By Pierre Descotes
For many decades now, polymer pistols are being widely used by armed forces and police around the world. Light, easy to field strip for a quick inspection and cleaning, they certainly have some advantages over the older steel frame pistols such as the Browning High Power in service with the Canadian military.
Then again, the polymer pistols also have their flaws.
When it comes to safety, what worries me most about these weapons is the fact that the number one rule must be broken when you want to strip most polymer pistols: pulling the trigger.
Rule number one with firearms is to never put your finger on the trigger unless you intend to shoot.
With most polymer pistols, you do not have the choice but to pull the trigger prior to stripping the weapon for cleaning.
What we hear and see all too often are accidental discharges (A.D.) when attempting to field strip – or strip – a polymer pistol.
The technique is simple:
1- Remove your magazine
2- Remove the chambered bullet
3- Pull trigger
4- Strip the pistol
Unfortunately, when the mind is not 100% on what you are doing, or soldiers are coming off extended patrol are fatigued, steps 1 and 2 are sometimes inverted and then when step 3 is attempted, you get an A.D.
What can one do to prevent this? In most cases, not much other than educate your soldiers and pray for the best.
Then again, what do you do if a round is stuck into the chamber, and is impossible to manually extract? Since you must pull the trigger to strip the pistol, unless you can safely shoot the stuck round, you are in serious trouble.
That is unless you have a Berretta APX.
Beretta has come up with a perfect solution, one that allows you to strip your pistol without ever touching the trigger.
On their new Beretta APX pistol, on the right side, there is a small button that disengages the striker. You only need to pull back the slide a few millimeters and push this side button to disengage the striker. It is no longer necessary to pull the trigger. And if you have a bullet that is totally stuck in the chamber, the complete upper slide assembly will come off in your hands without you even having to try to open the slide.
Safe, secure and easy.
So with this, all you need to do is to drill your soldiers to always use that button and if they do so, you will never have an A.D. again, even if they invert steps 1 and 2 during the field strip.
When a polymer pistol often rubs against a rough surface, over the years, the portion that rubs wears out. If that portion becomes too thin, the grip may crack under pressure or with a shock to it. Then again, for the user, the grip is no longer as safe and secure as when new. If the wear is too pronounced, the pistol should be scrapped.
Now, when it comes to the wear of the grip, the APX also covers this. For this pistol, the frame itself is not what you are holding but rather it is an inner core made of steel that contains the trigger mechanism. It is this inner part that is stamped with the serial number of the pistol. The polymer grip is removable and becomes a “component” of the pistol, no longer the pistol itself.
Should you break a grip or what seems to be the “frame”, you can replace this easily with a new grip, keeping the same serial number as the true frame is still undamaged.
There is no longer a need to scrap a complete pistol when only the grip or polymer part is worn out or broken. It makes it easier to keep track of inventory as one no longer needs to report a broken frame and replace it with a new pistol and a new serial number.
As long as you stay within the same caliber, all parts are interchangeable and it requires no fitting: the frame just drops in.
Since I have the honour of owning one of the first five Beretta APX pistols in Canada, I have had the chance to put it to the test. And trust me, I treated it very badly.
One of my first tests was to try it with regular duty rounds from various manufacturers. Then, I did the same with reloads with maximum and minimum loads.
With the sub-sonic minimum loads, I was expecting the pistol to fail extracting and reloading, especially after the first round. The recoil was so light that I was convinced that it did not reload, but it in fact did!
I shot 2 magazines, 34 rounds in total of those sub-sonic rounds and all of them actioned the pistol perfectly. The recoil was so light that the pistol barely moved. I have shot hundreds of pistols and so far, out of all of them, the APX is the pistol that, to me, offers the smoothest recoil and muzzle jump for a pistol that is “out of the box”, un-altered.
The APX was shot by various shooters, experts and newbies including the staff at Esprit de Corps. All of them had no problem controlling the muzzle jump and recoil.
Just for fun, I have shot 34 rounds in about 15 – 20 seconds at 7 meters and 31 of the 34 rounds struck within a 3 inch group. Talk about easy control! You can combat double tap without ever losing sight of your target.
Another major selling point for this pistol is the Striker Safety button. Too often, when a pistol is not cared for as recommended, the safety button which is located in the slide stays stuck in the “open” position. Unless you do a careful inspection, you will often overlook this.
When this happens, as the safety is “off” and as the striker is always under tension when a round is chambered, most pistols will fire if dropped or banged.
With the Beretta APX, should the striker safety be in the “open” position, you have an indicator located on top of the slide that will alarm you. It is virtually impossible to miss.
When the striker safety is in the “on” position, the indicator is not visible. When you pull the trigger, removing at the same time the striker safety, you can see the indicator rising on the slide. With this feature, you know in an instant if your pistol can or cannot shoot by itself if dropped or banged. Most other pistols with a striker do not offer this feature. Again, it is an soldier’s guarantee of pistol safety.
Another test which I conducted on the APX was done during a very cold day.
The pistol had well over 1000 rounds fired through it, both manufactured and reloaded ammunition with hollow points, round points and lead bullets. The pistol had received no cleaning since day one at that point. It was a mess. Considering what most military personnel shoot in one year, this pistol had at least the value of five years worth of dirt accumulated without any cleaning.
So, with the temperature at the range being minus 19 degrees, I fired again with what I considered to be the worst bullets for an extra dirty pistol: minimum charge, sub-sonic rounds.
Again, my expectation was that the pistol would fail to extract and/or fail to reload.
Much to my surprise, I had 100% function. No stove-pipe, no miss-extraction and no miss-feed. Although very cold and very dirty, I had a perfectly functioning weapon.
Clean or dirty, the action of the APX is so smooth that I believe that any soldier, having a strong or weak grip should be able to easily master this pistol in no time flat.
Beretta with the APX has jumped into the 21st century and have created some new innovations that many will attempt to copy.
Publisher’s Note: Author Pierre Descotes is a renowned Canadian firearms expert with a respected career in law enforcement.
He will be contributing a series of articles on weapon safety and firearm profiles in the coming months. This summer Descotes also provided the staff at Esprit de Corps with several handgun safety and familiarization demonstrations, which were informative and fun for all involved.
DESCOTES Canada Inc
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