For more information, visit http://www.beretta.com/en-us/px4-storm-full/.
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By necessity, most gun reviews offer a quick look at features and cursory reports on a couple of hundred rounds of shooting over one or two range trips. That’s the nature of the beast when a gun is new on the market, and people want to know about it – quickly. While it’s a necessary thing, you have to admit that’s a little bit like turning the Daytona 500 into the Daytona 3½ to figure out who won a little quicker.
The Beretta PX4 Storm is not a new pistol – it’s been on the market for several years. That and its unusual design features are exactly the reason we’re taking a close look at it now. We’ll talk about the variants in the PX4 Storm family later, but the sample gun shown here is the full-size model, chambered in .40 S&W. As a high-pressure round compared to 9mm and .45 ACP, .40 S&W heaps more abuse on a pistol, especially over time. That’s one of the reasons we thought it would be interesting to review and old “new” gun.
Tour of the Storm
Like the Beretta 92 and M9 standard models, the PX4 Storm is a classic double-action, single-action (DA/SA) pistol. That means for the first shot, the trigger press both cocks the hammer and releases it (two actions), thereby firing the shot. The recoil sequence from the initial shot cocks the hammer while reloading a new fresh cartridge from the magazine, so subsequent shots are single-action. Using my Timney triggers scale, I measured the initial double-action trigger press at 8 ½ pounds on average. The single-action press weight measures 4 ½ pounds.
- Chambering: 9mm, .40 S&W (tested), .45 ACP
- Barrel: 4 inches
- OA Length: 7.6 inches
- Weight: 27.7 ounces
- Grips: Interchangeable backstraps
- Sights: Windage adjustable
- Action: DA/SA
- Finish: Matte black
- Capacity: 17/14/9 +1
- MSRP: $650
The PX4 ships with two magazines. The .40 S&W model holds 14+1 while the 9mm packs 17+1. There’s also a standard full-size model chambered in .45 ACP that holds 9/10. You can order a higher capacity magazine from Beretta. In some of the photos here you’ll see the extended .40 S&W magazine, and I can pack 17 rounds into that for a total of 18 including one in the chamber.
The Storm ships with three backstraps to adjust grip size to shooter preference. They’re easy to change without tools. Just remove a “u-shaped” wire from the bottom of the magazine well and the panel snaps off.
Overall length is 7.6 inches and height is 5.51 inches. Width comes in at 1.42 inches, so it’s not the narrowest pistol out there, at least by the numbers. However, specs can be deceiving. While 1.42 represents the maximum width, the majority of the pistol is well under 1.2 inches wide. It’s only the corners of the decocking levers and slide lock lever that extend past 1.4 inches. The unloaded weight is 27.7 ounces. Just for reference, a Glock 22 .40 S&W weighs in at 25.59 ounces. MSRP of the .40 S&W full-size PX4 Storm you see here is $650.
There are four action types available in for most PX4 Storm models. The “F” type is the traditional double-action/single-action. It features and spurred hammer and a combination decocker / safety lever. In addition to safely decocking the hammer, this lever disconnects the trigger so it operates freely without engaging. The “G” model is very similar to the “F” and only varies in that the decocker lever does not double as a safety – it decocks the hammer only. The “D” model is a pure double-action with no decocker or safety, and there’s no spur on the hammer. Last, but not least, is the “C” constant-action model, also with a spurless hammer and no decocker or safety.
The PX4 Storm has a slightly different takedown procedure than the Beretta 92 models. While the 92 and M9 pistols using a swing lever to release the slide, barrel and recoil spring from the frame, the Storm relies on a pair of small spring-loaded levers on both sides just forward of the trigger area. Regardless of the cocked or uncocked status of the gun, simply pull both levers down and the slide, barrel, recoil spring, and the central lug will slide off the front of the frame. The levers are inset and the need to use both ensures that this operation isn’t going to happen accidentally.
Once the slide assembly is removed, you can lift the captive recoil spring and central block away from the barrel. There is virtually no spring pressure holding those components in place and nothing is going to go flying across the room. For cleaning, you can slide the central block off the still captive spring if you like. Once the spring is removed, the barrel will drop out of the bottom of the slide. The entire hammer and mainspring assembly is modular and can be removed as a single unit.
One of the standout features of the Beretta PX4 Storm is the rotary action short recoil system. Like most other 9mm and up centerfire pistols, it uses a short recoil system that temporarily locks the slide and barrel together for a hot second during recoil, allowing the pressure to drop to manageable levels. After a fraction of an inch of rearward travel together, the slide and barrel separate, allowing extraction of the cartridge, recocking, and chambering of a new one. The PX4 just goes about that locking and unlocking process in a very different way with the rotary system.
While the PX4 features the same type of rotary barrel system as the Model 8000 Cougar pistols, it retains the fire control assembly of the Beretta 92 / M9 models. Part of the design goal was to make a more compact pistol that retained some of the benefits of the 92 and M9 design.
In theory, the rotary movement during recoil does three things. It’s intended to reduce felt recoil to the shooter as energy is bled off via rotation rather than straight back at the shooter as with the tilt breech system. As the barrel can be mounted lower to the frame, the design can also reduce muzzle flip. Also, the rotary system is intended to increase accuracy as barrel movement is linear with a more consistently repeatable lockup. Last, the design is inherently strong.
If you insert a full magazine while the slide is open, you’ll notice that the top cartridge rides high, almost right in line with the chamber. This is why the PX4 Storm requires such a minimal feed ramp. All you’ll notice is a small polished ramp on the bottom edge of the chamber, so the cartridge is fully supported – there is no need to cut into the chamber wall for feed ramp real estate.
