February 15, 2023
By James Tarr
Just announced, as I write this for the 2022 Guns & Ammo Pistol special issue, is Beretta’s update of the APX. The new model is the APX A1, and you definitely won’t confuse it with the original. The APX is a polymer-framed, striker-fired 9mm pistol.
The original pistol was eminently reliable but suffered from what people in the industry like to call “polarizing looks.” That’s a polite way of saying some people thought the pistol looked ugly, and the unique slide of the pistol was at some point labeled in the industry as “tactical Toblerone” for its resemblance to the triangular chocolate bar — perhaps not the comparison you’re wanting for a duty/defensive handgun.
The APX A1 sports a slide with far more traditional lines and a number of other changes and upgrades: the sum of everything Beretta learned in the five years since the original APX was introduced. Let’s dive in.
This is a full-size, “duty-size” pistol with a 4.25-inch cold-hammer-forged barrel and a magazine capacity of 17 rounds. It is 7.5 inches long, 5.6 inches high, and weighs 29 ounces with an empty magazine in place, which means it fits right in with its competitors in both size and weight. The original APX was available in .40 S&W, but that ship has sailed. This pistol is only planned to be offered in 9mm.
The A1 is fed by the same magazines as the original APX. The pistol ships with two 17-round magazines, which have blued steel bodies and numbered index holes on the back. Beretta does sell extended 21-round magazines for the APX, and there will be versions for sale with restricted 15- and 10-round magazines for certain states.
Beretta designed the original APX with the U.S. Military’s Modular Handgun System requirements in mind. Instead of a serialized frame, the serial number is etched into a steel chassis inside the polymer grip module. Beretta sells various color replacement grip frames for the APX, and I’d be surprised if they didn’t do the same with the A1.
Beretta is the oldest firearms company in the world. They tend not to go off half-cocked, and so by the time they felt the APX was ready for sale, it had been in development for four years with over 1 million rounds fired through test guns. Internally, the A1 is nearly identical to the original as the Beretta engineers didn’t feel they needed to mess with a good thing. Instead, most of the changes are external.
The APX A1 is optics-ready and ships with a steel slide cover. The A1’s slide takes standard APX mounting plates, which are readily available, but you’ll have to order those separately as none are provided with the pistol. The provided sights on the A1 are very functional and businesslike; the rear sight is plain black and serrated. The front sight has a tritium insert surrounded by a white ring for both day and night use. The sights use standard 92X/M9A3 dovetails.
On the original APX, the ladder-like serrations ran the whole length of the slide and protruded aggressively. While I liked the way they worked, I never really cared for their looks, and I wasn’t alone in this. Holster fitment was also an issue. With the A1, Beretta went with more traditional, angled, flat-bottomed serrations front and rear, which provide a very aggressive gripping surface. The A1, reportedly, will fit into holsters made for the original APX.
The finish on the original APX was nitride. With this pistol, Beretta is using their new Aquatech Shield finish, which is a spray-on coating designed to improve corrosion and chemical resistance and developed to meet Navy requirements.
Inside the slide, the only place you’ll see a difference is in the springs — the striker spring is lighter, helping to reduce the trigger pull weight. And Beretta replaced the dual recoil spring setup on the original gun with a simpler, single flat wire recoil spring. Beretta does plan to offer an extended threaded barrel for the APX A1.
On the frame, Beretta removed the shallow finger grooves and improved the checkering on the front of the frame; I think it’s the sharpest polymer checkering I’ve ever felt. The front of the triggerguard is now serrated. The undercut below the triggerguard goes up a bit higher. There is texturing on the frame above the triggerguard (on both sides) for your support-hand thumb. The beavertail at the rear of the frame sticks out a bit more to prevent slide bite. The rail on the front of the frame is a MIL-STD-1913 Picatinny rail for attaching lights, etc.
The APX has interchangeable backstraps, and the standard three — S, M, L — are included. The backstraps wrap around to include the grip panels on either side. The Small and Medium backstraps are close in size. The Large adds extra material under the web of the hand. I prefer Medium backstraps on almost all my guns, and my experience with the APX was the same as many of the writers who first got hands on the gun — the APX Medium was a bit too small, but the Large backstrap was perfect.
