A Beretta Upbringing
I was well under ten years of age when my dad took me and my brother shooting for the first time. We learned, liked most new shooters do, on BB guns at first (a neat Daisy model that fired pellets or BBs alike), then on to .22 rifles (a pump-action Winchester with a cheap scope formed the start of my shooting experience), and then before long it was on to handguns, with my dad’s nickel-plated Colt Cobra .38 and his Berettas, Model 21A Bobcat in .22LR and Model 96 in .40 S&W.
From the day I picked up the Model 96, even though it was bulky for my hands, I fell in love with Beretta. As I grew older, and had the chance to shoot other Berettas such as several variants of the 92, I knew that for whatever reason the guns to me were handgun perfection. I eagerly followed new Beretta developments, and so at age 20, to celebrate the new decade, my dad offered me the chance to select my first handgun as a gift. Growing up shooting an aesthetically attractive and reliable – I recall no malfunctions in years of shooting the pistol – .40 S&W Beretta, it was natural to me to decide on Beretta’s new product line – the PX4 polymer framed semiautomatic handgun in. I selected the full-size variant in .40 S&W (the compacts and subcompacts were still unreleased). My brother had just purchased his Generation 3 Glock 22 in .40 S&W, and having been impressed by that gun, I was more easily swayed to a polymer frame and the .40 S&W cartridge.
The Beretta PX4 is a locked-breech, polymer-framed full-size handgun with a steel slide treated with Beretta’s Bruniton finish. This finish has held up well for my use, but it should be noted that it is generally considered inferior to Glock’s impressive Tenifer treatment or the Melonite treatment used by other manufacturers. The 9×19 variant holds 17 rounds in the magazine, while the .40 S&W variant holds 14 rounds in the magazine. The gun weighs 27.7 ounces unloaded. The handgun has a 4-inch barrel, is 7.6 inches long, and is 5.5 inches high. Width is harder to measure, as the pistol varies from place to place, but I find the full-size variant somewhat chunky. For nightstand and duty use, this is an excellent pistol. For concealed carry, it’s less so. The gun has standard three-dot steel sights – though my older model came with the Superluminova sights. These sights remain lit for about half an hour after exposure to intense light. I find this feature somewhat useless, and wouldn’t mind if mine had standard three-dots. Trijicon makes an excellent set of tritium night sights that can be had for $110 to $130. However, the excellent stock steel sights on the PX4 do not require immediate replacement like the cheap plastic sights on Glock pistols. The gun offers a Mil-Std. 1913 Picatinny rail for mounting of lights and lasers.
Beretta offers four variants of the PX4. Type F pistols (such as mine) are DA / SA guns with a long, heavy initial trigger pull with subsequent shots being easy and light. The safety lever on Type F guns functions are both a manual safety and decocker. The up position is Fire, and the down position is Safe, turning the firing pin from horizontal to vertical, in addition to safely decocking the pistol from SA mode. Type G pistols function identically, except instead of a manual safety, the lever springs back to the up Fire position, functioning only as a decocker. For users of the Type F, a kit is available that will convert the gun to Type G, while also replacing the large “bat wing” safety lever with a lower-profile “stealth” lever. Type C pistols are “constant” action pistols, with a medium, Glock-style trigger pull. They do not have a lever at all, either for safety or decocking. Type D pistols are Double Action Only models, which also have no lever either for safety or decocking, and each trigger pull is the heavy double action, similar to a double action revolver.
The gun uses a rotating barrel system, in which a notch on the barrel engages a lug on the locking block. This allows the barrel to remain on a single axis, which helps with reliability, and the rotating barrel system helps curb the recoil of the .40 S&W cartridge, sometimes characterized as “snappier” than the “pop” of the 9×19 or the “push” of the .45 ACP. The PX4 handles the .40 with ease, turning the recoil into a pleasant thump which I find more comfortable and more easily controllable than, for instance, the .40 S&W Glock 22. Contrary to gun-shop chatter, the PX4’s rotating barrel system is not unproven, having been unveiled in the early nineties in the Beretta Cougar series of pistols, and currently produced in the Beretta PX4 and Stoeger Cougar lines with no serious issues reported. The primary concern seems to be dust or debris preventing the barrel from rotating. Shooting only outside, in the dusty, arid Wyoming wind, I have had no issues with this.
Now, on to the review!
