I first shot the PX4 Storm Subcompact as a preproduction prototype. My first impression was, shall we say, underwhelming. I looked at it lying on the table like it was a fat envelope in the mailbox with an attorney’s return address, asking myself “Do I have to?” As soon as I glommed my size Large hands onto the grip, my attitude started changing. Many subcompact guns are hard to shoot. Some are abusive. After using up all the ammo our hosts would admit to having on hand, my hand felt none the worse for wear. I mentally filed away a note Here is a subcompact gun that is fun to shoot.
I had to wait some months before getting my hands on one to test here at Firearms Abuse Central. The wait was worth it. The PX4 Storm Subcompact is a traditional double-action/single-action pistol in 9mm. It’s a very nice trigger, by the way. It gives you second-strike capability, so if you run into a hard primer, you can stroke the trigger again and see if the primer is more responsive on the second go-round. The “D” model (this one) has a hammer-drop safety that, when levered, blocks the firing pin, drops that hammer and, when left down, keeps the pistol from firing.
Once I’d looked it over a bit, I went to disassemble it and found I had a problem. The usual Storm dual-lever takedown wasn’t there. Cycling the slide, it became apparent that the subcompact uses a tilting barrel, unlike the rotating barrel of the larger guns.
My years of working as a gunsmith led me to quickly identify the plate in front of the trigger as the takedown part. (That, and it was the only external part that didn’t clearly do something else.) However, it took some work to figure out how to work it. First-run production guns sent to gun writers do not often come with an owner’s manual, and I didn’t want to break it, lest I have to send a broken pistola to the photographer. The trick is, the lever hinges down pivoting on the rear part, and then pulls to the side to free the barrel. The barrel does not have a bushing; instead there’s a cone out front to lock up to the slide. As the barrel is all of three inches from muzzle to hood, I’m not sure there’s room for a bushing.
The frame is a polymer molding, with the action rails trapped in the polymer shell when molded. The trigger mechanism bears a strong resemblance to the M9/92 pistols, which explains the smooth and light double-action trigger pull and the crisp single action.
As it came in the box, the subcompact Storm had the smallest of the interchangeable backstraps on it, and I like it that way. Unless you have the hugest hands this side of professional wrestling, taking a subcompact pistol and making the grip bigger is missing the point–which is making it small.
Up front, the subcompact Storm has two features relatively new to the carry scene a light rail and trigger-finger locators. Well, not brand new but certainly not the earlier norm. A carry gun with a light rail is useful for a simple reason It is dark out half the time. Bad guys lurk in the darkness and not just in overwrought detective novels and TV shows. Having a light is good. Fitting a light to the Storm might otherwise have been difficult without the rail. Some lights might be a bit large on the subcompact Storm. Insight has its X2 and X2 Laser, which are so compact and fit so well you’d think the Storm and the X2 were designed together.
The dished area you see above the front of the trigger guard is a finger memory spot. If you keep your finger straight and off the trigger (and your fingers are long enough), your fingertip will rest in the dished-out area. We’re starting to see this on more pistols, as the word gets out that unless you need to shoot immediately, the best place for your finger is off the trigger.
The slide hold-open is not ambidextrous, nor need it be. The high-tech polymer that Beretta has chosen for the subcompact Storm (for all the Storms, really) is firm enough not to give in your hands, so you don’t feel like you’re squeezing it out of shape. It is soft enough to give a good feel, but be aware that you can mar, scratch or gouge it. It may be impervious to all known solvents, but you can still scratch it.
On the slide, we have the standard grasping grooves in the rear just ahead of the safety levers and a small patch of them up front. In back there are the aforementioned ambidextrous decocking levers, the rear sight and the hammer.
In front of the rear sight, on top of the slide, we have a pair of pins. The roll pin is the extractor pivot pin. The solid one is the firing pin block. It rises at the end of the trigger stroke to allow the firing pin unfettered access to the primer. The slide is finished with the extremely durable Bruniton finish. The sights are three-dot and mounted on the slide with dovetails, so if you wish, you can have them swapped out for night sights.
The extractor is large, external and rides in a scalloped section of the slide. The cut is interesting for the two things it obviously does. For one, it gives you access to the extractor to use it as a loaded-chamber indicator. When there is a round in the chamber, you can reach up with your trigger finger and feel that the extractor is no longer flush with the slide.
The second thing it does is reduce extractor weight. If Beretta had left the slide full-profile there and tried to use the extractor as a loaded-chamber indicator, the extractor would be so large its own mass would be a problem during recoil. It would probably break or bend, and we don’t want that.
