The Beretta 92 FS was one of four (or five, if you count the RWS C225) CO2 powered, pellet shooting semi-auto replicas introduced by Umarex between 1996 – 2000. All shared similar mechanical design, with a rotary pellet holder concealed within a cast zinc alloy body with a moveable front part of the slide which gives access to the loading area. Sixteen years after it was launched, the 92 FS is still part of the Umarex range and is still popular with shooters and collectors. But can a design that’s almost vintage by replica standards really be that good?
Real steel background
The Beretta 92 FS is a development of the original Model 92 and a result of the outcome of the complicated, confusing and controversial process by which the US military selected its new service sidearm in the 70s and 80s.
Early Beretta 92 with frame-mounted safety
The Beretta 92 design originated in the early 1970s and was intended as a replacement for the elderly Beretta M951. Launched in 1975, the 92 is a short recoil operated, locked breech pistol with an aluminium frame and a distinctive cut-away slide that has become a feature of Beretta pistols. The 92 is chambered for the 9x19mm round, can be operated in SA and DA modes and has an exposed hammer. The earliest models featured a frame mounted safety but the 92S launched in 1976 and all subsequent models featured a slide mounted safety.
The Beretta 92 was adopted by the Brazilian army in 1977 and by Italian law enforcement and military units in 1978. In 1979 the United States Air Force (USAF) was instructed to hold trials to find a replacement for all US military M1911A1 and 38 Special revolvers. The Joint Services Small Arms Program (JSSAP) represented a massive opportunity for sales and semi-auto pistols were submitted by Colt (with the SSP, a development of the 1911 design in stainless steel), Heckler & Koch (with the P95 and the futuristic VP70), Smith & Wesson (with the Model 459), Star Firearms (with the M28) and FN (with variants of the Hi-Power). Beretta submitted the 92S-1, a slightly modified version of the 92S.
In 1980, after over one year of testing, the USAF declared the Beretta 92S-1 the winner. However, that wasn’t the end of the story. In 1981, the US Army challenged the outcome of the JSSAP in Congress, claiming amongst other things that the USAF had used the “wrong kind of mud” in tests. In early 1982, the US Department of Defence declared the results of the JSSAP void, and ordered the US Army to conduct a new series of trials. In May 1982, the US Army declared that all pistols submitted had failed the required tests and this second trial was abandoned.
In 1983, Congress instructed the US Army to re-start testing, this time under the designation XM9 Service Pistol Trial. Pistols were submitted by Smith & Wesson (Model 459A), Heckler & Koch (P7M8 and M13) , Walther (P88), SIG-Sauer (P226), Steyr and FN. Beretta submitted the 92F, a further modification of the original 92 design with a new finish and a re-shaped grip and trigger guard. Testing continued until September 1984 but the announcement of the result was delayed by a legal challenge from H&K and S&W after their designs were eliminated from the trial. Finally, in January 1985, the US Army announced the adoption of the Beretta 92F as the M92 pistol. Orders were placed for over 300,000 pistols.
US Navy personnel training with the Beretta M9
And that, you might think, would be the end of the story. Except it wasn’t. The M9 was adopted by, amongst many other units, the US Navy SEALs. Several M9s used by SEAL units suffered catastrophic failures, where the slide split in two and the rear half of the slide struck the shooter in the face (“You aren’t a Navy SEAL, Until you’ve tasted Italian steel.“). At the same time lobbying in Congress by S&W resulted in the announcement of yet another trial in early 1989, the XM10 Service Pistol Trial. Beretta submitted the 92 FS, modified with a slide over-travel stop and a re-worked hammer to prevent a broken slide from striking the shooter in the face (the failures in SEAL M92s were later found to be due to the use of over-pressure ammunition rather than any inherent defect in the M9). In May 1989, the Beretta 92 FS was declared the winner (for the third time!) and orders were placed for an additional 60,000 M9s.
So, it took ten years, four rounds of testing, several allegations of misconduct, a Congressional inquiry, legal action, a major fall-out between the US Army and the USAF and a huge amount of suspicion and ill-feeling, but in 1989 the Beretta 92 FS was finally accepted as the standard sidearm for the US Military.
The Umarex Beretta 92 FS
Released in 1998, the Umarex Beretta 92 FS is a replica of the pistol used by the US military and followed the design of the Walther CP88 and Colt 1911 which had preceded it. It’s an all-metal design and up to eight .177″ pellets are held in a rotary holder which is loaded by pressing down on the takedown lever, which allows the front part of the slide to move forward, exposing the loading area. CO2 is retained inside the grip and accessed by removing the right side grip. The ambidextrous slide mounted safety is fully operational though it does not incorporate a de-cocking function.
