To wrap up my evaluation of the Beretta PX4 Compact 9mm, today I’ve got the results from my bench-rest accuracy testing, and some details on the modifications that are available for this gun.
Occasionally, someone will ask, as a reader of last week’s post did, why I don’t just leave these guns in their factory configuration and review them as they are. I think that’s a valid complaint, and I don’t really have a good answer except to say “that just ain’t how I roll.” There are plenty of gun writers out there who will give you their impression of a firearm based exclusively on what they get in the box. Sometimes I do that, but I don’t think it’s necessary, or even beneficial, to always evaluate a gun that way. For a long-term review like this one, I don’t think of the pistol in the box as the final product. It’s more of a blank slate on which I can build a carry gun to suit my needs and preferences. I’m not just evaluating the gun itself, I’m evaluating its potential. For many dedicated shooters, the available accessories and options for modifying the gun are a major factor in deciding whether to invest in a new platform, and I consider it a bonus when I can give them as much relevant information as possible.
Just to be clear, I’m talking about non-essential modifications and improvements that help the shooter get the most out of the pistol. If the gun doesn’t actually function properly without some extra help, I’d consider that a big fat fail right from the start. But in terms of taking advantage of readily available drop-in parts, I think of it like optics on a rifle. You wouldn’t expect to read a review of a long range bolt gun without a scope and I would feel equally handicapped in honestly reviewing a self-defense gun if I couldn’t add some grip tape or install some better sights.
Okay, with that digression out of the way, here’s the second part of my PX4 Compact review. Enjoy…
Beretta PX4 Compact Review, Part 2
Video transcript below:
Last week, I covered my overall impressions of the Beretta PX4 Compact 9mm. After spending a few months carrying it concealed, and running it through the gauntlet at the range and in some shooting classes, it’s been reliable and soft shooting with great ergonomics that make manipulations really easy. So now let’s take a look at a couple of other important aspects of a self-defense gun; accuracy and aftermarket support.
Unfortunately, the only real way to try to determine the gun’s mechanical accuracy is by engaging in one of my least favorite activities at the range — shooting groups from a bench rest at 25 yards. I used seven different types of ammo and shot two five-round groups with each load. Most of the loads averaged between 3.5 and 4.5 inches with the best groups coming from the 124 gr +P Speer Gold Dot. Oddly enough, the CorBon match ammo and the Federal 124 grain HST didn’t do quite as well.
I know some other PX4 Compact owners have reported groups well under 3 inches, and I have no doubt that’s possible. It could just be that this particular sample is not quite as accurate as some others, or it’s entirely possible that it’s just the shooter’s fault. But either way, I’m satisfied that this gun is mechanically accurate enough to make the kind of hits I know I’m capable of under more practical circumstances.
Having said that, the sights that come with this gun are the bottleneck that’s going to prevent me from taking full advantage of that accuracy potential. Realistically, they are probably adequate for most purposes. They’re the white three-dot style sights we’ve come to expect on most self-defense handguns. So like I always do with these kinds of sights, I blacked out the rear dots and put some bright orange paint on the front sight. But most experienced shooters are going to want to upgrade those sights to whatever style they’ve found works best for them, and that’s going to be something a little different for everybody.
Personally, I’ve really come to like the sights I’ve got on my full-size Beretta 92G. For the rear sight, it’s got a Wilson combat U-notch and a red fiber optic rod installed in the factory front sight, which is fairly narrow. These sights are quick to use on large close-range targets and the narrow front sight really helps with precision shots on smaller targets. Unfortunately, nobody makes a narrow red fiber optic front sight for the PX4 Compact. Or any fiber optic sights, for that matter. In fact, there are really only two or three aftermarket sight options, period.
One of those options is the Trijicon HD night sights. I’ve had these on a few other guns and normally, I really like them. It’s got a tritium front sight with a bright ring around it, available either in yellow or orange and the rear sight has a nice wide u-notch with smaller tritium dots. But Trijicon clearly did not do much testing with the PX4 Compact before they released these sights. The front sight is much wider than I’d like it to be and that makes them slow to use on those precision shots. But more importantly, the point of impact was way off. It was shooting several inches high even on targets as close as 10 yards. So I filed down the rear sight almost to where the tritium vials are, and it was still shooting high, so I just gave up and put the factory sights back on it.
