Beretta PX4 Storm Subcompact 9mm Pistol Review

In many quarters of law enforcement and the law-abiding armed citizenry the ole' standby snub-nosed .38 revolver is being replaced by 9mm subcompact pistols. We give the PX4 Subcompact a full test.

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Beretta’s Px4 Storm Sub-Compact is built around modular technology, delivering concealed carry handling with large frame firepower. Seen here with Insight X2L laser/light combo.

In many quarters of law enforcement and the law-abiding armed citizenry that old stand-by concealed carry gun, the snub-nosed .38 revolver, is being replaced by subcompact pistols chambered for the 9mm. Their siren song of more bullets and less recoil in a package of similar size and weight is hard to resist.

Beretta realized early on that their classic 9mm pistol, the exhaustively proven Model 92 that for a quarter century has served the US military all-service-wide as the M9, did not mechanically lend itself to a chop-and-channel size reduction that would bring it down to sub-compact dimensions. However, the Px4 Storm that Beretta introduced a few years ago, most certainly did, and the Sub-Compact variation of the Px4 Storm hit the US market in 2008.

With a polymer frame that both reduces weight and reduces cost at both the manufacturer’s end and the buyer’s, the Px4 Storm is priced to compete with other “plastic pistolas.” Those for the most part are striker-fired. The Storm is storming that market by attacking the niche that likes the older style hammer-fired autopistols. Why would there be such a niche at all? Well, (1) the Storm’s design allows second strike on a recalcitrant primer with another simple pull of the trigger, and most striker-fired handguns don’t. (2) The external hammer allows the shooter to holster with the thumb on the hammer, preventing its rise and subsequent fall if anything catches the trigger and pushes it back – something like the too-narrow safety strap on a poorly designed holster, or the drawstring of a concealing warm-up jacket, or the shooter’s own finger, all of which have been documentably known to cause un-intentional discharges during holstering.

Gun Details
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The Px4 Storm Subcompact disassembles very easily and quickly into five parts, of course, not counting the spare mag.

Beretta’s Px4 system has been offered in four formats. The “C” style is double-action-only, very light and smooth, Beretta’s answer to the light, controllable DAK system offered by Sig Sauer and the similar LEM option from Heckler & Koch. The “D” style is double-action-only with a long, heavy pull, which I personally don’t like as well as the “C” option. Both of these are “slick-slide-guns” with no levers on the slides. Beretta also catalogs a “G” option, in which only the first shot is double-action and the subsequent shots will be fired from an automatically-cocked single-action platform. It mounts a spring-loaded slide lever that serves as a decocker only.

Finally, there is the “F” series, traditional double-action first shot with combination safety and decocking lever. The only format I have thus far actually put my hands on is a Px4 Sub-Compact. It is the format in which Beretta prefers to sell to the civilian market. Double-action-only systems like the “C” and “F” never sold well to anyone but liability-conscious folks, who generally come from the institutional markets of the law enforcement services and corrections. Our test gun for this article was a Px4F Sub-Compact.

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The Px4 Storm Subcompact uses a reliable locked breech and tilt barrel system, providing a more compact and lighter weight system.

Double-action trigger pull on our test gun averaged 9.96 pounds on my Lyman digital trigger pull gauge, and was consistent from first pressure to the shot without significant “stacking,” or increase in resistance as the trigger came farther back. In single-action mode, the same device showed an average pull weight of 4.84 pounds. As the shooter behind the sights, I couldn’t feel any significant “backlash” on the trigger after each shot broke. Sear release was clean and crisp. I’d quantify the re-set distance of the trigger for follow-up single-action shots as medium in length, and definitely controllable.

The Px4 differs from Beretta’s classic 92F in that the 92F has one of the slickest, fastest-working safety catches in the history of slide-mounted safety/decock levers. The first service-size Px4s had a differently shaped lever that was pointy toward the front (chewing up fingers in fast and furious clearance drills), and neither was so fast nor so easy to operate as the levers on 92s and M9s. The smaller size of the Px4 may be the reason that, at least in this writer’s hand, the safety releases more easily on the Sub-Compact than on the full-size Px4. I find I can catch it nicely either with a 45-degree upward thrust with a straight thumb or with the middle joint knuckle of a curved thumb. This is highly dependent on the size and shape of the shooter’s thumb, however.

