To start off with, the M9A3 isn't a cheap gun, I paid $841 (after tax) for mine. It's easy to scoff at the price, since regular M9's can often be had for $450. However the A3 has some interesting features. Vertec frame, threaded barrel, *replaceable* factory tritium night sights, 3 PVD coated 17 round mags, ammo can case, factory D-spring, and an extra backstrap that mimics the regular 92FS grip.
I will add I get near dealer pricing on gun thanks to a generous boss. I've seen M9A3FS's go for around $860 before tax/fees.
Despite being one of the newer additions to the Beretta family, there's a lot of familiar things. The barrel clocks in at 5.2", has a 1/2"×28 thread pinch, the frame uses the same magazines, and the internals are all the same. Nothing on this gun is new for Beretta, but it's the first time its been offered all at once. The threaded barrel comes with a thread protector and and some o-rings, so it won't unthread itself.
The ammo can case isn't super high quality, but it beats the crap out of the standard blue case. It's a flambeu can, so the "o ring" that seals the can is just a bit of rubberized foam string. Inside everything is nicely packed, and is one of the nicer cases I've seen handguns come in. The color of the can also matches your pistol, which is a nice touch. The box that the can comes in has this target printed on it. Not going to lie, I don't quite get this, as it has a line to fill in a lot code, something the factory would fill out. I like to imagine some get shot up at the factory as a test target, and some M9A3's are shipping out in boxes riddled with holes. They aren't, but hey.
Other noteworthy things you get. A nice manual, it's black and white, but pretty well constructed and is pretty thorough. You get a nice exploded view of the pistol and a table that tells you when to replace the springs (it says 5,000 rounds 3 times) the manual is shared between the FS and G variants. Unfortunately the manuals covers are FDE no matter which color you get. You also get a beretta cable lock. People talk crap about Berettas cable lock, and yeah it's nothing more than a false sense of security, but it's a lot nicer than the cheap ones Glock and Walther use. Note these cable locks also do not match the pistol.
The frame is aluminum, and has the cross checkering similar to the M9A1, and also has the flat face trigger guard. The rail has 3 picatinny slots so you can fit pretty much any accessory you want there. Inside the frame, its business as usual. You do get a lighter hammer spring, which tames the DA trigger. Unfortunately our trigger pull scale got nuked, so I can't give any weights. Needless to say the Beretta makes the Walther P.38 feel like you are trying to compress 2 bricks together.
Many people complain about the M9's grip size, and the vertec frame is Berettas answer. It, for many people is a take it or leave it type deal, whichever grip you prefer, beretta includes a backstrap that approximates the current grip on the 92/M9A1. It's close, but not 100% the same since the backstrap is rubberized. It feels good, but I've noticed that it doesn't seem to effect my shooting. I played with a few grip scales, but only 1 actually worked, some stoner cnc ones. Coolhand caused the trigger bar not to reset, and some wood grips had the screw holes all over the place. While grip options aren't as numerous as the standard frame style, quite a few options are out there. AFAIK, no one else makes a backstrap style. While the stoner CNC ones did work, they were improperly cut and were absurdly uncomfortable. Current grips are standard FDE thin grips.
I'm actually angry about the wood grips, they would have looked beautiful.
Reliability. Current round count is at 1,000 rounds, and the gun has eaten a mix of brass case, steel case, aluminum, and nickel, and the gun has had no real malfunctions. Even winchester forged. I like to jumble up ammo, and the gun runs. So far the only malfs have been failures to lock open on an empty mag with steel case.
The slide has quite a few new things going on, obviously it has a threaded barrel, but the front sight is sitting in a dovetail (and has a tritium lamp), and are sitting just a tad taller to help clear a suppressor, though it's my understanding that they are still too short to clear a can. My gun in particular is a G variant, which means there is no manual safety, just a straight decocker.
One thing pictures do not show is that the G variant right side lever blobs out quite a bit. It's not contoured like the F variant. It technically doesn't extend any more than the lever, but it's a bit of an eye-sore.
The Beretta has proven to be very accurate, I'm still relatively new to the gun, and surprising to me is that I'm getting 1-2 fliers on single action. SA gives me this at 7 yards with 115gr armscor
I'm having quite a bit of fun popping water bottles and soda cans and clay pigeons at 15 yards, trying to take one shot only.
Here's a 15 yard target, 15 rounds. (This was before i adjusted my sights),
I've said some things about DA/SA, and still believe them, mainly that it can be a difficult trigger to master. However, I was pretty surprised to find that the Beretta was so easy to pick up. After shooting over 9,000 rounds through my G19X, I occasionally flinch expecting there to be a bit less takeup on SA. This is what causes my fliers. The A3's trigger manages to strike the right balance for me. It doesn't trap me into wanting to bump fire it, and it's heavy enough while not having any grit. Reset is audible and tactile, which is my only real must in a trigger. I've read the M9A3 has a higher quality sear, and I wouldn't be surprised if that were the case.
