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Beretta APX A1 Full-Size Striker-Fired Pistol: Full Review

The new Beretta APX A1 full-size striker-fired handgun represents the pinnacle of the company's emphasis on science and artistry of design. Here's a full review.

Beretta APX A1 Full-Size Striker-Fired Pistol: Full Review

(Alfredo Rico photo)

It’s stunning to think that Beretta was established in 1526, and that 500 years and 15 generations later it remains a privately held company still operated by the Beretta family. Its founding occurred during an era when Nicolaus Copernicus proposed a heliocentric universe, ushering in the Scientific Revolution. Michelangelo was creating timeless art that millions still flock to see. In that vein, science is the backbone of Beretta’s manufacturing, and art is present in its firearms design. This is illustrated in the latest pistol, the APX A1 Full Size. It was developed using the latest engineering technology, and the contours suggest a sculpture designed for my hands.

The APX Family

A highly modular pistol, the APX is a contemporary striker-fired design that first appeared in the June 2017 issue of Guns & Ammo. With its distinctive slide serrations, the APX proved its potential after strenuous testing. The APX Combat, Centurion (2018) and Carry (2019) followed.

Beretta designers refer to the original APX as the “APX A0,” the evolutionary start of this model’s story. The APX A1 Carry shares some internal design concepts with the APX A0, including a removeable serialized chassis, but it is a different gun in many ways. The Carry, for example, uses a single-stack magazine, a smaller barrel and frame.

In May 2022, Beretta announced the APX A1 Full Size, the successor to the APX A0. Guns & Ammo’s editors assigned me to cover the launch event at Beretta’s new manufacturing plant in Gallatin, Tennessee, where I spent time with the pistol and was given a tour.

Beretta APX A1 Full Size Slide Serrations
At a glance, the front serrations and contours stand apart from those on the original APX. These are closer together and lean forward. It’s clear that Beretta embraced its user feedback. (Alfredo Rico photo)

Out with the Old

The APX A1 Full Size is the result of customer feedback from the APX A0. Beretta’s engineers went back to work and enhanced the APX A0 after several details were scrutinized. However, the two are almost identical dimensionally and they share the same barrel, removable fire-control chassis and double-stack magazine. These components are even swappable with the APX A0.

Since the APX A1 represents the latest evolution of this platform, the APX A0 and its variants will be phased out of the U.S. commercial market. Still, Beretta will keep supplying the APX A0 to several military forces that initially adopted it. As the original APX, you can expect the A1 line to expand with different size models and color treatments in the future.

Beretta APX A1 Full Size Blacked-Out Rear Sight and Tritium-Filled Front Sight
A blacked-out rear sight and tritium-filled front sight also reflect popular demand. Of course, red-dot compatibility was also prioritized. The APX A1 slide features an optic cut, standard. (Alfredo Rico photos)

The Slide

One of the most obvious differences with the new model is the angular, closely spaced serrations on the slide. Editor Eric Poole infamously compared the original APX serrations to a Toblerone chocolate bar in jest, a description that stuck with subsequent reviews. They are no more. Although Beretta abandoned the vertical and wide-spaced serrations, I applaud engineers for taking a chance and creating something visually distinct. It’s only by presenting fresh ideas that innovation happens. (And there were many shooters who liked those serrations.)

The front and rear sights have also been updated. The rear sight is now blacked out and the front sight has a tritium-filled vial with a white outline. This is how I prefer my handgun sights. For me, it makes them ideal for daytime and nighttime use. If you’re looking to change the sights, the dovetail cuts are the same as the M9A4 and 92X pistols.

Since red dots are in vogue, optic-ready slides are a necessity for manufacturers to include. Therefore, the APX A1 Full Size is available only as a red-dot, optic-ready pistol; it ships with an optics-plate cover. The slide is milled for Beretta’s adapter system, but it doesn’t include a plate due to the multitude of red-dot footprints. Instead, Beretta offers mounting plate kits separately for Aimpoint, Burris, Docter, C-More, Leupold, and Trijicon products.




