December 21, 2018
I’ll admit that I’m not a great fan of compact polymer-framed pistols with double-stack magazines. To me, such handguns are typically too fat to conceal effectively and too short to shoot comfortably. So I went into this shooting review hoping something about the APX Compact would change my mind. After shooting it, I did an about-face.
My first-blush impression was not promising. Although I’ve fired the full-size APX a lot and find it incredibly easy to shoot well—and to shoot well fast—the Compact version looks, well, chunky. I’m going to be very candid: To my admittedly snobbish eye, the pistol’s aesthetics are not pleasing.
Then I began carrying and shooting it. Its boxy build and one other small gripe that I’ll get to in a few minutes are the only beefs I have with the APX Compact. The more I fired it, the more impressed I became.
Design & Construction
I’ve had my fill of writing about the U.S. military’s recent MHS contract and the various guns designed to compete for it, so I’ll just mention in passing that the duty-size APX was one of the guns in the competition. The Compact version is its downsized offspring.
Like the SIG pistol that won the contract, the Beretta APX is a modular design that utilizes a serial-numbered chassis that comprises the “firearm” portion of the handgun. Said chassis can be removed and installed in various frames of different sizes and colors, as well as in various calibers.
In addition to the swappable chassis that forms the heart of the pistol, APX frames come with small, medium, and large grip backstrap modules. According to Beretta, “Anthropometric studies and multiple rounds of user research were conducted” to perfect grip angle and trigger reach and design a handgun that points very naturally for most potential users. It’s a valid endeavor. A sidearm that shoots where you look is appealing. As touted on the company’s site, 500 professional end-users were surveyed during the APX’s developmental stages.
Swapping out the grip modules isn’t hard, but the first time you try it, the process can be perplexing. Remove the magazine and take off the slide (I’ll get to that shortly). Use the tip of a pen or similarly pointed tool to reach down into the magazine well from the top of the frame and push the tip of the spike-like backstrap retaining part from left to right. Pry the retaining part out of the bottom of the grip and remove the backstrap. Swap to the preferred backstrap and reverse the process to reassemble.
The trigger guard is aggressively undercut, and the rear of the grip features a high, generous beavertail, resulting in a frame that sits low in the hand and is surprisingly comfortable. The resulting low bore axis helps control recoil during rapid-fire strings.
Additionally, several different grip textures assist in helping control recoil even when your hands are wet and slippery with sweat, rain, or blood. The APX Compact’s frontstrap and backstrap have checkering that is just coarse enough; the grip frame’s side panels sport a stippling-like texture that won’t wear out the lining of a garment.
Interestingly, the front of the trigger guard is squared, for those who like to wrap their support-hand index finger around it, but it’s not textured. The dustcover forward of the trigger guard offers two cross-slots on a rail for attaching a light or other accessory.
Like many of its modern high-capacity, polymer-frame ilk, the APX Compact has ambidextrous slide stops and a reversible magazine release. Also, it can be fieldstripped without having to squeeze the trigger to get the slide off.
After removing the magazine and ensuring that the chamber is clear, retract the slide slightly with one hand and depress the striker deactivation button, located at the right rear of the frame, until it clicks (this is so you don’t have to squeeze the trigger to remove the slide). I’ve found it’s best to hold the pistol in my left hand, thumb under the beavertail, fingers atop the slide and squeeze to retract the slide slightly while depressing the button.
Allow the slide to return to battery. Now, holding the pistol with its left side up, use the right-hand index finger to press firmly on the end of the slide stop that protrudes from the right side of the pistol and at the same time push the slide stop lever firmly with the right-hand thumb, rotating it about 90 degrees. Draw the slide forward off the frame, lift the recoil spring and barrel out, and you’re done fieldstripping the APX Compact.
To reassemble, simply replace the barrel and recoil spring in the slide, ensure that the slide stop lever is still rotated open, and slide the slide rearward on its rails. The slide stop lever will automatically rotate into place and secure the slide as it comes home.
As an aside, the captive recoil spring is of a helical design that Beretta claims lasts four times longer than traditional springs.
When examining the upper half of the pistol, the first thing you’ll notice about the slide is that it’s massive and features sculpted slide serrations so wide they almost appear to be a design element rather than a texturing device. The top edges are radiused to dehorn the pistol for comfortable carry. Steel three-dot sights are dovetailed into the steel-alloy slide and are drift-adjustable for windage.
The cold-hammer-forged barrel is rifled with a twist rate of 1 turn in 10 inches and is nicely fitted. Minimal movement is detectable when the slide is locked into battery both at the hood and the muzzle—just enough to ensure reliability without compromising accuracy.
