Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Beretta PX4 Storm First Dance Review

The wife was feeling generous this Christmas and allowed me to purchase the Beretta that I have been wanting for... forever. You can see me mention it in this post, this post, AND this post.
I got the standard "F" type of the PX4 Storm in .45, because... Well because I wanted to take it home right away, and not bother with special ordering the "C" type.

Type F has an external safety and a hammer. It shoots Double Action/Single Action.

Type C has no external safety and no hammer. It shoots Double Action Only (yeah Beretta has a fancy name for it, and it isn't a true DAO, but for all intents and purposes, there is a long trigger pull associated with DAO pistols. Get over yourself...)

The biggest differences between the F and C types is that with the F type, you have a big trigger pull on the first shot, then a short trigger pull on subsequent shots. The C type has the same trigger pull no mater what. With the F type you need to physically move the safety lever in to the "shoot" position before you can fire. The C type is ready to rock and roll as soon as you rack the slide. Your index finger is your safety.
The C type is designed in the less is better school of thought that in a self defense situation you want as few things as possible for your fine motor skills to do. So things like cocking a pistol or switching to "fire" are simple one more thing that you have to do before you can get your gun in to the fight. Therefore, it is one more thing that can go wrong. But, my wife was more comfortable with the external safety, and I wanted the gun right away, so we went with the F type. The F type did incorporate the 92F's integrated safety and de-cocker, so there are no extra leavers on the side of the pistol. That is a nice addition.

If you have ever fired the Beretta 92F, not the Military M9 variant, you know the pleasure of the smooth Beretta action. This pistol is all about smooth. When you buy a pistol from Beretta, and it has been made in Italy at Brescia, you know you are getting a product that has 500 years of tradition and pride behind it. Everything that is on that pistol has been made at the Beretta factory, specifically for that firearms line. They forge their own steel, hammer forge their own barrels, mill their own blocks, and they bake their own ceramic. Nearly every part of the pistol is created in a high tech automated environment where precision is the name of the game. It is then assembled by individuals who have been working for Beretta for generations. The pistol shoots like you are challenging all of that tradition and talent.

The biggest feature that separates the PX4 Storm from the other full size pistols out there is the innovative and unique way it addresses recoil. In a traditional Browning pistol action, like the 92F or Glock or 1911, the pistol uses the recoil of the round to push the slide back, eject the spent casing, and load a new round. To load this new round, the barrel is moved slightly upward to receive the new round from the magazine. Take a look at this video and note how the barrel back moves down and the muzzle is moved up:

What this barrel movement tends to do is flip the muzzle upward. The bigger and more powerful the bullet, the more pronounced the muzzle flip. The problem that most people have with a .45 is that the muzzle flip is so pronounced it discourages them from firing it. This is one of the reasons that the military has moved away from the .45, non-shooters have a much more positive experience shooting the smaller, weaker 9mm round. So, what do you do if you want the muzzle flip of the 9mm in a .45? Beretta went WAY outside the box and developed a rotating barrel lock. What this design does is instead of rocking the barrel upwards, they rotate the barrel about a quarter turn. What this does is it drives the recoil straight back in to the arm of the shooter rather than flip it up in to the sky. So, when shooting the PX4 Storm, the recoil is much more manageable, and is much more comfortable to shoot than the standard Browning short recoil operation pistol.

Note how the barrel does not move from the horizontal in this illustration. Check out the videos on this page for cut away videos.

Getting back to my shooting experience...
I wanted to make sure I was getting a good approximation with the different actions, so I brought my Glock 30, 200 rounds of target ammo, and 80 rounds of self defense ammo. The target ammo was Winchester's standard FMJ, 230 grain .45 target load. I went a little nuts with the self defense stuff, so I had my standard Glaeser Pow'R'Ball 165 grain +P hollow points, Winchester's 230 grain Bonded PDX1, and, because I fell for the marketing name, Hornady's 186 grain Zombie Max.

I loaded up the two pistols and fired away. The ammo performed about the same, except I could really tell when I had just shot a PDX1 round. The heavier bullet under the +P pressure gave it a distinctive recoil. I was pleased when I found that all of the ammo that I threw at the Beretta and the Glock fed through with no problems at all. They both went BOOM every squeeze of the trigger. Despite all of the marketing and hype, you are still shooting a .45. The recoil is heavy. What I did notice is that my wrist did not break upwards nearly as much as it did with the Glock. I was able to bring the PX4 back on to target for the follow up shot. One thing I like about the Glock over the Beretta is the Glock's rear sight.

