Unsung Best Buy: A Critical Look at the Taurus PT-92
In 1973, IMBEL of Brazil quit producing their version of the .45 ACP 1911 pistol as the military had decided to go with the Nato standard 9mm and had adopted the Beretta Model 92 pistol. A Brazilian subsidiary of Beretta was producing the Model 92, but was bought by Taurus who has been selling the pistol since the early '80's.*
My luck with Taurus firearms in general has been positive, but I do prefer their automatics to their revolvers. I've also not owned many different models of their pistols. It should be noted that quite a few folks have had problems with Taurus pistols, but the company does offer a lifetime warranty on their products.
The pistol being looked at in this article is the only Taurus automatic I own and is a PT-92 AF. It is an older pistol and the ambidextrous thumb safety does not decock the pistols as it does on current PT-92 pistols if forcefully pushed past the normal "down to fire, off-safe" position. While this can be viewed as a safety improvement, I do have some misgivings about it. Like the CZ-75, the Taurus PT-92 does allow for cocked and locked carry should that be desired and in the stress of a deadly force situation, one might apply enough force disengaging the safety to inadvertently decock the pistol such that the first shot has to be double-action or the pistol recocked before firing.
Taurus PT-92 AF 9mm Specifications:
Type: Conventional DA/SA recoil-operated, locked breech semiautomatic with an aluminum alloy frame, steel slide, barrel and parts. It has a modified ring hammer.
Length: 8 1/2"
Weight: 34 oz.
Barrel Length: 5"
Factory Std. Recoil Spring: 13-lbs.
Factory Std. mainspring: 18-lbs.
Magazine: Typical double stack. Pre-ban magazine capacity is 15 rounds of 9mm.
Sights: Fixed. Rear sight is a notched blade dovetailed into the slide. Front sight is a non-serrated semi-ramp integral to the slide.
Safeties: Ambidextrous frame-mounted with "up" for "safe" and "down" for "fire." Current versions of the pistol also can be decocked by depressing the thumb safety past the "fire" position. The pistol has an internal firing pin safety and a half-cock notch. It has an inertial firing pin as well. There is no magazine disconnect.
The PT-92 has the magazine release behind the trigger guard, which is preferred by American shooters for quick magazine changes rather than at the lower rear of the left grip as on the original Beretta 92. Where the original Beretta Model 92 pistols had the rounded trigger guard, the PT-92 has the "hooked." I prefer the rounded as I do not use the finger wrapped around the trigger guard type of shooting.
Currently, Taurus offers this model in 4 versions and there is an adjustable sight version, the PT-99. My gun has a black anodized frame with all steel parts being blued. The top of the slide is matte blue with the slide flats being polished. The pistol originally came with nice Brazilian hardwood stocks that while attractive, were slick as they were not checkered. With the least bit of perspiration, the gun got kind of hard to hang onto despite the vertical serrations in both the front and rear grip straps. Years ago, I replaced them with a set of the checkered rubber grips for the gun from then "Uncle Mike's." I believe that company is now called Butler Creek, but the pistol grips are still referred to as Uncle Mike's.
The rear grip strap can be seen with its vertical serrations. These do offer improvement if shooting with wet hands, but are not allowed to be optimum in this job due to the slick finish on the anodizing. I believe that a matte finish would have been more practical.
The front strap is also serrated nicely. Note that the magazine release is not ambidextrous and neither is the slide release lever. On the PT-92, only the thumb safety is ambidextrous and it is one of the few that I do not mind being so. It does not get in my way when shooting the pistol. Notice also that the magazine release assembly is attached to the pistol with a roll pin. I have heard of but one account of this coming loose. Though not a good thing, this would be easily corrected and statistically, is not a problem.
The PT-92, like the original Beretta 92 has smallish fixed sights that I personally believe could have been upgraded a bit over the years. Taurus' "solution" has been to use the same size sights, but with the now familiar 3-dot style sights. The gun is easier to use at speed than the early CZ-75 pistols, but does not offer the same speed sight picture as do the current CZ-75 pistols or the current Beretta Model 92F. I think this is a mistake and one that could have been rather easily corrected to make a good pistol a better pistol.
The front sight on my Taurus PT-92 is usable, but could certainly be better. I do not understand why Taurus has not improved this on later versions of the gun. The adjustable sighted PT-99 does offer a satisfactory sight picture and does have a taller front sight.
In this picture, you can see the rear sight, the abbreviated ring hammer and the right-side ambidextrous thumb safety lever. Note that due to the shape of the top of the slide, if POA did not match POI and lateral adjustment was needed, it would be very limited. The front sight, being integral to the slide doesn't help matters any. Fortunately, this pistol is dead bang "on," and this seems to be the case for the majority of these pistols that I've fired over the years.
