Beretta Model 96G Vertec Pistol

By David Tong

Beretta M-96
Photo by David Tong.

Probably everyone is at least outwardly familiar with the Beretta 92FS, also known as the M9 in the U.S. military. Of conventional design and construction for a so-called “Wondernine,” its 15- round capacity magazines for the 9x19mm NATO round, ambidextrous safety, decocking levers mounted on the rear of the slide and its slick Walther P-38 derived short recoil locking system have made it our military’s choice since 1985.

There have been issues with the pistol over the past few decades. Some of the malfunctions have occurred due to low cost bidder aftermarket magazines and the pistol is roundly criticized for its butt girth, because small hands can have difficulty manipulating the pistol. These issues, along with the adoption of the Glock 17 and 22 pistols, have resulted in the 92 being phased out by many American law enforcement agencies.

The Model 96G Vertec was Beretta’s 2002 attempt to address some of the M92's handling issues. In addition, it provided a platform to launch the .40 S&W cartridge, which is now the most prevalent round in law enforcement circles.

Here are some Beretta Model 96G Vertec specifications:

  • Length: 8.2”
  • Height: 5.4”
  • Barrel Length: 4.6”
  • Sight radius: 6’1”
  • Grip width: 1.3” (vs. 1.5” on standard M92/M9)
  • Weight empty (w/o magazine): 34.0 oz.

Differences between the Vertec and the parent M92FS are readily seen. The rear strap of the butt is straight rather than arched and the stocks on the Vertec are both flatter and more aggressively surfaced for a better grip. In addition, the trigger blade has been thinned, to better allow reaching by one’s distal joint to fire the first round by the trigger cocking method. The barrel is also a few tenths of an inch shorter and terminates at the end of the slide.

In addition, law enforcement agencies requested an accessory rail to accept flashlights and laser sighting devices. This feature is becoming more the rule than exception, as departments attempt to limit their liability for errant shots by affording the operator both a way to positively identify one’s assailant and provide a secondary aiming system.

My issue with this particular accessory rail is that it is “proprietary” and not of the common Picatinny type. Thus, adapters to fit the Beretta rail must be obtained with the laser or light unit.

Speaking of sights, the Vertec's iron sights are another area where Beretta listened to their customers. While the standard M92 has a diminutive front sight milled directly into the front slide ring, the M96G has a front dovetail to facilitate the mounting of tritium glow in the dark sights. However, due to the sights’ relatively small size, they are somewhat harder to pick up quickly than many other designs.

Chambering the pistol in .40 S&W completed the M96 package. I must admit having mixed reactions to the .40 cartridge. Not for the power it provides per shot, rather because of its sharp, fast recoil pulse and consequent loss of rapid fire shot management (compared to the 9x19 round).

Shooting the Vertec proved curious. Up to now, my experience shooting the .40 S&W round had involved my SiG-Sauer P229 compact and a Glock 23 owned by a friend. I expected that a full-sized service pistol constructed of alloy and steel would mitigate the cartridge's felt recoil.

Well, yes and no. I found that I had to bear down on the Vertec more in rapid fire strings than my .45ACP SiG-Sauer P220, which is made of identical materials. One can do good work with the .40 in rapid fire, so long as one’s fundamentals of grip, sight picture and stance are in order. Nor did I find the recoil pulse notably less than that of the compact Glock 23, save when the Glock's magazine was about to go dry.

I also noticed that the relatively small iron sights were a bit slower to reacquire during sighted rapid fire strings, as the rear of the slide has a bit of visual clutter, with its ambidextrous decocking levers competing for your attention. However, the Vertec does fit my smallish hands better than the M9 I once owned. This is somewhat surprising, since the difference in grip width between the M9 and the Vertec is only 0.15”. I must attribute the improvement to the re-contour of the rear strap and reduction in trigger reach.

The other thing that bothers me is that the standard capacity magazines for the Vertec hold only 11 rounds, though there are both Beretta OEM and Mec-Gar aftermarket Italian made magazines (the ONLY aftermarket magazines worthy of consideration) that hold up to 13 rounds. Better, but still short of the 15 rounds carried in a G22.

Ammo fired was 165 grain Federal Expanding Full Metal Jacket, with excellent reliability. In particularly adverse Western Oregon weather (wind and hard rain), I was able to keep all my rapid fire shots in approximately 4” at 20 feet. The EFMJ rounds mushroomed perfectly in the upended tree stump that served as a backstop and were approximately .55 caliber when recovered.

What to make of this pistol? I still prefer all steel pistols, with aluminum-framed pistols coming in second, and I think the now discontinued (as of 2007) Vertec will find a place in my home, as it is inexpensive. I will fit a slightly higher weight recoil spring to slow down the slide slightly and see if it mitigates the felt recoil a tad. I accept the fact that the round count is lower, though on the plus side the trigger pull and manual of arms is similar to the familiar SiG designs, even if the control layout is somewhat different.

NOTE: This review is mirrored on the Product Reviews page.

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Copyright 2012, 2016 by David Tong and/or All rights reserved.