Personally, on the full-size Px4, I’m inclined to the slick-slide “C” variation; as much as I like to have the option of an on-safe gun, I think it passes the point of diminishing returns if the shooter can’t quickly and reflexively off-safe it on the draw. That seems to be a bit less of a problem with the Sub-Compact size Px4. And I have to say that over the years, I’ve seen countless cases where someone got the good guy’s gun away and tried to shoot him with it, but failed because the gun was on-safe, and no cases of trained people getting shot because they failed to off-safe their own pistol when they fired in self-defense. I did find one case of an untrained man who was shot and wounded because he forgot to off-safe a pistol of another brand, which he had not trained with. When asked why he hadn’t drilled with the “safety off, pull trigger” protocol, his reply was something like, “I’m not Rambo, all right?”

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The Px4 Sub-Compact in 9mm takes the same 13 + 1 cartridge capacity that those of my generation grew up finding only in the service-size Browning Hi-Power. It’s still more than you’ll find in most polymer sub-compact 9mm pistols today. The magazines are tough to load to full capacity, but that’s something you have plenty of time to do before you load it up to carry it. I see the high capacity as a plus, and the time it takes to load the magazine as no big deal in a “carry gun.” However, when the magazine is fully loaded, it locks easily into the grip-frame without resistance, unlike many other autopistols when their magazines are loaded all the way up. That’s a definite “plus” for the Px4 Sub-Compact 9mm.

I can point to a couple of features on this little gun that can be a “life- saver” in one case and can be a “career and future saver” in another. The lifesaver in a fight will be its “standoff capability.” Most autopistols, when shoved into the attacker’s body at belly-to-belly, shoot-or-die distance, will “go out of battery” and fail to fire because the barrel slide assembly has been pushed too far back. The Px4 Sub-Compact won’t, at least when pushed straight in against the opponent, or upward against him. The slightly protruding length of the recoil spring guide rod keeps that from happening. If you’re pushing down-ward, though, it can go out of battery. This is a very significant advantage to the Px4 Sub-Compact.

The full-size Px4 has a Glock-like takedown with twin levers in niches on the side. In the reduced-size model, there isn’t room for that internally, so there’s a separate lever for takedown…but the niches remain. This leaves an excellent “felt index spot” for the trigger finger in the “ready position,” to keep it the hell out of the triggerguard until the shooter is in the very act of intentionally firing the weapon. I for one, having been an expert witness in all too many cases of unintentional shootings of human beings over the last 30 years, think this feature is a good thing.


 

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  • Chris

    Are the first 3 pictures inverted or do they offer a model with the safety on the right side of the slide?

  • http://casatic.livejournal.com Dmitry

    “The Px4 shares the rotary breech design of the 8000 series Berettas that preceded it. One reason for that design was slowing the recoil impulse. I have to say — it works. Most anyone who shoots a Px4 of any size comments on the soft recoil for the size and caliber, and the Px4 Sub-Compact is no exception.”

    As far as I get it (and it is clear on the photo of the disassembled pistol), the sub-compact STORM uses the Browning-type automatics, not the rotating barrel.

  • Don

    The mag release remains on the left in the pictures, so it seems that the lever is ambidextrous as it is in the model 92. (px4storm dot com website confirms this).

  • JSIg

    The subcompact px4 does NOT have a rotary breech. Did you not notice this when you field stripped it? If you review a gun at least read its specs on the web site.

  • http://nugun.wordpress.com N.U.G.U.N. Blog

    If you look at the photos here, it seems to show that Massad Ayoob is in fact correct and you all are wrong.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Beretta_PX4_Storm_field-stripped.JPG

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Beretta_PX4_Storm_rotating_barrel_lock.JPG

    Not saying I am an expert, heck, I confess to being a newbie. But that sure looks like a rotary system to me.

