Evike.com was gracious enough to send this piece to me the offer to keep it or give it away. While it's quite the pistol, I decided to roll first-fruits right back into the project. As such, it's going up for auction to a reader and the proceeds will go to making Airsoft Commando better.
My honest effort at artful presentation.
Like many airsoft replicas out there, who manufactures this gun and what it's called is a little confusing. Personally, I prefer to refer to them by what "real steel" firearm they are attempting to replicate. Therefore, this TSDtactical/HFC M190 Special Force (model number SD92 according to the box, HG-190 according to the manual, or M190 according to the trademarks on the slide) I'll be referring to as the M9. M9 is the military nomenclature (name or title of object) for the 9mm caliber Beretta. The civilian nomenclature is Beretta 92F.
As far as replica accuracy, this one does a fairly good job. It's almost identical to it's firearm counter-part, even to the point of field stripping the same. If the Commandant of the Marine Corps were to call and ask for my opinion on an airsoft model to go with, I would choose this one for various reasons.
- Similarity: Any issued M9 can be swapped for this. It functions the same in every way so training can be conducted to build muscle memory just as if training with live fire. That includes the safeties, slide, dissassembly, and distinct double-action first round then single action follow on shots.
- Zero liability: With the "War on Terrorism" in full-swing, there is enough ballistic eye wear in the supply chain to utilize this training tool immediately. Most troops already have said eye wear. And it's the only safety consideration one needs to observe to avoid injure due to this piece of equipment.
- Cost: The government notoriously issues equipment that meets minimum standards contracted by the lowest bidder. This pistol is it. Not a piece of crap, it will perform as needed, but the price reflects it craftsmanship. There is better out there, but at $70 the cost-benefit analysis give this one the "green-light".
- Slide lock: A feature I LOVE seeing on airsoft weapons. It is usually found on pistols, but not AEG's. This slide locks open when the magazine runs dry. Keeps things realistic.
Another difference is the safety. The safety functions exactly the same, albeit a bit "loosely". The safety lever must be off safe in order to fire (that's forward/up). However, it doesn't need to be fully disengaged in order to fire. This isn't a very big deal though. On an M9, when the safety is nudged in the "off" direction, it usually snaps completely off due to its design. One unfortunate difference is that the safety doesn't disengage the hammer when it's put on safe. More on this when I discuss it's single-action/double-action characteristic.
The top of the magazine is plastic. One part of the feed lip cracked somehow. It may have come like this, but most likely I dropped the magazine. It doesn't hinder firing or use at all, but sometimes it binds a bit and the magazine won't drop free when it's released. After putting some super glue on it, there's no problems at all. Just be tender with the mags. The rest is all metal and fairly robust.
Oh, and there's no lanyard loop on the airsoft model...
Field stripped and labeled by its five major assemblies.
The information supplied for this gun offers these stats:
Capacity: 25+1 (I only managed 24+1. Use 15+1 for realistic training.)
Propellant: Propane/Green Gas
Energy: 1.0 Joule
Length: 216mm (appx 5 inches)
This pistol breaks down into these five major groups: receiver assembly, slide assembly, barrel assembly, recoil spring assembly, and magazine assembly. It can be field stripped the same as an M9 with only one slight exception. The airsoft recoil spring assembly has a peg protruding from the guide rod which inserts into the barrel assembly to hold it in place.
To field strip this gun, (take it apart into it's five major groups) you need to ensure it is clear. Lock the slide to the rear by pulling it back (as if to cock it) and push up on the slide lock lever. It's located on the left side just below the slide and above the trigger. Now the breach will remain open. Push the magazine release button located on the grip and set the magazine aside. Inspect the chamber to be sure that there is no BB in the barrel and that the pistol will not fire.
To remove the slide press the oval button located at the top of the trigger guard on the right side of the frame. While pressing this button, rotate the lever on the left side of the frame down. Push the slide forward in the direction the BB travels when fired and set the receiver assembly aside.
View the slides belly and push the base of the recoil spring guide rod in the direction the BB travels when fired. After the peg clears it's hole, rotate the rod and release tension on the spring. Remove the rod and spring by pulling away from the direction the BB travels when fired. Set the recoil spring assembly aside.
