BERETTA’S NEW APX 9MM COMPACT IS A TOUGH CARRYSIZED BRUTE
Beretta’s new APX 9mm Compact is a tough, carry-sized brute.
By Bob Campbell
In the firearms world, when you come up with a good product, the next step is usually to introduce a smaller, handier version of it.
That’s just what Beretta did. As a follow-up to the long-awaited APX service pistol that became available in 2017, the company has now introduced a compact model. So, what exactly is the APX?
The APX is a striker-fired, polymer-frame handgun with a modular design. Beretta isn’t the first to produce this type of handgun by a few decades, and now the company has jumped into a very challenging and competitive market. The polymer frame service pistol market is a lucrative one. Beretta went all out to produce a functional, reliable and effective handgun. Beretta enjoys brand loyalty and this is an important consideration, but any pistol must survive on its own merits. The APX is designed to garner police and military orders worldwide. Although it missed getting the big U.S. military contract, I suspect other agencies will adopt it. It is inevitable, however, that a service pistol be accompanied by a compact handgun suited more for civilian concealed carry use.
THE APX COMPACT
The new APX compact is that pistol. I came into this review with a clean slate as this is the first APX of any size that I have fired. The pistol is supplied with two 13-round magazines, two extra grip inserts, a hard-plastic box, a key lock and a well-written owner’s manual.
The pistol, with its 3.7-inch barrel, weighs in at 26.4 ounces, light enough but still heavier than some compacts. At first glance the slide seems outsized for the frame, and this impression never really went away. The
slide is very distinctive. It’s covered front to back with grasping grooves. The grooves, the best I can measure, are 1.5 mm deep in the slide. They allow you to rack the slide and control it no matter how dirty, grimy, wet or bloody your hands may be. My first thought was that it was overboard, as many polymer-frame handguns have no forward cocking serrations at all.
Because the pistol features a modular chassis similar in design to the SIG P320 pistol, the chassis itself is serialized. We will have to wait for other housings to become available to enjoy the full advantage of the modular design. Beretta is a giant company and these options will be coming.
The frame design is excellent. The grip feels good in the hand, a far cry from the blocky polymer of many designs. The combination of serrations and checkering or pebbling makes for excellent adhesion. The frame features a square trigger guard and a rail for mounting lights or laser devices. The wrap-around grip inserts are well designed. My hands are average to small and the pistol fit my hand well as issued. The grip straps are changed by use of a tab in the inside of the grip frame. The process takes a minute more than most designs but it is very stable.
There is nothing to fault in the frame’s design, but in the hand the APX felt a bit slide heavy. The sights are all steel units. There is nothing to go wrong and break and the rear sight is a design that allows racking the slide using the sight if need be. The rear sight is wide, at about 0.016 inch, so it is fast on target combined with the bold front post. The front post is about 0.0145 inch.
The trigger action is typical of striker-fired pistols. The striker is prepped as the slide is racked and the trigger action moves the striker to the rear and breaks the striker against the sear. The trigger break is 5.6 pounds, ideal for most uses. The trigger face seems flatter than the Glock and less curved than the CZ 10, per my observations. The safety lever prevents lateral discharge. Though the trigger is heavier than some, the break is very sharp. A crisp trigger break with a fast reset is better than a slightly lighter trigger with a longer take up and reset.
The reversible magazine release is positive in operation and constructed of steel. The ambidextrous slide lock is large and positive in operation.
This is an improvement over many polymer-frame handguns. I found the slide lock worked well during speed drills. The steel magazine features a generous base pad. The combination of a tapered 13-round magazine and large magazine well make for rapid reloads.
“FIRING FIVE-SHOT GROUPS AT 20 YARDS, THE BLACK HILLS AMMUNITION 124-GRAIN JHP WENT INTO 2.6 INCHES...”
However, the magazine was very difficult to load. You must depress the follower to allow loading the cartridges rather than simply using the cartridge to depress the follower. The sequence is easier once the first couple of cartridges are loaded. You will need to use the speed loader.
The pistol features a striker release button that may be used during disassembly. True gun safety is between the ears, but some do not like a handgun that requires the trigger to be pressed before disassembly.
This button releases tension on the striker. A feature carried over from the Beretta 92 is the firing pin block. When the trigger is pressed, the firing pin block moves in the top of the slide. This is interesting and is neither a merit nor demerit, but it works as designed. I have no concerns with the Beretta action, safety features, design or manufacture after the firing test. But there are simply considerations.