Reliability – 5/5
I have never understood when a review begins anywhere but reliability when it comes to a firearm. I could care less about innovative features, aesthetic attractiveness, or ergonomics if the gun will not function. In that regard, my PX4 has been a shining star. Though I do not keep exact track, my PX4 has between 2,800 and 3,000 rounds fired without a single hiccup, with over a half-dozen shooters, including my parents, my brother, two smaller females and a first-time shooter who badly limp-wristed the gun. I once took the PX4 to six consecutive range sessions, each 1-3 weeks apart, firing 100 rounds each session, in an attempt to push the gun to malfunction. When I finally broke down the gun and cleaned it after several months, not being able to continue to treating my gun that way, the firearm was bone-dry and filthy. It had not malfunctioned once.
The following brands and weights of practice ammunition have functioned perfectly:
Federal American Eagle 165-grain
Federal American Eagle 180-grain
Federal Champion 180-grain
Winchester White Box 180-grain
Winchester White Box 165-grain
PMC Bronze 165-grain
The following brands and weights of carry / defense ammunition have functioned perfectly:
- Federal Hydra-Shok 155-grain (40 rounds)
- Federal HST 180-grain (200 rounds)
- Speer Gold Dot 180 grain (20 rounds, pictured, current carry load)
- Ballistic information on this and other Speer loads, which was part of my decision to standardize all my firearms to the Speer Gold Dot, can be found at http://le.atk.com/pdf/GoldDotPoster.pdf – This superior bonded bullet shows great performance through a number of barriers, and has stopped threats effectively in many real-life encounters.
The PX4 is a rock-solid reliable pistol, which to me is the highest mark a pistol can carry.
Ergonomics – 4/5
The Beretta PX4 is, to my hand, a very ergonomic pistol, melding well with my hand. As is the case in most service-oriented handguns these days, the gun comes with a small, medium, and large backstrap. The medium fit my hands perfectly, and I have not tried the other two. Texture checkering on the front of the grip helps for good purchase. However, with dry hands in in cold weather, the texture of the gun can feel “slippery”. I much prefer the slightly more grippy texture of Glock’s Generation 4 lineup, but that’s entirely subjective. Some users have added a Hogue wrap-around grip to help with this slippery feeling. I do not mean to exaggerate the slickness of the gun. In hand, while firing, I have never failed to maintain a solid, steady grip, even with sweaty hands.
Weight-wise, as with most polymer guns, the PX4 is slightly slide-heavy. It’s much less noticeable with a full magazine, but still there. In this area I don’t feel the PX4 balances any worse or any better than the Glock, XD, M&P, or other polymer service pistols.
Aftermarket Support – 3/5
It’s surprisingly difficult to find replacement parts for the PX4, and the parts aren’t cheap, as I found when attempting to order a backup recoil spring for my gun. Those seeking parts may be able to find them at Brownells (as I did, price-checking a locking block), but Beretta offers only a “replacement parts kit” that costs nearly half as much as the handgun. In addition, magazines for the gun will rarely be found below $40. That said, the magazines are well-built and I believe a solid factor in my thousands of error-free rounds
I believe Beretta and all manufacturers should go the Ruger route with spare parts. An easily navigable part of the website that allows every spring, rod, switch, and button to be ordered shows a great deal of confidence in the product, and allows consumers to engage in preventative maintenance, replacing parts before they wear. Beretta 92-series owners especially know the importance of this, particular in regards to the periodic replacement of that handgun’s locking block.
Accuracy – N/A
For my own purposes, it’s enough to say that the Beretta hits where I aim it. To me, it is a very accurate and easy to shoot handgun, and I can regularly hit small targets accurately at 50+ yards without too much fuss. That being said, I have seen the norm on firearm reviews for accuracy being a bench-rested gun and groups measured in inches based on ammo. Not only am I not that confident in my precision shooting ability, but I have no access to a bench or a range. In this rural area with poor access to affordable ranges, my shooting is done on paper plates and jugs on public lands here in beautiful Wyoming.
The handgun is combat-accurate to me, but others should be able to provide more information about the particular group sizes this handgun is capable of.
Pictured is my Beretta PX4 Type F Fullsize in .40 S&W, with an attached Streamlight TLR-1S on the Picatinny rail and a pair of the 180-grain Speer Gold Dots I favor as my current home defense load. After about three thousand rounds over almost four years, the gun has earned my trust and is my nightstand weapon. While the pistol is somewhat unconventional, and some would say odd-looking or even ugly, the Beretta has impressed me in the one area I hold above all others – never jamming, never misfeeding, never burping, whether wet, dry, clean, filthy, held by the firm grip of an experienced shooter of the limp, skittish grip of a person brand new to the sport. The gun has outlasted the reliability of one friend’s Glock and another’s XD, and while those are both excellent guns – in fact, you can throw a rock and hit an excellent gun in today’s crowded service polymer market – so is the PX4, and it deserves to stand alongside other top-flight service firearms from trusted manufacturers.