “no gunsmithing required” consumer-replaceable trigger components out there to combat this. So there are no worries. Yes, it does represent an additional investment, but what can you do? (Hello, Glock? Hint, hint?). There’s a little creep in the trigger too, but it’s all single action so there is nothing to worry about with a long, double-action first shot.
The Glock 17 shoots very well. It’s is a polymer gun so your grip may have to be a little stronger than with a steel gun and you may need a little more involvement with your off-shooting hand in your control wraparound of the grips, but the gun is very accurate and offers a nice sight picture when you pick it up to shoot it. Shots come off clean and with very manageable recoil, especially when the above-mentioned controls are maintained.
So which is better?
Both guns are solid, proven platforms despite the nit-pickety stuff mentioned here. Let’s look at the most common uses of these guns and the recommendations for each to determine our winner:
Plinking: While any gun can be a plinker, I guess this decision would be based upon which of the two would be more fun to shoot in a plinking environment. The choice is a tie. Both guns are just as much fun as the other for practice and fun.
Concealed Carry: Glock 17. The slightly shorter barrel and narrower frame and grips of this handgun make it much more conducive to CC. While this is not a gun specifically designed for CC, it represents the lesser of two evils if a choice must be made.
Competition (action shooting): Glock 17. Action shooting can be all about that first trigger pull. The consistent single action of the Glock beats out the first, double-action pull of the Beretta.
Competition (target shooting): Beretta 92FS. Precision shooting requires finesse and attention to detail that is just pouring from the Beretta. After all, the military started the precision pistol competitions over a hundred years ago. Makes sense that their chosen pistol can carry on that tradition.
Home defense: While either gun could be appropriate here, the Beretta wins the category by a narrow margin. Why? Because of the controllability of the situation thanks to the ambidextrous safety available on the 92FS. In the interest of avoiding an accident in what could be the most stressful situation of your life, having that readily available safety can make the difference between a good shot and a horrible mistake in judgment.
Hunting: While I personally would not take either pistol as a main hunting weapon, let’s say that as a backup pistol while hunting for defense could be the way to view this comparison. Which gun then to use if a bear attacks? A 1911 chambered in .45 ACP. However, since that is not an option here, the Beretta would have to win again due to the overall accuracy of the gun.
So the winner is the Beretta 92FS. I really do highly recommend either gun, but there are some clear differences in usage and purpose. Determine what you will be using the pistol for (for the majority of your shooting) and this can help you make the right decision.
Go shooting tomorrow. Because I said so.