One of the latest iterations of the Beretta 92 series is the 92XI SAO. It has a frame-mounted safety selector, which many end users have been requesting over the harder-to-reach slide safety. I saw them in person at SHOT Show 2023, and Beretta sent me a sample for review.
The Beretta 92 Is one of the World’s most iconic pistols
In terms of looks and nostalgia, the Beretta 92 is one of my favorite pistols. It is the primary firearm in many 80s action movies, carried by John McClane in Die Hard, Martin Riggs in Lethal Weapon, and the list goes on all the way to Neo dual-wielding them in The Matrix.
The Beretta is a unique-looking pistol with a skeletonized slide and exposed barrel. It’s a semiautomatic, double-stacked 9mm pistol with a higher capacity than the 1911 in .45 ACP. The United States Army adopted it in 1985 as the M9 and it became the primary Duty pistol of the LAPD. Many other police departments all over the U.S. followed suit.
Since then, many variations and different models of the 92 have been launched. Some models have different functions for the slide selector, such as decocker only. Different frame options have also become available, as well as custom offerings or versions from Wilson Combat and Langdon Tactical. It has proven to continue its popularity with gun owners for many different uses, including competition shooting.
The DA Trigger
The common complaint with DA/SA pistols, like the Beretta 92, is the DA part of the trigger. It’s meant for increased safety with the hammer down, requiring a heavy trigger pull to bring the hammer back to strike the firing pin to send off a round. Unless you practice a lot with double action, the results are usually poor with the first round in DA. You can carry a DA/SA M9 or 92 with the hammer back and safety on, however, the safety is not the easiest to reach, especially if you have smaller hands.
The 92XI SAO
Enter the Beretta 92XI SAO, which, if you read the Roman numerals, translates to 9211. This is a clever play on numbers, and it shows Beretta’s intent to compete with 1911 and 2011 pistols. It was meant to be an entry-level competition pistol.
The most noticeable feature is the ambidextrous frame-mounted safety that is much more accessible than the slide-mounted in earlier models. It also is Red Dot Optics ready and sports a Red Fiber Optic front sight and fully serrated rear sight.
The Vertec-style frame is thinner and more ergonomic than the M9, something that I am a fan of. The frame is checkered with enhanced grip panel texturing. It also sports a flat trigger, instead of the traditionally curved triggers in Berettas. It comes with Premium H Series Cerakote for a durable finish. This essentially is a feature-packed model that is priced pretty well with an MSRP of $949.00.
Beretta 92XI SAO Features
- Ambidextrous frame-mounted safety: This allows for more ergonomic placement for support thumb to activate or deactivate.
- Flat Trigger that breaks at 4.5 pounds.
- The Vertec-style frame is a thinner, more ergonomic frame that is easier to grip, especially for people with smaller hands.
- Optics-ready, compatible with all 92X RDO mounting plates.
- Fiber optic front sight that is quick to acquire.
- Serrated rear sights with a simple non-reflective surface, making it easier to acquire the red fiber optic front sight
Beretta 92XI SAO Specs
- Action: Single Action Only (SAO)
- Operating System: Recoil Operated
- Trigger: Flat
- Caliber: 9mm
- Stock Sights: Red Fiber Optic Front, Full Serrated Rear
- Barrel Length: 4.7″
- Overall Length: 8.5″
- Weight: 33 Oz Empty
- Threads: Not Threaded
- Grip Width: 1.5″
- Rail: 3 Slot MIL STD Picatinny Rail
- Red Dot Capable:Yes
- Magazine Capacity: 15 or 18 Round, or 10 Round Magazine, depending on your state
Other Models or Colors
- Beretta 92XI SAO Launch Edition
- Beretta 92X Performance Carry Optic
- Beretta 92X RDO
Shooting the Beretta 92 XI SAO
I grew up seeing the Beretta 92 in movies and TV shows and have always admired it. Over the years, I have shot many 92FSs, and they are decent pistols to shoot. However, there are a few things I don’t like. It is heavy for a 9mm pistol. The frame and grip are a bit big for my small hands, the safety on the slide is not easy to reach, and the ergonomics just do not work for me.