A stout external extractor yanks fired cases from the chamber, and a fixed steel ejector boosts them out the gaping, generously beveled ejection port. The extractor serves as a visual and tactile loaded-chamber indicator by protruding slightly from the deep scallop at the rear of the ejection port.
Each pistol comes with two magazines, and they feature steel bodies and high-impact polymer baseplates. Standard 9mm models hold 13 rounds; .40-caliber and restricted-capacity 9mm models hold 10 rounds.
Courtesy of an aggressive taper at the business end of the magazines, they start into the magazine well and seat home slick as the proverbial whistle, although the inside corners of the well are not beveled. Numbers and small ports at the back of the magazines enable the shooter to determine how many rounds are in the mags. The APX Compact also accepts the full-size magazines built for the standard APX.
I like the magazines. They’re well built, well shaped, and stout. However, they’re a bugger to load. And I didn’t get along with the loading assist device at all—rounds tended to up-end and stovepipe inside the magazine while using it. But once loaded, the magazines were splendid.
Included with each pistol is a comprehensive manual that details the process of removing and switching the serial-numbered chassis to another frame. It’s complex, so I’m not going to go into it here.
Remember that small additional gripe I mentioned at the beginning of this report? It’s with the trigger, or rather the trigger pull. The trigger itself was wonderfully comfortable, featuring an almost-flat front surface that felt great beneath my finger. However, the pull was a bit gritty and weighed from 6 pounds, 3 ounces to 7 pounds, 14 ounces as measured with my Lyman digital trigger gauge. The average was 7 pounds, 6 ounces. But because it’s so comfortable, it’s fine for combat-type work; however, it’s definitely not a match-type trigger.
Targets were posted at 15 yards rather than 25 in deference to the compact sidearm’s abbreviated 3.7-inch barrel and short sight radius. I rested the APX Compact over a sandbag and fired a series of three, five-shot groups with a variety of ammunition. It especially liked the Black Hills HoneyBadger 125-grain non-expanding solid copper load, which averaged an impressive 1.06 inches.
The HoneyBadger is a unique, interesting load, featuring all-copper projectiles with an X-shaped nose and four deep flutes scalloping back through the ogive of the bullet. On impact, any fluid matter encountered flows along the bullet in the flutes, which bottleneck the fluid and create intense hydraulic jets cutting outward from each flute. In ballistic gelatin it causes devastating cavities and penetrates impressively. It’s a fantastic choice for a mild, high-performance self-defense round with minimal recoil. I was thoroughly pleased to see the APX Compact shoot it so well.
Second most accurate was the steel-cased Hornady 125-grain HAP ammo—a nice benefit since the same-weight projectiles hit the same point of impact. Carry the pricey high-performance stuff but practice to your heart’s content with the less-expensive steel-cased ammo.
Even the load that posted the “worst” accuracy still averaged less than 3.0 inches at 15 yards, perfectly suitable for personal protection.
Point of impact was right on the money—always a nice attribute in a new pistol. I dislike having to take brass punch and hammer to the sights to adjust windage, and I deplore needing to order different-height replacement sights in order to bring point of impact to point of aim. Beretta got it just right with the stout, little APX Compact.
After compiling accuracy and velocity statistics from the sandbags, I stepped away from the bench and spent some time running drills on my Action Targets steel practice torso. The pistol’s natural pointability made it fairly easy to run various drills clean, even when pushing the clock. Pacing back 30 yards, I shot slow-fire, both weak hand and strong hand, and managed to keep all shots on the plate.
Reliability throughout was sterling, even when I began filling the magazines with a haphazard collection of leftover rounds, ranging from inexpensive steel-cased stuff of indeterminate age through premium nickel-plated cartridges.
Holster-shopping is easy: Start with Beretta. Several different holsters are available, ranging from black composite IWB versions up through premium leather belt holsters. Prices range from $39 up to $89.
Another great carry method is via VersaCarry’s $20 Zerobulk holster, a product I originally pooh-poohed. Then I tried it, and I now use one almost every day while carrying my slim Model 1911 Officer’s 9mm in the appendix position. There’s simply no better way to minimize bulk.
And don’t write off VersaCarry’s leather holsters—they are about as good a value as is available on the market. I’ve had outstanding results with the $49 Guardian.
I still don’t particularly care for compact polymer-framed pistols with high-capacity double-stack magazines, but I do like the APX Compact. My pistol proved to be comfortable to shoot and easy to shoot well fast. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more ergonomic, reliable, and accurate model.