Another new addition to the slide is Beretta’s proprietary Aqua Tech coating. The water-based finish was developed to withstand military requirements and is said to be more corrosion-resistant than a conventional nitride coating. This is advertised as another example of Italian ingenuity. The barrel, which also features Aqua Tech, remains cold hammer-forged, but the recoil spring assembly now sports a single flat spring instead of the original’s double spring.

Beretta APX A1 Full Size Sandpapery Touchpoints
Touchpoints are textured throughout the frame. With the Full Size comfortably filling the hand, the rough sandpaper-like feel helps to positively control the pistol without being too abrasive. (Alfredo Rico photo)

The Frame

The APX A1’s full-size frame has refinements that may be often overlooked. Beretta ditched the finger grooves for a flat frontstrap. Textures having various densities and coarseness exist throughout the touch points areas of the frame. 

Other subtle changes were noticeable when I placed the APX A0 and APX A1 Full Size models side by side. The latter’s inset of the beavertail is deeper, and the trigger housing is contoured. Both improve grip on the pistol help to make this new model more ergonomic. Left-handed shooters will enjoy that there’s a slide release on each side of the frame, as well as a reversible magazine release.

Recommended


Like the APX A0, three modular backstraps are included with the APX A1. These are intended to accommodate a broad range of hand sizes. The backstraps are held in place by an internal backstrap retainer, which necessitates removing the slide to disengage it from the frame. The only dimension that changed significantly was the Picatinny rail height. It is now taller to accommodate a better selection of lights. 

Other than these points, the APX A1 Full Size retains the same overall dimensions of the original. It is cross compatible with many of the same accessories, too. Some holsters may be an exception, though, depending on the fitment with the rail.

Beretta APX A1 Full Size Fire Control Assembly
The fire-control assembly received serious attention from Beretta’s engineering department. It now has an improved striker spring, 6-pound pull, and an improved safety. (Alfredo Rico photo)

The Chassis

As announced in 2017, the stainless-steel chassis is the serialized “gun.” Being removeable means that you can swap grip module sizes and colors for $50 a pop to reconfigure the APX A1. Beretta even offers optional threaded barrels for the APX for around $200 each. If you close your eyes during the changeover, you might convince yourself that you have a new pistol without having to actually buy one.

Seeking to improve the trigger pull, Beretta lightened the striker spring. This update to the APX could be felt when dry firing the pistol for the first time. It was gauged at 6 pounds.

Beretta also improved the trigger safety. The trigger safety on the APX A0 was slightly above the trigger shoe when fully pressed; the new one is flush. It was subtle, but another improvement. It distributes the finger pad’s pressure evenly across the shoe. APX designer and engineer Giovanni Prandini told me, “This was not as easy as it seems.” He added, “It took some time to get it just right.”

The APX trigger shoe also received a little love and now has a slight radius. (The previous trigger shoe was flatter.)

Beretta APX A1 Full Size Fire Control Assembly
The fire-control assembly received serious attention from Beretta’s engineering department. It now has an improved striker spring, 6-pound pull, and an improved safety. (Alfredo Rico photo)

Field Stripping

Taking apart the APX A1 remains unchanged. After safely verifying that the pistol is unloaded and pointing in a safe direction, draw the slide rearward, press the trigger, rotate the takedown lever down and push it out from the right to left side. For those who get bugged out about pressing the trigger, there’s a striker deactivation pin (the dimpled pin) near the top-rear in the fire control assembly that can be pushed to relieve the striker’s tension. The slide can now be removed.

Separating the chassis is simple, too: Follow the manual’s instructions for removing the slide, unhook the cocking lever spring from the rear chassis pin, push out the rear chassis pin, then push out the takedown lever. It can now come out of the grip module.

Beretta APX A1 Full Size Modular Wrap-Around Backstraps
Modular, wrap-around backstraps received positive feedback for the combination of texture styles. This feature is a carry-over for the APX A1. (Alfredo Rico photo)

Touring the Tennessee Factory

As part of the pistol launch, Beretta welcomed us to tour the Gallatin manufacturing plant. Beretta has had a US manufacturing presence in since 1977. It was first based in Maryland for the M9 contract, but Beretta moved to Tennessee in 2016 due to increasing anti-gun legislation that would have made it illegal to even manufacture its military pistol. The new 156,000 square-foot factory now sits on 100 acres, which is home to production of the A300, M9A4, 92X, Bobcat and Tomcat. Currently, the APX A1 is manufactured in Italy.

