About 25 years ago when the British SAS stormed the Iranian embassy amid explosions and gunfire, they made headline news around the world. And one thing in particular caught everyone's eye-the H&K MP5 carbines the soldiers were carrying. Exotic-looking and evoking a serious ability, those black carbines soon became the darling of the tactical community. When LAPD SWAT deployed them for the Olympics in 1984, the trend was firmly set-in order to be "cool" as a police unit, you needed MP5s.
Fast-forward 20 years to today. While I'd like to think the "cool" factor isn't as important in purchasing police weapons, I fear it may still be so, especially when it comes to patrol rifles.
Since the North Hollywood bank shoot-out, the move to rifles for patrol has resembled a tidal wave of purchasing power. Some agencies have acquired true long guns in .223 and .308 calibers. Others have elected to use pistol-caliber rifles and carbines.
I need to confess I think if you're going to go to a rifle, you should go to a rifle and bypass the stop-gap of a pistol-caliber carbine. But if your city fathers have deemed it politically correct or economically expedient to give you pistol-caliber carbines, you now have to make the best decision regarding equipment.
And even though pistol-caliber carbines are perhaps not the perfect solution, they are a move in the right direction.
Any tool that allows an officer to deliver accurate, aimed fire quickly and reliably is a good tool, and that's what most of the pistol-caliber rifles manage to do. If you think of them simply as a "better way to deliver your pistol's bullet" then you can keep things in perspective.
It's important to remember, however, that while most loads will deliver a slightly higher velocity out of these short-rifle barrels, many actually won't. And those that do may suffer from some design shortcomings when the rounds disintegrate on impact at the higher velocities. If you're shooting pistol calibers in your rifles, make sure the ammo is designed to function at the higher velocities of the rifle.
A patrol rifle and/or a close-quarter SWAT rifle, needs to be short, handy, and highly functional. There are many types that may fit the profile, depending upon your specific needs. And now, Beretta has jumped onto the train with the introduction of the Cx4 Storm Semiautomatic Carbine.
Form and Function
The Storm is marketed as a competitor to a number of other short, stylish patrol rifles.
Looking like something you saw in the hands of those nasty gorillas in the "Planet of the Apes" movies, the Storm is a lightweight (5.75-pound) pistol-caliber carbine only 29.7 inches in length. That's a tidy package and handy to both tote and stash in the trunk.
The Storm's unique design gives a shooter an enhanced-sighting radius (12.9 inches) and a shoulder stock, which means an officer can deliver his or her pistol ammo where it's needed most. The Polymer construction (blue-a novel idea-or black plastic) means the basic stock of the rifle is tough and the finish won't rub off like it would on a painted or coated stock. The 16.6-inch chrome-lined barrel coaxes the most velocity out of any load. A Picatinny rail on the top and sides lets you mount all sorts of lights, lasers, and other widgets (should that be your inclination) and you can even put a vertical grip on the front to make it look even more like a space gun.
At a street price of about $600, the Storm is right in the ballpark with many of the other patrol carbine candidates and cheaper than most. So, it looks cool-with its neat, molded stock and sexy curves-can be swapped around to be completely ambidextrous, and can be changed from one caliber to the other easily. Nifty. But, does it work? And if it does, how well?
All Sorts of Goodies
Beretta put some thought into this one and tried very hard to make the Storm an "everyman's" rifle. Sort of an "all things to all cops" way of thinking. They came very close, too. The take-down is push-button easy (call that cop-proof), and the gun comes apart into three assemblies that don't seem to lose any bits easily. More cop-proof design.
A fixed-barrel design, a cross-bolt safety, a firing pin safety, a hammer block, and a handy widget that keeps the bolt closed if you drop it, are some of the features of the Storm. The simple blow-back action means no gas tubes or delicate parts to get clogged up with powder or lead residue to tie things up. A loaded chamber indicator on the ejector is handy, and the rear recoil pad can be lengthened with inserts to increase the length of pull. It can be adjusted from as little as 12.35 inches to 15 inches. That's a really nice feature for officers of all sizes.
The Storm is available in a blue or black polymer stock and, frankly, I'd opt for blue just to be different. ("Why does everything have to be black?" he asks in exasperation.)
Its Picatinny rails offer versatility, and the front sight is fully adjustable for windage and elevation. The rear has a 50-meter and 100-meter flip aperture. Both sights can be folded down in case you're using optics.
