Beretta has a long history of building fine semi-auto handguns, going back through both world wars. The company itself has been around basically since the advent of firearms. It began producing early gun barrels for the Arsenal of Venice in way back in 1526. Just to put that in context, that same year the Spanish ship Santiago reached the Pacific coast of Mexico, which was the first time anyone had ever navigated from Europe to the west coast of North America. Later that year, the first complete printed translation of the New Testament of the Bible into English arrived in England from Germany after being printed in Worms. Bartolomeo Beretta, who founded the company, his son Jacomo and his grandson Giovannino all became master gun barrel makers, and the company continues to manufacture guns to this day, making it the oldest firearms manufacturer in the world, as well as one of the oldest corporations. Beretta didn’t get into the handgun business for almost 390 years until it produced the Model 1915 in its titular year. By the end of WWII, Beretta was making 4,000 Model 1915 pistols a month. For the next few decades, Beretta was mostly known in the handgun world for the 1915 and for its compact “European” style pistols—until 1975, when it introduced the now iconic Beretta Model 92 in 9mm, which went on to become the most widely used semi-auto pistol by law enforcement agencies and militaries around the world.
The Model 92 hit the U.S. market in 1977, and in April, 1985 the Model 92 beat out the legendary M1911 and became the new standard sidearm of the U.S. military as the M9 and remained so for about 30 years until it was recently replaced by the SIG Sauer P320/M17.
While the Model 92 and its variants were state of the art in the late 1970s, a new century and a new millennium demanded something more up to date.
A More Modern Handgun
The Px4 Storm was released by Beretta in 2004. It was designed for law enforcement and personal defense use with lines and edges that are soft and angled making the gun a natural for concealed carry and easier to get in and out of a holster.
The Px4 uses the same short recoil, rotating barrel action as the company’s 8000 models, while it uses the same trigger and safety system as the Model 92 pistols, though the gun itself isn’t really comparable to either.
Making it fully modern, the Px4’s frame is constructed of a lightweight polymer with steel inserts, a modular trigger group, and a Picatinny accessory rail, plus swappable backstraps for a more custom sized grip. The trigger guard is rounded for easier holstering and carrying.
And, in a change for Beretta, the Px4 abandons previous designs and includes a slide that fully encloses the barrel.
Joint Combat Pistol Program
In late 2005, a U.S. military venture called the Joint Combat Pistol program was begun under the supervision of USSOCOM with the goal of choosing a Special Operations Forces Combat Pistol, which was required to be chambered in .45 ACP with an integrated accessory rail, day/night sights, and the ability to accept a suppressor.
Like many studies and programs that had the goal of finding a firearm for the military, the JCP program was scaled back and eventually abandoned, but that doesn’t mean guns were designed or tweaked for submission. Among those were:
- Fabrique Nationale FNP45-USG
- Glock 21SF
- Heckler & Koch HK45C
- Para-Ordnance LDA 1911
- Ruger P345
- SIG P220 Combat
- Smith & Wesson M&P 45
- Springfield Armory XD HS-45
- Taurus PT 24/7 OSS
And Beretta, not to be outdone, submitted an updated version of their Px4 Storm dubbed the Px4 Storm Special Duty Type F.
The materials and PVD coating were modified to insure superior weather resistance and the typically 9mm gun was scaled up and chambered in the requisite .45 ACP. (The regular Px4 Storm is also available in .45 ACP.)
The new variant include the Px4’s versatility with a number of interchangeable parts, including the backstrap, the magazine release button, the slide catch and the hammer unit mechanism. The mag release can be mounted on either side and can be replaced by one of three difference sizes. The standard slide lock lever can can also be replaced with a slimmer version to avoid any snags.
The Px4 is available in four “types,” the Type F being the variant with the most controls:
- Type C – so-called single-action only – this variant has a spurless hammer, no decocker, and no manual safety.
- Type D – Double-Action only, spurless hammer, no decocker, no manual safety.
- Type F – Single / Double action with a decocker and manual safety.
- Type G – Single/ Double action with a decocker and no manual safety.
Like the other guns in the line, the Px4 SD Type F has a rotating barrel system that dissipates momentum radially, which translates to less felt recoil and muzzle flip than similarly weighted .45 pistols.
To meet the requirement of being able to attach a suppressor, the SD Type F has a 4.5″ barrel instead of the normal full-sized 4″ barrel on other Px4 Storm pistols. Beretta says this “allows the power of the .45 to fully develop before exiting the muzzle.” It IS closer to the barrel length of a full sized 1911, for which the 230-grain .45 ACP was developed, but the extended barrel is really there to take threads and attach a suppressor—but currently, the gun is not available with a threaded barrel, which is somewhat odd.
Other features that set the Px4 SD Type F apart from other Storm models are:
- Desert tan polymer frame
- PVD-coated magazines
- Upgraded internal firing control assembly
- Double recoil spring
- Specially roll marked slide
The simple fact is, the .45 ACP is going to feel a bit hot in most polymer pistols, especially if you’re used to the recoil absorption of a full sized steel framed gun like a 1911. There’s going to be recoil and muzzle flip, period.
