Will The Unique Attributes Of This Latest Entry
In The Polymer-Pistol Sweepstakes Sway Buyers?
By Massad Ayoob
Photos: Gail Pepin
Beretta first entered the polymer pistol market with their rotary-breech Px4, a traditional double-action (TDA), hammer-fired pistol adaptable to double-action only. Unfortunately, the Px4 lacked the panache of its famous sibling, the 92, and came out at a time when the training world was focusing on the KISS Principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid) and TDA pistols were going out of style. As a result, the reliable little Px4 did not become a sales winner.
The Px4 is, however, going through a current resurgence of popularity, largely due to the efforts of Beretta maestro Ernest Langdon. In any case, Beretta—the world’s oldest manufacturer of anything, let alone firearms—has entered the striker-fired polymer parade. Behold the APX.
The APX shares the general blocky silhouette of the GLOCK and its competitors, but its most striking visual departure from the rest of the pack is its approach to slide grasping grooves. These run completely from front to back. The raised segments are a little over 0.10-inch high, protruding from slide flats roughly 0.40-inch apart, with an open space left on both sides of the slide in the region of the ejection port. The rationale of this is to give the support hand traction in emergency operations during the worst conditions of inclement weather and stress, where a shaky, wet hand might hit the wrong part of the slide when clearing a dud round or completing a slide-lock reload. The slide of the APX is wider than on a 9mm GLOCK, more like a .45 caliber GLOCK 21 when you measure all the way across to the protuberances forming the grasping grooves.
Another unique feature is a plunger on the slide rises as the trigger is brought back and falls back into the slide when the shot is fired. Erik Stern, Associate Product Manager at Beretta’s Pro Shop, explained the reasons for this feature on a pistol forum, saying, “Tradition mostly. We’ve done it for most duty size pistols since the 92SB (8000 Series, PX4) and it has advantages. It allows for a consistent and thorough function check in the field with minimal tools. The FPB popping up lets the user confirm all safety features are properly functioning. This is something I’ve not 100-percent bought into, but there are folks who state the presence of the hole in the slide permits more thorough cleaning with forced air and solvent. It allows for one to have a built in “gadget”-type device by holding their thumb over the FPB to ensure the trigger is not being pulled during holstering. With a 92/8000/PX4, it’s not very useful in this regard since those are hammer guns, but with the Nano and APX it is as if they are striker guns. If you feel it rising during holstering, you know the trigger is being snagged by something.” Stern attributes a lot of the above insight to a Beretta Forum user who goes by “arcfide.”
Another feature of the APX I like very much is striations molded into the frame above the triggerguard, where the trigger finger can feel a proper point of register when it is drawn but it’s not yet time to fire. It is one more safety net, a concept I first saw in the Taurus 24/7 with a depression for the trigger finger in the same place. Nicely done, Beretta!
Groups went way low at 25 yards from the bench, using post-in-notch sight picture. When a 3-dot
alignment sight picture was used, it raised point of impact.
For accuracy tests, Mas ran the APX off a Caldwell Matrix pistol rest at 25 yards with 115-,
124-, and 147-grain ammo.
The trigger of the APX is definitely GLOCK-ish, right down to the safety lever. The major difference from the shooter’s end is the flat face of the trigger. Depending on taste and habituation, some love it and some don’t. It’s highly subjective. With the smallest of the grip options in place and the barrel straight in line with the long bones of the forearm, my average-size adult male hand found the whorl of the index finger’s fingerprint perfectly centered on the face of the APX’s trigger.
Using the handy Lyman digital trigger pull gauge I got from Brownells, I weighed the trigger from both center and toe. At the center, where the finger is most likely to be positioned, pull weight averaged 6.935 pounds. Pull weight measurements are often taken from the bottom portion of the trigger—the toe—and the greater leverage given at this point reduced the APX’s pull weight by 1.21 pounds, to an average of 5.725 pounds. This is not out of line for SFA (striker-fired action) duty pistols. No one can credibly sustain a false allegation of “negligent discharge due to hair trigger” with this APX, in my opinion.
Why would such an allegation be made at all? Because for unscrupulous, politically motivated prosecutors, it’s hard to establish the element of malice necessary for a murder conviction, but much easier to establish the key ingredients for a manslaughter conviction which are recklessness or negligence. Why would a plaintiff bringing a lawsuit make such an allegation? Because an intentional shooting does not get into the deep pockets of your homeowner liability insurer if you blast a home invader, since virtually all such policies exempt payment for the deliberate “willful tort,” but they can get into those deep pockets with an allegation of negligence.
Take-up is a little shorter than on a GLOCK before your finger meets the firm resistance some call “the wall,” and the roll through the wall itself seems a bit longer. In the slowest of slow fire you can feel some parts’ friction, but not the herky-jerky resistance most of us describe as “creep.” The faster you shoot, the less likely you are to feel anything but a clean release. Once the shot breaks, you can feel a bit of backlash, or continued movement to the rear of the triggerguard’s window after the trigger’s resistance ceases, but none of the testers felt it impaired their shooting with the APX.
Beretta’s Erik Stern advises, “We ship these pistols coated in preservative. Removing the chassis after purchase to clean the preservative out and lightly oil the fire control will significantly improve the trigger feel, as will a few hundred cycles for break in.”
Having always appreciated the high accuracy standard of stock Beretta 92’s, I had high hopes for the APX when I took it to the concrete bench at the 25-yard line and put it on a Caldwell Matrix rest. Each 5-shot group was measured once overall for an idea of how it would perform for a veteran shooter when solidly held in a state of calm, and again for the best three of those hits, a measurement the decades have taught me will discard enough human error to give an excellent approximation of what the same pistol and ammo will do with all 5 from a machine rest. I used three different brands of ammo, in the three most popular 9mm bullet weights.