As you can see from the picture the Glock's rear sight has a white outlining border that gives grater contrast, making it very easy to bring the font sight back down in to the sight picture. The Beretta uses a three dot system, that is more difficult to pick up and put back on target.

So, while the PX4 had less muzzle flip than the Glock, I was able to reacquire my sight picture, and therefore fire faster with the Glock. This may just be to unfamiliarity with my new Beretta, but I am going to look in to getting better sights for it.

One unanticipated hang up with the Beretta was with chambering a round after a magazine reload. I don't like to use slide release leavers during a reload. The release is in a different place depending on the pistol you are shooting, and each pistol has its own spring tension on the release. It is also a different movement than if you have to rack the slide to chamber a round from the closed bolt position or if you need to clear a jam.
What IS the same for all automatic pistols, is the same movement for clearing a jam, or chambering a round from the closed bolt position is simply reaching up and pulling the slide all the way back. If there is a round in the magazine waiting to be fed in to the chamber, the slide catch will not engage and the slide will close in to battery. So, no mater what pistol you are using, for any type of feed or charging issue, you only need to practice a single movement. Reach up, pull the slide all the way back, release, shoot.
A nice feature that the Beretta has is an ambidextrous safety leaver. So if you are left handed or right handed, you can flip the safety up, no problem. But then you have a big thing on both sides of the slide, and they can get in the way when you reach up to rack the slide. With the external safety-less Glock this action is smooth and easy, the Beretta, not so much. Having the safety there encourages you to use the slide release. I know not a big deal, but it was something that I noticed.

Groupings were similar with the Glock and with the Beretta at 20 yards. Interestingly enough the best groupings of the day came from the Hornady Zombie Max. Beyond 20 yards the advantage of the longer barrel on the full sized PX4 became clear. I am confident with the short Glock 30 up to 20 yards, but anything over that, I would want the longer more stable platform offered by the PX4 Storm.

Over all the smoothness of the action and the reduced muzzle flip makes the Beretta PX4 Storm a lot of fun, and very comfortable to shoot. After putting 100 rounds through the Glock and 100 rounds through the Beretta, I came up with the simile that shooting the Glock is like sitting on a very hard straight backed wooden chair, and shooting the PX4 is like sitting in an overstuffed recliner. You really want to be done sitting in the wooden char, but the longer you stay in the recliner, the longer you want to sit. I am very pleased with the PX4, and I think it will be a favorite of mine for a long time to come.


Husker Freak said...

Very nice Matt. I'm looking at the Px4 Storm .40 caliber. I have another Beretta .40 cal and I've been extremely happy with it for years. Did you buy the .45 for a specific reason? How much did it cost? Does it conceal well? I'll probably look at this gun tomorrow if I have time. Thanks for the info Matt!!

NattoNinja said...

I am a .45 bigot. I love the round, because it is so versatile, accurate and powerful.
I am not a fan of the .40 because I feel it is an under pressured 9mm. If you are going to take all of that recoil, shouldn't you get the bullet performance? They aren't called "weak and wimpy" for no reason.
The PX4 cost me about $600 here in OK. A good deal for a Beretta .45. The 9mm and .40 are less expensive.

The .45 only comes in the full size version, so it is a little bigger than I like to carry. I have a compact Glock 30 that will carry as many bullets and is much easier to hide. But, I only conceal one of two ways, the appendix carry and in my man purse. The PX4 has a 4" barrel so it doesn't fit in my man purse, and it is uncomfortable in the appendix carry configuration.

The PX4 is bigger and bulkier than your 92F, so be ready for that, however it does come in a compact version in 9mm and .45.

Husker Freak said...

Thanks Matt. I stopped by the Bullet Hole and Guns Unlimited today and checked out the compact .40 cal PX4, type F. I really like this gun. It is much smaller and way more easy to conceal than my model 96. I love the accuracy of the .40 cal and I don't really want to have to keep 2 different calibers of ammo around. So I will probably go with the .40 since I don't see much difference between the .40 and the .45. I know the .45 has more power but I believe the .40 is more accurate and has a higher velocity. Plus I can get 1 to 2 more rounds in the gun depending on which guns we are comparing. Since we are talking about stopping a man and not a bear I don't think it matters much if you shoot him with a .40 or a .45. Either way he is just as dead.

The best price I found so far is $489. Hmm, decisions decisions. I can't believe you got me to start looking again...

I do appreciate all the information and obvious research you do on these articles. Keep up the good work!