A Beretta Tale

Back in 2001 I became enamored with Beretta pistols, although I’d never even fired one. I had several .45ACPs from Smith and Glock, but no 9mm and the price on 9mm ammo was appealing then, and still is today.

A trip to my local gun dealer led me to consider the Beretta Cougar. The dealer did not have any in stock, but said the A Beretta 92 is a fine gun. Mike Sampson explores how he acquired this gem.local police chief in my small town had bought a Cougar in 9 mm. So I called the chief, whom I’ve never met, and he suggested I come to the station and look at his pistol. On my arrival, he handed me the Cougar and I immediately loved the feel, and it seemed to point just to my liking. Try to get a police chief to hand over his duty weapon to a stranger for a look-see nowadays!

A bit more research and back to the gun shop. The dealer said he could order the Cougar, but noted that the .40 caliber pistol might be the one to get. I already knew the growing popularity of the .40S&W round, so I ordered the Beretta 8040 Cougar, and worked a trade with a 7mm magnum Churchill Highlander rifle I’d bought from a friend in Wyoming, but never even fired that rifle.

I loved the 8040 and began reloading for it. Lots of interesting design on the Cougar with a rotating barrel, locked breech and 11-round magazines. Stoeger now makes the Cougars in Turkey, using Beretta tooling, based on what I’ve read.

Then in March 2003, a police officer I worked with was heading overseas with family and asked if I’d be interested in his 9mm Beretta 92 SB Compact (SBC) and Beretta Bobcat 21A in .22 Long Rifle. He brought both in. The SBC was in the original box, marked $499.99, all paperwork, four 13-round magazines and a little-used Don Hume H717 OWB brown leather slide holster (still available for $60.95 at Don Hume Leathergoods), Click HERE. The officer said he carried the SBC off duty, so it had some wear marks and thin bluing in spots.

The Bobcat was blued and I was looking for the Inox, so I passed on it, but $350 closed the deal on the SBC. A trip to the range convinced me the pistol was a shooter and a keeper, with a nice second-shot single-action trigger pull.

If one is looking for a firearms history adventure, Beretta is where to start. Beretta notes that “after nearly 500 years and sixteen generations, Fabrica d’Armi Pietro Beretta S.p.A. is still a family-operated business. Beretta manufactures a wide variety of custom firearms, pistols, shotguns, bolt-action and semi-automatic rifles, and military arms in various locations. Beretta U.S.A. Corp, was founded in 1977 in Accokeek, MD, and the company has been manufacturing firearms at this location since that date.”

“The Shooter’s Log” at Cheaper Than Dirt is a great read and reports that “In 1915, Beretta produced the Model 1915, The author proves that the Beretta 92 is a great option for self-defense purposes.the company’s first pistol. By the end of WWII, Beretta was making 4,000 Model 1915s a month. In 1975, Beretta introduced the Model 92 in 9mm.”

The 92 has been in service across the world since 1976 and for a great rundown on its history take a look at Wikipedia for specs and model numbers. The 92 has a lengthy history of law-enforcement and military contracts, including in the United States.

Wikipedia also writes “The 92SB, initially called 92S-1, was specifically designed for the USAF (U.S. Armed Forces) trials (which it won), the model name officially adopted was the 92SB. Features added include a firing pin block (thus the addition of the "B" to the name), ambidextrous safety levers, 3-dot sights, and relocated the magazine release catch from the bottom of the grip to the lower bottom of the trigger guard. The later relocation of the magazine release button means preceding models (92 & 92S) cannot necessarily use later magazines, unless they have notches in both areas. A compact version with a shortened barrel and slide and 13-round magazine capacity known as the 92SB Compact was manufactured from 1981 to 1991.”