For 147-grain subsonic I used Winchester WinClean, the most accurate “low-lead” training round I’ve yet used. The 5-shot group was a disappointing 4.05 inches, but the best three were in a little more than half that, 2.10 inches. All measurements were center to center between the farthest flung bullet holes in question, to the nearest 0.05 inch.
For 124-grain I chose SIG’s accurate V-Crown jacketed hollowpoint, and the APX liked this better. The 5 shots went into exactly 2.50 inches and again the tightest trio clustered just over half that, 1.55 inches.
The 115-grain I selected is one always proven accurate in my several Beretta 92 pistols in Federal’s 9BP, a classic cup-and-core 115-grain JHP. From the APX they delivered the second best 5-shot cluster, 3.20 inches, but the best of the “best three” was 0.9 inch.
When not behind the camera, petite Gail Pepin found the APX easy to control..
APX came quickly back on target for Mas even in 1-hand rapid fire, as evidenced by position
of spent casings (circled).
Mas was able to shoot a “clean qual” with the APX. Any 300 out of 300 score is good to go!
How To Sight
I was using a post in notch (PIN) sight picture, dead-center on Birchwood Casey Shoot-N-C bull’s-eyes as aiming points and all my groups went way low: almost 5 inches for the 115 grain, 4 inches for the 124, and almost that for the 147 grain. The big, blocky APX 3-dot sights come quickly to the eye (fiber optic and tritium night-sight options are available from Shop Beretta). I learned a long time ago since the dots are set lower than the top edge of the sight we aim with for precision, if you “drive the dots” and align them with the front dot on the spot where you want to hit, your group will come upward. This turned out to be the ticket, and using the dots instead of the silhouetted sight picture, I was able to hit point of aim/point of impact at 25 yards. Windage was fine out of the box with either sight picture.
The holsters I had ordered for the APX (available from Beretta) had not come in by the time my deadline was approaching, so I reached out to friend and colleague Paul Carlson of Safety Solutions Academy. He had worn his APX in a Raven Concealment outside the belt holster while teaching, and found it about the same for comfort and concealment as packing a GLOCK 17. He had noted no issues with sharp edges or snagging on clothing.
During a class taught by Massad Ayoob and sponsored by Safety Solutions Academy, almost all
of these folks got to shoot the APX and most liked it.
The APX shot this group (above) from 25 yards with SIG V-Crown 124-grain ammo, although the post-in-notch
sight picture placed the group low when aimed at the upper bull. Shooting Federal 9BP 115-grain JHP at 25
yards gave Mas this fine group (below) with the Beretta APX. Note the “double.”
Shooting the APX
Lacking a holster, the best I could test for handling was to shoot a qualification course from low ready with the APX. At 4 yards non-dominant hand only, the pistol produced a pleasing cluster; ditto dominant hand only. At 7 yards, 6-reload-6 two-handed brought round count up to 24, all in a smaller than fist-size group. At 10 yards, 18 shots from high and low kneeling saw the group open a bit, and the final timed 18 from the 15-yard line saw me push one to starboard, right to the inside edge of the center zone, with the group clustering lower. I suspect I forgot to go with the “drive the dots” sight picture instead of post-in-notch at this point.
I finished with 300 out of 300 points. Throughout I had been impressed with the APX’s very smooth reloads and how good the pistol felt in my hand. The sights came right back to the point of aim every time, speaking well of the APX’s pointability. Not the best group I had ever shot over this course, but 300 out of 300 is certainly satisfactory.
I get the idea of the grasping grooves all the way up and down the slide. In practice, though, I found them a little sharp and rough on the hands, and wouldn’t want to spend a whole hour doing malfunction drills with the APX without a glove on my support hand. I’ve also never been thrilled with any design encouraging the shooter to grasp the slide close to the pistol’s business end. I have known two very capable shooters who blew fingers off their hands working their slides from the front.
I particularly appreciate how Beretta molded horizontal grooves in the frame above the triggerguard to give you a palpable place to put your trigger finger “in register” when the gun is drawn but it is not yet time to fire. I like the ambidextrous slide stop lever, though I wish its edges weren’t quite as sharp. Southpaws will appreciate the reversible magazine release. The APX is more “lefty friendly” than most pistols.
I like the seemingly extraneous plunger atop the slide. It’s no distraction to the shooter, being blocked from the aiming eye by the right side of the rear sight, but as an instructor it lets me monitor the movement path of the shooter’s trigger finger, which is hard to see watching just the hand on a short-stroke SFA trigger. It’s sort of like watching the cylinder when the student shoots a revolver double action.
Reliability? From Florida to Ohio I watched more than a dozen shooters running the Beretta APX with hundreds of rounds of all sorts of 9mm ammo, and didn’t see a single malfunction. In 9mm, the steel-body magazines hold 17 rounds, drop free and insert cleanly. Even when filled all the way up they inserted easily and locked in place positively with the slide forward.
At $575, the APX is right in the ballpark of the polymer service-size pistol market. So is its 17+1 round 9mm capacity. It’s hard to shoot the APX and not like it.
Maker: Beretta USA
17601 Beretta Dr.
Accokeek, MD 20607
Type: Striker-fired, semi auto
Caliber: 9mm (tested), .40 S&W
Barrel length: 4.25 inches
Overall length: 7.55 inches
Weight: 28.24 ounces (unloaded)
Finish: Black, Sights: 3-dot
Grips: Polymer, with interchangeable backstraps
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