By E.W.E. Hughes, Jr.
I’m a Beretta guy. I love their shotguns, pistols, the Beretta name, history, and legacy. The name Beretta seems to roll off the tongue like Maserati, Ferrari, and Lamborghini. It exudes a sense of quality and that sensuous Italian mystique that German, Austrian, Czech, and American firearms can never hope to achieve. Don’t get me wrong; I love all of my firearms, but my favorites are my Berettas. To be fair, I shoot extremely well with my GLOCK 22 and 27. But the GLOCK design is minimalism to an extreme. They’re one of the best examples of form following function in a modern pistol. But as reliable and competent as GLOCKs are, they leave me cold . . .
I own a Beretta 92 A1 (my favorite pistol), a Nano, and recently bought the full-size, PX4 Storm Inox 9mm. I have been pining for a PX4 Inox ever since I traded my PX4 Compact 40 over a year ago. I really loved the PX4 Compact, but it was just a little too small for my fat, ogre-like mitts. It actually gave me hammer bite to the point of drawing blood a few times, something that I’ve never heard or read about regarding criticisms of the PX4 design.
I don’t fault Beretta for this. I’ve gotten slide bite on more than one occasion from my GLOCK 27, and installed an aftermarket beaver tail on my G22 for good measure. This time, I wanted to do it right and got the full-size Storm. And I wasn’t going to settle for a standard, Bruniton finished model. I craved the pricier, stainless-steel (Inox) two-tone version.
As most of you probably know, there’s nothing like the feeling of unboxing a new pistol purchase. There’s a giddiness and excitement that reminds me of buying a new pair of Buster Browns or Keds when I was a little kid. However, as I’ve previously experienced, the infamous blue Beretta case that emerged from the gray cardboard box is about as cheap and cheesy as a bottle of Thunderbird from the local crack-corner convenience store. You’d expect it to hold a Taurus or Kel-Tec from the looks of the thing. Fortunately, the anemic, ugly blue case is where the disappointment ends.
The PX4 Storm Inox design is, in a word, unique. It’s the antithesis of GLOCK. While some aficionados may think it’s ugly, to me it’s a beautiful work of firearm art – a masterful and calculated synergy of engineering, ergonomics, and aesthetics. Then again, I’m sure that even Catrinel Menghia has her detractors.
Inox means stainless steel, and the brushed-looking inox slide is impeccable. Its bead-blasted finish gives the slide a satiny silvery-green appearance that’s understated, unlike the gaudy bling of nickel or chrome. And unlike a blocky GLOCK, the contours in the slide make the PX4 Storm look sexy and sleek — just what one would expect from an Italian-made gun. There are slide cuts both fore and aft that are neither too sharp nor too slippery, and the slide is virtually snag free for an easy draw. The only feature that seems to conjure up much of vitriol is the slide-mounted safety/decocker, but more on that later.
The grip frame is made out of ubiquitous thermoplastic, fiberglass reinforced “technopolymer”. Like many other polymer frame offerings. it comes standard with an integral Picatinny ML-STD-1913 rail, and three grip inserts. I installed the large one to accommodate my Neanderthal-like hands. Changing the grip insert, though, is a royal PITA.
First, remove the magazine and then, using a flat head screw driver, pull out a U-shaped retaining spring/clip. That’s the easy part. The insert fit so tightly that it took me quite some time before I could work it free of the frame. Once it was off, snapping the large insert onto the frame was relatively easy. But, re-inserting the U-shaped retaining spring/clip was very difficult, especially clearing the last couple of inches. Perhaps the tight tolerance is a good thing; I’d hate to have easy-to-remove-and-install insert grips if they were lose during operation.
There are aggressive serrations cut into the plastic on the back and front of the grip handle, but the sides are smooth and flat with the exception of the Beretta trademark and the PX4 Storm logos. My preference is the fine grip stippling found on HK 30, Walther PPQ M2, or even the SIG Sauer SP2022. The Storm’s grip angle facilitates a natural point-of-aim for me, more so than the grip angle of a GLOCK, which tends toward the high side. The upper rear of the grip has a curved recess that creates a beaver tail of sorts to give a snug fit and prevent hammer bite. Overall, the grip is very comfortable, but since the grip sides are flat, they don’t fill the recesses in my palms as well as my CZ’s do.
