Shooting the Beretta .45 ACP PX4

As this is written, there can be little doubt that handgun manufacturers are burning the proverbial “midnight oil” to produce petite pistols intended for the ever-growing number of licensed carriers across the US.  At the same time, handgun designs more suitable for uniform or service use continue being introduced and for good reason: They have been popular seemingly forever and remain so. This handgun genre are large enough to reduce felt-recoil, offer outstanding reliability and still be concealable with but minimal extra user attention compared to small handguns intended primarily for concealed carry. Most have greater inherent accuracy than users can exploit. The service gun’s size, weight and handling characteristics usually enhance its shooter’s practical accuracy potential.

Beretta offers a service pistol designated as the “PX4 Storm”.  It is available in 9mm, .40 S&W as well as .45 ACP. There are variations on the PX4 theme, but this report will focus on the common “F” version in which the slide-mounted, ambidextrous thumb safety acts as both a decocker and mechanical safety. The rear portion of the firing pin is rotated out of contact position with the hammer and shield by the safety lever shaft as well. The PX4 also sports an internal firing pin safety that prevents the firing pin from moving unless the trigger is pressed.

Beretta PX4 Storm .45 ACP Range Trip 025.JPGBeretta PX4 Storm .45 ACP Range Trip 021.JPG

Above left:  One side of the slide-mounted ambidextrous safety can be seen as well as the snag-free hammer and rear sight. The trigger is pressed reward and the raised cylinder atop the slide indicates that the internal firing pin safety is disengaged. Above right: When the trigger is not pressed rearward the internal firing pin safety top lies flush with the top of the slide. The relatively small ambidextrous thumb safety levers are also visible. Note that the hammer appears off-center in the slide notch. The bottom of the hammer fills the corresponding frame width but the right side of the hammer shank is slightly thinned. I am not sure why.

The F-version of the PX4 family is probably the most common version sold in the US.  In any event, it is the only version I’ve found in most gun stores.  For those interested, I did a previous report on the PX4 in 9mm, which can be found via this link:

…and an update on this pistol is here:

In a nutshell, I suffered no problems with the 9mm PX4 with respect to function or accuracy and the sights very well-regulated so that POA closely matched POI with most loads tried.

Cognizant that .45 ACP remains an extremely popular self-defense round, I opted to buy a PX4 in that caliber, shoot it, and report my observations.  Understand that what I find is based on a sample of precisely one pistol unless otherwise noted.  I cannot afford to buy enough of any handgun to be “statistically valid”. I report what I have personally experienced and leave it to the reader to use as but a single data point or to ignore entirely, their decision entirely.  Objectivity is my goal but if personal preference is mentioned, it is so labeled and not presented as a fact.

The PX4 .45 ACP has a 4” barrel with 1:15.9” twist (call it 1:16”) and sports a chrome-lined bore for additional corrosion protection with an external diameter measuring 0.60” except for the final 0.48” to the muzzle, which measures 0.608”. This is presumably for more precise lockup as the slide slams forward into battery, enhancing mechanical accuracy.  The F-version is a traditional DA/SA locked breech, recoil-operated semiautomatic measuring 7.6” in length and is 5.5” tall.  Grip width is listed at 1.2”. Empty, the 45-caliber PX4 weighs 28.2”.  It uses double-stack magazines and comes with one holding 9 shots and a 10-round spare. The PX4 has a traditional external hammer.

Beretta PX4 Storm .45 ACP Range Trip 026.JPG

The 45-caliber PX4 came with two magazines. The bodies are steel and appear to have a conventional blue finish.  The one on the left holds ten cartridges and has a thicker floor plate. (The magazine body runs nearly to the bottom of the thicker floor plate. Both fed a wide variety of JHP’s flawlessly and both fall free when released.  The PX4’s magazine release is the typical push-button design located at the lower rear of the trigger guard and is reversible.

Beretta PX4 Storm .45 ACP Range Trip 011.JPGBeretta PX4 Storm .45 ACP Range Trip 020.JPG

The old Corbon 200-gr. JHP + P (left), which used Speer’s 200-gr. “flying ashtray”, fed as smoothly as ball in the PX4.  So did Remington’s 230-gr. Golden Saber (left). I did not find these magazines difficult to load to capacity by hand.

The PX4 frame is described by Beretta as “fiberglass reinforced polymer”, so I reckon the PX4 would fall in the “plastic pistol” category along with Glocks, S&W M&P’s, and Springfield Armory’s XD’s.

Beretta PX4 Storm .45 ACP Range Trip 033.JPG

The PX4 is offered with removable back straps and comes with three: small, medium and large. Simultaneously depressing the spring-loaded levers on the frame just atop the front of the trigger guard allows the slide and barrel assembly to be removed from the front, very much like the Glock.  This pistol’s slide has a Bruniton finish, which is dark and extremely corrosion-resistant.

