For the Carry model, see the separate guide here!
In 2015, after several years of delays from the initial launch in 2011, the US military Modular Handgun System proposals opened up. Long time incumbent Beretta had already tried to undercut the entire process by offering a redesign of the M9 platform in order to meet many of the MHS requirements at reduced cost, but to their chagrin the number of updates handily exceeded the limit imposed by “engineering changes”. A brand new procurement was drawn up and Beretta went back to the drawing board, deciding to forego their traditional DA/SA hammer fired systems for their first service sized striker fired pistol.
Ultimately the APX fell short in the MHS trials which eventually crowned the Sig P320 the winner amidst its fair share of controversies, some of which are still ongoing. Beretta forged onward, marketing both their proposed M9A3 revision and the new APX duty pistol to the civilian market in 2017. Over the next few years, the APX would expand out into several color variations utilizing the modular grip frame system and serialized sub-frame, each part of the original MHS requirement list. The Nano was rebranded and restyled to match, christened the APX Carry, and the entire project was marketed pretty hard for a couple years.
Like most Beretta pistols, the APX found a niche but not a ton of mass market adoption. It saw some success in the police market early on, being adopted by the national police services in Poland and Brazil as well as police forces back home in Italy. A few US police departments jumped on the APX as well, including the hometown of Beretta USA’s production facility in Gallatin, Tennessee.
Commercially, however, the APX remains floating about in a sea of full size duty pistols. Aside from the Beretta name, little stood out to separate the APX from its competition beyond its meme-worthy Toblerone looking slide contours. A few new variants were marketed to try to drive interest in it, such as the Centurion and Tactical, but the APX as a whole seemed to settle into being a perfectly solid if forgettable mid-tier pistol.
Fast forward to 2021, where Beretta designer Giovani Prandini is tasked with updating the APX and overhauling the ergonomics of the platform. Gone is the Tactical Toblerone slide, replaced with modern front and rear slide serrations. The grip frame, while backwards-compatible with the original APX functionally, is reworked to remove the finger grooves and provide improved texture. Internally, the updated pistols used some elements from the APX Target competition models including the striker spring (neon green, as pictured below) and stouter recoil spring. Optics compatibility caps off the list of new features, and in mid-2022 the APX A1 was officially launched.
The little brother Carry model received the same treatment, becoming the APX A1 Carry. Okay, not quite the same treatment – it has new styling, optics plates, a better grip texture and slide serrations, but it didn’t see the trigger upgrades of the full size APX A1.
That brings us up to speed to today, with the APX A1 still hovering around that cozy mid-tier. Beretta has repeated the same tactic as the original model, adding a Compact model and a Tactical with threaded barrel to the lineup.
While this guide features the A1 revision, it should cover the original APX, Centurion and A1 Compact pretty well. Many parts are cross-compatible between the older and newer generation.
- Field strip. Clear the gun and remove the magazine. Push the takedown lever into the frame from right to left to unlock it, then pivot the lever itself 90 degrees down. Either dry fire to release the striker or use the small decocker button on the right side of the frame.
- Separate the barrel and recoil spring. Typical captive recoil spring and cam-locked barrel. Nothing groundbreaking here.
- Remove the slide end plate. This is a bigger, more annoying version of the Carry model process, but you can’t cheat by sticking the striker fully forward. You need the neon green captive striker spring out of the way and to push the locking plunger in with a punch. It’s fiddly, but not super difficult thankfully.
- Remove the striker assembly. The striker and its associated bits come out at this point: striker spring, striker, slide plate lock plunger.
- Remove the striker block safety and extractor. Pull or dump out the extractor spring, which will free up the striker block safety to come out. The safety has a weird little spring living in a Hobbit hole down in the slide, so don’t lose track of that. Dump out the extractor spacer and extractor.
- Striker rebound spring. There’s a rebound spring for the striker inside the firing pin channel, but I left it in when taking the photos for the guide. Sorry!
- Remove the takedown lever. Unlike the Carry, this one has a specific alignment to remove, so rotate it back to the “locked” position to get it out. The sub-frame will pop up at the front.
- Drive out the rear frame pin. This pin comes out right to left, and has a smaller head on the right side so it can’t be reversed. Note the sear spring retaining it in a little notch on the pin. If it’s stubborn you may need to get a pick in there and hook the spring out of the way to get it started.