The Beretta PX4 Storm was one of the first mainstream pistols to jump cross the chasm from blocky, industrial look and feel to ergonomic elegance. In fact, Beretta retained Italian design firm Giugiaro to help with the ergonomic part of the design process. As a side note, that firm, well known for spiffy automobile concepts, also helped design the space-age Beretta Neos rimfire pistol. Anyway, the result of this partnership was a gun that functions reliably, but that is also pleasant to handle. The grip contours are rounded with texture in all the right places. The slide has subtle yet effective front and rear cocking serrations. The top of the slide tapers towards the center approximating a pyramid shape, presumably to reduce weight and facilitate concealed carry. It’s not only a beautiful pistol, it’s exceptionally comfortable to shoot, which means it’s easy to handle during rapid fire strings.
If I had to pick one gripe about the PX4, it’s the profile of the frame mounted safety and decocking levers. They’re on the sharp side. That’s unusual because the rest of the pistol is so beautifully and ergonomically shaped. The decocking levers don’t impact shooting, but you will feel them when vigorously racking the slide, especially when using an overhand grip to do so. You can convert the standard “F” model to a “G” model which eliminates the safety function of the decocking lever. That makes the “G” model a double-action / single-action system with a decocking only lever – just like a standard Sig Sauer P226 or P229. As the lever is no longer a critical part of every draw and fire scenario, it doesn’t have to be as pronounced. It’s a low profile (much flatter) design. Most people who have used this configuration observe that the “sharp surface” gotcha basically goes away.
Shooting Up A Storm
As I’ve had this particular PX4 for years, there’re not many varieties of ammo I haven’t shot through it. As a reloader, I’ve cooked up 140-grain lead flat point loads chugging along at just over 900 feet per second. In addition to lead, I’ve fired soft plated and jacketed rounds at both low and high for weight velocities. I’ve run more than a dozen types of factory practice and self-defense ammo through it. So far, the round count is somewhere between 2,000 and 3,000. I’m still waiting on my first gun part failure or breakage, and I’m still running all of the original factory springs. I figure I’ll swap those out in another couple thousand rounds or so.
I did do some semi-formal accuracy testing, shooting five-shot groups from 25 yards. I set the pistol up on a rest weighed down with a 25-pound bag of lead shot, so my platform was stable enough for government work.
|Ammo||Average five-shot group diameter|
|Winchester Train 180-grain||1.85”|
|Winchester PDX1 165-grain||4.2” **|
|Winchester Defend 180-grain||2.12”|
|Hornady Critical Duty 175-grain||3.36” **|
|Barnes TAC-XPD 140-grain||1.96”|
** Recently, I installed XS Big Dot sights on this particular PX4 Storm. As the sight picture is more coarse (by design), I didn’t expect to get exceptionally small groups as the front sight covered the target circle at that distance. I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to get three to four-inch groups using that sighting option.
The Barnes load was particularly well suited to this handgun. Felt recoil was a fraction of that of the other loads owing to the light, all copper bullet. Not surprisingly, muzzle flip was a fraction too and follow up shots were quick and easy. I’ve always felt that the Storm is a very comfortable gun to shoot, even in the snappier .40 S&W caliber variety, but the Barnes load made it feel like a 9mm. Accuracy also was stellar, with two-inch groups being the norm at 25 yards. Using the XS Big Dot Sight configuration, the Barnes load literally shot right through the center of the dot at 25 yards. And I mean right through it, with no detectable lateral of vertical shift.
There are three categories of PX4 variants: size, action-type, and, for lack of a better word, cosmetic.
While we’ve looked the PX4 Storm Full model, there are three other models with different form factors. The PX4 Storm Compact shaves ¾ inches from barrel length, almost an inch in overall length, and a half-inch in height. The PX4 Storm Subcompact takes barrel length all the way down to three inches. However, the subcompact model doesn’t use the rotary barrel system of all other PX4 models. It operates with a traditional tilt breech recoil system, presumably due to challenges of implementing the rotary system in the small package. The last size variant is the PX4 Storm SD (Special Duty) Tactical Pistol. Offered in .45 ACP, this pistol was developed as a contender for the Joint Combat Pistol program. The barrel extends about a half-inch outside of the slide and technically be threaded, although there are challenges to adding a suppressor with a standard thread mount. The rotation of the barrel will either loosen from the silencer or overtighten it depending on the threading orientation.
On the cosmetic side, you’ll find the PX4 Storm Deluxe. Instead of the traditional black Bruniton finish on the steel components, they’re a polished gold color. To each his own, I suppose. The PX4 Storm Inox sports a stainless steel slide that complements the traditional black frame. Now that’s a look I can appreciate.
I’ve been shooting this particular PX4 Storm – a lot – for several years now. Unlike a normal new gun review scenario, I’ve had the opportunity to put thousands of rounds of punishing .40 S&W ammo through it – everything from pussycat hand loads for practice and plinking to full power self-defense rounds. It’s handled all bullet weights from 155 to 180-grain and a variety of full metal jacket and hollow-point profiles without complaint.
As noted earlier, my only minor gripe with the PX4 is the edges on the decocking levers. I’m going to swap the existing “F” models out and replace them with the low-profile “G” versions, thereby changing this particular gun to a double-action, single-action with decocking only functionality.
If I were to buy again, I’d probably opt for the 9mm version of the PX4 Storm. While the .40 S&W version is surprisingly controllable due to the focus on ergonomic features, the 9mm adds three rounds that’ll produce even less recoil and muzzle flip.