The Maryland State Police is a paramilitary organization with their organizational and rank structure following that of the U.S. military. So it should be no surprise that when it came time to replace their aging Beretta 96D service pistols, they stayed with the brand used by those in military service. Troopers have served Maryland for more than 70 years and over that tenure of honorable service have used many sidearms. That service continues with the Beretta Px4 Storm. Keeping logistic and training concerns at a minimum, the troopers will continue to carry the .40 caliber.
Soldiers Turned Policemen
Maryland State Police (MSP) were in the market to either change their current pistol or upgrade from the Beretta 96D pistols, which they carried at the time. After testing the Beretta Px4 Storm pistol, a decision was made. The MSP chose to replace their aging 96Ds with the newest LE offering from the same company that had been providing them with exceptional service for years. The MSP chose the Beretta Px4 Storm D Model in .40 S&W to replace the 1,065 Beretta 96Ds.
The need for a statewide LE agency came after WW I when a crime wave struck within Maryland’s borders. The original State Police Force was created under the Commissioner of Motor Vehicles by the governor and Baltimore City’s police commissioner in 1921.
Servicemen were recruited from the ranks of military servicemen that had returned from the war in Europe and the first police training camp took place in 1921. The following year, county sheriffs came together and granted deputies riding motorcycles statewide jurisdiction over criminal cases. Plainclothes investigative officers supported this early riding force, forming what became known as the State Police Force.
The State Police Force evolved into the current MSP by 1935, as a separate unit of the Maryland state government. These troopers were provided their own training school and given jurisdictions to enforce game laws. Today, the MSP safeguards the citizens of Maryland, enforcing motor vehicle and criminal laws while preserving the public peace. Although their jurisdiction does not extend to incorporated municipalities like Baltimore, their enforcement of laws relating to narcotics has no jurisdictional limitations.
Five major components make up the MSP. The Office of the Superintendent includes staff and units that support the administrative duties and report to the Chief of Staff. This section provides protection for Maryland’s Governor, protection for the First Family, Lieutenant Governor and others. This staff also provides security to the state’s General Assembly and Senate while in session.
The Support Services Bureau includes the Personnel Command, the Logistics Command and the Records Command. Together, vital support is provided to the MSP in the way of personnel administration, permits and record maintenance. Other planning and compliance functions are administrated by another component of the MSP, the Office of Strategic Planning.
The Field Operations Bureau consists of 23 divisions, the Special Operations Command, Aviation and Transportation. This bureau includes the troopers that interface with the public. Unlike many other state police agencies, the MSP are not strictly limited to highway patrol. The MSP Aviation Command stays extremely active, offering medevac, search and rescue, and airborne law enforcement services every hour of every day.
The fifth component is the Homeland Security and Investigations Bureau established after the creation of the Dept. of Homeland Security. This bureau provides investigative services, both overt and covert.
Storm Built For Troopers
“The Maryland State Police is pleased to continue our long partnership with Beretta by upgrading the pistols our troopers carry to the new Beretta Px4 Storm,” announced MSP Superintendent Col. Terrance Sheridan. “After rigorous testing by Maryland State Police experts, the Storm has proven that its simplistic design, safety features, ability to individualize fit, ease of maintenance, and overall dependability make it the firearm ideally suited for use by Maryland state troopers as they continue to serve and protect the people of our State.”
The Beretta Px4 Storm will replace the Beretta 96D that has been in service since 1997. The condition of the pistols that have suffered more than 10 years of wear and tear initiated MSP officials to search for a modern duty weapon that will serve troopers for many years. Experts and the MSP’s chief armorer tested several different models of pistols and reported, “[We] found the Beretta Px4 Storm to be a dependable weapon that would withstand the rigors of police use,” Sheridan concludes.
The Px4 Storm uses a lightweight polymer frame that is reinforced with fiberglass. Lines are ergonomically designed with the officer in mind, edges rounded to prevent snagging while un-holstering or re-holstering their pistol. The trigger guard encourages a proper two-hand grip and a Picatinny rail permits the attachment of many available weapon lights and lasers.
Once the Beretta is drawn and presented to gain sight picture, the shooter notices the attention paid to optimize the grip angle. Target acquisition is very natural at a comfortable wrist position and line of sight, with respect to the shooter. This is enabled by a semi-beavertail that is formed by a curved and recessed shape at the upper part of the backstrap. This feature helps shooters of all types to manage the recoil from the .40-caliber cartridge while preventing the slide from “biting” the web of the strong hand. The checkering isn’t overly aggressive but it does help prevent the firearm from rotating in the hand under rapid fire, providing constant control even if the hands are wet.
The interchangeable backstraps are welcomed by those of varying physiology, all of whom will use the same service arm. Until recently, there was a one-size-fits-all approach to duty sidearm’s, causing problems for officers with very small, or extremely large, hands. The Beretta Storm offers MSP officers the option of three different size backstraps.
What is unique to the Px4 Storm is the reversible and interchangeable magazine release button. This unique concept is typically limited to competitive shooting pistols but in this case Beretta incorporated this feature by offering a small button as standard, or a large combat release button if preferred. A feature like this will likely be copied, as manufacturers that offer different sized backstraps or grip panels have overlooked the relationship of the strong thumb and the accessibility of the magazine release. The slide catch (or slide stop) on the Px4 Storm is also interchangeable and may be replaced with a low-profile type.
The theme of familiarity is continued in the Storm with a manual safety/hammer decocking lever that troopers became familiar with on their decocking-only 96D. This lever is positioned on both sides for access by right- and left-handed troopers. Like the slide stop, this lever can be replaced by a low-profile lever, virtually eliminating the potential for snagging, and reducing the width dimension of the slide.
Transition, Training & On Duty
Troopers will have to relearn disassembly, and care. The operating system of the Storm is easier to take apart and maintain than the 96D. A takedown bar forward of the trigger guard keeps the frame, slide and barrel together. A small pin holds the cylindrical mainspring to the back of the frame, which can be exchanged for one with a lanyard loop attachment ring at the base of the grip.
With the slide, barrel and frame disassembled and a cross pin removed from the back of the grip, the hammer unit mechanism can be removed. Unlike the 96D, this system can be removed at the trooper level and as one assembly, making cleaning a cinch. No special tools are required to extract the hammer mechanism so it’s likely that an interchange option with future trigger pull weights will be offered.
Troopers expect the same performance from their pistols as they do from their cruisers, and the Storm delivers. The skeltonized hammer is cut in mass, making it lighter and faster. The design of the direct barrel-slide locking system and the low barrel axis not only help to reduce the .40-caliber felt recoil, but it helps minimize muzzle rise. Matteo Recanatini of Beretta USA attributes a lot of the reduction in felt recoil to the rotating barrel locking system. “We know locking systems,” noted Recanatini. What does this mean? Troopers can get back on target for subsequent shots faster.
Recanatini said, “The Px4 is a natural choice for many agencies and even the military who already carry a Beretta. It works for the MSP because it is available in the same action as their 96D. Having the same action helps with training and reduces the risk when troopers face stress inoculation.”
The Px4 Storm has recently passed the stringent proof-house certification in Germany, a test that is “more stringent than NATO’s certification,” says Recanatini. He reported that “All test guns go through every test where only one sample gun goes through each of NATO’s different tests. Each Px4 Storm fired 10,000 rounds without a single malfunction.
The current MSP Academy trooper candidate class is being trained on the new sidearm. Soon, the troopers on duty will have their 96’s replaced with the Storm. MSP says, “Training and conversion will continue until all sworn troopers carry the Beretta Storm.”