No matter what you are discussing, you can rest assured the topic will eventually turn toward a rivalry. A feud. Two giants in their category squaring off, each with their diehard fans who will not accept that the other has even a scrap of merit.
Guns are no different. I could name a dozen such rivalries right off the tip of my tongue. But today, today we are talking about handguns, specifically DA/SA handguns, and one of the most enduring arguments in the pistol world will, perhaps, be settled here.
Beretta’s Model 92 FS is an iconic pistol, at turns greatly loved or greatly hated depending on who you talk to. In its 30 years of service as the U.S. Military’s standard issue handgun, the 92 in one guise or another has seen combat on every continent except Antarctica (that we know of) and has further served dependably in the holsters of countless beat cops, security forces and armed citizenry.
It is the image of a handgun for people who grew up in the 1980’s and early 1990’s and it remains a thoroughly reliable and competitive DA/SA handgun today thanks to constant upgrades.
In the other corner, Taurus’ PT92 is no mere bootleg copy. Made in a former Beretta factory in Brazil using former Beretta plans and blueprints, the PT92 should have all the chops to be a worthy competitor. It lacks the widespread use and adoption of its distant relative, but there are few handguns that do measure up to the Big B’s service record.
So the question is which of these handguns is better? Is one better, or are they two sides of the same coin? I have considerable experience with both pistols, and today in this article I will strive to answer that question. But first, let’s meet the makers of our contestants.
The Original: Beretta
Beretta (fully Fabbrica d’Armi Pietro Beretta, or Pietro Beretta Gun Factory) is the oldest continually operated and family owned firearms manufacturer in the world. They are, very literally, ancient. A living legend.
Founded in the 16th century, in Gardone, Italy, Italian archives hold proof of receipt for primitive long gun barrels made by Beretta to be purchased by the Republic of Venice.
They have equipped ancient wooden sailing navies with cannons and supplied armies. Their products featured in every major war in Europe since the mid 17th century. A full description of their history and exploits would require a book, not even a separate article.
While their sporting arms have for a long time been hugely successful and their military weapons a constant presence on battlefields throughout the ages, including the 20th and 21st century, it was the adoption of their Model 92 as the U.S. Military’s M9 pistol as a replacement for an increasingly ramshackle and aging fleet of 1911s that saw their popularity surge in the U.S.
A saying goes, “As the Army goes so too do the police and the citizens” when it comes to guns. The M9 proved that. Civilian sales skyrocketed in tandem with its regular issuance with police departments nationwide who reasoned that if the new pistol was good enough for the Army it was good enough for them.
The 92 started showing up in action movies and on TV screens all over, and its distinctly and radically opened slide and Italian styling making it as much a star as the big name actors wielding it.
A few years before, in the 1970’s, Beretta founded a factory in Sao Paulo, Brazil, under government contract to produce the model 92 for the Brazilian Army. That contract ended in the year of 1980, at which time Beretta sold that plant, along with tooling, machines, plans and so forth for the 92 to a small Brazilian manufacturer of firearms, known as Taurus…
The Clone: Taurus
Taurus, or Forjas Taurus S.A., began manufacturer of dies and tooling, they are today a conglomerate manufacturing guns, armor, metal products and plastics.
They began firearms production in 1941 with a small revolver, and focused mainly on wheelguns in the decades between the 1940s and the 1980’s when they purchased the Beretta factory, and that emphasis on wheelguns continues today, though they produce many semi-auto pistols as well.
When Taurus purchased Beretta’s Sao Paulo factory, they turned around and immediately began producing one of their most successful models, the PT92, a clone of the Beretta 92 in nearly every detail except the location of the safety-decocker lever.
Other minor changes including the location of the magazine release and shape of the trigger guard, or addition of a rail on the dustcover have not impacted the essential design of the pistol which is, again, a near total clone of the Beretta.
Taurus makes guns known primarily for low cost and some innovations. They claim a lower cost of labor as well as the ability to manufacture almost everything needed for their guns in house keeps costs low and that their quality is on par with any of the world’s premier gun manufacturers.
The PT92 is certainly popular, and has been throughout its life, but is it the equal of the Beretta original? Let’s get to the analysis.
Differences: 92FS and PT92AF Feature Comparison
Were you to lay a 92 and PT92 beside each other with no maker’s marks, you would notice only a few essential design differences: the most obvious, the placement of the safety, is easily spotted with the PT92 having a frame mounted safety-decocker while the Beretta 92 series guns all stay with the slide mounted affair.
The other differences are the shape and width of the slide serrations and the style of the rail on the dustcover (if comparing the PT92 to a railed M9 variant).
One interesting thing to note is that that Taurus safety arrangement is fundamentally different from the Beretta. The Taurus safety is Up for Safe, Down for Fire, and Full-Down for decock which rebounds to the fire position.