The PT-92 has been called too large for its caliber and it is a large 9mm compared to many others. It is surprisingly light for its size and very comfortable to shoot.
So how does it shoot? Is it reliable? Can the smallish fixed sights be used at speed and in slow fire? To see, the following rounds were fired through this PT-92 at distances of 10, 15, and 25 yards.
Ammunition: Average Velocity (ft/sec) Extreme Spread Std. Deviation
PowRball +P 1476 23 9
JSP "FL" 1363 51 20
Remington UMC 115-gr
FMJ 1214 78 24
Fiocchi 115-gr. FMJ 1188 97 29
PMP 115-gr. FMJ 1089 68 22
Federal 115-gr. JHP 1170 90 43
Fiocchi 123-gr. FMJ 1119 46 17
Fiocchi 123-gr. FMJ
"Combat" 1100 65 20
Speer 124-gr. Lawman
TMJ 1182 68 24
PMC 124-gr. Starfire JHP 1078 50 18
Triton 125-gr. Hi Vel JHP +P 1301 57 25
Winchester 127-gr. +P+ JHP
RA9TA 1292 32 11
Two handloads were also used. The powder charge in both was 6.0 grains if Unique and once-fired Magtech cases were used. Winchester Small Pistol primers were used to ignite the rounds. The only differences were that one used the Hornady 124-gr. XTP, the other, Speer's 124-gr. Gold Dot Hollow Point.
XTP handload 1261 102 37
GDHP handload 1174 68 22
From the data above, it is interesting to note that the change in bullet shape/make, resulted in a 87 ft/sec change in average velocity! The huge extreme spread shown with the XTP handload is there due to but one shot. The rest were much closer together. Even so, most opine that a standard deviation of less than 50 ft/sec is satisfactory. I've run into this a time or two before using Unique and Blue Dot as well as other flake powders simply because they don't meter as well as some of the finer ones.
Shooting: Everything but the 25 yard shooting was done using two hands in a Weaver stance. The 15 yard groups were fired strictly single-action and were done slowly. The 25 yard shooting was done single-action and from a rest using both hands. The groups fired at 10 yards were fired two-handed in a Weaver stance and each set of either controlled pairs or double-taps were fired coming from a low ready position.
15 Yards: Each group consists of 5-shots except for the Hornady 124-gr. CQ Tap load. I only had 3 rounds of it left from a previous test. It is so marked near the target.
Note that at this distance, the extreme spreads and standard deviations shown in the previous data seems to have little bearing on accuracy. I cannot prove it, but I think the single-most important factor in whether or not a pistol groups as well as it can is whether or not it "likes" a particular bullet's shape, gilding metal content, LOA, etc.
Though the point of aim was the light-colored center of the target for all loads here, the lighter and faster bullets did have a slightly lower point of impact. This is something to remember when choosing a fixed sight pistol. Most have their sights regulated for the standard bullet weights in a given caliber.
I remained amazed that the Taurus/Beretta open slide, dropping block, pistols which have minimal support at the front of the barrel group as well as they do. The vast majority of '92's I've fired from either maker have been surprisingly accurate for field purposes.
25 Yards: One composite group was fired at twenty-five yards and this was done from a rest. Four different loads were used to let you see the differences in POI vs. POA. The aiming point was the light-colored dot in the center of the gray target.
Only the significantly lighter and faster PowRball showed a distinctly lower point of impact for the same aiming point. The other groups overlap. The PowRball load is hitting roughly 2 1/2" low @ 25 yards.
10 Yards: Using the targets I normally do for slow, deliberate accuracy testing at 25 yards, I did some of the "quick & dirty" type shooting favored by many or those more oriented toward the defensive aspects of pistol shooting. I fired one group of controlled pairs starting with the pistol cocked and locked and then one group with the first shot being fired double-action. There seems to be some different definitions of controlled pairs vs. double-taps or "hammers." Here is how they're defined for this report:
Controlled Pair: One flash sight picture for each shot. In other words, sight alignment is as quick as possible and may not be perfect, but the sights are used for each shot.
Double-Tap: One flash sight picture for each set of two shots. This is to say that the sights were used only for the first shot with muscle memory attempting to bring the pistol "on" for the second shot. This is quicker to be sure, but I suggest that it only be used at ranges that are very close.
Other than the one low errant shot for the single-action controlled pairs, that group would have been tighter. Even so, for me the transition from double to single action does not seem as tough as for others. That said, I do prefer a consistent trigger pull from start to finish and greatly prefer single-action automatics while other folks prefer the DAO semiautos
Though quicker, the double-tap is just not as accurate for me. Though not by much, I do consider each of the four hits outside the roughly 5" diameter target to be a miss.