Like many modern manufacturing facilities, the floors are immaculate. The air smells clean, the noise is minimal and it’s well-lit. 

One of the striking observations was that the layout and size of the machines made it feel like I was standing in a small village. Large, heavy machinery, robotic arms and other production equipment dominated the floor space. People were interspersed at various stations in between.

Beretta Robotics Used in Production
(Alfredo Rico photo)

Robotics play an important part in production of Beretta firearms, as does quality control. Robotic arms feed CNC machines to shape and polish parts, apply finishes to components, and monitor quality. Since a robot runs from a script written by an engineer, it will perform a job the same way every time. The benefit to the manufacturer is fewer errors and greater consistency.

Although far from the movie “Ex Machina” (2014), it’s interesting to watch the interplay between the robotic arms and their human operators. Once the operator sets the machine in motion, they watch as the arm performs complex tasks. We humans can’t replicate the speed, dexterity, consistency or efficiency. Once the routine is carried out, the robot repeats the steps or comes to idle and waits for the operator’s next command.

Quality control (QC) is highly sophisticated and performed in several ways. There’s a dedicated room that houses special inspection equipment, and parts are randomly pulled from the machines around the factory and checked for tolerances. The manager told me that some checks use more than 90 data points. One of Beretta’s recent acquisitions was a QC machine that sat next to a CNC machine. They work in tandem to perform these checks more frequently. This allows operators to track tool wear and identify inconsistencies before a problem gets out of hand.

Handwork is still part of the assembly and production process. People check tolerances and, if it needs a little love, they take care of the issue before sending the part down the line.

Computerized Quality Control Gauging a Slide in Production
(Alfred Rico photo)

Shooting

The improvements and quality of the pistol appeared at the range. The APX A1 Full Size that I shot was complete with a Steiner Micro Pistol Sight ($575, steiner-optics.com).

Besides nailing the ergonomics, Beretta did a great job with the various textures. They are coarse where traction is needed, and checkered on the front and backstraps. There is more refinement around the sides of the grip. The rough texture near the top sides of the grip and the dust cover oozes quality and control.

Shooting the pistol was easy, too. Muzzle rise was vertical and I felt no noticeable side torque. Rapid-fire shooting was straightforward, and accuracy was as good as the original APX G&A tested. Thanks to the trigger safety sitting flush, the trigger shoe felt large. The trigger was not spongy or crisp, but somewhere in the middle. It was predictable enough with a short reset. Interestingly, the trigger felt as though it was lighter than its 6-pound measured pull weight.

The new slide serrations work extremely well. It takes some hand strength, dexterity and a firm hold to rack the slide quickly, but the single recoil spring is easier to overcome. Some new pistols have recoil springs that bind right before I can do a press check and inspect for brass through the ejection port, but not this one.

Manual Quality Control with an Assortment of Gauges
(Alfredo Rico photo)

Summary

The best compliment I can give a factory handgun at this price ($529) is one I would give to the new APX A1. Out of the box, it feels like a refined handgun that I customized to fit my hands. It shot effortlessly for me, and its performance yielded a confidence as though I’d been shooting it for ages.

Beretta APX A1 Full Size Specifications

  • Type: Striker fired, semiautomatic
  • Cartridge: 9mm
  • Capacity: 10+1 rds., 15+1 rds., 17+1 rds.
  • Barrel: 4.25 in. CHF
  • Length: 7.55 in.
  • Width: 1.3 in.
  • Height: 5.6 in.
  • Weight: 1 lb., 13 oz.
  • Finish: Aqua Tech (steel)
  • Grip: Modules w/ interchangeable backstraps; black
  • Sights: Steel, serrated, black (rear); tritium dot (front)
  • Trigger: 6 lbs. (tested)
  • MSRP: $529
  • Importer: Beretta, beretta.com
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