By Jay Grazio, Shooting Illustrated
Two weeks ago, I found myself in eastern Virginia at the O’Gara Group Training and Services facility as a guest of Beretta USA. The purpose of the Tactical Summit was to acquaint a group of writers and editors with two new firearms: The Tikka T3x TAC A1 chassis-system, bolt-action rifle and the pistol just released today: The Beretta APX.
For those following Beretta and the handgun world, the APX is hardly earth-shattering. There were rumors of a full-size, polymer-frame handgun a couple of years ago, swirling around in the wake of the U.S. Army’s Modular Handgun System ongoing Request For Information (RFI). Beretta’s M9 has of course been the Army’s go-to handgun since the time of the original “Back to the Future” (kids, ask your parents), so it stood to reason the company responsible for equipping our soldiers would design a pistol for the 21st century. Enter the APX.
In a vacuum, there’s little about the APX that’s surprising. It’s a pretty bone-standard polymer-frame, duty-size handgun, utilizing a striker-fire mechanism and a trigger-based safety, like numerous other pistols from major manufacturers. It has interchangeable backstraps to fit different-size hands and ambidextrous controls, but those are to be expected at this point in time. The removable, serialized chassis sets the APX apart from some of the pack, but comes after SIG Sauer’s P250 and P320 pistols. Personally, I’m a fan of the modularity afforded by the removable chassis, and Beretta assures us that various sizes and calibers will become available in the months and years to come.
But, we’re not in a vacuum. This represents a major change for Beretta in the pistol-operating system for the full-size venue. Sure, the Nano and Pico have been around for years, but those aren’t the handguns synonymous with Beretta. Even the Px4 series uses the tried-and-true DA/SA operation found in the decades-old 92. Whatever the motivation, Beretta’s decision to offer a full-size, striker-fired, polymer-frame handgun means the company is testing new waters, and that’s a good thing.
Let’s take a closer look at the APX. When early prototype pictures were released, one of the more prominent features seized upon were the ridges on the slide. This is a love/hate thing: People either love the design and idea, or they don’t. If you’re a fan of the slingshot method of recharging your pistol, it makes grabbing the slide easy. Almost too easy—it’s possible to hold onto the slide too long, which is why we were counseled to use the slide stop instead. Moving away from the aesthetics and usefulness of the serrations on the slide, numerous other ergonomic features demand attention. The magazine release is oversize and teardrop-shaped to allow the user to easily drop the magazine without breaking the firing grip. Should a magazine get stuck for whatever reason (and in dozens of magazine changes, some done under pressure and on the move, all magazines dropped free whether empty or partially full), the floorplate is flared and extends slightly beyond the magwell to allow easy stripping from the gun.
What stood out to me, though, was the trigger. It’s a standard, safety-in-the-trigger that’s become pretty much the standard when you look at it quickly, but on closer inspection you realize that it’s flatter and wider than most. This allows a firm, even press – which leads to greater control and precision. The trigger itself is middle-of-the-road in pull weight (I think it was around 6 pounds or so), but firm and even, not “stacky” or gritty. When shooting on a square range (i.e. not under pressure or weak/one-hand-only), accuracy was easily on a par with the Smith & Wesson M&P I shoot regularly (which has the Apex upgraded trigger). I imagine that spending time with the APX will make even my lousy off-hand and single-handed shooting better.
The APX was launched at the Beretta Tactical Summit, held at the O’Gara Group training facility in Montross, VA. This facility offers shoothouses, standard square ranges and a 300-yard range on which we tested the Tikka TacA1. Trainers from EAG Tactical were brought onsite to help herd the cats run the writers and editors through a number of real-world simulations, from square range training to low- and no- light scenarios (using Steiner night vision gear) and even an introductory run through a shoothouse.
Rather than simply hand out the APX and punch holes in paper, attendees experienced how it could be employed by law enforcement, military and security personnel in the field. While there was plentiful square range time in which to familiarize the writers and editors with the APX, training exercises out-of-the-ordinary were experienced in order to put the new pistol through a more-rigorous testing. Weak hand, one hand, low light, no light (with a Steiner NVG setup and IR laser attachment) and other exercises were performed to showcase the strengths of the new pistol in its intended environment.
Is the APX a game-changer? Probably not. It’s pretty standard for what folks consider a modern pistol: Striker-fired, polymer-frame, high-capacity, etc. However, it’s a pretty darn good handgun, and given the price point (sub-$600), brings another quality offering to the duty-size market. Expansion possibilities abound and are not limited to new calibers and sizes, and the modular nature of the APX means you can pick up the full size now, get used to the trigger and feel, and swap out a smaller frame/slide/barrel etc. down the road as the need arises. What the APX is, however, is a solid, strong, well-built pistol that will hold its own in the holsters and on the ranges for law enforcement, military and the concealed-carry holder.