TWO WEEKS TO RE­TIRE­MENT

BREATH­ING NEW LIFE INTO AN AG­ING WARHORSE

Recoil - - Contents - BY TOM MAR­SHALL PHO­TOS BY RCP PHO­TOG­RA­PHY AND AZ PHOTO MAN

Breath­ing New Life Into an Ag­ing Warhorse

As the old­est con­tin­u­ously op­er­at­ing gun­maker in the world, Beretta and their pis­tols need no in­tro­duc­tion. Any­body who’s seen an ac­tion movie made af­ter 1980 could prob­a­bly pick a Beretta 92F out of a lineup, not to men­tion the thou­sands of mil­i­tary per­son­nel who con­tinue to carry them as a stan­dard-is­sue sidearm, even as its re­place­ment trick­les slowly into the sup­ply lines. But un­der­neath the bat­tletested creds and sheer sex ap­peal, this old warhorse leaves a lot to be de­sired.

Its over­all size isn’t par­tic­u­larly friendly to shoot­ers with smaller hands. Its slide-mounted safety is dif­fi­cult to ma­nip­u­late. And that dou­ble-ac­tion trig­ger pull feels about a foot-and-a-half­long and al­most 25 pounds. We’re not say­ing there aren’t re­deem­ing qual­i­ties. The rel­a­tively tame 9mm round shot out of a metal-framed pis­tol makes the re­coil im­pulse down­right pleas­ant. Field strip­ping is sim­ple. Ser­vice life and en­durance have been proven through gen­er­a­tions of hard use and ne­glect at the hands of sol­diers. But, con­sid­er­ing that the 92 frame is older than some of our staff, it’s cer­tainly lack­ing some of the crea­ture com­forts of its more mod­ern coun­ter­parts.

Ne­ces­sity, be­ing the ever-lov­ing mother of in­ven­tion, gave birth to a niche in­dus­try of cus­tom shops and smiths spe­cial­iz­ing in up­dates and mod­i­fi­ca­tions to one of Italy’s most pro­lific ex­ports. Two of them, Lang­don Tac­ti­cal Tech­nolo­gies and Ro­bar, have teamed up to of­fer a se­ries of up­grade­and-re­fin­ish pack­ages for 92 own­ers that we couldn’t re­sist putting through the wringer.

IT’S WHAT’S ON THE IN­SIDE

The big cheese at Lang­don Tac­ti­cal Tech­nolo­gies spent 12 years in the Marines and over two decades on the com­pe­ti­tion shoot­ing cir­cuit, in ad­di­tion to his ex­ten­sive ca­reer as a pro­fes­sional in­struc­tor and prod­uct con­sul­tant

for Beretta. So when we looked at re-vamp­ing our stock ’80s ac­tion hero gun, he seemed like a good per­son to start with. Ernest Lang­don has years be­hind a Beretta 92 and has spent a sig­nif­i­cant amount of time bring­ing the af­ter­mar­ket a bet­ter trig­ger for this legacy plat­form. He has per­formed thou­sands of trig­ger jobs on 92 se­ries pis­tols, and his process is so highly re­fined that, at time of writ­ing, you can pur­chase a “trig­ger job in a bag” di­rect from LTT’s web­site with the op­ti­mal com­bi­na­tion parts needed to up­grade your trig­ger, pre-pol­ished.

Our base gun re­ceived what LTT calls their Level 2 trig­ger job. This con­sists of chrome sil­i­con springs, in­clud­ing a 12-pound ham­mer spring, and a trig­ger bar from Wil­son Com­bat. The Wil­son trig­ger fully cocks the ham­mer on the dou­ble-ac­tion pull. By pulling the ham­mer back al­most as far as it sits in sin­gle ac­tion, you gain more en­ergy on the for­ward “swing” of the ham­mer, al­low­ing you to get away with a lighter ham­mer spring than nor­mal, ac­cord­ing to Lang­don. In ad­di­tion to th­ese parts swaps, all con­tact sur­faces, as well as the ham­mer and sear con­tact points, are pol­ished.

Will a trig­ger job make you a bet­ter shooter? Ab­so­lutely not. Can you run your pis­tol ef­fec­tively in stock con­fig­u­ra­tion? Sure you can. But a well­tuned trig­ger can do a cou­ple of things for you. As you progress through your train­ing, it has the po­ten­tial to re­duce your learn­ing curve, as heavy trig­gers with ex­ces­sive travel or stack­ing will take longer to mas­ter. Once you start to achieve high lev­els of con­sis­tency with your other fun­da­men­tals, a good match trig­ger sim­ply of­fers less me­chan­i­cal dis­tur­bance to the weapon in the crit­i­cal tenths of a sec­ond be­fore that round leaves the bar­rel.

