Beretta Tripling Down on Single Action Model 92 Game

Long one of the most iconic double action/single action autoloading pistols of the 20th Century, the Beretta 92 is now on track to become one of the best SAO handguns of the 21st.

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Dec 2023

The Beretta 92 is one of the most iconic double action/single action autoloading pistols of the 20th Century. However, it is now on track to become one of the best SAO handguns of the 21st.

When introduced in the 1970s, the double-stack 15-shot DA/SA Model 92 soon conquered the handgun market and within a decade was adopted by military and law enforcement customers around the world, even going as far as dethroning the “Two World War Winning” M1911 in U.S. service in 1984. I mean, John McClain used a 92.

This continued through the decades as the 92 saw a myriad of variants and subvariants hit the market but they all remained DA/SA. That is, until the 21st Century.

Beretta Billennium via Beretta
Beretta Billennium via Beretta

In 2002, the company debuted a short 2,000-pistol run of a Model 92 dubbed the Billennium, so named to salute the new millennium. Using a contoured nickel-finished steel frame (as opposed to the aluminum alloy frame seen in most Beretta 92s) complete with carbon fiber grips, unique slide serrations, and engravings, the hefty 43-ounce 9mm was single-action-only, like the action used on a Colt 1911.

While priced at introduction at $1,429, collectors soon paid twice that much on the secondary market for them.

Beretta 92XI SAO
Beretta 92XI SAO

This short run of Billennium SAOs proved so popular that Beretta tried a second release of a more pedestrian version, the $1,600 92 Steel I, which was released in 2004, made in bigger numbers than their first SAO Model 92.

Using simpler plastic grips and deleting the extensive engravings of the Billennium, it retained the latter’s all-steel construction, frame-mounted safety (needed for carrying “cocked and locked,”) and a smooth nickel alloy finish.

In short, a more working man’s version of the Billennium, for which Beretta was happy to charge more money.

However, the 92SI left Beretta’s catalog in 2005 for reasons unknown and the company went 18 years before it tried another SAO in the same platform.

Then came the 92XI in early 2023.

Beretta 92XI SAO basic and launch edition
Beretta 92XI SAO basic and launch edition

A 9mm blowback action SAO pistol, the 92XI has a slim Vertec style alloy frame, a flat(ish) X-treme S trigger, a fiber optic front and full serrated black rear sight, an ambidextrous frame mounted safety, 3-slot Picatinny rail, and a Cerakote slide finish.

The use of the slimmer alloy frame dropped more than a half-pound from the weight of the earlier 92SI and Billenniums while being optics-ready.

Best yet, it was a standard production pistol, not a limited run. Best of all, it was priced at $949– and that’s in inflation-infused 2023 dollars– for the basic model and a little more ($1,199) for a more polished Launch Edition model with wood grips.

The wonderful thing about the SAO Model 92 is that it can be used for USPSA and IDPA competitions. In fact, Team Beretta’s Cameron Templin has been using the new 92XI SAO in the newly established Limited Optics division of the USPSA all summer.

Now, Beretta has apparently been happy enough with the orders for the 92XI to introduce two new companion SAO series 92s in the past couple of weeks.

The first is the 92XI SAO Tactical, which includes everything the standard 92XI SAO was introduced with while adding an extended threaded barrel and tall suppressor-heigh sights. The cost is $1,049, or $100 more than the intro model.

Beretta 92XL SAO Tactical
Beretta 92XL SAO Tactical

The second new 92XI SAO is just so Beretta. Dubbed the Squalo– Italian for “shark”– it has a ray skin-esque set of G10 grips made for Beretta by Houge, an all-over grey Cerakote finish, and a race gun magwell from Toni System, the high-speed Italian gun comp and accessory folks that have been making good-looking Berettas look great for generations.

The Beretta 92XL Sqaulo (apparently Italian for shark)
The Beretta 92XL Sqaulo (apparently Italian for shark)

Clearly a race gun for someone who likes to have a bit of flex on the range, it retails for $1,299.

Why go from having two upscale SAO Model 92s in 2002-2005 then suddenly launching three new SAO models at a more attainable price all in one year?

Beretta apparently sees something in the cards for the future.

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