If you love military handguns, Mike Morton thinks the earth-finished blowback BB-firing Umarex Beretta M9A3 is well worth a shot
Test gun supplier: John Rothery (Wholesale)
Model: Beretta M9A3
Calibre: .177 (4.5mm)
Ammo Type: BBs
Overall length: 225mm
Barrel length: 136mm
Magazine: Single-stack stick-type
Sights: Fixed front and rear
Capacity: 16 Shots
In 1985, the US Armed Forces selected the Beretta 92FS semi-automatic pistol to be their standard sidearm. The gun entered service five years later, being designated the M9, and was subjected to two major upgrades following its use in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The basic M9 was updated to the M9A1 in 2006, while a proposed M9A2 upgrade never went into production. But in 2015 the M9 was further updated to A3 specification, which is the subject of this Umarex BB gun. The major differences on the powder-burning original were a three-slot Picatinny rail and the application of an earth-tone finish, both of which are present on Umarex’s M9A3.
Another feature of the A3 upgrade was an extended and threaded barrel for suppressor use. The muzzle on the CO2 variant features a fake thread protector, but this is for aesthetics only, as the handgun can’t accept a moderator. That aside, the Umarex M9A3 really does look and feel the part, with most of the controls behaving much as they do on the 9mm M9A3, including a functioning slide and magazine release catch. It’s only slightly lighter than the original, enhancing its authentic feel, and this Beretta also has blowback action, which equates to enhanced shooting fun according to my internal field manual!
It’s now time to gas up and load the magazine. The fake 9x19mm Parabellum mag pulls double duty on the Umarex M9A3, containing the well to seat the 12g CO2 capsule as well as the stack for up to 16 BBs. The CO2 capsule is held secure with a screw that cradles the bottom of the bulb. When this is tightened with the supplied 6mm Allen key, the seal is pierced, releasing the gas. But be careful when tightening the screw because the thread is concentric to the capsule, not the bottom of the magazine, and you could end up cross-threading the screw if you don’t pay attention.
In order to load the mag with BBs, pull down the follower and lock it in place to one side under spring tension while you feed in the ammo. The manual instructs you to load the BBs from the top, but I found it easier to feed them into the mag via the BB access hole that’s located just above the follower locking gate. Being able to lock the follower open is a real bonus, as this part is very small and fiddly to operate. I used a fingernail to grab hold of it. Although the mag will take 16 BBs, I always underload to avoid the risk of jams. I also like to shoot in groups of five – part of my old target-shooting mentality – so 15 works better for me.
With the magazine clicked home inside the well, the gun is ready to fire. You can just go ahead and squeeze the trigger, so the first shot is taken in double-action mode. Alternatively, you can thumb back the hammer so the first round is fired in single-action mode, which should mean greater trigger control and increased accuracy. Subsequent shots will all be taken single-action.
When the last round has been fired, the slide will automatically remain in the open position, giving you the chance to either reload the magazine and carry on firing, or else make safe. In order to carry on shooting, reinsert the magazine then either rack it again or push the catch lever down to release the slide and continue shooting. The safety catch can be applied at any time during this process. It’s also worth noting that the slide can be racked back and the catch lever pushed up so the slide can be held open manually. This is useful for barrel cleaning, which you are advised to do, even though it’s ‘only’ a BB gun, and when checking for the presence of a BB in the action.
The sights are notch-and-post with white dots to assist target acquisition, but they’re fixed. I tested the pistol at both 10 metres and my preferred distance of six metres, at which the shots on my gun were falling roughly 8cm low, although windage was good. Using holdover – and despite the fact that the sights are fairly basic – I was still able to shoot some decent five-shot groups when pausing between shots. The best was just 22mm centre-to-centre – this widened to 81mm when the gun was shot rapid-fire.
The blowback on the Beretta M9A3 works brilliantly: it delivers a satisfying jump in your hand, tricking you into thinking you’re shooting 9x19mm instead of 4.5mm. It takes a lot of energy to cycle the action in blowback, but the M9A3 still managed to deliver 60 good shots from the 12g capsule before it started to flag.
Despite its fixed-sight limitations, I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent with the Umarex Beretta M9A3. And if you decide to pick up this earth-coloured action-shooting fun gun, the earth might very well move for you too.
Look & Feel: 8
Build Quality: 8
“The military-themed Umarex Beretta M9A3 is a great facsimile of its bullet-firing brother,
while offering some seriously good blowback action that delivers some satisfying shooting”