    BOOYA (Yes, it’s Ayoob backwards).

  • http://nugun.wordpress.com N.U.G.U.N. Blog

    Okay, I retract….

    It may be that the sub-compact does NOT have it. As that may be the full size.

    Odd, I think such a difference would by definition require a new designation.

    If the PX4 full size and compact have differing mechanisms. Are they really the same gun?

  • Texas Jim

    The px4 rivels my 92f. Great carry gun.All Texans should have one.

  • Kelly

    As someone who owns both the full and the subcompact – the subcompact does NOT have the rotating barrel, however, the soft recoil is still there as is the similar design everywhere else on the weapon.

    Also, for Chris who asked about the safety – it is located on both sides of the weapon and you can adjust everything else to either the left or right side depending on which is your strong hand.

  • Andy

    Based in part on this review I just purchased a PX4 F model subcompact last week. I have fired 250 rounds of mixed standard pressure (GECO FMJ 124gr; Speer Gold Dot 124gr) and +P (NATO M882 FMJ; Cor Bon 90 gr JHP) loads with no problems of any kind. Manual of arms for the F model is essentially identical to the 92FS; in a package that is just a bit thicker but also shorter than a “standard” Bersa Thunder 380. I liked the low felt recoil. I am not a “highly skilled” pistol shooter – I found standard pressure loads easier to control for maximum accuracy, but even the hottest loads yielded adequate accuracy for a subcompact. And yes, the PX4 subcompact is a tilt barrel. So far I am extremely happy with this pistol.

  • http://RollingThunder Killer Joe

    Booya is the man. I wish he could give his class to poor people as well. It costs $800 to attend. I would like to see a combat course set up and Booya in action.

  • Jack Duncan

    From Beretta:
    … the Px4 Storm Sub-Compact uses a very reliable locked breech and tilt barrel system…

  • Mike Reese

    PX4 sub-compact has a safety/decocker (Model F) on both sides. The magazine release button is on the left side, but like the full size Storm can be removed and replaced on the right side.

    One thing not mentioned is the PX4 sub-compact comes with two 13 round magazines, but the PX4 full size 17 and 20 round magazines also fit and work with the sub-compact gun. Carry 13 in the gun and one 20-round reload!

  • denner37

    Great review from a legendary firearms expert. It’s interesting that other reviews including myself find the PX4 SC extremely accurate for a subcompact.

  • ed

    full size = rotary barrel
    Compact = rotary barrel
    SubCompact= Tilt barrel
    Was the compact, or the Sub compact the gun reviewed?

  • Jesus Christ

    6″ grouping at 25 yards with a 3 inch barrel and the accuracy isn’t good enough…give me a break.

    The Sub Compact model does not have the rotary barrel system. The Sub has the locked breech and tilt barrel system.

  • steve

    Does anyone know where I can see a picture of the px4 sub with the adapter and the 20 round clip?I’ve seen how the compact looks with the 20 round clip but I can’t find a single pic of the sub with the adapter and 20 round clip.

  • JtinOklahoma

    I find my px4 sc hits in the 10 and 9 ring on a police target at 20 yards every time. As with all sub nosed guns, learning it is 1/2 the fun. Mr. Ayoob knows his Beretta’s and has a wonderful book on them (great read my I add). I love my 92 but I also love my storm SC. If I had to pick only one it would be a hard decision. The Storm family is in my mind one if not the best of the new wonder gun class i.e. plastic. I think when you price features with other guns you will find your getting a lot of gun for your hard earned dollars. (In case there is still people wondering The sub compact is not a rotating barrel it’s a tilt like a high power and its built like a tank too)

  • Mark

    I was hitting 8 inch target @ 30 yards.. w/ px4 sc 40s&w 9 outta 13 shoots. Minamal muzzle flip. Not a 92 but its compact. Liked it so much I just picked up formentioned 9mm.