I also tested two rounds in the "scientific water jug testing" which is performed simply by shooting the water jugs, lined up in a row, from about 20.' That distance is chosen so that the "calibrated" water doesn't splash on me so much.
The cartridge and recovered, expanded bullet on the left is Triton's 125-grain Hi Vel +P JHP. Impacting at an average velocity of 1301 ft/sec, the bullet did separate from the jacket and did fragment. I was not able to recover all of the fragmented pieces. Recovered bullet and jacket weighed 108.2 grains and the bullet only measured 0.50 x 0.58." The PMC Starfire 124-grain JHP expanded to 0.57 x 0.61" and the recovered bullet weighed 122.3 grains. For what it's worth, the Triton's impact was more "dramatic" than was the Starfire's. I have tested and shown the consistent results of the new Corbon PowRball in other tests so it was not done again.
Observations: As expected, there were no failures to feed, fire, or eject. This pistol has failed to feed one time since I've owned it and that was with a short, hot 88-grain JHP handload. It fired the other 99 of them with zero problems. It's never failed to function perfectly with any JHP or FMJ round weighing 100-grains or more. I have not tried any of the 147-gr. bullets in it so I cannot say how it handles them.
One thing that begs discussion is a comparison to the Beretta pistol from which it sprang.
Taurus PT-92 vs. Beretta 92FS: Whenever the PT-92 is discussed, the inevitable comparison to the current US military pistol comes up. Which is best? Is the Beretta worth the extra money? What are the differences in the two? These are the normal questions. I'll give you my views, but understand that I am not an aficionado of this design handgun compared to the CZ, Browning, or 1911. These are just my observations.
In terms of fit and finish, the Beretta wins. The Brunitron finish is durable and in my opinion better looking that the blued Taurus. I greatly prefer the frame-mounted thumb safeties on the Taurus to the Beretta's slide-mounted decocking safety. The Beretta has a chrome lined barrel interior which the Taurus does not.
The fixed sights on the Beretta are much easier to pick up at speed than those on the fixed sight Taurus PT-92. The trigger on the Taurus is more curved and to me, more comfortable than that on the Beretta. I prefer the Taurus pistols straight front grip strap rather than the slightly flared one toward the bottom of the Beretta. In actual shooting, I've noted no real difference in performance overall between the two. This could certainly not hold true for each and every example of each gun, but in general such has been the case.
If important to you, the Taurus PT-92 can be carried with the hammer down and the frame-mounted thumb safety in the "on" position such that even a double-action first shot could require disengaging the thumb safety first. Folks concerned about possibly losing control of their pistol in a physical confrontation might consider this a plus. I believe that some models of the Beretta allow the slide-mounted thumb safety to remain down unless physically pushed up to disengaged while others act only as decockers and are spring loaded to return to the "fire" position when released. Is the Beretta the better of the two? Probably, but it may be that the Taurus is "close enough" in certain things to make it a best buy for many. I prefer it to the Beretta Model 92 FS.
It is my understanding that the magazines between the two pistols can be interchanged, but some work has to be done on the magazine catch notches on the magazines. A gunsmith told me that the Beretta magazine release is not interchangeable with the Taurus, but I've never personally compared these parts.
Both the Taurus and the Beretta dispense with the common locking lugs and use a block that drops as the slide retracts to unlock the action. These can crack and should be checked/replaced about every 5000 rounds. At least that is what an ex-army friend of mine has told me and is something I've seen in print as well. This is easily done if necessary and not something to worry about.
The cut-away slide top common to both the Beretta and the Taurus PT-92/99 is said to allow for debris from firing to leave the pistol. It would appear that this also allows the fine sand of the Iraqi desert to enter the pistol and cause problems as well. Unless in such conditions, I don't think reliability is a problem with this type pistol.
I was told yesterday that my local dealer sells the PT-92 in a blue finish for $379.00, not counting tax. This brings to mind another quality pistol in that price range, the CZ-75B. A comparison between the two might be of use to folks interested in a 9mm pistol in this price range.
Taurus PT-92 vs. CZ-75B: The Taurus is wider and larger than the CZ, but is lighter. Both are extremely reliable with practically any JHP or ball round that will be used. The Taurus has an aluminum alloy frame while the CZ is all steel in the full-sized versions. Out of the box, the CZ-75B has better fixed sights in my opinion and is a more comfortable pistol. It uses the John M. Browning locking lug/tilting barrel design rather than that of the dropping block. It is more durable I suspect. Both have frame mounted thumb safeties but you have to go to the CZ-85 to get ambidextrous thumb safeties as come standard on the Taurus. Both have internal firing pin safeties and neither have magazine "safeties." With Pre-Ban magazines both use a 15 round double stack. Magazines will drop freely from the Taurus out of the box while the flat spring magazine brake must be adjusted or replaced on the CZ to get the same thing. There are more aftermarket parts for the CZ than the PT-92. Both pistols offer very good case support. I find the CZ less complex internally than the PT-92 but both have many more parts than do the single-action automatics I'm more accustomed to.
