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Pistol, Semiautomatic, 9mm, M9
The M9 pistol
Type Semi-automatic pistol
Place of origin  Italy
Service history
In service 1990–present
Used by United States United States Military
Wars Persian Gulf War
Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan)
Operation Iraqi Freedom (Iraq)
Production history
Manufacturer Fabbrica d'Armi Pietro Beretta
  • 952 g (33.6 oz)
  • 1,162 g (41 oz) Loaded
Length 217 mm (8.5 in)
Barrel length 125 mm (4.9 in)

Cartridge 9x19mm Parabellum
Action Short recoil
Muzzle velocity 354 m/s (1,161 ft/s)
Effective range 60 m
Feed system 15 round detachable box magazine
Sights Iron sights

The M9 pistol, formally Pistol, Semiautomatic, 9mm, M9, is a 9x19mm Parabellum pistol of the United States military adopted in the 1980s. It is basically a military specification Beretta 92F, later the 92FS.

It won a competition in the 1980s to replace the M1911A1 as the primary handgun of the U.S. military, beating out many other contenders. It officially entered service in 1990.[1] Some other models have been adopted to a lesser extent, namely the M11 pistol, and older, or different, models remain in use in certain niches. The M9 was scheduled to be replaced under an Army program, the Future Handgun System (FHS), which was merged with the SOF Combat Pistol program to create the Joint Combat Pistol (JCP). In early 2006, the JCP was renamed Combat Pistol (CP), and the number of pistols to be bought was drastically cut back.



In the 1970s, in an effort to make all five branches of U.S. Forces' weapons in sync, the Joint Services Small Arms Planning Commission was formed to test a variety of guns. The 92F survived exposure to temperatures from -40°F to 140°F, being soaked in salt water, being dropped repeatedly on concrete, and being buried in sand, mud, and snow. Additionally, the 92F proved a MRBF (mean rounds before failure) of 35,000 rounds. That number is equivalent to five or six times the pistol's service life.[2]

Technical description

A short recoil, semi-automatic, single-action / double-action pistol, the M9 uses a 15-round staggered magazine with a reversible magazine release button that can be positioned for either right or left-handed shooters. The M9 is used with the M12 Holster (Part of the Beretta UM84 Holster System), though other holsters are often used.

The M9 has been modified as the M9A1 in 2006.[3] It added among other things, a Picatinny rail for the attachment of lights, lasers, and other accessories to the weapon. The M9A1 also has more aggressive front and backstrap checkering, a beveled magazine well for easier reloading of the weapon, and a reversible magazine release. M9A1 pistols are sold with PVD coated magazines developed to better withstand the conditions in the sandy environments in Iraq and Afghanistan.[4]

Adoption: JSSAP, XM9, and XM10 trials

M9 during firing with cartridge casing being ejected

Under the Joint Service Small Arms Program which was run by the U.S. Air Force, a number of 9 mm pistol designs were trialed in the late 1970s to find a replacement for the M1911. The 9 mm round was selected for compliance with NATO standardization. In 1980, the Beretta 92S-1 design was chosen over entries from Colt, Smith & Wesson, the Star M28, and various Fabrique Nationale and Heckler & Koch models. The result, however, was challenged by the Army and new tests were to be done, this time run by the Army rather than the Air Force. In 1984, the trials started again with updated entries from Smith & Wesson, Beretta, SIG Sauer, Heckler & Koch, Walther, Steyr, and Fabrique Nationale. Beretta won this competition but there was a new trial, the XM10 competition, in 1988. This resulted in two different trials that were more limited, but resulted in the Beretta design being kept, with an update to it happening during the same time frame.


M1911A1 and early M9

Prior to its widespread adoption by the U.S. military, questions were raised in a 1987 General Accounting Office report after an incident where a slide failure on a Beretta 92SB injured a Naval Special Warfare member[5] and two more failures were later observed in additional testing. These failures included both military and civilian Beretta models with very high round counts and after investigation they were deemed the result of ammunition supplied by the U.S. Army which exceeded the recommended pressures specified by NATO and by Beretta[citation needed], but nonetheless provoked a modification in the M9 design to prevent slide failure from causing injuries.

Soldiers in the field also had a lot of concerns with the M9, notably a lack of confidence in its stopping power,[6] resulting from the use of the 9mm ball round, a significant factor in military evaluations because the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 prohibit use of expanding or fragmenting bullets in warfare.

There were also a number of common mechanical defects, most notably problems with the magazine springs becoming too slack, which has been attributed to the fact that the M9 is a sidearm and as such is not reloaded for long periods of time, thus straining the springs.[7]

M9 pistol field stripped

The U.S. military has been criticized for not purchasing magazines from Beretta. In 2006, the military awarded a contract to Airtronic USA due to the previous manufacturer, Check-Mate Industries, charging too much per magazine[8], though Check-Mate magazines are still sometimes issued. Prior to Check-Mate magazines being purchased, the military purchased magazines from the Italian firm Mec-Gar.[8] Airtronic has stated that its M9 magazines will be made similar to Mec-Gar's, due to Check-Mate magazines having reliability problems.[8]

In 2003–2004 there were reported failures with the government contracted 9mm magazines. After extensive testing and actual testimony given by the troops it was concluded that the failures were due to the heavy phosphate finish called for in the government contract, combined with the unique environmental conditions in Iraq. After corrections to the government required specifications for the magazine finish, almost two million new magazines have been distributed without any further malfunctions.

In the competition to find a new vendor, three finalists were chosen. These three were: Airtronic Services, Inc. classified as a "Moderate Risk", PHT Supply (partnered with Triple K Mfg.) also classified as a "Moderate Risk" and Check-Mate Industries, Inc. classified as a "Very Low Risk". Of the three, Airtronic Services, Inc was chosen due to their low bid of "$22,471,600" (Source: GAO). Airtronic Services delivered the first 900,000 magazines with zero failures, while costing less than the previous supplier Check-Mate Industries (source GAO and US Court of Federal Small Claims).


US Navy sailors conduct small arms qualification

The M9 is the standard pistol of the U.S. Army and Air Force Security Forces, and the M9A1 is the standard pistol of the U.S. Marines.[9] A large number of M9s and M9A1s were ordered in 2006. During the 2009 SHOT Show, Beretta announced it had received a US$220 million contract for the delivery of 450,000 M9s and M9A1s to the U.S. military, within a five-year span.[10]

The Marine Corps Times reported plans in July 2007 for all officers below the rank of Colonel and all SNCOs to be issued the M4 carbine instead of the M9.[11] The new assignment policy will still assign M9s to Marine Colonels and above and Navy Petty Officer First Class and above.[12]

The U.S. Coast Guard has replaced most of its M9s with the SIG P229 DAK though some M9s remain in service with certain units.



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