June 10, 2022
Most new companies are lucky to last five years. Beretta has survived for five centuries, which is a remarkable feat indeed. Over the course of the company’s history, the Beretta family has seen the advent of breech-loading guns, repeaters, smokeless powder and much more. And through it all, Beretta has managed to remain on the leading edge of firearm innovation for 500 years. Today, the company is as strong as ever, but Beretta faces new challenges. The large and growing concealed-carry market has prompted all gun makers to develop lightweight, compact, polymer-frame semiauto handguns for personal defense. Beretta has been making pocket pistols for decades, and its latest personal defense handgun, the APX Carry, competed well with other guns on the market and was attractively priced.
Read Brad Fitzpatrick's review of the Beretta APX Carry 9mm here.
But since the APX Carry launched a few years ago, the handgun world has embraced carry guns with optics. For the APX to succeed it would have to come optics-ready, and Beretta understood that, so now the company is offering the APX A1 Carry: a semiauto 9mm handgun that’s cut for mounting optics. Though Beretta is an Italian brand, the APX A1 Carry is manufactured stateside at the company’s Gallatin, Tennessee, facility. This 9mm has a modular frame that at the widest point on the grip measures less than an inch. The slide, too, measures under an inch, and with a three-inch barrel, and an overall height of 4.2 inches without optic and a length of just 5.6 inches, the 19-ounce Beretta is one of the easiest guns on the market to conceal.
It’s smaller than Ruger’s EC9s, which measures 4.5 inches and six inches overall, and Springfield’s XD Defend Your Legacy three-inch pistol, which is 4.75 inches tall and has an overall length of 6.25 inches. At 19.3 ounces, as weighed on a postal scale, the Beretta is heavier than the Ruger but lighter than the Springfield. Neither the Ruger nor the Springfield pistol is optics-ready, although both brands do offer 9mm carry pistols that are cut for red-dot sights.
The Apex A1 Carry comes with a serialized chassis that can be removed from the polymer frame. There are four different polymer frame colors—flat dark earth, OD green, Wolf Grey and black—so you can swap out colors if you’d like without purchasing a new gun. Despite its small size, the Beretta’s grip is still comfortable to shoot. There’s mild, modern-looking texturing on the surface of the sides of the grip and more aggressive texturing on the frontstrap and backstrap. That’s sensible because a pistol’s axis of movement under recoil is almost exclusively vertical. The Apex A1 Carry also has a low bore axis that helps further mitigate muzzle rise. Beretta didn’t opt to include an accessory rail on this gun, and I understand why. While some manufacturers feel the need to add every gadget to each gun, the folks at Beretta understand that only a handful of buyers will want to add a light or laser to a subcompact gun—especially one that’s cut for a red-dot sight. The trigger guard is oversize for the APX A1 Carry’s small dimensions, so there’s never an issue accessing the trigger when wearing gloves.
One of the upgrades this gun receives is an improved trigger. The original APX Carry is a fine gun, but there was little question that the trigger could be improved. While the APX A1 Carry’s new pistol isn’t single-action light, it has been smoothed out and is more manageable. Break weight averaged just over six pounds for 10 trigger pulls, which is suitable for a self-defense pistol at close range. There’s a fixed trigger stop molded into the frame, and a deep undercut on the base of the trigger guard allows for an improved grip on the gun.
The APX A1 Carry’s rear sight is dovetailed into the cover plate, so when the plate is removed the sight goes with it. That means there’s no co-witnessing with the gun’s iron sights. When the cover plate is removed there are two tapped holes for mounting a base plate and another opening through which the firing pin block spring protrudes. When removing the cover plate, take care not to lose the spring; it is small and could easily be damaged or disappear underfoot. Beretta doesn’t include any base plates with the gun, but the company promises it will ship the buyer a plate upon warranty registration. It seems to me it would be easier to offer the plates for sale on the website, and that may happen in the future.
I didn’t have a plate for mounting an optic but with a bit of ingenuity while rifling through my spare firearms components and some fabricating, I managed to securely mount a Springfield Hex Dragonfly. Of course, you don’t have to mount an optic. The notch rear and white-dot post front sight work fine, even though there’s nothing particularly fancy about them and competing pistols do offer better irons. Interestingly, the front sight is dovetailed into the front of the slide and not transversely as is the case with most pistols. The front sight can be removed and replaced to adjust the point of impact. The front of the rear sight has a flat front surface for one-handed cycling, and the rounded design doesn’t hang up when drawn.
