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The .45 ACP version of Beretta’s Px4 Storm tested here is the type F Traditional Double Action model and is the only action type being imported at this time. Levering the slide-mounted safety downward drops the hammer and engages the safety. The pistol can be loaded and dry cycled with the safety on, providing a hedge against inadvertent discharge. Size-wise, it will fit in the same box as the common SIG and full-sized Glock pistols and has the same width across the slide.

Even so, the storm is less blocky in appearance than the earlier Cougar and most other modern double-action pistols of essentially the same girth, because the slide is streamlined and narrowed in its upper aspects for ease of holstering. Most of the people who inspect the Px4 remark upon its attractive appearance -an observation almost never made or remotely justified in reference to other “plastic pistols.”

In 2005, building upon the sound engineering principals of the Cougar design, Beretta brought forth the Storm series, which came to include a pistol-caliber carbine, .223 carbine and a shotgun. Its centerpiece is the Px4 pistol featuring the rotating barrel-locking system of the earlier handgun and replacing the Cougar’s alloy frame with a lightweight polymer/glass sub unit. Available in 9mm and 40 S&W, the staggered magazines offer high capacity for their size (17+1 and 14+1 respectively).

When the decocking lever is in the firing position, a red dot is uncovered.

A variety of fire control variations mirrored the options available in the Cougar. The standard Model F is traditional double action with ambidextrous decocking safety, traditional double action with decock only, DAO and Constant Action featuring a shortened and lightened double-action-like trigger pull. The latter two were without manual safeties, slick sided and narrower overall, as many end users prefer.

A key feature of the modern polymer pistol is the interchangeable backstrap and the Px4 doesn’t disappoint. The pistol can be comfortably fitted to hands on either side of average.

The modular design enables gunsmiths or agency armorers to option among the action types. The pistols come with three interchangeable backstraps allowing you to select the optimum trigger reach and overall grip size. Other user electables include a reversible magazine release for left-handed operation or replaced with a larger or smaller unit. Low-profile slide releases are also available to enhance concealability. Takedown and reassembly for routine cleaning is transparently simple, as is swapping out the alternative grip backstraps.

When cocked, the hammer nests in a frame recess. Depressing the decocking lever on either side of the slide lowers the hammer safely.

Billed as Beretta’s strongest pistol, the Px4 aspires to be all things to all people. Its promises of reliability, extended service life and ergonomic versatility are vindicated by wide acceptance in officialdom and by the general public. The United States Coast Guard, several municipal police departments and foreign military organizations have adopted the Px4.

A new variant, arising from military interest, is the Px4 Storm SD (special duty) with features designed to meet the criteria for the Joint Combat Pistol as specified by SOCOM. It has an extended barrel to allow for threading for a suppressor, earth-toned frame and other extras in a waterproof case.

Today, Beretta’s aim for the Px4 Storm is at the civilian personal-defense market. This is the major growth segment of the firearms industry. While organized shooting games languish with the economic slump, economic and political realities have quite the opposite effect on people determined to safeguard their rights to life and liberty. Parnell McNamara and Charlotte Kosub operate a very active central Texas concealed-handgun training facility.

Both have adopted the Storm in 9mm as personal carry weapons. They keep four of them on hand for CHL students, who do not have semi-auto handguns or, as often happens, show up with non-functioning pistols. The Px4s have been totally reliable and both veteran shooters and the newly initiated are impressed by their handling characteristics. A number of Parnell’s trainees have told him that they plan to buy Storms as primary carry guns. A compact model is available, as is a sub-compact that operates on the more traditional tilting-barrel principle; but the standard pistol, at 7.6″ overall length and weighing less than 30 ounces is comfortable on the belt and easy to conceal.

I found I preferred the smallest of the backstraps. It affords ideal trigger reach and a comfortable, hand-filling grip.  I shot a number of the bench groups with the SureFire X400 laser sight and several using the standard fixed sights with equivalent groups from both. Early reports on prototype or at least pre-introduction .45 Storms revealed a tendency toward “ammo sensitivity.” One such example tossed very large groups with standard ball ammo. If this was a general phenomenon in the developmental stages, it was not a factor in our production pistol.

My best 25-yard groups at 2.8″ came with a handloaded 230-grain ball and the 200-grain JHP load from Fiocchi. Sellier & Belloit FMJ ball was essentially the same at 3.1″ and the CorBon 185-grain DPX split the difference. Shooting from the bench, recoil was quite perceptible -significantly more so than would be the case with a 9mm on the same platform. The low-barrel axis and the grip configuration direct recoil straight back with minimal torque and barrel rise.

The Storm lends itself well to 1-handed shooting and the interchangeable backstraps help fit the pistol to the shooter’s hand.

Offhand Shooting
Paradoxically, the same factors and the generous width of the grip seemed to moderate recoil when firing from standing, unsupported positions. From offhand positions, perceived recoil was actually less pronounced than with my full-size 1911 Government models. With any pistol, my shooting speed is governed by my ability to reliably group my shots within the 9, 10 and X rings of the B27 target. I do not much care for double taps, or “hammers,” or any shooting mode that requires self-programming of ultra-high speed multiple shots.  Transitioning from double-action first shot to single action is a significant factor and a wide disparity between the trigger pulls militates against consistency.

Compared to pistols with 12-pound double-action pulls, I find the 10-pound double-action pull on the Storm to be quite controllable. The transition to the 5-pound single-action release lands the shots in the same group, unless I out-speed my personal limitations. Shooting from a generic synthetic belt slide at 7 yards, with my hand already on the grip at the beep of the club timer, I fired five double-to-single-action pairs and averaged the data.