The per­son be­hind the gun still has to put their work in. But, all other things be­ing equal, a honed trig­ger of­fers the op­por­tu­nity to achieve quicker, more con­sis­tent shot place­ment.

Of course, the trig­ger isn’t the only thing in­side the pis­tol. Ro­bar Com­pa­nies of­fers a num­ber of pack­ages for Beretta 92 se­ries pis­tols. The one we se­lected, their Mod 5 pack­age, in­cludes

re­place­ment of all the OEM plas­tic parts with steel, in­clud­ing the trig­ger shoe and guide rod. The re­coil spring and all mag­a­zine springs were re­placed with Wolff Gun­springs coun­ter­parts. Not only are all th­ese bits and pieces more durable, but they’re all coated in Ro­bar’s pro­pri­etary NP3 fin­ish. For the unini­ti­ated, NP3 is an elec­tro­less nickel base im­preg­nated with Te­flon. This lit­tle bit of sci­ence pro­vides the end user with a firearms coat­ing highly re­sis­tant to both cor­ro­sion and car­bon buildup.

The in­clu­sion of Te­flon in the chem­i­cal makeup also adds an in­her­ent dry lu­bric­ity re­gard­less of how much or what kind of liq­uid lu­bri­cant you use as part of your main­te­nance plan. Metal parts coated in NP3 slid­ing against each other re­sults in an in­cred­i­bly smooth, glid­ing sen­sa­tion when run­ning the gun. Not to men­tion that our ex­pe­ri­ence shows that NP3­coated parts can usu­ally be wiped clean by a dry rag even af­ter high-round-count train­ing. With Ro­bar’s Mod 5 up­grade pack­age, NP3 plat­ing is used on the bar­rel, trig­ger, ham­mer, mag re­lease, slide re­lease, lan­yard loop, grip screws, and up to three mag­a­zines.

The fi­nal ma­jor in­ter­nal change that comes with the Mod 5 pack­age is what’s com­monly called the “G con­ver­sion.” The orig­i­nal Beretta 92 FS comes equipped with one of the most awk­ward safety sys­tems we’ve had the mis­for­tune of be­ing or­dered to carry into com­bat. The lever it­self is mounted as high on the slide as phys­i­cally pos­si­ble, di­rectly flank­ing the rear sight notch. Me­chan­i­cally, the safety’s func­tion is in­verted from what most folks would con­sider “nor­mal”’ func­tion. That is to say that the lever must be flipped up­ward to be in the “fire” po­si­tion and flipped down to be in the “safe” po­si­tion.

Also, the pis­tol can­not be run cocked-and-locked in sin­gle-ac­tion mode. Putting the pis­tol on safe au­to­mat­i­cally de-cocks it. In the au­thor’s opin­ion, there’s ab­so­lutely noth­ing what­so­ever even re­motely re­deemable about this safety con­fig­u­ra­tion. By com­par­i­son, the Beretta 92 G is equipped with sim­ple spring-loaded de-cock­ing levers. Cham­ber a round, drop the ham­mer, hol­ster. When you need to go to work, draw and press through the now­but­tery-smooth dou­ble-ac­tion first stroke. This con­ver­sion, paired with the LTT trig­ger job, gives you a silky dou­ble ac­tion that not only runs more quickly than the stock trig­ger but also leaves the man­ual of arms greatly sim­pli­fied.

A BOOK BY ITS COVER

While in­ter­nal parts are what make the gun func­tion ex­actly how you want, the out­side is what the shooter ac­tu­ally in­ter­acts with. We al­ready dis­cussed Ro­bar’s NP3 coat­ing and the func­tional ben­e­fits it of­fers when ap­plied to the right parts. But the Mod 5 pack­age in­cludes a com­plete ex­te­rior re­fin­ish as well. Cus­tomers have the op­tion of get­ting the frame and slide fin­ished in NP3, Ro­guard, or PolyT2. We chose the lat­ter — an epoxy-based fin­ish that’s also im­preg­nated with Te­flon.