The sides of the slides are beveled, including a substantial cutout at the rear of the slide opening. A large, aggressive extractor is nestled into that slide opening cutout. I don’t know whether someone in Beretta’s engineering department really despises weak extractors or what, but the Beretta takes a big bite on the rim of the cartridge, and it will pull stubborn cases from the chamber. The original APX Carry came with bold, vertical slide serrations that looked like nothing seen on competing brands. That original serration pattern was fine, but Beretta has opted for a look that blends in with the crowd a bit more. The front and rear slide serrations are angled, and they do make it easy to manipulate the slide.
The Beretta’s controls are basic but functional. There’s a reversible oval magazine release button and a slide stop large enough and pronounced enough that most shooters can manipulate it even during stress. There’s been a move toward itty-bitty slide stops, and while I understand the concept—a smaller control doesn’t dig into the body when the gun is carried and is less likely to hang-up when drawing—I’ve never understood the value of adding a control that’s virtually impossible to operate. The Beretta’s slide stop isn’t 1911 big, but it’s more accessible than many competing guns.
The other primary control is the takedown lever. Disassembly doesn’t take any special tools, but Beretta recommends using a ballpoint pen to press the striker deactivation button on the right rear portion of the frame and then rotating the takedown lever and removing the slide assembly. You can pull the trigger on an unloaded pistol instead of pressing the striker deactivation button, but having the ability to disassemble the gun without pulling the trigger is nice.
One six-round and one eight-round metal magazine are included. The eight-round magazine comes with an extension that is dimpled on either side so it can be pulled manually from the pistol’s frame. The six-round magazine comes with a pinky extension as well as a flush-fit cover.
With a suggested retail price of $449, the Beretta is affordably priced and competitive in this market. That’s about $50 more than Springfield’s XD Defend Your Legacy and over $100 more than Ruger’s EC9s, although the Beretta offers a slide that’s cut for optics. Ruger’s Max-9 ($559) and Springfield’s Hellcat OSP ($599) cost more, but these guns feature stack-and-a-half bottleneck magazines that up capacity to 12 or 13 rounds, respectively, of 9mm ammo. Once I managed to securely mount an optic on the Beretta, I test-fired the gun with five different defensive and target loads. My initial takeaway is that recoil is not particularly bad from this sub-20-ounce 9mm. The pistol doesn’t come with interchangeable backstraps, so what you see is what you get, but the grip angle allows the gun to rest naturally in the hand. The low bore axis helps make this gun easy to shoot, too.
From 15 yards off the bench, my best five-shot group measured 1.73 inches with the Springfield red dot. Once the test was complete, I fired a few five-shot groups with the iron sights and found they averaged from three to four inches from the bench at the same distance. The short barrel didn’t seem to hamper either accuracy or muzzle velocity significantly. Reliability was good. One shell casing bounced back into the action and gummed up the works, but I’m certain that was a result of a deflection off the sight. Otherwise, there were two other malfunctions—a stovepipe and a failure for the slide to lock open—in well over 100 rounds of shooting. That’s above-average reliability based on my experience with new subcompact pistols. The redesigned trigger doesn’t lead the class, but it’s functional and has a very smooth take-up.
What this Beretta does extremely well is disappear on your hip. This gun is easy to conceal under light summer clothing. I’m a trail runner and am always looking for lightweight, durable pistols that are tough enough to survive daily exposure to perspiration and the elements yet light enough not to be a burden. The Beretta fits that bill perfectly. The real question, though, is how the APX A1 Carry will stand up against the stack-and-a-half pistols. For example, SIG and Springfield guns hold more ammo, but that does add a bit more weight to the gun when loaded.
Beretta has a loyal fan base and 500 years in the industry to back up its decision-making, and there’s no question that the APX A1 Carry is a reliable, easy-to-carry pistol. There has never been a more crowded firearms segment than today’s concealed-carry market, but the APX A1 Carry has the pedigree to succeed. Now, will we see an APX with a higher magazine capacity? Time will tell.
Beretta APX A1 Carry Specs
- Type: striker-fired semiauto
- Caliber: 9mm Luger
- Capacity: 6-, 8-round magazines supplied
- Barrel: 3 in.
- OAL/Height/Width: 5.6/4.2/0.9 in.
- Weight: 19.3 oz.
- Grips: Polymer
- Finish: matte black nitrocarburized
- Trigger: 6.4 lbs. (tested)
- Sights: square notch rear, post white dot front; slide cut for optics
- MSRP: $449
- Manufacturer: Beretta USA, beretta.com/en-us/