Despite the rotating barrel design, the Px4 Storm still kicks a little bit, but its certainly manageable, especially once you get used to it.
The trigger is excellent. The full and appropriately heavy (about 10 lbs.) double-action pull is smooth, yet you can still stage it if you so choose. The single-action pull is comparable to some of the better factory 1911 triggers out there with a short reset, allowing for accurate and rapid fire. The trigger itself is a bit narrow, or at least it’ll feel that way if your trigger finger is used to a Glock or a VP9.
Though the grip is a bit large to accommodate the fat .45 magazine, between three different sized magazine releases and three different backstraps, it can be adjusted to fit most hand sizes.
There were zero function issues with the pistol and it ate a variety of ammunition, from 230-grain Speer Lawman and Federal Premium Personal Defense HST ammo as well as lighter 165-grain Federal personal Defense Hydra-Shok Low Recoil cartridges. I also ran a good quantity of plain ol American Eagle 230-grain FMJ ball ammo, and about 200 rounds of 230-grain Federal Syntech Range ammo through the gun, the latter of which produced the best groups of the day.
Fit, Finish, and Feel
The slide is easy enough to operate and the components are well fit with extremely tight tolerances. There is no rattle in this gun, no shake. The overall fit and finish are superb, as you’d expect from Beretta, adding to the pistol’s excellent feel.
Functionally, the gun is a beast. It ate six different types of .45 ammunition with rounded, flat, and hollowpoint bullets of various weights from a handful of manufacturers, including some cheap FMJ ball ammo—and didn’t burp once.
As with all handguns I’m testing, I tried to intentionally limp wrist it, shot it with one noodle-like arm, and shot it from a few unconventional positions. I experienced no jams and no failures to feed, regardless of ammunition.
When it came to accuracy, that took me a little bit longer to figure out, but I got there eventually. I’m used to handguns with a bit lower of a bore axis and a grip that lets me choke up on the gun a bit. The Px4 felt a bit top heavy at first, even with a fully loaded 10-round magazine.
I was hitting consistently low and left at 20 yards for the first few magazines, but a little adjustment to my grip and trigger finger position fixed that and got me closer to center, eventually producing 3 inch groups off hand at that range with ease.
The controls make reloads smooth and easy, and the coating on the magazines (the gun comes with two 10-rounders and one 9-rounder) ensures they fall free, even when dirty. The slide lock lever is large enough to be used as a release for faster reloads, but the slide can also be slingshotted with no problem. In fact, when the safety is in the “fire” position, it actually acts a little like the wings on a VP9 and lets you get a little extra purchase on the slide (a bit more on that safety in a second).
To that end: the slide can feel a bit narrow and the surface a little too smooth sometimes, especially for the considerable recoil spring weight, though that might lighten up after some extended breaking in. Even though the spring is heavy, the rotating barrel design makes press checks easy, but some more aggressive serrations on the slide would be welcome, especially considering what Beretta did with the slide on the APX pistol.
If you like a DA/SA pistol with an exposed hammer, or you’re used to 1911s, this gun will at once feel familiar and comfortable—save for the safety.
All Px4 Storm pistols feature a slide-mounted safety lever much like those on the Model 92 / M9 pistols, which can easily throw any shooter used to a more conventional manual safety lever.
To disengage the safety, you don’t so much flip the small lever up as push it forward.
Additionally, on the Type F, the safety lever also decocks the gun, dropping the hammer safely whenever the lever is moved to the “safe” position. This means that you cannot carry the handgun cocked-and-locked like a 1911 because it cannot be cocked and on “safe” at the same time.
For a bit more explanation on how to properly operate this type of Beretta safety, check out our tutorial here.
It’s not a deal-breaker, but it’s definitely something to be aware and something to get used to if you’re considering buying any Px4 Storm.
If you’re looking for a DA/SA .45 ACP polymer pistol with a external hammer and manual safety, you’d be hard pressed to find a higher quality pistol than the Beretta Px4 SD Type F. It performs flawlessly, has a decent capacity for the caliber with a 10-round extended mag and a 9-round flush-fitting magazine, and has every feature you could want on a modern handgun.
Like I said, it suffers a bit compared to steel framed guns in the recoil department, but makes up for it in saved weight and weather resistance. If you can get past the Beretta manual safety, this pistol is an excellent choice for home defense and with its smooth lines and flush magazine, it can certainly work for concealed carry as well, if you’re good with carrying a full-sized handgun.
I kept it as a “bedside” gun attached to my bedframe with a magnet for several months, frequently using it to conduct home defense drills with a Crimson Trace CMR-208 Rail Master Tactical Light attached to the accessory rail. It was a fantastic setup for home defense and one I would happily make permanent.
|Action:||Single / Double|
|Magazine:||9 rounds (flush fit), 10 rounds|
|Weight:||28.6 oz. (unloaded)|
Video by Jeffrey Rife