This PX4’s double-action trigger-pull measured a smooth 11 pounds and trigger-reach comfortable using the back strap shown in the picture. Single-action measured a consistent 5 ¼ pounds.

Beretta PX4 Storm .45 ACP Range Trip 013.JPG

Like its 9mm and 40-caliber cousins, the PX4 in .45 ACP is a locked breech design using a rotary barrel and removable locking block on the full-size version.  The PX4 compact is of the more commonly used dropping or tilting barrel, which allows barrel lugs to drop free from the slide, after both move rearward a fraction of an inch and the bullet’s exited the barrel.

Beretta PX4 Storm .45 ACP Range Trip 016.JPG

Shown here is the PX4 barrel and (captive) recoil spring assembly inserted into the removable locking block, which sits in the frame.

Beretta PX4 Storm .45 ACP Range Trip White1.jpg

The recoil spring assembly simply slides out of the front of the locking block.  I seen this criticized because the locking block could be lost.  In my opinion, the same could hold true with the 1911 or Hi Power’s removable recoil spring guides.  Any loose part might be lost.  I do not see how concerns over the potential loss of the PX4’s locking block should overshadow that of the previously-mentioned recoil spring guide rods…or the recoil springs assemblies themselves! You decide if this worry is valid or not.

Show how does this 45 shoot and is it reliable?  With my particular pistol, the answer is a resounding “Yes” to both, and I bet that the same has proven true with most other PX4’s.  The following ammunition was fired through this PX4.  Both magazines were used.

.45 ACP PX4 Test Ammunition & Results


Number of Rounds Fired:


Corbon 185-gr. JHP +P



Corbon 185-gr. DPX +P



Federal Classic 185-gr. JHP



Handloaded 200-gr. SWC



Winchester USA 230-gr. FMJ



Remington UMC 230-gr. FMJ



Federal 230-gr. AE FMJ



Sellier & Bellot 230-gr. FMJ



Corbon 200-gr. JHP +P*



Winchester 230-gr. Ranger JHP



Remington 230-gr. Golden Saber



Federal Classic 230-gr. JHP



*Discontinued load using Speer’s 200-gr. “Flying Ashtray” JHP bullet.

A total of 910 shots were fired during three range sessions, with the pistol being cleaned and lightly-lubed between sessions.  I do not recall exactly how many rounds per session were fired, but remember that the majority were fired during the last two sessions.  I estimate firing about 150 during the first trip.  This would leave approximately 380 per remaining two range trips. There were no malfunctions of any kind.

Beretta PX4 Storm .45 ACP Range Trip 012.JPG

These groups were fired standing and using a two-hand hold in slow-fire using single-action. Though subjective, I found the pistol very comfortable and easy to shoot.  The Federal standard pressure 185-gr. JHP had relatively low felt-recoil. These targets are not intended to be “combat representative” or anything other than to see how “shootable” the pistol was.  I found it very comfortable. For me, the gun’s “practical accuracy” (i.e.: how easily it can be shot accurately) was very good.  I do like this pistol’s feel; others may not.  In my observation, practical accuracy is subjective.  Mechanical or inherent accuracy is not.  I had no machine rest with which to eliminate human error, but this PX4 grouped very well.

Beretta PX4 Storm .45 ACP Range Trip 015.JPG

This 25-shot group was fired at 25 yards with me sitting and my wrists braced on sand bags.  There was no effort at speed and the PX4 was fired only in single-action. The errant shot at 7 o’clock in the 9-ring was my fault.

Beretta PX4 Storm .45 ACP Range Trip 017.JPG

This was a very nice surprise and might be of interest to shooters handloading the .45 ACP round. Handloads using cast SWC bullets based on the old H&G 68 fed and grouped just fine in this pistol.

Beretta PX4 Storm .45 ACP Range Trip 024.JPG

This group was fired standing and with a two-hand hold using double-action only.  I dropped the hammer between each shot.

Beretta PX4 Storm .45 ACP Range Trip 018.JPG

This popular load is used by not only some law enforcement agencies, but non-police citizens as well. I found it both reliable and accurate from the PX4.

None of these targets are intended to do anything but see if the pistol shoots to the sights and hopefully provide an idea of its intrinsic accuracy.  It appears to me that POA does match POI for a center-hold, i.e.: top of rear sight is level with the top of the rear sight and in the middle of the dark gray 2” diameter bullseye.  The PX4’s built-in mechanical or intrinsic accuracy appears very good and is limited primarily by my human error!

To see how the pistol handles at speed, I fired Jim Higginbotham’s “Standard Controllability Drill”. It simply requires that 5 shots be fired at a target measuring 8 ½” tall x 5 ½” wide with no misses.  The distance is only 5 yards and the shooter starts from a low-ready position and uses both hands.  The time-limit is 2 seconds.  It is a pass/fail exercise. I ran it 5 times, starting with a double-action first-shot.  Average time was 1.89 seconds using Winchester USA 230-gr. FMJ.