Un­like NP3, PolyT2 is avail­able in an ar­ray of colors. We se­lected desert tan, with a set of match­ing thin panel grips from VZ Grips. Fi­nally, Ro­bar’s smiths cut and re-crowned the bar­rel so that it sits flush with the slide. This doesn’t make any no­tice­able change to func­tion, but we liked the aes­thetic. For those in­ter­ested, the Mod 5 pack­age in­cludes an ad­di­tional op­tion to bob the ham­mer as well as the bar­rel. We didn’t go this route, but there’s no ex­tra charge for it.

ROUNDS DOWNRANGE

Gut­ting an old gun and re­build­ing it from the in­side out is a pretty cool project. But what good is it, ac­tu­ally? We pre­vi­ously men­tioned that a cus­tom­ized pis­tol doesn’t in­her­ently make you a bet­ter shooter. But if you al­ready have a firm grasp of the fun­da­men­tals and an ef­fec­tive train­ing plan, th­ese im­prove­ments can re­duce the num­ber of me­chan­i­cal vari­ables that must be over­come to make that per­fect shot. In or­der to col­lect some data on this point, we took LTT’s

tac­ti­cal pis­tol skills class with our bone-stock Beretta 92.

It wasn’t par­tic­u­larly en­joy­able. But it gave us a good base­line. We used two drills to get our ini­tial data points — the FAST drill and LTT’s own 6-in-5 drill. The FAST drill con­sists of two rounds fired at a 3x5-inch head­shot tar­get fol­lowed by a slide lock reload, fin­ished with four rounds to an 8-inch cir­cle.

Max par time is 10 sec­onds. Any­thing un­der 10 is con­sid­ered “in­ter­me­di­ate.” Any­thing un­der 7 sec­onds is con­sid­ered “ad­vanced.” Add one sec­ond for each missed shot.

With our OEM Beretta 92, we shot the FAST in a dis­ap­point­ing 8.56 sec­onds, with three missed shots, for a to­tal time of 11.56 sec­onds. Cer­tainly noth­ing to write home about. But the same shooter, with the LTT/Ro­bar

Mod 5 Beretta, shot the FAST in 6.53 sec­onds with no misses.

Our sec­ond ver­i­fi­ca­tion drill was the 6-in-5 drill. This is shot on an 8-inch cir­cle from 10 yards. As the name im­plies, you draw and fire six rounds in five sec­onds. The drill is re­peated four times for a to­tal of 24 rounds fired. With our out-of-the-box Beretta, we turned in an av­er­age time of 6.34 sec­onds across the four runs, with a to­tal of five misses. With the Mod 5, that to­tal av­er­age dropped to 4.44 sec­onds with a sin­gle miss out of all four runs.

WHAT DID WE LEARN?

In the over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of cases, it’s the shooter who needs work, not the gun. Hav­ing said that, the right set of mod­i­fi­ca­tions can make a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence, par­tic­u­larly on an ag­ing pis­tol that doesn’t come out of the box with all of the most re­cent les­sons learned. LTT’s vast ex­pe­ri­ence with the Beretta 92 plat­form gives them a par­tic­u­larly poignant in­sight into what that par­tic­u­lar pis­tol needs to run like a scalded dog.

Ro­bar’s top-of-the-line coat­ings and well-ex­e­cuted mod­i­fi­ca­tions leave you with a lit­er­ally Te­flon-slick sidearm that per­forms more ef­fi­ciently and con­sis­tently than it could ever hope in fac­tory con­fig­u­ra­tion. If your ac­tion movie icon or mil­i­tary ser­vice relic is col­lect­ing dust in the safe, con­sider let­ting a well-re­garded Beretta ’smith take a run at it. You might just see a perk in per­for­mance and a new­found love for this oft-ma­ligned pil­lar of firearms pop cul­ture.

The ex­cel­lent Ro­bar fin­ishes aren’t only easy on the eyes, but en­hance both dura­bilit y and dr y lu­bricit y.

Above: Par t of the up­grade process in­cluded swap­ping the safet y for a ded­i­cated de­cock­ing lever.Be­low: The plas­tic guide rod and trig­ger shoe were also re­placed with steel coun­ter­par ts.

Ro­bar has à la car te op­tions for both a nose bob, as seen here, and a ham­mer bob, which weskipped.

The LT T/Ro­bar 92 not only gives you plent y to look at, but of­fers sig­nif­i­cant per­for­mance in­creases for those who strug­gle with the longer, heav­ier fac­tor y trig­ger.

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