Swapping out the backstraps isn’t as easy as you’ll find on some pistols, but to me, this really isn’t a negative. How often would anyone need to do this in the real world? Once you find the size that properly fits your hand, you’re done
The reversible magazine release is metal and checkered. It is teardrop-shaped specifically so users don’t have to shift their grip on the gun to reach it. The ambidextrous slide stop is also designed as an ambidextrous slide release that’s large enough to work like you would the slide release on a 1911. The magazine base pad is wide enough so that you have a gripping surface if, for some reason, you need to strip a magazine out by hand.
The A1’s trigger pull is listed at 6 to 6.5 pounds, which is officially about the same as the original APX. However, the trigger pull on the original gun was often heavier than advertised, with a harsh break. Unofficially, the Beretta engineers took half a kilogram off the trigger pull for the A1 (that’s 1.1 pounds to you Americans) and improved the break. The trigger pull on my sample was 6 pounds with a nice break somewhere between crisp and rolling. The trigger radius has been changed slightly, although I doubt you’ll notice unless you put the A1 next to an original APX (which the Beretta people in-house are now referring to as the A0). The trigger has a nearly flat face that breaks at about 90 degrees, with the standard safety lever in the center.
Beretta’s promotional materials say the APX A1 offers a “best in class” trigger pull. There is no set definition for “best,” so best is whatever you say it is. However, in my opinion, any semiauto trigger pull over 4.5 pounds is automatically too heavy to qualify for the best anything.
Any trigger pull over 5 pounds tends to degrade your accuracy, no matter your skill level. However, Beretta has a long history of going after military and law enforcement contracts around the world (Beretta just landed a Brazilian military contract with the APX), and properly light and crisp triggers are a bug, not a feature, when your end users haven’t learned how to keep their fingers off the trigger. That said, the trigger pull of the APX A1 is definitely an improvement over the original.
In many ways, Beretta’s remodel of the APX reminds me of Walther’s recent rework of the PPQ into the PDP. Internally, the PPQ and PDP are identical; Walther just modernized the exterior: a new slide profile making it optics ready, changing the sights, grip profile, and texturing. That is what we have here almost exactly, except Beretta also improved the trigger pull of the APX and went with a simpler recoil spring assembly.
While I never cared for the PPQ’s looks, a lot of people did, and so it didn’t really have any aesthetic issues to overcome. The original APX, on the other hand, needed a facelift, because as a rule, people rarely buy guns they consider ugly, and those uber-aggressive slide serrations were a love-it-or-hate-it proposition, with most people landing in the hate-it camp. The slide on the APX A1 offers a more traditional appearance while providing the same performance.
Beretta doesn’t do anything halfway. When they rolled out the original APX, they invited a number of writers to a two-day tactical course in Virginia where 15 writers put nearly 5,000 rounds through eight pistols. We shot them on a square range in daylight. We shot them at night one-handed using flashlights and with rail-mounted Steiner IR modules while wearing night vision goggles. We also used them in a shoot house.
For the debut of the APX A1, Beretta invited writers down to the highly regarded Royal Range in Nashville, where Beretta-sponsored pro shooter J.J. Racaza helped us wring out the pistols through familiarization drills and some friendly competition. The pistols were all wearing Burris or Steiner optics, which helped keep our group sizes down when shooting out to 15 yards. While I’m not generally a proponent of optics on duty or “fighting” pistols, they are what’s popular now and do help you keep your group sizes down when shooting for accuracy.
The original APX was distinctive. The APX A1 doesn’t stand out from the crowd so much, but that’s the point: a more traditional appearance while providing better performance in a pistol made by the oldest firearms company on the planet. Beretta will have holsters available for the APX A1 before you’re reading this, with aftermarket holster companies offering various models shortly.
You have to love competition. The original APX, when debuted in 2017, had an MSRP of $575. The APX A1 has an MSRP of $529, which means you’ll likely be seeing it on sale for under $500.
APX A1 Specifications
- Type: Striker-fired semiauto
- Cartridge: 9mm Luger
- Capacity: 17+1 rds.
- Barrel: 4.25 in.
- Overall Length: 7.5 in.
- Overall Height: 5.6 in.
- Width: 1.2 in.
- Frame: Polymer, interchangeable backstraps
- Slide: Steel
- Barrel: Steel
- Sights: Steel, day/night front, notch rear
- Trigger Pull: 6.0 to 6.5 lbs. (6.0 lbs. as tested)
- Safety: Trigger lever, firing pin block
- Weight (empty): 28.8 oz. with empty magazine inserted
- Accessories: Two 17-rd. magazines
- MSRP: $529
- Manufacturer: Beretta; beretta.com