Two 10-round magazines fired offhand from an isosceles stance at 25 yards made a decent combat target. Shot at a reasonably brisk page the initial double-action shots both landed in the 10 or X rings.

Average time for both shots was 1.7 seconds. The first shot was away at an average of 1.16 seconds with the second shot averaging .54 seconds. The overall grip shape and likely the pronounced stippling of the frontstrap eliminate any shifting from recoil. The Storm came straight down out of recoil with the sights centered on target. The rotation of the barrel during the feeding sequence moderates recoil and, at the same time tends to keep the pistol in horizontal plumb.

From 25 yards, I activated the timer and got on target, ready to fire at the beep. The initial double-action shots were away in 5/10 to 6/10 of a second and frequently landed in the 10 or X ring. My transition and subsequent single-action “breaks” consistently occurred at less than 1.4-second intervals and kept most, if not all of my shots inside of the 9 ring.

Fairly early in these shooting sessions, I came to realize the Px4 Storm had put a deep dent in my long legacy of prejudice toward the general plastication of pistols. I really like the Px4 Storm. The grip configuration makes the 5-pound single-action pull very manageable for single-handed shooting and prompted casual off-hand plinking sessions at 20 to 25 yards. Hits on soft drink cans and the head portion of the B-27 were frequent enough to sustain the element of high and happy fun that comes with at least the presumption of competence. The single negative factor that emerged during my shooting sessions was minor irritation of my index finger by the side of the trigger. I believe this occurred only during benchrest shooting and was not related to roughness or a sharp edge on the trigger.

Mechanics And Maintenance
Beretta made early predictions of extended service life and ultra-reliable function. Now, the company reports at least one of the pistols has fired 150,000 rounds without parts failure. Factors contributing to long life include a progressive abatement of recoil by rotation of the barrel in line with a steel module that further isolates the polymer grip frame from damage. All primary points of contact, including the frame rails and feed ramp, are steel cast into the polymer/glass grip frame.

An early report mentioned minor, self-limiting degradation of a polymer feed ramp. I do not have an early example for comparison but the entire feed ramp on the current pistol is made of steel. Reviewers of early Storms in 9mm and .40 S&W, noted the safety levers were sharp and hook-like, causing pain when the shooter retracted the slide. It seems Beretta has been responsive to this sort of input and not at all shy about making minor corrections. There are no sharp surfaces anywhere on the .45 Storm.

The barrel is chrome lined -a factor that effectively eliminates barrel wear as a concern. The forged-steel slide wears a Bruniton coating. This is the standard, bake-on finish applied to the Beretta service pistols and common throughout the industry. It is highly resistant to environmental and chemical influences. One prominent producer of the basic chemistry places it between nitrate bluing and electroless nickel in resistance to holster wear.

One element of the safety system is a 2-piece firing pin. The rear portion rotates upward and away from the hammer when the manual safety is applied. Because of its construction, Beretta recommends any dry firing be done with a snap cap in the chamber.

The Px4 breaks down easily for cleaning into its major components. The pistol is designed for easy care and can’t be put back together wrong.

Dismounting the pistol for routine cleaning is very simple and easily remembered by the growing legions of licensed gun carriers who view handguns as necessary tools and are not into guns as a hobby. Pulling down on the 2-recessed release levers frees the slide, barrel and action block, allowing them to slide off the front of the frame as a unit. The guiderod captured recoil spring and action block can be plucked out of the slide, followed by the barrel. Unlike the earlier Cougar, it is impossible to stick the spring backward into the block or to reconfigure the upper assembly incorrectly. Reassembly requires aligning the upper unit in the frame rails and retracting the slide until it clicks into place.

The CorBon 185-grain DPX, the Fiocchi “Extrema” 200-grain XTP load and the Fiocchi 230-grain JHP are excellent performers. Of the loads tested in the Storm, the Extrema tied for most accurate. All of these loads show good expansion from the 4″ barrel. The bullet at the far right is from the Fiocchi Pistol Shooting Dynamics load. It is a product of the Zero Bullet Company of Georgia. The DPX load is a frequent accuracy champ from most .45 ACP pistols and expands just as pictured from even the shortest barrels. Test medium was a slab of lean beef brisket backed by 3-gallon water jugs.

As a paramount Beretta product, it is to be expected that full service will be readily available. In addition to a practical, high-riding, belt side holster, a number of accessories are available direct from Beretta USA. These include, among other items, a comprehensive spare parts kit, an adjustable sight kit, magazine-pad extensions and springs, magazine-release packs and a hammer-spring cap housing with lanyard ring.

Rested, the .45 ACP Fiocchi Extrema topped with 18-grain Hornady XTP bullets delivered this 2.8″ group at 25 yards.

The large variety of general market accessories is a clear indication of the Px4 Storm’s wide-reaching acceptance. This includes selections of holsters for the Px4. Safariland alone lists 14 distinct models. Kramer Handgun Leather will block a very broad array of their custom holsters for the Storm. DeSantis has shoulder rigs, IWBs, standard belt holsters and a leather double-magazine pouch. Aker Leather has a selection of distinctive holsters “for all popular auto pistols” -a qualification the Storm certainly meets.  Sighting options include Trijicon BE10 Night Sights. State-of-the-art laser sights come from SureFire and Viridian. Both come with mounting kits accommodating the Px4. Veridian’s X-Large Frame Auto-Nylon belt holster will fit the Storm mounted with either the X5L or the new CH/C5L laser sights. Fobus Holster supplies the Kydex Tactical Roto-Holster for the full-size Storm and any accessory that will fit the pistol’s rail mount.