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M1911 vs. M9 Beretta

Updated on January 14, 2015

History of the M9 Beretta

Following contested trials in the 1970s, the M9 Beretta was selected from an assortment of handgun designs to replace the M1911 as the standard-issue firearm of the U.S. military, barely beating out the Sig P226 largely due to cost. Factors for the decision include the age of the M1911 design and compliance with the NATO standard, which is 9mm Luger.

History of the M1911

Designed by John Browning, the M1911 was developed as a potential replacement for the various revolvers employed by the U.S. military in the late 1800's. After subsequent trials by the military, the M1911 beat out five other designs and became the standard U.S. sidearm, officially designated Model 1911.

Springfield M1911 and Beretta M9
Springfield M1911 and Beretta M9


M9 Beretta
Weight (Unloaded)
2.44 lbs
2.09 lbs
Weight (Loaded)
3 lbs
2.56 lbs
.45 ACP
9x19 Parabellum
7-round magazine
15-round magazine
Approx. 8.25 inches
Approx. 8.5 inches

9mm Luger

Manufactured by DWM in 1902 for use in the Luger semi-automatic, the 9x19 parabellum round is the most widely used military pistol cartridge in the world. Designed by Georg Luger, this round was adopted by the German army in 1906. The name "parabellum" is derived from the motto of DWM, "si vis pacem, para bellum", which translates from Latin as "If you want peace, prepare for war."

.45 ACP Round

Developed in 1904 by John Browning for use in the prototype pistol that would become the M1911, it was made specifically as a combat round. It is accurate, low-velocity, and extremely damaging to human targets. Even it's full metal jacket variant causes a large wound cavity thanks to it's diameter, though it is ineffective against body armor and comparatively large, heavy, and expensive to manufacture.

.45 ACP JHP and 9mm Luger JHP
.45 ACP JHP and 9mm Luger JHP

Practicality of the M9 Beretta

The major benefit of the M9 over the M1911 is magazine capacity. It's double-stack box magazine holds 15 rounds versus the 7 held by the M1911. It is a more ergonomic design with better overall balance, which results in tighter overall accuracy, though this point is arguable depending on the shooter. It is also slightly lighter than the 1911 and uses a lower-weight cartridge. The grip is wider than that of the M1911, however, making it less effective as a concealed weapon and more difficult to handle if the user has smaller hands.

Practicality of the M1911

The use of a relatively low-pressure cartridge tends to lead to increased service life in the M1911, and the steel frame is more durable than the alloy frame of the M9. It requires less maintenance and is also less prone to difficulties related to debris and dirt, as well. The slimmer grip (thanks to the single-stack magazine) tends to make the 1911 more friendly to users with smaller hands, however the M1911 has a magazine capacity of only 7 rounds.

Driving a nail with the M1911

Practicality of the .45 ACP

The .45 ACP round is quite accurate and comparatively more damaging than the 9mm Luger, with more controlled penetration. Even in it's full metal jacket version, the potential permanent wound cavity is quite large, leading to extreme effectiveness against human targets.

However, it is a relatively large round, and the associated reduction in magazine capacity and increase in weight are among the most common complaints about the cartridge itself.

Your Opinion

In general, M1911 or M9?

See results

Practicality of the 9mm Luger

The 9mm Luger is characterized by it's flat trajectory and high penetration. It's hollow point variant has proven effective against unarmored topics in law enforcement applications, though the Hague Conventions do not allow the use of expanding ammunition in warfare. Still, it remains in use as the official NATO handgun cartridge.

The 9mm Luger is a relatively small round in comparison to the .45 ACP, allowing for larger magazine capacities and less overall carry weight. It is also significantly cheaper to manufacture due to reduced cost in materials.

Author's Note:

I'm going to address a few points as expeditiously as possible:

  1. No safety glasses, I know.
  2. Variants exist for both pistols and both cartridges, I stuck with mil-spec for the most part.
  3. I know this topic tends to result in arguments, so please keep it clean in the comments.
  4. I'll kick off said argument. I own version of both and yes I prefer the M1911.

I hope you enjoyed reading, and as always feel free to track me down on Facebook, or visit my home page for more information on firearms that no one can agree on.


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    • JG11Bravo profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      Good call on both, really. Yet it's one of those truly prolific arguments in the firearms world.

    • ronbergeron profile image

      Ron Bergeron 

      5 years ago from Massachusetts, US

      I really love the classic 1911 .45, but it's hard to argue with the 15 round magazines of the M9 (or its civilian version, the Beretta 92FS). Personally, I find them both to be too big for concealed carry, but I'd be happy with either one as a sidearm.

    • JG11Bravo profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      I'm glad you enjoyed it. I know that if you search for the title, all you wind up with is arguments on message boards between the two sides, so I thought I'd put the relevant information in one place.

      My bias toward the M1911 is purely a matter of personal preference. I own and shoot both, and I tend to be a bit less tight with the M9.

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 

      5 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      This is such an informative hub. I love the classic 1911, but I still prefer the M9. I really don't know why. But I must agree that the single stack mags are easier to grip. This makes them more comfortable to use.


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