The magazine release can easily be switched for left-handed shooters, and there are different magazine release sizes: high, medium, and low. According to the Beretta USA website, the slide stop can also be replaced by a lower profile version. The website also states that the trigger mechanism is removable and interchangeable without the need for specialized tools, but after perusing the internals, it’s not as simple or straightforward as the modular SIG P250 series. I won’t be tinkering with it in the foreseeable future without a good reason.
Aesthetics aside, the main reason I’m fascinated with the PX4 Storm is the uncommon rotating barrel locking system. Unlike most self-loading pistols that use the Colt-Browning tilt-barrel design, the PX4 cam operation employs lugs on the barrel and a peg on the locking block that fits into a channeled groove fitted on the barrel. When fired, the barrel moves backwards and engages the locking block peg which rotates the barrel approximately 45 degrees and unlocks the barrel lugs from the locking block and slide. The barrel is halted when the rear of the locking block engages the rear of the barrel lug, while the slide continues to travel rearward. The extractor strips the spent casing from the barrel and the ejector launches the empty casing clear of the action. The recoil spring pulls the slide forward and strips another live round from the magazine and the process repeats itself.
According to Beretta, the benefits of this system are as follows:
The model Px4 Storm pistol uses the rotating barrel locking system that provides robustness and long-life, even when using powerful calibers. Further enhanced, the system boasts extremely robust locking lugs, located at 180° in order to ensure the best distribution of locking forces when firing. The reduced friction areas between the barrel and the slide, as well as the central block, guarantee a remarkable fluency of operation and great reliability, even under poor climate conditions. In addition, the barrel features an enlarged external muzzle diameter that ensures a precise and constant barrel-to-slide coupling, shot after shot, considerably enhancing the accuracy of the pistol. Furthermore, the reduction of the external barrel diameter for its remaining length guarantees an improved rear and forward travel of the slide during the operating cycle.
Additional benefits include a lower bore-axis and the channeling of recoil energy into the rotation of the barrel, which are supposed to decrease muzzle flip and “perceived” recoil, allowing for faster and more accurate follow up shots.
One thing is for sure: the PX4 Storm Inox is tighter than Shylock. I’m not sure if it’s because of the rotating barrel and locking block design, but this pistol has no rattle, and almost no side-to-side play between the slide and polymer grip frame rails.
Field stripping the PX4 Storm is almost as easy as breaking down a GLOCK, which has become the field-strip benchmark. Unlike a GLOCK, though, you don’t have to pull the trigger to release the slide. Remove the magazine and cycle the gun to make sure it’s unloaded. Pull back on the slide with one hand while simultaneously pulling down on the two tabs on either side of the polymer frame just above the front of the trigger guard with the other hand, and push the slide forward.
Once the slide is off, push the locking block forward, and lift the locking block and recoil spring assembly out of the slide. Remove the barrel from the slide. Field strip completed. Reassembly is simply a reverse of this process, and the key is to make sure that peg in the locking block engages the channel or slot in the barrel. It’s easier to reassemble this pistol with the slide upside down. First insert the barrel into the slide with the barrel slot pointing up. Insert the small end of the recoil spring into the locking block. Insert the large end of the recoil spring into the round slot at the front of the slide and align and insert the peg into the channel slot of the barrel. Finally, while still holding the slide assembly upside down, insert the frame into the slide, and rack the slide a few times to ensure proper function.
Shooting the PX4 Storm Inox
Two weeks after acquiring my new PX4 Storm Inox, I finally had enough affordable ammo (300 rounds of Winchester 115 grain white box from Wally World) and time to make a trip to the gun range. The pistol includes two Italian-made, 17-round magazines that have to be the stiffest, most difficult to load pistol magazines I’ve ever encountered. I don’t use magazine loaders, and don’t have the sense to figure out how to make the one included with the PX4 to work. I usually dismiss petty complaints of stiff magazine springs, but these magazines were so stiff that at first I thought I had mistakenly received 10 round magazines. On one magazine, I could only muster 12 rounds. On the second one, I was able to shove two more rounds for a total of 14 rounds. Fortunately, they both loosened up and became easier with each reload. However, I never subjected my thumbs to the tortured task of loading the full 17 round capacity.
I shot two magazines of 26 rounds on a bench rest at six-inch targets at 15 yards to check for accuracy and point of aim. The first few shots exhibited a few flyers, but the pistol settled down, and I quickly found that the PX4 is more accurate than I am – no surprise there. Similar to my Beretta 92 A1, you need to cover the bull’s eye of the target with the dot on the front post, or you’ll find yourself shooting low. The sights are metal, three-dot, and I painted the front dot orange to accommodate my aging eyes. (Meprolight and Trijicon have tritium night sights available for the PX4 Storm full-size “F” version.)