- Remove the sub-frame. Press the decocker / sear pin on the right side of the frame and the entire sub-frame will lift out of the grip module. Unlike the Carry, all springs are contained on the sub-frame and none remain in the grip shell at all, so you don’t need to worry about losing any of them.
- Push out the slide stop pin. This pin comes out left to right with a smaller head on the left side. The trigger spring doubles as the slide stop spring with a leg extending rearward to tension it. Note the small O-ring on the right side, between the sub-frame and the slide stop.
- Push out the trigger pin. The wonky looking trigger/slide stop spring has a loop at the front which rests on the sub-frame and a leg that engages the trigger shoe to tension it. You won’t need a slave pin for this one, just a little thumb pressure.
- Remove the sear assembly. Pry open the stamped steel sub-frame a little bit and pivot the sear assembly out. The left side of the assembly fits more or less flush with the right side constituting the pad for the trigger bar to engage on and the decocker button side of the pivot pin. The larger and heavier gauge sub-frame takes a lot more fighting, but it works.
Magazine Catch and Backstraps
The mag catch comes out exactly the same as the Carry model. Hold the right side of the catch so it won’t push outward, then push the lock pin out left to right through the tiny pin hole in the mag catch button. Be aware that unlike the Carry, there’s more spring pressure on it and it could fly off if you aren’t careful!
To reinstall it, put both sides together and push the button side in as far as you can before installing the lock pin. After it’s back in, double check that it’s fully seated by pressing on the back side of the pin a little.
Backstraps swap using an odd looking latch spring piece which must be unlocked from inside the grip shell with a punch. Push the funny shaped top of the lock over and push down on it with the punch, it will drop down through the grip shell and pull out the bottom of the grip. Slot it back in with the lanyard hole tab facing rearward until it clicks into place and secures the backstrap panel.
Like its little brother, the full size APX is easy to work on with a few snags here and there.
- Wedge open the sub-frame. The heavier gauge steel used for the stamped sub-frame is much tougher to muscle apart with your fingers, especially while you’re getting poked by the edges of the damn thing. I happen to have a brass hammer with a perfectly sized handle for the job.
- Check sear assembly alignment. The sub-frame has a little flange that can snag the sear assembly when you reinstall it. If you can’t get the sub-frame to sit back down into the grip shell, check this first to make sure the sear pivot pin is aligned with the hole and not snagged on the flange.
- Check sear spring position. The sear spring has a short bent leg which engages onto the sear for tension, and a longer U loop that hooks over the rear frame pin. The spring can rotate around while you’re lining everything up to put it back in the grip shell, so be mindful of that and spin it back around where it belongs.
- Sear spring snagging inside the grip. Before you fully seat the sub-frame into the grip shell, watch that the hook end of the sear spring doesn’t get trapped or crushed into the grip shell. Start the sub-frame into position and press the decocker/sear pin in but DON’T fully seat it. With the assembly halfway in, grab the sear spring out of the way then shove it all into place.
Say what you will about the APX, in either its Toblerone or more modern form, it’s proven to be a tough, reliable duty pistol with excellent ergonomics. While the slide is a bit top heavy, it’s surprisingly svelte everywhere else to the point that the “large” backstrap feels small compared to many other pistols. Beretta’s trigger improvements and features carried over from the old APX Target are welcome additions, though it’s disappointing the Carry never got any of those given how similar the mechanics are.
My honest opinion on this one is that it’s kind of a sleeper, buried in a crowded pistol market. It may not have anything to really make it stand out from the rest, but it does everything well at a compelling price point (at the time of writing). I would still recommend tearing your new APX A1 down and polishing up all the contacts, though. The trigger is pretty good out of the box, but like most factory guns has plenty of grit to knock off.
Take a gander at the sear arrangement as pictured above and compare it to the Carry. Remember that the Carry, aka the Nano, debuted all the way back in 2011 and pre-dates the original APX by several years. I would love to see all that Beretta has done to the system to improve it for the APX and APX A1 applied to an evolution of the Carry. Perhaps someday we’ll see a stack and a half type design holding 10+ rounds with the A1 type trigger?
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