Early glossy black finish 92 FS with walnut grips
The 92 FS was originally available in black or nickel finish with black plastic or walnut grips. The original black finish was a glossy, polished finish but this was later changed to a more matt, bead-blasted finish. In 2014, a matt grey finish version was introduced as the 92 FS Sniper Grey. All versions are mechanically identical.
Umarex originally supplied a (non-functioning) compensator in black and nickel finish as an accessory for the 92 FS. Unlike the Umarex Walther CP88, the compensator on the 92 FS is not used to conceal a longer barrel or to increase the sight radius – it’s just a cosmetic addition and I’m not certain that it is still available. Umarex also supply a rail which can be attached in place of the rear sight and which allows the mounting of an optical sight.
Calibre: .177″ pellet
Magazine capacity: 8 pellets
Barrel length: 4.52″ rifled
Overall length: 210mm
Sights: Notch and post, rear sight has windage adjustment
Packaging and presentation 4/5
Gloss finish 92 FS in early style case
The Umarex Beretta is supplied in a plastic hard case with a foam insert. Earlier models were supplied in a blue hard case with foam cut-away to accept the pistol and accessories. Later models are supplied in a black case with generic, eggshell type foam. All versions are supplied with two rotary pellet carriers and a hex key for sight adjustment and both styles of case can be used to store the 92 FS with a compensator attached.
Visual accuracy 9/10
Beretta 92 FS (left), Umarex Beretta 92 FS (right)
The Umarex Beretta 92 FS is a very good visual replica of the original. Every line and contour of the original is accurately reproduced, the sharpness and details of the castings is outstanding and the join between the front and rear part of the slide is unobtrusive and concealed by the slide serrations. The safety, takedown lever and magazine release are all operational (even though they don’t perform the same function as they do on the original) and even the non-functional slide release is cast as a separate part and looks convincing. The looks are enhanced by accurate Beretta markings on the slide and grips.
Functional accuracy 5/15
Given its design, the Umarex Beretta 92 FS is never going to be as a functional replica as a blowback design. The rear part of the slide doesn’t move, there is no drop-out magazine, there is virtually no felt recoil when shooting and only the manual safety operates in the same way as it does on the original (though it doesn’t include a de-cocking function).
That said, this has more convincing weight and heft than most blowback replicas. It’s one of the few replicas which actually weighs more than the loaded cartridge version. The hammer and trigger action are also very close to those of the original. So, ironically, while it doesn’t mimic the functionality of a cartridge firing semi-auto pistol, this handles and shoots more like a firearm than many more functionally accurate replicas.
CO2 is retained inside the grip and the CO2 chamber is accessed by pressing the magazine release, which causes the right side grip to pop out. A hinged pad at the base of the grip is pulled down, the thumbwheel is loosened and the CO2 cartridge is placed inside. The thumbwheel is then tightened, and the CO2 is pierced by pressing the hinged pad flat against the base of the grip. This is best done with a sharp slap from the palm of the hand – if you try to close the pad slowly, there will be a notable loss of gas.
Pellets are then loaded into the rotary pellet carrier. It’s worth taking time to ensure that all pellets are firmly tamped down into the carrier – if not, the carrier may fail to index, causing the pistol to jam. The front part of the slide is opened by operating the takedown lever, the pellet carrier is placed inside and the front part of the slide is pushed to the rear until it latches. You’re then ready to shoot.
The sights on the 92 FS are a simple notch and post design with no white dots or aiming aids. They’re clear and easy to read except against very dark backgrounds. The rear sight can be adjusted for windage by loosening the small hex screw on top of the sight – a suitably sized hex key is supplied. The 92 FS can be fired in double or single action. The double action trigger pull is fairly long and moderately heavy, but it is smooth, consistent and has a clear break point. Manually cocking the hammer also indexes the pellet carrier, so this replica has a true single action trigger pull which is short, light and crisp. The trigger action is very nice indeed in DA and SA – creamy smooth with no catches or graunches and with a clear and consistent break.
Like most of the Umarex pellet shooters, the 92 FS shoots with a loud and satisfying bang. It’s notably louder than most BB shooting replicas though not so loud that you’re likely to upset the neighbours or require ear protection.
Six shots, 6 yards, RWS CO2 target pellets. Inner (black) circle is just over 1″ diameter
Most owners report power close to the claimed 400fps. I chronoed both my 92s on a chilly day in November and got a very reasonable average of around 375 fps for both. Accuracy is very good. Both my 92s were capable of grouping at around 1″ at six yards and at about 1½” – 2″ at ten yards. I also shot the 92 FS on several occasions at 25m, something I don’t normally bother with on a replica pistol with iron sights. At 25m from a rested position the 92 FS was capable of placing all eight shots within a 6″ square target and could probably realistically group at 4″ or less. At 25m I find that I’m at the limit at the abilities of my eyesight for shooting with open sights, and any error is likely as much down to me as the pistol. Flat fronted target type pellets seem to work well in the 92 FS, though if you are shooting at ranges of over 20m, you might want to try pointed or domed pellets as these seem to be more accurate at longer ranges.
