Disclaimer: this is not the APX A1 service pistol. That’s a separate guide!
Beretta has a long track record of strange choices when it comes to compact or subcompact pistols, most of which have flown under the radar and lacked any real market impact historically. This isn’t to say most of those guns were bad – quite the opposite, looking at the compact PX4, the Cougar line and even the odd duck 9000S – but for some reason Beretta compacts never gain the traction that their full size pistols have historically.
There’s no better example of this than the introduction of the Nano in 2011, one of the early birds in what would be a flood of single stack 9×19 subcompact concealed carry pistols for years to come. In a market where the front runners for this category were essentially Kel Tec and the first model of Ruger LC9, with the M&P Shield a year away still, the Nano was poised to capitalize on the newest trend in the gun world. Yet the pistol was met with a resounding “meh” from the gun owning public, and remains a black sheep in the Beretta lineup. Today you’ll mostly find reviews of the Nano ranging from indifferent to scathing with little good to say about it.
Fast forward to the height of the original APX pistol’s production run and the Nano would get re-badged in the image of its tactical Toblerone big brother, becoming the APX Carry. In this short lived guise the gun saw equally bad reception for most of the same reasons: it just wasn’t an especially great gun, especially at the price point Beretta was asking, and it had become vastly overshadowed by the aforementioned flood of competition.
Now we come to 2021 and beyond, where Beretta has gone back to the drawing board in some respects to redesign the APX and its little brother. Out with the odd shaped slides that resembled a certain famous chocolate bar and in with various upgrades including optic compatbility using a plate system. The newly christened APX A1 series re-launched with a bunch of fanfare, a crazy government contract torture test success for the full size APX and pictures plastered all over your favorite gun magazines and channels.
Less than two years later, the APX A1 Carry hit the bargain bin for record low prices, and Beretta can’t seem to give them away. Now a single stack pistol lost in a world full of carry pistols with superior capacity, better triggers and similar features in a pretty close form factor the APX A1 Carry has gone from the first in the door to another me-too holdout from a bygone era of single stack dominance. The poor guy just comes off as a line from an Offspring song: he’s trying too hard and he’s not quite hip, but in his own mind he’s the dopest trip.
The most ironic part of all of it? The much more successful APX full size is really not that far removed from the Nano under the hood.
While I don’t have a Nano or pre-A1 APX Carry on hand to demo, the design of all three revisions is extremely similar and disassembly should be mostly the same. The Nano and Toblerone Carry require a screwdriver to turn the takedown lever, so the A1 is quite an upgrade in this regard at least.
- Field Strip the pistol. Clear the pistol, remove the magazine, then choose which method you prefer: dry fire, or press the sear pin on the right side of the frame in to decock the striker. With the slide at its normal resting position, pivot the takedown lever down and pull the slide off the front.
- Separate the barrel and recoil spring from the slide. No surprises here.
- Prep the striker so it doesn’t block removal of the slide plate. You’ll have to press in the striker block safety and push the striker fully forward, where the two will hold each other in place a bit and allow the striker spring to fall forward out of its notch in the end plate.
- Remove the slide plate. Press the extractor spring in with a small punch – be warned it’s a stiff spring! Slide the plate down and off.
- Remove the striker and safety block. The extractor spring retains the block plunger, so that will try to run off when you pull it out. Take note of the alignment for the striker block, it’s a weird shaped part and has a little annoying spring under it which likes to wander off, too.
- Remove the extractor and plunger. Once the spring is out, the extractor and its little plunger / spacer piece will fall right out.
In typical pistol fashion the slide is the easier half, but in this case the frame is also very easy to work on. So without further adieu…
- Remove the takedown lever. There’s no special orientation here, it pretty much just pulls right out. The front of the sub-frame will pop up a bit, don’t worry about it.
- Drive out the rear frame pin. This pin is a right to left solid pin with a smaller diameter on the right side, so there’s no way to reverse it. Note that the sear spring has a U shaped leg that hooks around the pin to retain it, locking into a groove in the pin.
- Press in the sear pin / decocker. This will allow you to slide the entire sub-frame upward out of the grip frame. BE AWARE that several bits will either fall off or attempt to escape: the slide stop, slide stop spring and trigger bar possibly with one or more pins.
- Lift out the sub-frame. The trigger bar spring will remain in the grip, but can be evicted with a dental pick and enough encouragement if you absolutely must remove it.
- Remove the trigger. There’s a little plastic plug over the trigger spring which lifts right out. The slide stop pivot pin and trigger pin are loose fits and may already be out by now thanks to gravity. Nudge the trigger rearward, all that holds it without the pin is the spring pinching the stamped metal sub-frame.