The sights are rather basic 3 dot tritium square notch night sights. Given the option, I think I'd rather have some trijicon hd/xr/ameriglo agent style sights, with a U notch and fiber optic ring around the front, but thats not possible. Beretta does have a square notch version, but they're sold out. Out of the box the pistol shot left for me, so the sight got bumped.
The Beretta is a big gun, so it's not the funest thing to carry, but its doable. I still will carry my glocks on a hot day, but after I hit the 500 round mark the Beretta has found It's place. It certainly makes a great winter, and bedside gun. A good stiff belt really helps.
So far, here is the wear, some holster wear, and some from firing. I belive the black finish is Beretta's standard bruntion and anodized finish, and it seems to be holding up ok. Its a relatively grippy finish, which is nice. I'd be lying if I said I didn't find black berettas to have attractive wear patters. If black isn't your thing, Beretta also has olive drab/black, grey/black, and flat dark earth. Afaik the other finishes are ceracoat, which I am personally not a fan of.
The magazines that come with the gun are 17 rounders with a very nice PVD coating, but any 92 magazine with the proper catch cuts will work. I've been mostly using mec gar 18 and 20 round mags, and haven't had any trouble. I also scrounged a few flush fit CMI 15 rounders that I use for a bit of extra concealment. I will say one bad thing about the 17 round mags, they are absurdly difficult to load to capacity. I'm not kidding, even my Up-Lulas struggle to put in 17, and I've lost 2 glock mag loaders to these mags. Note the pistol doesn't come with a loading tool
Holster availability is... Interesting, for berettas. If you have a holster meant for an M9A1, the A3 will work. Everything else MIGHT work, depending on how fit a holster is, but there's no guarante. I'm trying out a crossbreed, and jurys out. For work, I'm using a safariland 3280. SLS isn't my jam, but it works well enough. I found a 7ts that works, but having heard and seen (not personally) 7ts holsters cracking, this holster isn't my favorite. I always have an M12, and that thing works with everything. For fancier occasions I got a nice leather thumb break from Berettas e-store. My go-to magpul belts don't really have the strength to handle the Beretta, but I've been using one of THESE, and it works beautifully.
I have changed the gun up a bit, a wilson fluted guide rod, a Wilson mag guide, and elite II hammer. I messed around with a Wolff TCU, but found that it was too short to allow the DA trigger to reset. For those who like to mix and match their Berettas, the M9A3 is fully compatible with the other 9X guns, save for the 92A1/90-two (Beretta needs an intervention in the name dept) these two exceptions, while largely based on the 9X series, were a evolutionary dead end, but many parts still interchange with the 92A1 in particular.
Detail stripping the 9X berettas, while not as simple as a Glock, is IMHO easier than Sig or CZ. These are older guns, designed in the 60's and 70's, you are going to have to deal with this stuff with all of them. The frame isn't too bad, but the slide is something that I try to avoid.
At the very least, there aren't many wear parts on the beretta that you can't get to quickly. Even the springs are pretty easy to deal with.
The M9A3 isn't a pistol I'd reccomend to everyone, DA/SA, while arguably a good and safe fighting trigger, takes time to master. The gun costs more, and is more complex than many striker fired 9mm's that populate the market. Being aluminum framed, it also weighs more. Though it still shows CZ's up as the pigs they really are. I'd say something about Sigs but when you have as many variations as Sig does, saying anything becomes near impossible. The M9A3 balances better, and isn't made by Sig, which is really all you need to know.
However, if you can swing the price, and put the time and money into practice, the M9A3 is certainly a capable pistol. Mec gar mags certainly make the deal sweeter, flush fit 18 round mags make it all that much better. Being the side arm for the US military for almost 40 years, and being one of the most tested handguns in history, it's a safe bet that the 92 series is a good gun.
Since I couldn't figure out where to put this, the very end seems to be a good spot. All guns have a certain "X factor". A little thing that makes you go "ahh yes" like a small pocket pistol that lets you carry almost everywhere, something that makes you realize what you've been missing
The Berettas x factor is how incredibly smooth it is. Even fresh out of the box, the M9A3's slide feels like ball bearings on glass, and the trigger just feels good.
Compared to the Taurus 92's, which I've had a few people mention, the A3 is on a completely different level, even standard 92's fall short of the A3.
I like it a lot, but if you just want a good, reliable handgun, just get a modern striker fired pistol.