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Your Guide to Choosing The Weapon Above Your Paygrade

by Brady Kirkpatrick

Nobody in the military gets to choose their service issued weapon and as you might know, service issued weapons do have some limitations.

You got to arm yourself for the job you want so why not choose the weapon you deserve? We are going to take a look at some service issued weapons and some of the best upgrades for those weapons.

1. The M1911A1

Photo Credit - M62, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

There’s no hiding the fact that the M1911A1 holds a special place in the hearts of many combat vets. Even recently, U.S. Forces-Afghanistan commander Army Gen. Scott Miller took his 1911 into what was technically a combat zone.

To be fair, there’s a lot to love about this pistol. It’s accurate, comfortable, and has one of the most crisp and light triggers to ever grace a service weapon. John Moses Browning, its creator, obviously took safety seriously with both the thumb and grip safeties requiring active disengagement. And maybe the best part, it’s among the most customization-friendly weapons when it comes to aftermarket parts.

But the old reliable is not all it’s cracked up to be these days. And that’s no surprise, a combat pistol with combat-ready tolerances isn’t exactly designed for hours on the range.

It’s prone to certain malfunctions, and often needs a level of care that’s beyond what you want to put into a handgun. Unless you have experience with 1911s, there’s a learning curve that’s anything but pleasant.

Plus, with so many aftermarket modifications available, it’s easy to run into something that has been cobbled together inexpertly. Such weapons are liable to suffer from seriously impaired performance and it’s hard to tell until you’ve started using one.

To top it off, Colt 1911s are pricey – very pricey. If you’re not prepared to drop over a grand, don’t waste your time.

M1911A1 Handgun

Photo Credit - B4Ctom1 at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

So that leaves you in a tough spot. You may have been issued a 1911, or you may just be a diehard JMB fan who respects the craftsmanship. But you’re also a big believer in owning a quality sidearm that delivers performance every time.

Well, you’re in luck. Because that’s exactly what you’ll get from Rock Island with their 1911.

Made from 4140 Ordnance steel, the Rock Island 1911 A2s are CNC milled and precisely designed for the Armscor 22 TCM cartridges. It’s a standard 1911 platform with a five-inch barrel and a double-stack magazine that fits 17 rounds.

It’s mostly in line with G.I. 1911s but it has a few key upgrades that make it a better fit for the average shooter. For one, it features a beavertail safety cover at the grip.

Some people don’t love the feel of the beavertail. But when you’re sporting a permanent scar from the action cycling and the hammer biting your hand, you’ll learn to appreciate it.

Another great feature is a skeletonized hammer and trigger. The trigger pull on Rock Island’s A2 is consequently excellent.

Additionally, it has high-visibility adjustable sights. Both the front and rear sights are low-profile and anti-snag and easy to customize. Out of the box, you’ll get checkered polymer grips and a parkerized coating.

A lot of little improvements, such as an extended thumb safety, also make it into this model. It all comes together quite nicely to make one of the most approachable 1911s you’ll find on the market in any capacity.

2. Beretta M9
Berettta M9

The Beretta M9 is a legendary weapon, made famous through use in the US military and countless films since its introduction.

In the 1980s, the M9 won a competition to replace the Colt 1911 as the standard sidearm of the US military, surviving testing that included exposure to temperatures from -40˚ to 140˚F, soaking in salt water, repeated dropping onto concrete, and being buried in sand, mud, and snow.

Not only did the M9 surpass all the other competitors, but it also had a MRBF of 35,000 rounds. It officially entered service in 1990, and was the standard sidearm of the US Navy, Army, and the Air Force.

The Upgrade: Beretta 92FS

Photo Credit - Tim Dobbelaere from Ieper, Belgium, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Beretta M9 is known for its accuracy, durability, and reliability, which make it an excellent choice for combat situations all over the world. However, it’s an older model, and the Beretta 92FS offers some key advantages over the aging M9.

The biggest reason to choose the 92FS over the M9 is that the slide on the M9 would sometimes shoot back.

While further testing and research showed that these failures were due to defective ammunition, rather than problems with the weapon, the 92FS has a larger hammer pin to correct this issue and improve safety for the user.

The M9 has a two dot sighting system, while the 92FS has a three dot system. For some, the three dot system improves accuracy and speeds target acquisition, but some do prefer the two dot system.

The Beretta 92FS has an angled dust cover in front of the trigger guard, instead of the flat cover of the M9. The angled dust cover was introduced by Beretta to strengthen the frame of the 96, and they use the same design on the 92FS.

The M9 still has the older, flat dust cover. This difference in the dust cover also affects how well the gun fits into a holster: if you have an existing holster for an M9, you may need a new one for a 92FS, since the angled dust cover may create drag on the draw.

The differences between the M9 and the 92FS are extremely small, because the M9 is such a well-designed weapon for its purpose. The Beretta 92FS represents small improvements that have been developed in the decades since the legendary M9 entered production. These improvements make the newer Beretta 92FS even more accurate, reliable, and durable than its predecessor. 

3. The M4A1

Photo credit - Jackolmos, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The M4A1 is the standard issue firearm for most units in the US military, providing soldiers in close quarters the ability to accurately engage targets at extended range.

It has full auto capability, a consistent trigger pull, and a slightly heavier barrel that withstands heat and maintains accuracy.

It has become a standard infantry rifle in many branches of the military.

The Upgrade: DDM4 M4A1
ddm4 m4a1

The Army has taken ownership of the M4 design, allowing multiple companies to compete in creating upgrades. An excellent choice for an upgrade to the standard M4A1 configuration is the Daniel Defense DDM4 M4A1.

The Daniel Defense M4A1 has a handguard that is CNC machined out of 6061-T6 aluminum with a hard coat anodized finish, along with a gas system machined of 4140 hardened steel with mil-spec heavy phosphate coating.

  • ●Ambi safety selector. This safety selector is designed for both left- and right-handed shooters
  • ●Free-float rail system. Daniel Defense has created a proprietary 4- or 6-bolt attachment system to the upper rail. This allows the rail to free float the barrel, ensuring that barrel harmonics are not affected while the weapon is in operation
  • ●Improved muzzle device. The DDM4 has a permanently attached muzzle device that reduces the flash signature over traditional designs
  • ●Flared magazine well. The magwell of the DDM4 has a widened and beveled shape that funnels magazines into place for the fastest and most secure reloads
  • ●Pistol grip. The pistol grip of the DDM4 has an ergonomic wrist angle, an integrated trigger guard, and a non slip grip for excellent comfort and control in a wide range of conditions
  • ●Buttstock. The buttstock features a nonslip cheek weld, an integral QD point, and interchangeable butt pads. The buttstock and pistol grip are made of polymer with soft touch overmolding for comfort and durability

Daniel Defense products are backed by a 100% satisfaction guarantee against defects in materials and workmanship, so you know you are getting the highest quality, most reliable weapons in the market.

Quality and Performance at a Reasonable Price

If you’re looking for an upgrade that won’t put you on welfare, you can’t go wrong with the Rock Island M1911 A2, Beretta 92FS or the DDM4 M4A1.

Don’t second guess yourself when it comes to arming yourself. Get the gun you deserve.

Written by: Brady Kirkpatrick, Gun Made

Bio - Brady is the owner of GunMade.com. He is from Omaha, Nebraska and has been an avid gun enthusiast and hunter since he moved to the Midwest over 15 years ago. It's his passion to share his knowledge and expertise with new and existing gun owners.