While I like the PT-92/99, I personally think the CZ is the better of the two simply because there are no concerns for replacing the block every 5K rounds, it has better sights, is simply more visually appealing to me, is flatter, and feels more comfortable to me. Others may disagree and even with the above, I truly like and trust my PT-92. This one will stay with me.
Here's another reason why.
It's well known amongst the pistol shooting community that failing to firmly hold a reliable automatic can sometimes result in malfunctions. Holding the pistol without sufficient resistance for the rearward movement of the slide to overcome the recoil spring's tension is sometimes called "limp wristing."
The PT-92 does not appear prone to this at all! I've tried this in the past and today's test continued to show 100% reliability with the PT-92. I used "hot" Triton loads as well as the lightly-loaded PMC Starfires. Holding the gun as loosely as I could without dropping it in recoil, I fired 10 rounds of both types of ammo. The pistol worked fine each and every shot. This will routinely make a perfect running 1911 either fail to fully extract a round or fail to chamber. You have to "work" at it, but it can be done. This might be considered important for a person having diminished strength or physical disability and wanting to use the semiautomatic for defense. Even the weakest grip seems not to affect the feeding or extraction of the PT-92.
Though not necessarily the "best" choice, the PT-92 loaded with the extremely low-recoiling PMC 124-gr. Starfire JHP ammunition might make a viable choice for someone with physical disability or diminished strength. Even with an extremely light hold, the pistol shown was 100% reliable.
If you simply prefer the "M9" look or the open top slide, I think the Taurus PT-92/99 series of 9mm handguns have much to recommend them. They're probably not the vehicle in which to see just how fast the 9mm bullet can be shot and without question are not going to handle nearly so many rounds as a 1911 between "tune ups," but they are fun pistols to shoot and in the vast majority of examples, reliable as can
The Taurus PT-92 is easy to field strip for cleaning. I've shot this one up to about 700 rounds in the past before cleaning. It caused no malfunctions, but cannot be recommended. Keep your pistol, whatever the make, clean between range sessions.
Shooting primarily standard velocity ammunition in mine, I'm not adverse to loading it with the warmer stuff for testing and self-protection. With an extra block in the parts bin just in case, one can shoot these pistols quite a lot and even the already-light 9mm felt recoil is minimal in these pistols.
Though they are not perfect, I do think they're quite decent for many within the shooting community and best buys simply because they almost always work fine right out of the box.
*I received this information and wanted to more accurately relate Imbel's history:
First of all, congrats on the wealth of information on your site. I've spent quite a long time reading through your gun reviews. You certainly are worthy of praise when it comes to knowing your guns.
One thing, however, caught my attention. In the article entitled "A Critical Look at the Taurus PT-92", you start by stating that Imbel stopped producing the 1911 clones in 1973. That info is not quite accurate.
Imbel, which is controlled by the Brazilian army, but only partially owned by it, actually never stopped producing the 1911. In fact, they make one of the most reliable 1911's I know.
The unofficial story is as follows:
In 1973, all the Brazilian armed forces used the 1911 in .45, either made by Imbel or from a special contract with Colt. They then decided to move to the 9x19. Taurus presented a solution that was the PT-92, which had great acceptance between the armed forces. Imbel, in turn, presented a 1911-clone chambered for 9x19. The Imbel M973 was born.
The armed forces were divided. What followed is that both guns were adopted, one of the dumbest moves ever made. Although the original version of the M973 held 7+1 rounds, the current version uses a double-stack magazine (compatible with the Para-Ordnance P18-9 magazine) that holds 19+1 rounds.
Since 1988 95% of the guns (rifles, machine guns and pistols) bought by the Brazilian Armed Forces are from Imbel.
The Imbel 1911, however, continued being produced for the civil and law-enforcement markets, and their line of 1911's have broadened. Today Imbel makes over 20 models of 1911, in .380 ACP, 9mm, .38 Super, .40 and .45. Most of Imbel's production is made for Springfield Armory. In Brazil the demand for Imbel pistols is very high, since they have proved themselves over and over in IPSC competitions. I have 3 of them.
Here are 2 links with more info about Imbel (both have English versions):
.22LR / .380 / .38 SPL / .357 Mag / .40 S&W / .45 ACP
Niner's club #380
Rimfire club #7022
"Hoping for the best... prepared for the worst."