As an example, today’s modern pistols are designed for easy handling and racking of the slide. The Beretta APX 9mm compact is a bit stiff to rack. There is no other way for a compact 9mm with a heavy slide designed to accept large quantities of NATO standard or +P+ ammunition. You must have a stiff recoil spring.
Disassembly isn’t difficult as far as the manual of arms goes. Remove the magazine and be certain the chamber isn’t loaded as you lock the slide to the rear. If desired you may depress the decocking button as you move the slide forward. A takedown lever is pressed in from right to left and rotated to allow the slide to run off of the frame. The first couple of times it was quite difficult to press the take down lever. Even after some use it is quite tight. Again, this is a service grade pistol and it is more about long term service and reliability than convenience.
Considering the likely market—serious shooters that practice often—I elected
“IF ISSUED THE BERETTA APX COMPACT 9MM, I WOULD CONSIDER MYSELF WELL-ARMED.”
to fire at least 1,000 cartridges in the APX 9mm. This isn’t challenging as far as recoil goes, but it was accomplished over several range sessions.
The APX 9mm may find itself in a 30,000-round agency test or perhaps a 228,000-round test such as the
Ohio State Patrol conducted a decade or so ago. Then we will know how it compares as far as breaking extractors or trigger springs. An educated guess is it will do well. Among the loads tested were the Black Hills Ammunition 115-grain FMJ, Federal Cartridge Company Syntech in both 115- and 124-grain FMJ, and the Browning 147-grain FMJ during the initial firing.
The pistol performed well as far as reliable function. The APX hasn’t failed to feed, chamber, fire or eject in firing 1,160 rounds as of this writing. Because it feels a bit slide heavy, some shooters might tend to fire low. I used my support hand forefinger hard against the trigger guard, pressing up and back. Using the two hands together and applying isometric tension, I had a solid firing grip and the pistol fired to the point of aim.
Because I run a computer keyboard not a jackhammer, my hands are not hardened and at times the raspy grip stung a little. After a few magazines in rapid fire, the 9mm isn’t a soft kicker anymore and the long-term practice—or a 300-round day at a shooting school—might demand gloved hands. On the flip side of the coin, you are always in control. I found the pistol fast on target. The sights are not only sturdy, but they allow an excellent sight picture at moderate range.
Among the loads that were tested toward the end of the program were service grade loads. These included the Black Hills Ammunition 115-grain +P, the Black Hills Ammunition 124-grain JHP, the Federal Cartridge Company 124-grain HST, the Federal Cartridge Company 147-grain HST, the Gorilla Ammunition 115-grain JHP, the Hornady 124-grain +P, the Hornady 135-grain Flex Lock, Winchester’s 115-grain Silvertip and the Winchester 127-grain SXT +P+. Firing standard pressure loads was pleasant, while +P and +P+ loads gave a stronger push but were not unpleasant.
The pistol is clearly service grade in reliability and accepts a wide range of bullet weights and pressure levels. Like all quality firearms, the Beretta APX compact prefers some loads, but all were acceptably accurate. About midway into the test program, the trigger settled into 5.5 pounds and has remained there since. I like the trigger; the break and reset are tight and reset is rapid.
I carefully cleaned and lubricated the pistol prior to testing for accuracy. The pistol was fired with three loads with which I have enjoyed good results. Firing five-shot groups at 20 yards, the Black Hills Ammunition 124-grain JHP went into 2.6 inches; the Federal Cartridge Company 147-grain HST, 2.9 inches; and the Winchester 127-grain SXT +P+, 2.75 inches. This is accurate enough for personal defense. I fired these groups braced against the door frame of my Silverado. Like most
9mm handguns, the Beretta APX Compact 9mm will cut a single ragged hole at 7 yards.
The Beretta gets a clean bill of health for reliability and service-grade accuracy. The APX Compact is good enough that some will prefer the piece over other similar handguns. If issued the Beretta APX Compact 9mm, I would consider myself wellarmed. The pistol needs to be shot and the shooter should groove into the pistol and learn how to get the most out of the piece, the same as any other handgun. This is a light kicking handgun that complements a trained shooter. Beretta has given us another good handgun. CC
“THE PISTOL FEATURES A STRIKER RELEASE BUTTON THAT MAY BE USED DURING DISASSEMBLY.”
The APX features a minimum of controls and a crisp trigger.
Grip inserts of various sizes are an advantage of modern polymer-frame handguns.
A strong recoil spring and advanced guide assembly makes for excellent control.
Durable and rugged sights may be used to rack the slide in an emergency.
The pistol features excellent sights.
The pistol field stripped into basic components.
The Beretta APX and TruGlo combat light/laser are a good combination.