Beretta done making M9s at Maryland plant

M9

A U.S. soldier loads a magazine before an M9 shooting competition in FOB Slayer, Iraq, on April 14, 2011. (Photo: DVIDS)

Beretta finished production of the last batch of M9 pistols for the military at its Maryland manufacturing facility, as the company has been shifting operations down south.

The company announced this week the successful completion of testing for the last five lots containing 2,500 handguns. They’ll be sent from the Accokeek facility to fill orders by the U.S. Army. Moving forward, Beretta plans to manufacture and deliver all future M9 pistols from the company’s new facility in Gallatin, Tennessee.

It’s a bittersweet moment as Beretta has been manufacturing M9s in Accokeek since 1987 and the Army is currently looking to replace the M9 with a handgun designed with more modern features. Beretta has held contracts to supply the military’s official sidearm since 1985.

The Gallatin plant will continue production of the M9 and the newer variant called the M9A3. The model includes upgraded features — most of which at the request of the military — like a thinner grip, dovetail front sight, standard night sights, an improved Picatinny rail, an oversized magazine release button, sand-resistant magazines, and an extended, threaded barrel to accommodate a suppressor. Also, Beretta has made minor changes to the controls, such as the shape of the pistol’s de-cocking lever.

Beretta has long retained military contracts because of its willingness to upgrade the design and the military has been resistant to change because of the sheer ubiquity of the gun. Although the M9 lacks features listed in the Army’s Modular Handgun System competition — the most obvious being a polymer frame — Beretta remains hopeful.

“The U.S. Army or any military or law enforcement service using M9s can adopt this weapon today with minimal impact to existing training, in-service accessories (holsters, lights, etc.), integrated logistics support plan, and parts inventory,” said Gabriele de Plano, the company’s vice president of military marketing and operations, in a statement.

He added that the M9A3 meets 84 percent of the requirements for the MHS competition, and he stresses the gun contains 100 percent commonality with major components of the M9.

Nonetheless, Beretta sees the pistol as part of a legacy. “The M9A3 is currently our best-selling pistol and we are dedicating all of our resources to keep up with the huge customer demand for the product,” said Rafe Bennett, vice president of product marketing.

Beretta broke ground on the $45 million building project in Gallatin during the summer of 2014 and opened shop in Tennessee this year. The company decided to move after Maryland lawmakers passed strict gun control laws, the Firearms Safety Act of 2013, that prohibited guns deemed assault weapons and magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds.

Beretta plans to have its entire U.S. manufacturing operations in Gallatin by 2019.

Daniel Terrill contributed to the reporting of this piece