So, the lack of sight options is kind of frustrating, and that’s sort of the price you pay for using a gun that’s a little more obscure. Decent holsters were also difficult to come by for a while, but the list of holster makers that support the PX4 Compact does seem to be growing. I’ve been using this appendix holster from JM Custom Kydex. This is one they call the “George”, which is a model I’ve purchased for several pistols now and I think it works really well.
Fortunately, if you want just about anything for your PX4 other than sights or holsters, Beretta probably has some options available right from the factory. I’ve changed out several parts on this PX4, starting with the safety levers. I replaced the right side lever with Beretta’s low profile version that’s nearly flush with the slide. The lever does come as a set so you can install it on both sides to minimize the overall width of the slide. But I kept the original lever on the left side to make it easier to decock.
When I installed this lever, I also converted the gun to decock-only. Beretta has made this really easy to do just by removing a spring and a ball bearing from the internal portion of the safety lever. That instantly converts the PX4 from the default F model to a G model, which means this lever now functions only as a decocker, and not as a safety. The conversion is not that difficult to do yourself — there are a lot of videos online with pretty detailed instructions, but you can always have a gunsmith take care of it if you have any doubts.
The original ambidextrous slide release levers are pretty wide, so I replaced them with the slimmer low profile lever that is still easy for me to reach but doesn’t get in the way. Also, since I’m right-handed, I don’t need the slide release on the right side, so I removed that and filled the hole with a frame plug from Beretta.
I was having a little trouble reaching the magazine release without breaking my grip, so I picked up the PX4 mag release kit that includes three different size buttons. I like the high button the best, but the edges were a little sharp and it was digging into the palm of my support hand, but that was easily fixed with a couple of minutes and some sandpaper to round it off.
And finally, I replaced the original hammer spring with the Beretta “D” spring, which lightens the double action trigger pull by a couple of pounds. Out of the box, the double action trigger was 10 pounds with a 5-pound single action. With the D spring, I now have an 8-pound double action and the single action came down just a little bit to about 4 and a half pounds.
All of these parts are made by Beretta and most of them are available right on their website, including a few others that I didn’t mention. With most pistols, if you want to do any kind of customization, you have to use third-party products, and that can be kind of a gamble. But I’ve got this PX4 set up just how I want it and I can still be reasonably confident that it’s going to work because all the parts I’m using came from the same company that made the gun.
You might have noticed that despite the highly stylized lines of the PX4, this particular gun is not much to look at. That is partly thanks to the Talon grip tape I installed. The PX4’s grip is really slippery, especially with sweaty hands. Normally, that doesn’t bother me a whole lot because you can always add texture to a polymer pistol, but it’s a lot more difficult to remove if the texture it comes with is overly aggressive or in the wrong place. But the frame of the PX4 is so slick that I think the Talon grips or some other kind of custom texturing is a must. They don’t look like much, but they really help keep a stable grip on the gun.
This PX4 is also a little rough looking because of the finish wear. After just a couple of months, the black Bruniton finish started to come off the high spots on the slide, and it also seems to be really susceptible to scratches. I haven’t seen any actual corrosion, so it’s probably just cosmetic, but I think it’s reasonable to expect a more durable finish on a carry gun. This is something most of Beretta’s competitors seem to have figured out by now and it would really be nice if a gun of this quality actually looked the part.
So, at this point, it might sound like getting a PX4 Compact set up just like this one would be too much of a hassle, especially since you’d still have limited sight availability and a weak finish. But Beretta already has a solution in the works. Based on suggestions from Ernest Langdon, they have put together a semi-custom version of this pistol called the PX4 Compact Carry.
This version already has the G decock-only conversion done, it’s got the low profile safety levers, the single side low profile slide release, extended mag release, the Talon grips, an upgraded trigger group and a brand new set of sights from Ameriglo. These have a tritium front sight with a bright orange outline and a plain black rear sight. The slide comes Cerakoted in Sniper Grey and it’s packaged with not just two, but three 15-round magazines.
The standard PX4 Compact has an MSRP $650, and you can usually find it for closer to $500. The Compact Carry edition is rumored to be priced about $200-300 higher, and that’s for a bunch of upgrades that would cost you about $400 if you were starting with a standard PX4 Compact model.
The Compact Carry should be coming out any day now, and as soon as it’s available, I’ll be trying to get my hands on one and let you guys know how it is.