I received an e-mail last week from a young man who'd had some issues with his M9 over in the Big Sandbox. As a complaint, this isn't a terribly new or unusual one. I'm pretty sure that if you did a survey of every military related blog and all the various tactical- or military-type magazines out there, you'd find numerous mentions of M9 problems in the desert.
But it was particularly important to me to answer the young man's query, since just a couple weeks ago I was talking to Slim about some Cav scouts we'd trained with previously. They'd also mentioned their M9 problems, and were also pretty disgruntled that they weren't given more time on the range with it before deploying. One of said he'd only fired it a couple times for qualification, never for proficiency or on a combat course. With the subject coming up twice in a month, once from the Marines and once from the Army, it seemed time to see what we could do to help.
So. The M9, 9mm Beretta. Civilian-wise we call it the 92F or 92FS, et al. Some guys love it, some hate it. There are civilian cops that swear by it, which baffles me personally, but guns are like boots and beer. Everyone has a favorite, usually held with a devoted certainty that says anyone that prefers a different model is a dumbass. you know what I'm talking about. 1911 guys (of any breed) make fun of Glock guys, who shake their heads at Sig guys, who just can't understand the S&W guys.
For myself, I prefer the M9 as a boat anchor if a Ruger isn't available but that's just me.
Anyway your opinion doesn't really matter in the military, as you're not given a choice. TO make matters worse, most of the guys that carry one aren't all that well trained with it. Trained, I said, not familiarized. I've been fortunate enough to spend a lot of time on the range with a lot of different folks, and with some exceptions it's been pretty clear that most military trigger-pullers are competent at best with the handgun. I don't equate competent with true proficiency. Keep in mind I'm not passing judgment. It's not the troops' fault. There's only so much training time and so many training rounds, but that doesn't excuse training NCOs and rangemasters from putting their people through some good drills to really promote mastery of the weapon.
Anyway, this isn't about training or courses of fire. This will be just a few quick hints we've found to be helpful when you have to carry one. So, Jeremy, here you go.
First off know how to do your own inspection for BMCLS (Broken, Missing, Worn, Clean, Lubed, Serviceable) as best as you can. Spend any extra time you can on the range and pay attention to guys that know more than you do. You never know when you might pick something up.
The firstest, mostest importanest thing after keeping it cleaned and lubed (which should be obvious unless you're one of my handlers, who cleans his guns once a year religiously on his birthday whether they need it or not) is your magazines. By far the most common feed failures experienced (that I'm aware of anyway) with the M9 pistol has been due to magazines. Check yours and make sure they're good to go. Oh, and you know how there are black ones and gray ones issued out? They gray ones are after-market, and usually they suck. The springs aren't as good and they're nowhere near as durable. If you've ever dropped one of the after-market gray ones on a hard surface you've probably watched it explode into its component pieces or have at least seen the rounds drop back until their noses are all pointed straight up.
Check the grips, especially if your magazine isn't wanting to seat. If it's an older M9, the grips were attached to the weapon with screws. There are/were washers inside the grips that spaced it properly so the screws held the grips on without intruding into the magazine wells. Depending upon who cleaned it last, or just got bored and took it apart, there's a good chance those washers are gone. With the washers gone the screws can sometimes protrude and get in the way of the magazine when you go to seat it.
The newer M9s (I think it's the M9A1, but I could be behind the curve here) uses allen wrenches to hold the grips on, so you don't have to worry about that. They're the ones with different rear sights and the half moon hammer pin showing, and depending upon attrition and replacement their recoil spring guide will be polymer instead of metal.
Oh, also, even if you don't have time to clean it or brush it out, always check the feed ramp for debris. If anything builds up there, even just a little bit, the front of the projectile can catch on it and prevent a good chambering of the round.
That's pretty much all I've got. Perhaps some of our readers can help out as well, or correct me if I gorked something up here. Remember, FATS or CATS or whatever is good, real range time is better, and it never hurts to dry fire. You can improve your skills just by drawing, presenting, aiming and pulling the trigger of an unloaded weapon. I've never heard of a police course or academy that didn't hound is students mercilessly to dryfire.
Now, remember: PRACTICE doesn't make perfect. Practice just makes you rehearsed. PERFECT practice makes perfect. Make sure you've got a good grip and you're doing it right every time you train. One last thing you might consider - if a shooter is going to have trouble with the M9's trigger pull, it will usually be the first one (double-action). This is natural, a double action shot trigger pull is typically going to be less accurate than a single action trigger pull (for most people). If you have the money and the inclination (and you don't live in the People's Republic of California) you might think about going and buying one of the civilian model 92s with the bobbed hammer. It's a pain in the ass, but all you can shoot with it is double action. Spend some time on the range with that in order to get used to that first trigger squeeze after you drag iron.