If you believe in the old adage that variety is the spice of life, then you will really like the new Beretta PX4 series of pistols.
For some time now firearms manufacturers have concentrated on producing pistols with one or two types of trigger systems. This has created a "take it or leave it" situation for consumers.
Beretta USA is taking a different approach with its PX4 family of pistols. If you want a PX4, you can choose from three different trigger systems, three different operating mechanisms, three different size magazine release buttons, two different size slide safety levers, three different sizes of interchangeable (back straps) grips, two different sizes of Trijicon front sights, and 10 different rear sights on LE models. (Civilian models have four optional rear sights and one standard front sight.)
Just like its predecessor, the Beretta Cougar, the full-size PX4 uses a very reliable, accurate, and effective rotary barrel system that is designed to reduce recoil.
The first time I test fired a Beretta pistol with a rotary barrel system was when I purchased a Cougar 8045D. Even though this particular pistol had a short (3.7-inch) barrel and was chambered in .45 ACP, it proved to be relatively comfortable to shoot.
Beretta didn't use the rotary barrel system on the subcompact PX4, and I think that was a mistake. I would have also preferred a slightly longer barrel on this weapon. Still, despite these minor quibbles, I think the PX4 subcompact is an amazing pistol.
For starters, the construction, fit, and finish of this pistol are superb. The ergonomics are also first-class, especially since it comes with three different backstraps.
Best of all the PX4 subcompact shoots just as well as the full-size model, although I admit it takes a little more effort to hold onto the smaller grip when you really start banging away at a target. The Beretta PX4 subcompact also proved to be soft shooting, even though it did not have a rotary barrel system.
I really like the PX4 subcompact, but that doesn't mean that I didn't have some problems with it.
While attempting to fire my first magazine full of ammunition, I had a problem when the magazine with the extended finger rest stopped working as designed. The pistol did not malfunction under firing conditions; it simply stopped loading ammunition into the chamber.
As I walked back to my SUV I noticed the magazine rattled in my hand and that the round of ammunition that was supposed to be properly seated on the top of the follower was missing. The moment I disassembled the magazine a handful of rounds fell out while others were jammed under a compressed spring. Once I removed the remaining ammunition from inside the magazine I reassembled the magazine and made sure the floor plate was properly secured.
Problem number two arose when the thumb on my shooting hand engaged the magazine release button on one occasion as the PX4 subcompact recoiled in my hand. This made the magazine eject from the pistol ever so slightly and prevented the next round of ammunition from being loaded into the chamber. I should note that the only time this happened was when I tried using the magazine with the smaller floor plate that is designed for maximum concealment.
Once again I emptied the magazine and reassembled it, making sure that the follower was securely locked into position with the proper spring tension.
Time On Target
I field tested the PX4 subcompact while using 124-grain Speer Gold Dot, 124-grain Federal hollow-point ammunition, and 124-grain Speer Lawman FMJ ammunition without incident. I also asked photographer Alex Landeen and another friend of mine to test fire the pistol to see if they liked the experience.
After hearing no complaints, I continued to put several additional magazines through the test pistol without incident. Bottom line: With a little magazine maintenance, I found the subcompact PX4 to be very accurate, flawlessly reliable, and comfortable to shoot.
Within 24 hours of notifying Matteo Recanatini, the Law Enforcement and Defense Group marketing manager for Beretta USA, about the two problems that I had with the magazines, I had new magazines and a different size magazine release button. Beretta also asked me to return the magazines that I had problems with so they could be examined by their engineers.
While I waited for the magazines and the new magazine release button to arrive, I installed the medium size back strap on the test pistol. This repositioned my hand further back on the grip so my thumb was behind the magazine release button instead of on top of it.
The next time I went to the range, I test fired the PX4 subcompact using both magazines with the medium grip installed. There were no problems.
As far as accuracy is concerned, anything I can do with the larger compact PX4 I can do with the snubby subcompact model. I was able to consistently make center of mass body shots and head shots at CQB distance with the DA/SA F Model test pistol. This included shooting the PX4 subcompact F Model as it was meant to be shot, using the DA trigger for the first shot and the SA trigger for the follow-up shots. You can also cock the hammer and make the first shot while using the slightly lighter and shorter SA trigger.
While testing Beretta PX4s for this article, I found the compact model with the C trigger to be the variation best suited to my style of shooting. My team also liked this variant and the DA/SA F Model PX4 in .40 S&W.
I Bought One
Shooting at different CQB distances and beyond 25 yards, I had no problem hitting different sizes of targets with the PX4 test pistols that I had at my disposal. In my hands, the PX4 F and C Models proved to be the easiest to shoot fairly quickly and accurately. I should also add that regardless of caliber the Beretta PX4 test pistols proved to be flawlessly reliable.
The PX4 subcompact is an excellent small pistol. And I really love the variety that it offers. You can modify any Beretta PX4 to accommodate a variety of shooters with different sized hands.
The greatest compliment that I can pay any firearm I test is to use my hard-earned money to purchase it. Once I started field testing the Beretta PX4 subcompact I knew I wanted to buy one.
Until I had a chance to test fire the PX4 subcompact I planned to buy a compact size PX4 C Model. Now that I have had a chance to test and evaluate different PX4s I have decided to order a 9mm PX4 subcompact. Quite frankly, if I had the money I would buy a compact and a subcompact model Beretta PX4 because these pistols are that good.
If you are looking for a new service pistol, an off-duty gun, a backup gun, or a home defense handgun that goes bang every time you pull the trigger I strongly suggest that you consider buying a compact or subcompact Beretta PX4.
The PX4 subcompact is extremely well made, easy to operate, and easy to disassemble and clean. The compact and subcompact are also small enough to carry concealed, flawlessly reliable, comfortable to shoot, reasonably priced, and accurate. What more do you want in a law enforcement handgun?
Nick Jacobellis is a medically retired U.S. Customs Agent and former police officer who was physically disabled in the line of duty while working undercover as a federal agent.