I usually do not emphasize speed drills or those associated with self-protection.  The reason is that a shooter’s skill levels are unique to that person.  If I buy the very same handgun used by a world-class champion, will my abilities miraculously match his because of it?  We all should know the answer to that one!  Skill has to be learned and maintained.  It is not bought.

My approach is to relate a firearm’s actual tangible properties.  I believe that I can relate how reliable a particular firearm is…or is not.  I can offer at least an idea as to its inherent mechanical accuracy and share my observations on such things as felt recoil or appearance, subjective though they might be. This might provide enough information to help interested parties to decide whether or not that firearm is “right” for them or not.

Conclusions: I believe that Beretta’s PX4 is reliable with a variety of ammunition. The 45-caliber PX4 shot for this report matched the 100% reliability I experienced with the 9mm version. Recoil and muzzle flip were greater with the larger caliber, which is to be expected since both pistols’ dimensions are pretty much equivalent.  According to Beretta the 45-caliber version weighs ½ ounce less than the 9mm.  (I presume this is due to more steel being removed from the larger caliber’s barrel.)  I did not find the PX4 in .45 ACP difficult to handle, but I do not know whether or not this is due to the design’s rotating barrel. In any event, my subjective opinion is that for a 45-auto, this one handles recoil nicely.

I found the PX4’s fixed sights easy to find at speed.  The ample rear sight notch contributed to an easy to see front sight in both slow and quick firing drills.  At the same time, I did not find it excessively wide for more precise type shooting.  The sights were 3-dot, but I expect that tritium sights are or will be available for those interested.

Magazines were easy to load and I did not find the magazine loading tool that accompanied the pistol necessary.  The magazine bodies are blued steel and not rust-resistant. 

Neither this PX4 nor the 9mm I tested had magazine safeties and magazines never failed to fall freely when released, and this held true whether they were empty or partially-loaded.

I found the double-action trigger-pull to be smooth but with minor stacking before the break. (This would not have been a deal-breaker for me.) Single-action broke cleanly.  Reset was positive and allowed for easy rapid-fire, but it didn’t feel as short as for the 1911, but what pistol is?

It would not surprise me to learn that this pistol can group as nicely as SIG-SAUER’s P220.

What about the rotary barrel?  Some suggest that it is not reliable and shouldn’t be trusted for serious purposes and must be continuously lubed to function.  Others vehemently disagree. Who is telling the truth?  That I cannot say because I am not willing to spend the money for ammunition to find out, but here with the typical light coat of oil I use for my Hi Powers, 1911’s and CZ’s the PX4 runs just fine.  It is sometimes suggested that grease should be used instead of oil.  I used oil and function was 100%, but I did not seek to fire thousands of shots between cleanings and then re-oiling.

At the range after one firing session, I used rubbing alcohol to remove all traces of oil on the barrel, locking lug and slide rails. I reassembled the pistol and fired 50 rounds.  Function was perfect.  That’s not much of a “torture test”, but I don’t foresee needing to shoot the PX4 (or any of my other firearms) without normal lubrication. Since the advent of Mr. Glock’s pistols, it seems that the once normal cleaning-and-lubing rigor in handgun maintenance somehow became an unnecessary nuisance.  I own, shoot and trust Glock pistols…but mine are cleaned and lubed (as per Glock’s instructions) after each shooting session.  I do not know if the PX4 would function as reliably as the Glock if bone dry, but mine went fifty shots without incident.  When lubricated, it was not overly done.  I applied oil in similar amounts as when using my other non-Glock semiautomatics.

I would trust either of the PX4 pistols as defensive arms.  In other words, I’d bet my life that they would function perfectly.

For me, the 45-caliber PX4 “feels” more comfortable in the hand than the Glock 21, Springfield Armory XD, SIG-SAUER P220 or FNP 45.  I admit that this is entirely subjective and does not hold true for all shooters. The PX4 also seems smaller “in person” than its “paper dimensions” suggest. I believe that this service pistol could be carried concealed without undue effort.

My major criticism of the PX4 is the ambidextrous slide-mounted thumb safety levers. I find them distinctly uncomfortable during malfunction-clearing drills and a minor nuisance when retracting the slide.  This is probably a non-issue with many shooters, but I much prefer designs not having appendages on the slide.  I wonder if this is because I’ve used Hi Powers, 1911’s, and other “slick slide” designs for decades. (I still find myself disengaging an imagined thumb safety when shooting many handguns not having them!)

Other than the uncomfortable (to me) thumb safety levers, I like this pistol.  I would like to definitively know how intrinsically accurate it truly is, but have neither the skill nor mechanical means to determine it. I believe that the full-size PX4 design provides more accuracy than is needed for the demands of a service pistol or can be realized by most shooters. I do not believe that the pistol is “fragile” and have read reports of range-rental PX4’s sending thousands upon thousands of rounds downrange without incident. 

I suspect that the vast majority of full-size PX4 owners are quite satisfied with their pistols...and rightfully so in my opinion.


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