Viewing the slide in the same manner as above, pull up (towards your face) and forward (direction of the BB...yada yada) on the chamber side of the barrel assembly slightly to unlock it from the slide. Once it's high enough to clear the guts of the slide assembly, pull the barrel assembly toward the rear of the slide and free.
Now the pistol is field stripped enough to thoroughly clean it and keep it in proper functioning order. Reassembly by reversing the directions. I wouldn't advise taking it apart farther than this because you'll need additional tools. Aside from repairs, I see no reason anyway.
Here is a video showing reassembly. Pardon the quality, I was holding the camera strap in my teeth while doing this in order to get a solid view of the process.
This type of pistol is what's known as a double-action/single-action (DA/SA in shorthand). Depending on who you ask this is either a great thing or a terrible thing. Without turning this into a whole lesson on different types of actions for autoloading pistols, I'll explain the function of this particular model. It's different from the real steel M9 because the safety doesn't cause the hammer to fall safely fall forward when it's engaged, which you see at the end of the video above.
Essentially, double action pistols cock the hammer and cause it to fall with each trigger pull while single action pistols will only release the hammer from it's cocked position with each trigger pull. Single action pistols must have the hammer previously cocked in order to fire. This is usually accomplished when the slide is racked to chamber a round, but could also be done by thumbing the hammer back.
In the case of the DA/SA M9 Beretta, hammer is cocked when a round is chambered, but the hammer is decocked when the safety is "on". When you remove the safety and attempt to fire, the first trigger pull will cock the hammer and then release it. When it fires and cycles the slide, the following trigger pulls will all be single-action and only release the hammer to fire the pistol. The subsequent shots will remain single-action until the safety is engaged.
The upside of this system is the apparent safety of carry with the hammer down and difficulty of the first rounds trigger pull. I say "apparent" because it was created due to the fear many people had of the 1911 and how it "looked dangerous" when carried with the hammer cocked. In fact, the safety of the system has nothing to do with mechanics of the pistol but rather the safety of the operator. Any pistol is equally safe (or unsafe) depending on the reliability of the person using it.
I must admit, the downside to this system very much outweighs the upsides. The trigger pull of the double-action round is approximately 8-10 pounds, and the travel distance is greater than one-inch. What this means is that the first shot is hard, and the rest are easy. Without considerable training on this pistol, and this pistol only, it is difficult to reliably engage with more than one round because you must reposition your finger (if not your whole hand) in between those shots.
However, nearly all of this is negated because the airsoft model doesn't release the cocked hammer when the safety is engaged. Considering that, this pistol isn't all that bad for use as a sidearm but without manually decocking the hammer, the training value is nil. Training the transition from initial shot to follow-on shot is probably one of the most vital aspects of employing the M9 Beretta. To manually decock the hammer, you must disengage the safety, aim in a safe direction, and fire the pistol while safely letting hammer down with your hand.
This pistol is hefty, mimicking the weight of the real steel (loaded) accurately. All to often people review their airsoft weapons without remembering that real steel weapons weigh vastly different when loaded or unloaded. Most airsoft models are designed to weigh similar to their counter-part when loaded.
The safety lever is ambidextrous and can be manipulated from either side of the pistol. The real steel M9 allowed the magazine release button to be switched to the other side for lefties as well. I wouldn't be surprised if the airsoft model could be done this way too. If not, you can still hit the button with your finger. The only issue is that if it can't be swapped, and you have a tight grip, you MAY accidentally cause the magazine to release prematurely.
Personally, I do not like this pistols size. The M9 Beretta was always much to large for my hands and since the airsoft model is so close to the real steel, I don't like the airsoft one much either. I was always one of the smallest people in any unit I was in, if not the very smallest. I am about 5 foot 5 inches with smaller than average hands for a person my size. The Beretta is certainly not a "one size fits all" firearm. In my experience only individuals measuring an average of six feet tall (or shorter if you have bigger hands) are able to master this weapon system to it's full potential.
The size of this pistol affects more than just grip. Since the pistol is most often fired in a double handed grip (and airsoft blow back and 9mm recoil is mostly weak) control isn't the issue. The length of pull on the initial double action shot is my concern. My finger is fully extended and barely able to pull the trigger. As a result, my first shots with the pistol were generally less than accurate. The single-action shots with a Beretta are like butter though. Very nice. It's very important to train that transition between first and second shots.