CO2 consumption is good. I was generally getting between 55 – 70 full power shots from my 92s depending on temperature.
Overall, this is a very good shooter indeed. It’s as good as any of the Umarex pellet shooters at 6m, and does seem to be slightly better at longer range. I don’t know why that should be, and it may simply be that the 92 FS suits my style and eyesight better, but both examples I have owned seemed to be effective shooters at 10m and over.
Quality and reliability 14/15
The Umarex Beretta 92 FS is well made and finished and suffers from few reliability problems. One issue which seems to affect most of the Umarex pellet shooters which use the rotary pellet carrier is a tendency for the screw which retains the front part of the slide to loosen and even to strip its thread. The screw is located below the muzzle, in the position occupied by the guide rod on the original. If this fails or comes loose, the front part of the slide will fly off the gun when the slide release is operated. Problems can be avoided by periodically checking that this screw is tight and by cushioning the forward movement of the slide when you operate the release lever (while being careful to keep your hand away from the muzzle!).
Seals do wear eventually, but replacements are readily available. The complex trigger and indexing mechanism benefits from regular lubrication, though this requires splitting the casing halves and may be something best left to a professional unless you’re confident to reassemble a range of tiny pins, springs and sears. The rifled barrel also benefits from regular cleaning. Very rarely, the front sight on the 92 FS has been known to come loose with extended use. This can be fixed by using a dab of superglue when re-attaching the sight.
Otherwise, this is a very reliable and long-lasting replica. The finish in particular appears to be very hard wearing and durable. The 92 FS seems to accept a range of pellet types, but both examples I have owned gace the most consistent results at 6 – 10m with flat-fronted, target type pellets.
Overall Impression 13/15
In some ways, this feels like a throwback to an earlier period. Remember when replicas felt as if they were assembled and finished by craftsmen rather than churned out in an anonymous Asian factory? That’s how the 92 FS feels. It exudes quality and thoughtful design and doesn’t give the impression that any element has been built down to a price. Perhaps that’s because it’s one of the few currently available replicas which is manufactured, assembled, finished, assembled and tested in Germany.
There are those who argue that the later matt black finish doesn’t look as good as the earlier glossy finish, and there may be some truth to this. But pick up a 92 FS compared to almost any other replica made within the last five years and it feels like a better quality product in almost every way. It may cost twice as much as some other replicas, but you get the feeling it’ll last much longer. As ever, you get what you pay for.
And it’s a great shooter too. It’s probably the most accurate multi-shot replica I have owned at ranges of 10m and even 25m. Combine this with a creamy smooth trigger and reliable and long lasting mechanicals and you have a satisfying replica that should last for years.
The black and nickel finish 92 FS and the new Sniper Grey version are still part of the Umarex range. The nickel finish version is available with walnut grips and I believe that Umarex also still sell the wood grips separately for this model. These are expensive, but they do transform the looks of this replica. One thing to note is that the wood grips seem to have a slightly more rounded profile than the plastic versions, making the grip more bulky. If you find the standard grip of the 92 FS rather wide, you may want to think carefully before fitting wood grips.
Given its design and the lack of blowback, the Umarex 92 FS doesn’t replicate the feeling of shooting the cartridge version in the way that blowback versions do. However, balanced against this 92 FS is way more powerful and accurate than most blowback designs – this is one of the very few replica pistols I have owned with which I could reliably place a shot on a standard size target at 25m. It’s also very nicely made and finished – the quality of the castings is outstanding, early glossy versions in particular look superb and the finish seems to be very hard wearing and chip and scratch-resistant. I’d go so far as to say that a black or nickel version with walnut grips is one of the best looking replicas you can own.
This is also a weighty replica with the heft and feel of a firearm. This is good – if you want to persuade someone of how realistic replicas can be in terms of feel, hand them a 92 FS. But it’s also a drawback. Like the original, the Umarex 92 FS is bulky and can feel very heavy if you’re shooting for extended periods. The 92 FS probably isn’t the ideal choice if you have small hands or weak wrists.
Overall, I probably prefer shooting the Umarex 1911 over the 92 FS at 6m, simply because that pistol is slimmer and a little lighter. But despite their mechanical similarities, I found the 92 FS to be the better pistol at longer ranges, and the SA and DA trigger action is just wonderful.
This is a great looking, powerful and accurate replica, and provided you can deal with its bulk and weight, a fantastic shooter. Grab a black one, find a set of walnut grips and you’ll have an attractive, accurate and satisfying air pistol that will still be shooting long after most other replicas have been consigned to the spares box. They don’t make ’em like this any more. Except fortunately, they do!
Total score: 82/100