The double-action trigger pull is long and smooth, without any take-up and a clean break at around 10 – 12 pounds. The single-action trigger pull has quite a bit of take-up until it breaks at about 4 – 5 pounds. The reset on the single-stage trigger is a little longer than I’d like, slightly more than the SIG Sauer SP2022 & Beretta 92 A1, and miles longer than the SIG Sauer M11-A1 with the SRT trigger option. However, the slightly longer reset didn’t seem to slow me down during double taps; in fact, I didn’t even notice it.
The PX4 Inox was simply fun to shoot, and gobbled down my cheap ammo without a hiccup or hint of malfunction from the first shot until the last. Whether the rotating barrel mitigates “perceived” recoil or not, I found it very controllable and easy to get back on target. However, I don’t think it’s as quite as soft shooting as the 92 A1, but the PX4 Storm weighs 28 oz. unloaded, and the 92 A1 is six oz. heavier at 34 oz. Those extra six oz. and longer barrel make a discernable difference.
The only two issues I have with the storm are the flat, smooth sides of the grip frame, and the Beretta trade mark slide-mounted safety/de-cocker. Even with the largest grip insert in place, the PX4 Storm wanted to squirm in my hands unless I had a death grip on it. I think a strip of skate board tape or a strip of the Talon rubber grips on either side would solve the problem. (I had to install Talon rubber grips on the Nano for the same reason.)
Personally, I don’t like manual safeties on my hand guns. I prefer the de-cocker-only configuration on my CZ 75 P01. (Beretta is supposed to have a “G” version of the PX4 Storm that is a de-cocker only, but I’ve never seen one in a gun shop, and I don’t think it’s available in the “F” version Inox model.) However, I’ve learned to live with it on the 92 A1. The problem is that the PX4 Storm’s safety levers are like a set of sharp bat wings protruding out of the slide; they are not as smooth and subtle as the 92 A1 safety levers. These things will bite you if you’re not careful when racking the slide. I’ve found that it’s best to rack the slide with the levers in the down position, safety on, and then flip the safety lever up to fire in double action.
The Beretta PX4 Storm Inox marches to the beat of a different drummer, a unique option in a sea of GLOCK clones. And that’s its allure for me; it’s the quintessential anti-GLOCK polymer pistol. It’s an excellent choice for home defense or duty use, and can double as a CCW option with a good holster and the right clothing. The Storm is probably a “love it or hate it” firearm, and it’s easy to see why – it has features and quirks that some will love and others won’t be able to abide. Finally, it has a design that’s the perfect union of firearm art and utility in a polymer pistol. If Leonardo da Vinci were alive today, he’d own a Beretta PX4 Storm Inox.
Model: Beretta PX4 Storm Inox
Capacity: 17 rounds
Materials: Stainless steel slide, polymer frame
Weight: 27.7 oz.
Overall height: 5.51”
Overall length: 7.55”
Overall width: 1.42”
Barrel length: 4”
Sight radius: 5.75”
Sights: Fixed metal three dot
Action: Double action/ single action
List price: $650
Ratings (out of five stars):
Style: * * * * *
The PX4 Storm Inox is one of the most uniquely designed polymer pistol offerings, and the stainless steel slide is the perfect accent to a beautiful gun.
Ergonomics (carry) * * *
The PX4 subcompact or the Beretta Nano are better for concealment, but if you prefer a full-sized pistol and are used to concealing one, you shouldn’t have an issue with the PX4 Storm full-size Inox.
Ergonomics (firing) * * * *
This is a natural-pointing, well-balanced, soft-recoiling pistol which makes for easy and accurate follow up shots. I held back a star because of the smooth sides on the grips.
Reliability * * * * *
I experience zero failures of any kind from shot 1 through 300. The PX4 Storm has been around for several years, and has a very good record for reliability and durability.
Customize This * * *
Besides adding night sights, mounting a light or laser, and some grip tape, I’m not sure what else you could or would want to do to this pistol. There’s certainly not as many option as Glock.
Overall * * * *
I would have liked to given the PX4 Storm five stars but took one off because of the bat wing safety levers and the flat, smooth grip sides. Five stars means damn near perfect, and it’s not quite perfect in my opinion. However, I highly recommend it to those who wish to take the road less traveled.