With pretty much every concealed carrier and law enforcement agency switching to polymer, striker-fired pistols for every-day use (save for those 1911 holdouts), it’s getting pretty touch for gunmakers to design the pistols so that they stand out a bit from the rest, without sacrificing nay functionality.
Even the U.S. Army has made the switch, selecting the striker-fired SIG Sauer P320 to replace the Beretta M9 as Big Green’s new sidearm, after a lengthy trial. This choice seems to have bolstered the market even more.
While the P320 was the Army’s ultimate choice, there were plenty of other offerings from gunmakers around the world. Some companies submitted brand new designs while others tweaked existing models to more closely meet the Army’s requirements of its new handgun. This year, those runner-up guns have been making their way under the glass of gun shop counters.
One of the companies that entered the trial with a brand new handgun was Beretta, with its APX Striker semi-automatic 9mm / .40S&W pistol. The gun was certainly in the works before the Army competition began, after the Army turned away from the updated M9A3, but the APX was ready in time for the trials and met the requirements .
Whereas the M9 was limited to the frame and slide it was designed with, making it forever a full-size pistol, the APX follows the P320’s design model of having a polymer chassis that holds a modular component that includes the trigger and action called the fire-control group, which is the only serialized part that considered a “gun.” Whether or not this design was an original idea from SIG or Beretta will be left up to the courts, it seems.
Regardless, the chassis design means APX owners can buy different frame colors and sizes as well as different slides and barrels to create subcompact, compact, and full-sized versions of the pistol just by moving around the fire-control group, with no additional paperwork, 4473 forms, or transfers.
Currently, the APX is offered in 9mm and .40 S&W with identical specs for each, other than magazine capacity (the APX holds 17 rounds in 9mm and 15 rounds in .40 S&W), however, only full-size frames are available at the moment. As it is a striker pistol, it fires in Double-Action only with a trigger safety, like a Glock, which is somewhat a departure for Beretta, who has a tradition of producing DA/SA semi-auto pistols, like the PX4 Storm line of handguns and carbines and of course the FS/M9 line.
It’s obvious Beretta was trying to make the APX stand out visually, and they succeeded. Nobody will be mistaking the prominent, sort of boxy slide serrations with that of an M&P or a Glock, and the entire pistol’s body of rounded curves and edges make the gun feel decidedly futuristic, especially in the hand.
The gun is lightweight at 28.24 ounces unloaded—comparable to other pistols in its class, and it feels nicely balanced and quite comfortable.
The polymer frame—currently available in black, OD green, Wolf Grey, and Flat Dark Earth (MSRP $50 each)—is contoured nicely with a trigger guard that is squared off in front but offers a curved recess near the grip for a better purchase. The grip itself is somewhat unusual, in that it’s angled more acutely than a 1911, more like a stock Glock grip angle, pushing the trigger finger forward a bit.
At the bottom, the magwell flares a bit, and when the magazine is inserted, it meets with the base and forms a fairly significant recurved pinky hook that helps with stability and recoil control when shooting.
Otherwise, it’s set up like a typical striker gun with an emphasis on carry. It has an ambidextrous, low profile slide catch and a button magazine release that can be reversed for right or left-handed use.
At The Range
The grip angle wasn’t an issue for me once the gun got to the firing line, and with the largest grip panel option (there are three, but we’ll get to that later), my grip was perfectly stable and comfortable through several hundred rounds of shooting. The texturing is less aggressive than the new M&P 2.0, but not so light that you don’t know it’s there—but some shooters might prefer a little more bite.
The “finger grooves” are also a tad confusing. They’re so understated that they might as well not be there, so you kind of wonder why they are. In the hand they feel like a series of textured indents in the frame instead of protruding non-finger-grooves, which only seem to serve the aesthetic purpose of matching the gun’s unique slide serrations.
And on those serrations, while they appear extremely pronounces, they really aren’t when you get the gun in your hands, and the edges on each protrusion are rounded and smooth so they don’t catch in a holster or on clothing. The end result is a purchase on the slide that’s about the same as what’s offered by the serrations on most modern handguns, though the APX can be gripped reliably anywhere along the slide’s length, for what it’s worth.
In the coming months, Beretta will be offering more options for frame sizes, but for right now, it’s just the full-sized frames, each of which comes with three interchangeable backstraps. A word of warning though, they’re harder to change out than you think. In fact, the first time I attempted to change the grip size at the range, I wasn’t able to do it, because I couldn’t figure out how to take the darn gun apart, even with the manual handy.
And that brings us to the biggest shortcoming of the APX.
Beretta didn’t send any additional frames along with my test gun, so I didn’t have the opportunity to move the fire control module around, but apparently, it’s a process, especially when compared to the P320. The video below gives you an excellent step-by-step guide to complete the task. You’re going to need some tools, a punch, and possibly a third hand.
A regular ol’ disassembly of the APX—which is required to change the backstrap as well as to clean the gun, of course—is one of those processes that might have you flinging tools across the room and questioning your most recent life choices the first time you try it. But, after you figure out exactly what each of your hands has to do to accomplish the awkward task, it gets a lot easier, and even fluid.