This pistol has all the same safeties as the real steel version, with the exception of the firing pin block, because there is no firing pin. There is the lever safety as well as the half-cock notch. The half-cock notch is a passive safety system (nothing must be consciously done by an operator in order for it to function). It is a stop within the hammer mechanics which prevent it from falling completely forward and accidentally discharging in the event it is dropped, bumped, or any other such event. The half-cock notch is disengaged only when the trigger is pulled. For example, if you were to pull the trigger and manually let the hammer forward only a little, then release the trigger, if the hammer continues forward, it will stop half-way on the half-cock notch. You could also observe it by pulling an uncocked hammer back half-way and it would hold there, but still not be in single-action mode.
The lever safety is also an issue with small hands. It is located at the top of the slide and is designed to be flicked off and on with your firing hand thumb. However, if were to maintain a proper grip on my firing hand, I couldn't reach the safety at all. I needed to break the grip of my firing hand (slowing my functional reaction time considerably) or use my support hand thumb (slowing my functional reaction time only slight less).
Working with Flaws
While I was in the service and issued the M9, I frequently was forced to fudge the safety rules a bit in order to take advantage of having a sidearm. Let it be known that I think safety rules are the greatest thing in the world, but as soon as those rules are a liability to my safety, they go out the window. Remember that the weapon safety rules are redundant for a reason. Even if you fail to follow one and still follow the others, you will avoid disaster. I was also a Marine highly trained with the purpose of risking my life for pretty much whatever I was told to.
The size problem with this weapon is well known among those that issue it. The way were trained to deal with it was to drag the pistol against our holster and body when drawing it. Because of the safeties location on the slide, it would flick itself off in this manner...sometimes. I legitimately tried training this way, but it only took getting lit up with simunition three or four times because my pistol didn't fire when the safety didn't disengage with that technique.
Then I switched flipping the safety with my support hand. This served me fine considering my level of training. I felt fairly confident that I could utilize this technique and remain faster on target than most tangos I would be engaging. The down side was my inability to engage immediately out of the holster. Sometimes a split second is the difference between life and death. If you think that the Israeli method of carrying and drawing is fast enough, this should be fine for you, but I don't.
When it came time to engage live enemies, I did away with the safety entirely. I carried the pistol holstered with the safety off and the hammer back. This was very often frowned upon by superiors, but you have to know how to handle it. Don't smart off about your finger being your safety. Pretend that you didn't know and it was accident and do what they want...until they leave. If you muck it up, it's on your head so it's up to you if it's worth the risk.
Accurate reporting requires detailed notes.
I did fire this pistol a few times. It was my first experience with a green gas/propane gun. At first, I was frequently cursing out the system because I couldn't get the magazine full enough to get through a mag. Eventually, I got it figured out. Seemed to be a problem with the wetware (RTFM right?)...shrug. Once I got going it was pretty nice. I'm proud to say I'm no longer fearful of the propane system. Shot accurately enough for a pistol, although propane stinks a bit more than knew. I was throwing controlled pairs into a five inch clay pigeon at twenty-five yards reliably enough to make me comfortable, but not enough to make me impressed. And yes, it put holes in the clay pigeon, but didn't shatter it.
You could also see the .3g BB in flight. I'm sure it shoots somewhere around the FPS listed in it's documentation.
I didn't get any documentation of it in action, so no pictures or fun videos of someone shooting me. Maybe next time, you sadists.
Whether you should get this pistol or not is going to depend upon your issues and motivations. I would recommend this pistol for these reasons only:
- You are a big guy and think all the pistols you've tried feel like toys in your meaty paws.
- You are trying to build a load-out that is exactly like this unit or that unit or something and you need a Beretta to round it off. If you think imitation is the highest form of flattery then this is the pistol you need.
- If you are someone who is issued a Beretta and are looking for the training value of airsoft.
- You want a gun, any gun, and can't afford the best, but don't want crap. Kinda like how Uncle Sam contracts the lowest bidder.
- You used to be issued a Beretta and are confident with it as well as own accessories (holster, mag pouches, tac-lights, etc) for it. Getting this would save you lots of money if you avoid replacing said gear.