When I was able to hold and do some dry fire with the new 92XI SAO models at SHOT Show 2023, I felt that Beretta had answered my complaints.
When it comes to Berettas, the 92XI is one of the easier models to shoot with relatively light recoil and not too much muzzle flip. That’s not surprising, for the full-sized pistol that it is. The main feature that makes it easy, though, is the flat single-action trigger.
Having one trigger pull to worry about versus a heavy double action and a light single action makes it a simpler platform to shoot; just as long as you make sure to activate and deactivate the safety when needed. That’s the caveat, you must practice switching the safety off before firing. That is something I had to remind myself to do during the range sessions. I mainly run striker-fired pistols and rarely shoot my SAO 1911.
The red fiber optic front sight was easy to see with the black and serrated rear sight. Although I did not mount a red dot during this review, I am very confident that with a red dot mounted, the 92XI would be that much easier and faster to shoot. It is definitely a fun pistol to shoot as-is, with the stock iron sights.
After firing hundreds of 9mm through this sample, I only had one failure to feed. It was taken care of with a simple tap rack of the slide and that was it. It has run fine with mostly 115-grain 9mm factory ammunition from Global Ordnance, as well as some other factory-boxed ammunition.
The 92XI is the most ergonomic Beretta that I have had experience with. Sure, I can still shoot the 92 just fine. However, the thinner Vertec frame is easier for me to grip with. I can easily reach the frame-mounted ambidextrous safety with either support thumb.
The magazine release is a tad bit easier to reach than it is on the standard Berettas, thanks to the thinner circumference on the grip. Also, the texture and checkering of the front, back straps, and grip panels help with gloved or non-gloved hands. The 92XI excels in ergonomics by a long shot over its predecessors.
I found the 92XI to be a very accurate pistol. Bench rest shooting wasn’t something I did with it because I normally just shoot pistols free-handed, standing. I am not the greatest pistol shooter out there and I was still able to get good groupings on my first trip to the range.
It didn’t take long for me to get acquainted with the trigger. Once I got more time behind it, it was easy to get hits on steel plates at distance. The sights make it easy to acquire the target. Adding a red dot would definitely improve accuracy and speed.
With an MSRP of $949, the 92XI is excellent in value. I can’t help but compare it to a m9A1, which comes in at $879. Remember, these are MRSPs, not street prices. Either way, the 92XI is less than $100 more than the price of the basic M9A1.
Also note, this comparison is like comparing apples to oranges. They both have different uses and purposes. The M9A1 is made for duty and self-defense use, while the 92XI is meant to be an entry-level competition pistol. The 92XI can be used as a duty or EDC pistol, but it is rather bulky. When it comes to the competition arena, it is great in value there, as well.
With all of the features already mentioned, you get a Beretta with a nice frame, slide, stock sights, and ambidextrous frame-mounted safety. It’s red dot capable and ready, and don’t forget that it comes with heavy-duty Cerakote.
Beretta 92XI Pros and Cons
- Great accuracy, out-of-the-box.
- Lots of features.
- Excellent ergonomics.
- The iron sights are standard height. With a red dot installed, they’ll need to be suppressor height.
- Limited utility. It’s specifically made for competition.
- Holster compatibility may be an issue. It might not fit most holsters made for the 92FS.
Upgrade and Accessory Options
Although upgrade and accessory options abound, here are a few that I would seriously consider adding to the Beretta 92 XI SAO.
Safariland Level 1 Holster
The Safariland Level 1 Holster with ALS Retention is a durable and secure holster that is quick to draw from. Multiple colorways and finishes are available, as well as an RDS model.
Dlah Designs 92 RDO Flush Plates
The 92 RDO Flush plate from Dlah Designs is made from 7075-T6 Alumunium. It serves as a good-quality mounting plate for a red dot, and it can be installed by the end user or a competent gunsmith.
Holosun HS507C-X2 with ACSS Vulcan
This is a durable red dot sight. The Vulcan ACSS Reticle is precise with a chevron and optional big circle to assist with acquisition if alignment is off. It has a side-loading battery, so it does not need to be removed to swap batteries.