Both guns are U.S. Army classics. Which one is better? We went to the range to find out. Beretta M9 vs. SIG Sauer M17 A few months back, Yours Truly wrote separate articles on behalf of 19FortyFive telling the stories of the current and most recent past U.S. Armed Forces standard issue service pistols, the SIG P320 AKA M17/M18 9mm semiautomatic pistol and the Beretta 92FS AKA M9 9mm autopistol.
Alas, while the Beretta article included a live fire range report, time and logistical limitations prevented me from being able to test-fire the M17 as well.
Thankfully, since the publication of those initial pieces (bad pun intended), I managed to get ahold of a SIG P320 to fire alongside a Beretta 92, hence this updated range report for our dear readers.
But before we get onto that fun part, let’s do a quick review of the history of each handgun.
A Brief History of the Beretta M9
Beretta is not only the world’s oldest gunmaker. They are the world’s oldest industrial firm of any kind, dating back to 1526, so you figure they must be doing something right. The Model 92F’s predecessor, the M1951 Brigadier, was adopted by the armed forces of Egypt, Iraq, and Israel.
The M9 in particular was chosen to replace the American Armed Forces’ battle-tested but badly worn M1911 .45 caliber service pistols. Long story short, in the 1984 pistol trials that involved grueling tests for accuracy, reliability, and durability, Beretta beat out SIG, Smith and Wesson, HK, Walther, Steyr, and FN to become the official sidearm of the U.S. military. In this role, the Beretta 92 or M9 saw combat in Panama, Iraq, and Afghanistan, officially serving for 33 years.
It was also adopted by a number of domestic law enforcement agencies, including LAPD and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, earning a superb reputation in the process for its accuracy and reliability.
A Brief History of the SIG
SIG (Schweizerische Industrie Gesellschaft) Sauer traces its roots back to 1853, so though the company isn’t as old and venerable as Beretta, it’s no spring chicken either. The SIG P320 was chosen by the U.S. Armed Forces in 2017 to replace the M9 for several reasons.
First of all, after replacing the then-aging M1911s 33 years earlier, the proverbial shoe was on the other foot, and it was now the Beretta’s turn to show the effects of long-term aging and wear & tear.
There were also complaints that the M9 was bulky in the grip frame and therefore less than ideal for smaller hands.
SIG’s offering, in addition to easily surpassing the accuracy and reliability requirements, not only had slimmer ergonomics but the added bonuses of modularity and the ability to be customized. the M17/M18 has, among other things, the ability to readily accept sound suppressors, a Picatinny rail that allows the shooter to attach optics such as red dot sights, and the ability to swap sights on demand.
In short, the M17/M18 is the veritable Swiss Army Knife of military auto pistols.
Okay, Now Time for the Fun Stuff
Now then, onto the actual range report.
I took my personally-owned Beretta 92FS to the excellent Silver Eagle Group indoor shooting range facility in Ashbury, Virginia, where luckily for me they also had a SIG P320—with the M17 specs no less—available for rental, thus assuring I could finally shoot the two pistols side-by-side and therefore do a more thorough eval.
The striker-fired M17 certainly felt better in terms of ergonomics and trigger squeeze than any hammer-fired SIG I’ve ever fired, which includes the P220 .45 ACP, P225 9mm, P226 9mm, P250 9mm, and especially the .40 caliber P229 DAK (Double Action Kellerman) that I was issued as an ICE Special Agent. That DAK trigger pulls like a truck through the mud in my opinion, and I daresay that I shot Expert with it during my agency quals in spite of the damn thing, not because of it. But with the M17, the trigger was crisp and pleasantly short in travel distance. As for the grip frame, whilst I myself have no problem handling larger-framed handguns, I can still see why the modular grip of the newer SIG would appeal to troops with smaller hands.
I fired 50 rounds through each weapon using Fiocchi Range Dynamics 115-gr full metal jacket (FMJ). All shooting was done standing unsupported using the Classic Weaver Stance, and on the receiving end was the ICE-QT paper target that harkened back to my aforementioned Special Agent daze, er, days. Both guns were completely flawless from a reliability standpoint. As for accuracy…
I started off with 25 rounds at 7 yards, aiming for the torso/center of mass (COM)/X-ring. Here, the two guns’ performances were virtually equal…with perhaps a *very slight* nod to the SIG due to a group size and impact point that was *fractionally* better.
From there, I touched off 15 rounds at 25 yards, going with head shots…and the results were not even close. Barely half my rounds with the SIG hit anywhere on the (paper simulation) bad guy; Beretta was 100% spot-on.
Wrapping up with 10 rounds at 50 yards groin/pelvic girdle shots…the differential was even more drastic; the SIG barely stayed on-paper, while the Beretta gave me one measly miss.
Confession Time on the Beretta M9
I must confess a wee bit of personal bias here: the Beretta 92 was the first pistol I ever truly fell in love with. (I mean that strictly in the platonic sense, folks, lest any hoplophobe out there start throwing Joyce Brothers-style insinuations my way.) That was back in November 1989, at the tender age of 14. I’ve always found it to be a delightfully comfortable and sweet-shooting pistol. I now own three Beretta 92FS’s; one with a standard finish.
So, understandably, some of my shooting buddies state that this Beretta affinity, along with my lack of previous trigger time with the M17, played a subconscious part in the M9 outperforming the M17 in my hands by such a wide margin. Well, dear readers, rest assured that I did indeed approach the range session with an open mind, and what’s more, without meaning to brag (well, okay, maybe just a little bit), I can pick up goshdarn near any handgun, regardless of previous familiarity level, and shoot proficiently with it off the bat.
So #sorrynotsorry to all you SIG fanboys and Beretta-haters out there; with all due brotherly love and respect, da’ Beretta be mo’ betta’ (at least for me). The Beretta M9 takes the prize.
Christian D. Orr is a former Air Force officer, Federal law enforcement officer, and private military contractor (with assignments worked in Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Kosovo, Japan, Germany, and the Pentagon). Chris holds a B.A. in International Relations from the University of Southern California (USC) and an M.A. in Intelligence Studies (concentration in Terrorism Studies) from American Military University (AMU). He has also been published in The Daily Torch and The Journal of Intelligence and Cyber Security.