First, remove the magazine and make sure the gun is unloaded.
Second, rack the slide so that the pistol is cocked and the sear is engaged.
Third, with your left hand, pull the slide back just a but and depress the sear deactivation button, which is a small detented button just above the grip. You’re going to need a punch or a small screwdriver or some other gizmo to do this. This step deactivates the sear and takes the place of pulling the trigger like you would when disassembling a Glock. (if you think you can skip this step by simply not cocking the gun or by pulling the trigger to decock it, you’d be wrong.)
Fourth, once you hear and feel the sear deactivate, keep tension on the slide with you left hand. Then, use your right thumb to push the takedown lever on the right side of the frame until it protrudes from the left side of the frame.
Fifth, rotate the takedown lever 90 degrees so it’s pointing down. This should release the slide and allow it to slide free of the frame. The barrel and recoil spring can then be removed from the slide for cleaning.
As you can see in the video below, once the process is repeated a few times, and the recoil spring gets broken in a little bit, the task gets easier—but the fact remains that you need a separate tool to take the gun apart. The APX isn’t the only modern pistol on the market that works this way. The M&P requires some kind of thin implement to lift a small lever inside the magwell via the open chamber—however, this tool is included with the gun and is stored in the grip of the M&P so you have it at all times (if you don’t lose it). The APX doesn’t offer any such convenience.
Functionality and Accuracy
The APX functioned flawlessly through over 500 rounds of ammunition of various types and weights, eating everything I fed it with greedy abandon—no failures to feed, no jams, and no chambering issues.
Even when intentionally slow-racking the slide on a fresh magazine, the APX never failed to strip off a new round and go into battery.
It’s clear from the design and feel that the gun was meant to be rugged, to be put through the punishment of every-day use and carry, and that exactly how it performed when it comes to endurance.
An interesting note, the barrel and action were also remarkably clean for the number of rounds the gun saw, while the frame seemed to pick up the most fouling. I used a couple boxes of the new clean-shooting Syntech ammo from American Eagle, but the gun should have been dirtier for the number of duty rounds it fired.
The 4.25” barrel provided solid accuracy at handgun-engagement ranges. Three-inch rapid-fire groups at 15 yards were the order of the day and those shrank to under 2 inches with precision fire.
The stock three-dot white sights on the APX are combat sights, and therefore pretty lousy when it comes to pinpoint accuracy, as the front dot is rather large and not suited for fine aiming. But Beretta has some aftermarket sight options available now, including tritium night sights, so there are alternate options and surely more will be made by third-parties soon.
During the range test, the APX was more accurate with the heavier rounds than the lighter stuff. Something that was surprising to me: the different sized backstraps made a huge difference for me as far as accuracy was concerned. With the smaller grips, the gun felt unstable and a little sloppy. With the large grip, the gun’s entire character changed for me and my groups shrank by almost an inch. For me, at least, it seemed the grip size on the APX mattered more than on any other polymer gun I’ve shot.
The following is a list of the ammo I put through the APX over three range sessions and a variety of drills:
Speer Gold Dot G2 147grain JHP law enforcement duty ammo (second-best groups @15 yards)
Federal Premium personal Defense Low Recoil – 135-grain Hydra-Shok JHP
American Eagle 115-grain FMJ
Federal Premium Personal Defense 150-Grain HST JHP Micro (best groups @15 yards)
American Eagle Syntech Range Ammunition 115-grain TSJ (Total Synthetic Jacket)
Federal Guard Dog 105-Grain Full Metal Jacket “non-hollow-point”
The APX trigger was also a bit of a sticking point, if you will.
While there is very little creep to the DA-only trigger, the break isn’t exactly crisp, feeling a little soft and indistinct. Additionally, the stock trigger, which has a lever trigger safety in the middle like a Glock, will feel quite wide to shooters used to other pistols and revolvers, but will feel pretty natural to stock Glock shooters. It broke at an average of 5.75 pounds. I found it a little difficult to nail down in just a few range sessions, and it’s probably the first thing I would look to change if I owned this gun, with the sights soon to follow.
The Beretta APX is a fine pistol that is ruggedly constructed of premium-quality components that does what it says it will do. It wasn’t the least bit finicky about ammo (the pricey stuff or the bargain rounds) and stayed remarkably clean after 500 rounds, which is important for a gun that’s supposed to stand up to combat conditions and the rigors of law enforcement use.
The ergonomics are comfortable once you find the right backstrap size, and the uniquely designed slide is a nice change from other designs on the market and are quite functional. If you can get past the takedown procedure and, barring a high-volume torture test, it seems the APX will make a fine carry or duty gun for many years to come.
Beretta APX Striker Specifications
Barrel Length: 4.5 inches
Magazine: 17 rounds (15 in .40 S&W)
Overall Length: 7.55 inches
Overall Width: 1.3 inches
Sight Radius: 6.29 inches
Weight (unloaded): 28.21 ounces