The Beretta is down for safe, which simultaneously decocks the pistol, and up for fire. The Taurus safety also allows for single action on-safe carry, whereas the standard Beretta does not.
Note that the magazines, while very close in design, are not cross compatible. Aside from these obvious differences, the guns are functionally identical: trigger mechanism, action, method of disassembly, you name it.
Aside from the different safeties, the manual of arms is the same.
Their pertinent major features are identical: the iconic open slide, tilting locking block action cribbed from the Walther P38, and (today’s) hooked trigger guard are all identical.
The comprehensive safety systems are identical in function. The large, long external extractors are identical. There is not much more to say about their form factor and functionality.
All of the variation in the performance of these two pistols stems from how they are made. The materials, quality control and quality assurance. Skilled manufacture of parts and assembly. Some intangibles. If all you care about is design, then these guns will be interchangeable for you. If you care about best then keep reading.
I am no great fan of Taurus pistols. I have shot and seen students shoot and struggle to shoot their guns for too long to hold anything but a decidedly unimpressed opinion of their semi-auto pistols. Their revolvers fare somewhat better.
In my classes and in training I have attended, to say nothing of the countless hundreds of hours of competition and informal shooting I have participated in I regularly see Taurus guns malfunction, stop working or otherwise break far more often across all models than other major competitors guns.
Now, many Taurus owners are happy with their pistols. Fine, I do not intend to rain on their parade. The facts are this though, for the vast majority of Taurus guns, they do not work well when shot hard and fast.
Most are not expected to last for a long service life because your average owner will only put perhaps a 1,000 rounds through their pistols in the course of their lives.
So part of this grievance stems from what is expected of the gun. If you are a committed practitioner or professional user, a thousand rounds is nothing. Training, qualification and demoing alone will consume thousands and thousands of rounds. I have pistols with well over 30,000 rounds through them, and they are still going strong after parts replacement.
It’s Not Just a Name, Folks
I assert that Taurus products as a whole are not intended to be heirloom grade guns. As a company, their lack of QA/QC is legendary among serious users. Just because a company is using Beretta machinery in a Beretta factory and with Beretta plans does not mean they will build a gun like Beretta.
Worker expertise in design and assembly counts. Materials count. Servicing, calibration and ongoing quality-of-program improvements for the machinery and assembly line counts. Taurus is known as lacking in all of these areas.
In 2015, they issued a recall for over 1 million guns manufactured over 15 years. They proudly advertise a lifetime warranty, and if you shoot it regularly your gun will likely have cause to use it. In 2012, the wait time for a factory warranty serviced handgun was measured in months. This was due to backlog.
That being said, I can say that I believe the PT92 is undoubtedly their best product. While it is not perfect, it is a far sight beyond their Millennium series guns, which are universally garbage. Does it stack up against the original Model 92FS? No. Is it a decent gun? Yes, and the only gun I would consider owning from Taurus.
The Beretta on the other hand is a finely made handgun in all regards. If you do not believe it pick up and run the action on both guns in a gun shop, box fresh.
If you claim you cannot tell a difference in the smoothness of the action you are either a neophyte or a liar. That is not just a finish you are feeling, that is the difference quality makes: materials, machining, fitment, all essential ingredients in producing a superior firearm.
This is not snobbery. The Beretta is objectively better and more reliable across a far larger established sample size than the Taurus copy.
Don’t take my word for it. Consider that the Beretta, not the Taurus, has been adopted and issued by dozens more militaries and agencies than the Taurus clone. If price were the sole difference, as champions of the cheap proclaim, why on earth would any single organization or user group ever choose the Beretta over the Taurus? Hm?
Bottom Line Up Front
The PT92AF is a nice enough pistol, and one of the only consistently good products from Taurus, a company well-known among serious users for churning out sub-par (at best) guns. But it does not hold a candle or a prayer to its progenitor, the Beretta 92FS.
The frame mounted safety is arguably a better location than the originals slide mounted affair, but one small revision to a control does not a superior pistol make.
Beretta’s proven track record for durability, longevity and reliability is light years ahead of Taurus, and no amount of re-purposed equipment can make up that difference until Taurus fully commits to similar excellence in manufacture. Saying you do is not enough.
If the chips are down and lives are on the line, you would be best served by the Beretta 92 if given a choice. The original is rarely topped.
The Beretta 92FS and Taurus PT92AF families of pistols have been vicious competitors in the commercial space for decades, neither showing any signs of slowing down or giving ground. But for discerning users, be they professional or just plain serious, there is a clear victor in this showdown:
Beretta is turning out a top-tier quality gun whereas Taurus is… not. The Taurus is decent, but decent does not cut it when the chips are down.