Magazines are standard pistol mags from the Beretta pistol series and, depending upon the caliber, can be either from the 92/96 series or the Cougar. Which brings us to an interesting feature of the Storm. It can be converted from caliber to caliber. Some conversions require a different bolt face, but the bottom line is if you go through that cycle all agencies seem to suffer through, of changing calibers depending upon what you read in the popular press, at least the Storm can stay with you with a barrel, magazine, and magazine adapter kit.[PAGEBREAK]
The calibers available are 9x19 (standard 9mm), the slightly longer 9x21 (What can we say? It's a European thing.), the .40 S&W, and the always-popular .45 ACP. Beretta is covering all of the bases.
For all you southpaws out there, the Storm can be handily converted from right to left (or wrong to right, depending upon your point of view). The charging handle, mag release, safety, and, yes, even the direction it ejects the empties, can be customized.
Which means if you do convert your rifle to lefty, it probably had better be your very own, so none of us "regular" people gets confused if we check out an issue Storm and start reaching for all the wrong bits in the dark.
Overall, the workmanship is typical of Beretta. Everything fits nicely and the entire gun has that vaguely "European" feel that's hard to describe. It's sort of like driving a Fiat. It works the same as a Ford, goes the same speed as a Ford, uses the same gasoline as a Ford, but it's "different" when you get behind the wheel. Ditto for the Storm. All those curves and such remind us of a high-performance Italian race car. As a matter of fact, Beretta actually hired a famous designer to make the Storm sexy.
But with all its European fanciness, does the Storm deliver the goods as a patrol rifle?
While I can say the gun ran fine, digested all the ammo fed to it, nothing broke, and all the buttons and levers performed as advertised, that's just not enough to make this a great patrol rifle, at least not yet.
With its outlandish curves, I wondered if the Storm would feel "right" when used in the real world. A quick throw to the shoulder at a trade show is very different from 700 or so rounds in the dust, heat, and grit of a day at the range, or during the stress of training or a day on patrol.
At the range, the Storm loaded as expected (10 rounds). The mag inserted easily and locked home securely, but that's when I noticed the bolt release was very hard to press down. It was also difficult (and impossible for some other shooters) to manipulate with my firing grip in place. I all found it easier to simply work the charging handle with the left hand (for right-handed shooters) to get the gun charged.
Then it came time to release the magazine, and I found another small problem. When I attempted to maintain a firing grip and reach around to press the mag button with the thumbs of my shooting hand, I found that I couldn't quite reach the button. And you can't simply shift your grip (like on a 1911, SiG, or other gun with a mag release button to the rear of the trigger guard), since the stock cut-out doesn't allow your hand clearance to do so.
I think you could change the mag release so you could punch it with your trigger finger from the right side, and then get used to it. But I'm not sure if pressure from your trigger finger lying alongside the grip when firing or moving in the field might accidentally release the mag. You'd have to give it a serious look before you did it for real.
The trigger pull was hard-my RCBS gauge showed it at 10 to 11 pounds-and a bit on the gritty side. In defense of the test gun, it is a very early sample, indeed only one of a few in the country, and I wonder if such things will be smoothed out down the line as Beretta receives input from users.
The Storm shoulders well and is comfortable to shoot, from standing, sitting, prone, and the bench, and it seems to carry well. It's a lightweight rifle and that will make it a patrolman's darling very quickly.
I took 10 different 9mm loads with us and ran them through the Storm. The best 50-yard group (on an appropriate varmint target) was about four inches, and was shot with the 95-grain PMC Starfire load. The 124-grain Speer Gold Dot came in right at its heels.
I'll be honest and say I was a bit disappointed in the groups delivered. Some measured up to 8 inches at the 50-yard mark. All were shot from a bench rest. I had cleaned the barrel well before shooting, in case the prior tester had mucked it up, so we can't blame that.
I think a more controllable trigger pull would help things and, frankly, being an early test gun, I'll bet things settle down as production gets underway. To put things into perspective, I shot a 4.6-inch group the same day using the Gold Dot at 50 yards with a Robar-modified Browning Hi-Power pistol.
Its light weight and its ease of carry are only two of the many positive sides of the Storm. However, if my test sample was an indication of how the production guns fare, I'd lean on Beretta to do something about accuracy, the trigger pull, and the ergonomics on the magazine release from a firing grip.
All in all, the Cx4 Storm has some great potential once it gets over a couple of growing pains.
Caliber: 9mm (as tested), .40 S&W, .45 ACP
Magazines: Standard Beretta pistol
Barrel Length: 16.25 inches (chrome-lined)
Overall Length: 29.7 inches
Weight: 5.75 pounds
Stock: Polymer (blue or black)
Sights: Adjustable front and variable rear aperture
Features: Fully ambidextrous controls
Cost: Approx. $600 full retail
Roy Huntington is a long-time member of the Police Advisory Board, a retired San Diego cop, and the editor of American Handgunner.