Two other good sources of information on the SB and SBC include:

Guns America and Beretta. The Beretta source notes that “The Beretta Model 92 SB is a 9mm Parabellum semi-automatic pistol designed for military and police use, and for civilian use in countries where it is legitimate. Its great volume of fire, combined with absolutely flawless reliability and safety, make it an ideal side arm for modern armies and The author's Beretta 92 in a great leather holster.police forces. From this weapon has now derived the Model 92 SB Compact, which retains virtually all the characteristics of the 92 SB but is shorter and lower, for easier carrying in a shoulder holster or in civilian dress. It is also ideal for personal defense because it offers such vast fire power from a relatively small weapon.”

For technical specs, my SBC has a 4.29-inch barrel, oscillating block locking system, chamber-loaded indicator, ambidextrous manual safety and decocking lever located on the slide, double-action/single-action trigger, a staggered 13-round magazine, reversible mag release, slide locks open after last round fired, simple field stripping, plastic grips and weighs 34.8 ounces with an empty mag.

Now a bit more history. Beretta customer service HERE says “Frequently, we receive inquiries requesting the date of manufacture of our firearms. With such an expansive history, we have limitations on our records. Beretta USA maintains serial number information of firearms that we ourselves imported or built, from 1988 to present. There are limited records that have gone back as far as the early 1980s, however, these are rare.

Firearms imported by Beretta USA since 1988 can be searched by serial number to obtain the description, the approximate year of manufacture/import, as well as the schematic, parts list, owner’s manual, and additional details. Records of firearms manufactured prior to this year are sparse, and Beretta Italy has never established a searchable archive. Occasionally, firearms that are produced after 1988 may not yield a search result.”

My serial-number search came up empty, meaning I had an older pistol. A further Internet search yielded solid information on date of manufacture only. One source is HERE that notes how Beretta, and other Italian makers, used Roman Numerals and then alphabetical codes to denote year of manufacture.

I located the two-letter code of AL on my SBC’s trigger guard’s right side. (See accompanying photo.) The conversion chart showed a date of 1983. As noted earlier, SBC production ran for 10 years. Not sure how many SBCs Beretta made, but they are hard to find.

Current value of my SBC ranges from $350-$550, but with all the extras I got, the value is higher, plus knowing the prior owner as a friend. Wood grips are available, and may be an upgrade later.

Later in 2003 I bought a used Beretta Model 84 Cheetah in .380ACP with 13-round magazines, and a new Inox Bobcat.  Good used Berettas still are out there and all Berettas definitely are quality works. My experience with Berettas convinces me they like most ammo and are ideal carry guns. Holsters abound, and Beretta history is a wonder unto itself.

I still prefer my .38 Special Colt Detective Special for daily carry, but I’d sure add the 92SBC to my wardrobe. The destructive way society is changing now, additional firepower is a must if I want to stay safe, be prepared. And so should you! ~ Mike

Mike Sampson
Mike now calls Northwestern Arkansas home, but has lived and worked in several states. He has been an independent contractor and consultant since 2006 specializing in risk management, emergency management and training. In addition to work as a law-enforcement planner and technical writer with the Boise, Idaho, Police Department, he has experience in journalism, crop and animal agriculture, dryland farming for 20 years in western Kansas, plant and animal diseases, pandemic influenza, agroterrorism, bioterrorism, food safety and healthcare marketing.

He has a journalism degree from the University of Missouri and has newspaper and agency writing and editing experience. At Washington State University in Pullman, he earned a master’s degree emphasizing adult education and communications, with minors in mourning dove, chukar partridge, pheasant and mountain quail on the breaks of the Snake River.

While living in Lander, WY, Mike provided photographic coverage of the One Shot Antelope Hunt for three years, and got to meet and accompany folks such as Chuck Yeager, Carroll Shelby, Buzz Aldrin, Dale Robertson and Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf on their hunts. 

In addition, Mike is a Federal Emergency Management Agency certified instructor and has worked and taught for state and federal agencies. He has responded to seven presidentially declared disasters, including Hurricanes Irma and Maria when they struck Puerto Rico in 2017. He also has worked and taught in Africa and Southeast Asia. Check his website at www.sampsonrisk.com.