Not using the extractor as a loaded-chamber indicator would leave them with the problem of installing one somewhere, somehow. Doing it this way indicates that Beretta has accomplished a bit of elegant engineering.
Another bit of nice engineering can be found on the magazines. The basic tubes are the same as the full-size Storm, so if you wished, you could use the full-capacity magazines when practicing or on the reload.
The subcompact Storm magazines have a 13-round capacity, which is pretty impressive for such a short-framed pistol. It’s so short that with the standard magazines in place, my little finger doesn’t have much to rest on. I can get my little finger on the magazine base pad, but after the first shot the recoil has pulled the baseplate away from my hand and the finger then rides under the baseplate.
However, Beretta has an answer for that a baseplate with a hinged lip. Pressed up and locked in place, the lip sticks forward. Holstered, it would add nothing to the bulk to be concealed. When you grab the grip (if your hand is large enough), your little finger snaps the hinged lip down and it then provides a rest for your hand. Very interesting. With the hinged baseplate magazine in, the lip locks my little finger to the grip and provides a noticeable increase in recoil control. And recoil is what you’re going to get when you load the subcompact Storm with serious ammo. Given the short barrel, you aren’t going to get the full velocity figures printed on ammunition boxes or in advertising, but you will still get what you need.
If you do want to change the backstrap, you do as you would with the full-size Storm Pull out the wire locking gizmo, snap off the old, snap on the new and push the locking gizmo back in.
Also as with the full-size Storm, the subcompact has a removable trigger assembly. Look directly back from the magazine button and you’ll see a small pin. Press that out and you can lift the trigger pack straight up out of the frame (with the slide off, of course). For armorers, the trigger pack is swappable, so you can get a pistol back into the field right away and fuss over the recalcitrant trigger without pulling a pistol off duty.
For those of us not doing such work, taking the trigger out as a unit lets us clean it thoroughly without risking the loss of small parts. A small pistol, carried daily concealed, is a magnet for dust bunnies. If you aren’t diligent, you could attract enough lint to knit a pair of socks–or keep your carry gun from working. With the removable trigger assembly, you can easily get the lint out.
As with the full-size Storm, the magazine release is changeable from left to right side and back again. Left-handed shooters can swap the button if they wish.
Something like the Law Enforcement Only Winchester 9mm +P+, a 115-grain bullet that goes nearly 1,400 fps out of a Government-size pistol with a five-inch barrel, will still be doing 1,250 out of the Storm. Milder ammo will deliver less velocity, and you can get sedate recoil if you pick the right ammo.
As a bonus, the double-stack grip of the Storm gives the grip a lot of surface area against your hand, taking the sting out of shooting. While the Storm will come back at you, you won’t feel at the end of a practice session as if someone has just whacked your hand with a stick.
As for accuracy, I’m happy to tell you the good news The Storm shoots. I started by shooting over sandbags (no machine rest inserts on hand for the Storm, alas) and produced some spectacular groups with Remington 147-grain ammo. The best was an inch and a quarter at 25 yards. I almost fell off my bench when I looked at that one through the binoculars.
The average for that session was just a smidgen over two inches at 25 yards. The 100-yard gong was in serious danger with the Storm. Offhand, I managed a 75 percent hit average, which is impressive considering the short sight radius.
In a world crowded with really small carry guns, the Storm has definite appeal The trigger is very manageable; the capacity is excellent; and being able to use larger magazines on the reload means you can step out the door of your house easily carrying 31 rounds with your Storm and one spare mag.
If the accuracy of the rest of them is anything like the Storm I have, you could win bets at the gun club, shooting your carry gun against some Bullseye guns. Short of doing my “five-gallon bucket with a shovelful of dirt” abuse test, I don’t know what the reliability limits of the subcompact Storm are. But judging from its parentage and engineering, the Storm would pass.
I do have a few complaints, but they are cosmetic and I realize I risk curmudgeon status mentioning them. The front sight isn’t fitted as well as it should be, and there is daylight beneath it and the slide. The curve of the rear of the slide doesn’t match the frame, and the slide rails protrude as little points. They’re already worn bright on the edges from shooting and carry. And the rear sight is, well, ugly.
I can live with those complaints, as the benefits of the Storm subcompact far outweigh any minor aesthetic quibbles. And after all, I have a list of custom gunsmiths with mortgage payments to support if I feel the need to improve the cosmetic details of the Storm.
If there’s a storm coming, you’d be well ahead of the problem if you have a little Storm of your own.