December 27, 2017
By James Tarr
One of the worst-kept secrets in the firearms world in the past few years has been the Beretta APX. Word of it leaked more than two years ago, along with photos. This full-size, polymer-frame, striker-fired pistol was aimed at the international military and law enforcement market, and the No. 1 question American consumers had was, "When can I buy one?" The answer is, "Now."
Beretta is the oldest firearms company in the world- more than 500 years old, although it can find records going back only 490 years- and established firms tend not to go off half-cocked. By the time Beretta felt the APX was ready for sale, the gun had been in development for four years, with more than 1 million rounds fired through test guns. During the development process, Beretta surveyed more than 500 military, law enforcement and everyday shooters, and it used their input to improve the pistol.
This is a big, duty-size pistol with a 4.25-inch barrel. The barrel is cold-hammer-forged and features polygonal rifling. The APX is available in 9mm and .40 S&W, and in 9mm it sports a capacity of 17+1 rounds. Overall, it is 7.56 inches long by 5.6 inches tall, and it is 1.3 inches wide. The pistol weighs 28 ounces empty, which puts it in familiar territory for striker-fired pistols. It is supplied with two magazines.
The APX is certainly far from the first polymer-frame, striker-fired pistol on the market, and you can put only so much company personality into that envelope. As a result, the gun looks a bit like some other offerings on the market, but the serrations on the slide make the APX stand out in a crowd. More on those in a moment.
Beretta designed this pistol 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. What would be the frame in most pistols is simply the frame housing. At the media event where the U.S. pistols were rolled out, Beretta showed off housings in several colors, including flat dark earth, olive drab and gray. I'm told that initially only black pistols will be available, but colored frame housings will be offered for sale from the Beretta Pro Shop immediately.
The frame housing is, according to Beretta, constructed of "fiberglass reinforced technopolymer." (I didn't think technopolymer was a real word, but the internet tells me it is.) The frame housing features a standard Picatinny rail for mounting lights and/or lasers.
The APX has interchangeable small, medium and large backstraps, and these wrap around to include the grip panels on either side, which means they're a perfect target for do-it-yourself stippling- if nothing less than the most aggressive grip texture possible will do, that is. The factory grip checkering is pretty aggressive, and that combined with small finger grooves kept the pistol from moving in my hand once I had the correct backstrap size installed.
The small and medium backstraps are closest 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 at the event where Beretta introduced it. I don't have big hands, but I found the medium to be a bit too small and the large just right. I wouldn't be surprised if demand for a larger-than-large backstrap motivates Beretta to offer one.
Swapping out the backstraps isn't as easy as you'll find on some pistols, but to me this isn't a negative. How often would anyone need to do this in the real world? Once you find the size that fits your hand, you're done.
When considering the APX, keep in mind Beretta designed this pistol from the ground up to be a serious law enforcement, military, "shooting bad guys in the face" pistol (and that's an actual quote from one of the company's law enforcement consultants). There is nothing delicate about it. Beretta's APX-specific website for this pistol is WinTheFight.com, which should tell you Beretta intends the APX to be a fighting tool.
The sights are steel and have three big white dots on them. No plastic sights, no fiber-optic rods that could break. The rear sight has a forward edge so you can rack the slide on a hard surface if necessary.
If you're using a pistol to defend yourself, you're probably at inside-the-room distances, so the big front sight of the APX will work just fine. But at 0.145 inch, according to my calipers, it is pretty darn wide- too wide for my tastes when I was shooting at six-inch circles at more than 20 yards. However, Beretta paired it with a really wide, 0.16-inch rear notch, so you get a lot of daylight around the front sight.
The trigger pull is spec'd at six pounds, which is heavy enough to shoot accurately at defensive distances while not being so light that minimally trained recruits who can't keep their fingers off the triggers will send errant rounds downrange. While six pounds is heavier than I prefer, it meets the unofficial modern standard for a "duty" trigger. The trigger on my sample gun measured 6.5 pounds.
The trigger finger lever is not as curved as you'll see with some pistols; it meets my finger at a nearly 90-degree angle, which I really like. The trigger itself is a bit wider than average, with a nearly flat face. It sports the ubiquitous safety lever in the middle.
The break is relatively crisp, and reset is short and tactile. The crispness of the trigger helped overcome a weight that's heavier than I like, especially when it came time to do some one-handed shooting and accuracy work.
The reversible magazine release is metal and checkered. It has a teardrop shape so shooters 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, and it's large enough to work like you would the slide release on a 1911. The magazine base pad is wide enough to provide a gripping surface if for some reason you need to strip a magazine out by hand.
The APX is easily identifiable due to the ladder-like serrations along the entire length of the slide. The indented areas of the serrations are 11mm wide, and they're 1.5mm deep at the top. The raised ridges have aggressive edges for gripping.
At first I didn't like the looks of the APX slide. I'm a fan of forward slide serrations, but Beretta kinda went overboard. Then I shot the pistol.
I still don't care for its looks, but after shooting the APX, I love the functionality of the slide serrations, which was exactly the point. The APX was designed as a functional, tactical tool. You'll be able to cycle this slide even if your hands are slick with sweat or blood. After running the gun for two days straight, the serrations were almost a little too aggressive for my keyboard commando hands, which means they're damn near perfect for most people.
Grip angle on the APX is close to what you'll find on a 1911. The trigger guard is undercut to get the shooter's hand as high as possible on the pistol. The top of the slide is flat, which I feel aids in pointability.
Military and law enforcement buyers prefer pistols that don't require the trigger to be pulled for disassembly. Toward that end, on the right side of the APX you'll spot a small, indented button. Push it with the tip of a pen or some other tool prior to disassembly to decock the striker. Pulling the trigger also works for those users who are confident their gun is unloaded before they begin disassembly.
If you've ever fired a Beretta 92 or M9, you'll have noticed a piece of steel rising from the top of the slide as you pull the trigger. This is the firing pin block being moved up and out of the way by the movement of the trigger. You'll see the same with the APX, although the firing pin block is smaller and round. That might make it a bit problematic mounting a small red dot sight on the slide.
During the media event, 15 shooters fired nearly 5,000 rounds through eight APX 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 experienced a total of eight malfunctions, seven of which were failures to feed when shooters tried to slingshot the slide by hand on a fully loaded magazine rather than using the slide release.
This happened to me once, and I suspect that with the aggressive slide serrations wearing on my cold hands I just didn't retract the slide far enough. The only other malfunction was a double feed that might have been the result of a bad magazine.
My sample gun proved no different than the guns we used at the Beretta event. Reliability was 100 percent; I didn't make the same mistake of being too gentle when cycling the slide. Between the accuracy testing and just having fun at the range, I put about 200 rounds through the APX, repeatedly running a plate rack and practicing my transition drills on paper targets. Regular Handguns readers know I'm a fan of full-size 9mms, and the APX didn't disappoint. I did find the trigger a bit on the heavy side, but I'm a spoiled gun writer.
With most ammo the pistol was hitting about three inches low at 25 yards, which was essentially what we experienced with the guns at the media event. But that, as they say, is "minute of bad guy."
Beretta is pushing the APX as a duty gun for law enforcement, but the gun has no track record with the law enforcement community. In my opinion, Beretta needs to establish the APX as a commercial success before it will be able to sell it successfully to law enforcement as a duty weapon.
That said, I think American consumers will make the APX a success. The APX not only is solid performer but also is competitively priced at $575. Then you're more than likely to see it in the holsters of law enforcement officers around the country.