- Remove the sear assembly. Flex the sub-frame apart a bit and pivot the sear assembly out. The left side is more or less flush, while the right side of the pivot is the pin you can press on to decock the striker as mentioned earlier.
- Examine the sear assembly. Here’s a gander at the four sear group components, which are very simple and can’t really be assembled the wrong way. No clockwork stuff in this gun!
In case you ever need to remove the magazine release button…
Mag Catch Disassembly
Hold the right side of the mag catch so it doesn’t push outward, then with a small punch press into the hole in the button side of the catch. Don’t be alarmed if you hear a loud snap. You’ve just successfully dislodged the plastic lock pin, which will now push out left to right and allow the two halves of the mag catch to separate. If the button side sticks a bit just wiggle it until it works free, it’s not under a ton of spring pressure but there is of course a spring to be aware of.
I won’t go into extreme detail for reassembly since the gun is pleasantly simple to work on, just reverse the steps above and you should be good to go. I will however highlight a few small tips and tricks.
- Mag catch. To get this thing back together, simply shove both sides of the catch in place first and hold the button half all the way down before pushing the lock pin back in. You’ll be able to see the locking flanges in the button side of the catch which the pin wedges into position, too.
- Remember the sear spring retaining leg. The U shaped bit on the sear spring locks into the rear frame pin, so when reassembling you’ll need to move it out of the way with a punch or a dental pick at least until the pin is partway through. You also might have to pivot the sear rearward a little to clear the pin.
- Don’t forget the slide stop spring! That little sucker likes to wander off, and it’s a real annoyance having to get the sub-frame back out after you get all the fall-apart bits back in place and the sear pin snaps in with it all seated nicely. Don’t ask me how I know.
So, what killed the Nano / APX Carry? In my opinion it isn’t a bad gun, but it also isn’t a very good one in many respects. Beretta failed to capitalize on their early bird status back in 2011, then spent the next two revisions playing catch up until they found themselves buried under a mountain of higher capacity competitors: P365, Shield Plus, LCP Max…
It’s an awkward looking little gun, but the ergonomics are fine overall. The giant square trigger guard is a bit much, looking to me like those giant black rimmed Nelson glasses from the days of yore. It also makes getting a holster for these things a pain, so factor that into your sub-$200 Beretta rebate offer purchase if you ever grab one on the cheap. The mag release is large and nicely textured, and the slide release despite being tiny is plenty usable. In my hands at least, the gun is surprisingly comfy even if it looks goofy.
Also keep in mind Beretta’s irritating policy when it comes to the optic mounting on the A1 Carry. The gun does not ship with any optic plates in the box, but one of your choice can be had by registering the warranty coverage on your pistol. Otherwise they’re a whopping $30 a pop through the Beretta web store, potentially spoiling an otherwise killer deal on the pistol if you nab a rebate.
On that note, Beretta’s rebate system is glacially slow but has proven reliable for customers I’ve spoken with who have used it. Expect the upper range of their 8 to 10 weeks estimate for any rebate claims.
The single largest complaint by far on these guns is the trigger. Out of the box, the Nano and its spawn have atrocious triggers full of grit with long, spongey letoffs. The weight is fine, but the feel of the trigger is just awful – albeit not as awful as the Walther CCP. On top of that, the trigger blade safety almost always nicks the frame causing a “hump” in the pull which is jarring and unpleasant.
You’ll probably notice our demo pistol is polished to hell and back on the inside, and while that can’t change the fundamental mechanics of the system it does improve the experience tremendously. Polishing the contacts between the sear, striker, striker block and disconnector will at least knock all the grit out of the parts as they come from the factory. Polishing the back of the trigger bar will make it ride smoother on the side of the sub-frame.
Check the back of the trigger safety blade for flashing and plastic mold lines, which proved to be our culprit for that particular issue. I wouldn’t recommend taking off much or any material on this simply because it’s a safety feature. You know the spiel by now when it comes to living in a litigious world, though.
Once these were cleaned up the trigger is acceptable, if not exactly award winning. Our demo gun is actually a great little shooter with all that grit polished out. Perhaps I have a soft spot for guns like this that just can’t seem to get it together, but with a little TLC you could do a lot worse in the single stack realm than one of these guys at clearance price.
The sad part of the whole ordeal is that the full size APX and A1 revision are internally pretty similar to the design you see here. The sear system is damn near identical, only Beretta have vastly tightened up the tolerances and clearances to knock the spongey feeling out of the system. Beretta could have introduced these improvements to the Carry line in the same vein as S&W rolled M&P improvements into the Shield. Instead they’ve got a tragically mediocre, albeit extremely reliable ugly duckling single stack pistol in an ocean of bigger fish. Bigger fish with better triggers.
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