Friday, March 4, 2011

Musings On The M9

This post over at Joe Huffman's site got me thinking. The OP was about how bad the M1911/M1911A1 are because you can't use your index finger as a point-and-shoot interface.

After reading the link in his post, I was compelled to offer my take on using the index finger as a sighting tool and the middle finger to pull the trigger.

Yesterday, it was qualification day at work. As part of my day job, I run the weapons vault and I am responsible for numerous rifles and pistols. Our duty weapon is the Beretta M9. It's a 9mm job, does a good job for what it was designed to do, and is generally a decent weapon.

I first qualified on this pistol back in 1995. At the time, I didn't know any better. It was the first autoloader I'd ever fired. (The first ever handgun I fired was a S&W Model 27 Highway Patrolman, .357 mag w/6" barrel.)

As I grew into gun nut status, some things started sticking out to me. First, was the grip. It was always billed to me as an 'any person' gun, meaning any person should be able to pick it up and start shooting. Well, the grip size is just short of being too small for Andrea the Giant. Of course, you've got to figure out a way to hold 15 rds of 9mm and having it all stick out the butt end of the pistol ain't exactly slick. I've got a fairly large paw, and it's a stretch to get my hands around the grip on this pistol.

Next thing that stands out, and in my mind totally turns me off on this pistol is the trigger. Horrendous doesn't even begin to describe it. To put it in perspective, it's like trying to squeeze a 2x4 with your index finger. When someone asks me why I don't like the M9, I tell them it's the trigger. It's got a trigger you start pulling on Sunday, and you're finally done sometime late Saturday afternoon. And that's the double action pull. If the guy in the article linked by Joe can accurately double-action fire the M9 with his middle finger, I'll spring for a beer for the guy. I know MY middle finger ain't that strong, that's for sure.

The single action pull is better, but only because you don't have to squeeze a 2x4 to get the gun to go bang. No, the SA pull has it's own issue. Namely, you have to take up 2.5 feet of slack in the trigger just to get it to the break-over point. I can see doing the point-and shoot method in SA, but transitioning from your normal trigger finger on the trigger to the middle, puts too much movement and memory in the equation. Trigger pull should be muscle memory automatic. Not a fumbling affair trying to change on finger on the trigger to another.

In the classroom before going out to the line, I try to get as much dry fire time in as I can to refamiliarize myself with just how terrible the trigger is. I have to consciously think about shooting this pistol, as I've spoiled myself on my 1911s. Something about a consistent 3-5 lb pull that has me hooked I guess.

I also have to change my shooting mechanics with the M9. I shoot high thumbs with the 1911, and being a lefty, particularly with the M9, I can't rest my thumbs where I'd like. There's this thing called the trigger bar that runs right where my thumbs rest that goes back and forth every time the trigger is pulled. Last year, this little design feature rubbed a raw spot on my right thumb. This year, I tried to rest that thumb under ledge over the trigger guard on the frame, with varying degrees of success. (And quite a bit of stopping to consciously put my thumb back where it needed to be, not where it wanted to be, damned muscle memory.)

So there you have it. The M9 (and it's civilian cousin, the 92FS) were all the rage when Detective Riggs and John McClain were running around hosing bad guys with them. In 1987. Not so much now. I'd take a Springfield XD or (GASP!) a Glock over the M9.

Side bar: Yesterday is also the first time I got bit by a slide. I was assisting a coworker in reassembling his pistol when I released the slide on mine. I was easing it forward, and for some reason known only to my left hand, I let go of it. I thought my fingers were clear, but alas, the meaty part of the middle finger of my left hand was not. At first, I thought I got pinched, but nooooo. I drew blood. So now, I've got a nice half moon cut on my middle finger that looks a lot like the rear of the breach area on an M9 pistol.

Note to self: Make sure ALL appendages are clear of the barrel/slide interface area when releasing the slide.

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