Umarex Beretta PX4 Storm

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Launched in 2008, the Beretta PX4 Storm was the second Umarex blowback pellet shooter (following the Desert Eagle).  In addition to .177 pellets, the PX4 also shoots steel 4.5mm BBs.  It’s a popular pistol with action shooters and plinkers alike and it’s easy to see why – it’s reasonably priced, compact and pointable with strong blowback and decent power.  I have owned two Umarex PX4s, and though both had many good features, I had shooting issues which meant that these were never amongst my most used pistols.

Real steel background

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Beretta PX4 Storm

For more information on Beretta and the PX4, please see the WE Bulldog review (link at the bottom of this article).

The Umarex Beretta PX4 Storm

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The Umarex PX4 Storm is a licensed, blowback replica featuring accurate Beretta markings.  The slide, hammer and trigger are metal and the frame and grip are plastic composite.  CO2 is stored in the rear part of the grip and up to 16 pellets or steel BBs are retained in a unique double-ended drop-out magazine.  The pellet/BB loading areas of the magazine are magnetised to retain BBs.  There is no slide lock or release and the slide does not lock back on empty.

A short Weaver style accessory rail is provided below the barrel and a combined safety catch/decocker is located on the right of the frame.  The slide mounted safety and frame mounted slide release catch are moulded in place and have no function.  The PX4 is only available in all-black finish and is manufactured in Japan on behalf of Umarex (unlike the Desert eagle which is manufactured in Germany).

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Umarex PX4 Storm Recon

Although it’s no longer listed as a current product, Umarex also offered this pistol as the PX4 Recon.  In this configuration the pistol featured an olive coloured frame and grip, suppressor (non-functioning), tactical bridge mount (to provide an additional over-barrel mount), red-dot sight and tactical light.  In terms of shooting and function the PX4 Storm Recon is identical to the original.

Spec;

Calibre: 4.5mm/.177″

Magazine capacity: Sixteen .177″ pellets or 4.5mm steel BBs

Propellant: CO2

Barrel length: 4″, rifled

Weight: 1.7 pounds

Overall length: 7½”

Sights: Fixed front and rear with white dots

Action: SA/DA

Packaging and presentation  2.5/5

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Both my PX4s came in typical Umarex sturdy cardboard boxes and included a single magazine and a brief user manual.  However, I have also seen the PX4 sold in a rather less attractive plastic bubble pack.

Visual accuracy  6/10

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Beretta PX4 Storm (left) and Umarex Beretta PX4 Storm (right)

The overall profile of the Umarex PX4 is very close to the original.  Only the angled and slightly extended grip base and pronounced step at the front bottom of the grip look notably different.  Otherwise from the left side, it’s a close visual match, replicating the shape and design of the original frame, slide and grip very well and including identical markings.  The only minor visual differences  are the lack of takedown catches (though the oblong recess is included), different positioning of some pins on the frame and a slide notch cast well to the rear of the original location.

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Beretta PX4 Storm (left) and Umarex Beretta PX4 Storm (right)

From the right, things aren’t quite so good.  The addition of the odd, frame mounted safety catch/decocker is very evident, as is the lack of an ejector pin and cutaway on the slide.  The barrel visible though the slide cut-out is a plain cylinder rather than the distinctive stepped, two-piece original. The moulded-in slide mounted safety catch looks out of place on the right – on the left the recessed area of the slide which allows the catch to move on the original is included.  For some reason this is omitted on the right, making the catch look a little odd on this side.  Markings on the right and the distinctive grip contours and markings are well replicated.  There is safety text on the slide, but thankfully this is fairly discreetly engraved rather than the white text seen on some Umarex replicas.  It’s probably unsurprising that the majority of publicity pictures of the PX4 show it from the left side.

Something that isn’t particularly noticeable in pictures is the difference in finish between the slide and frame.  On both my PX4s, the slide was noticeably more matt finish and a different colour to the frame – more of a very dark grey compared to the black frame.  I can’t say I liked this aspect of the finish, though perhaps I was unlucky and not all Umarex PX4s are the same in this respect?  Also, some photos of the real PX4 seem to show a similar mis-match between frame and slide finish, so perhaps this is an accurate replication of the original.

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It’s difficult to show in photos, but at the rear of the slide in the picture above you can just about see the difference in colour between frame and slide.

The sights are a good match to the real pistol, though with painted white dots rather than the luminous “Superluminova” dots on the original.  The PX4 feels solid and hefty and with CO2 in place it weighs almost precisely the same as the original, always a nice touch in a replica.  However, this weight is carried high and forward and it doesn’t feel well balanced.

Functional accuracy  11/15

This is a blowback replica and the slide moves during firing.  However, it moves noticeably less than on the original (around 1″) and the slide can’t be locked back and doesn’t lock on empty.  The slide release catch is moulded in place and has no function.  The magazine release catch works as per the original, though the drop-out magazine is quite small and made of plastic.  The ambidextrous slide mounted safety catches are moulded in place and have no function and a combined safety/decocker is provided on the right of the frame.  Moving this from “F” to “S” safely drops the cocked hammer.  The single action trigger pull is long and heavy compared to the original as it also rotates the magazine.

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Takedown catches are not included and the Umarex PX4 cannot be easily stripped for lubrication or cleaning.  There is no way of removing the slide without some fairly major disassembly.  If you are confident in your technical ability, there is an excellent pictorial guide to disassembling the PX4 on the Magic Nine Design website: http://www.magic9designltd.com/umarex-px-4-strip-down.

Shooting  28/40

Preparing the PX4 for shooting is fairly straightforward.  CO2 is loaded by removing the lower rear of the grip and twisting the base of the grip clockwise.  The CO2 is inserted and the thumbscrew tightened.  Then the grip base is twisted anticlockwise to pierce.  CO2 loads without leaks or drama.

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Pellets are loaded into the two rotary holders at either end of the magazine.  This is slightly fiddly to do if you have large man fingers, and is certainly slower than loading the eight shot rotary holders found in many other Umarex pellet shooters.  I also found it remarkably easy to load pellets facing the wrong way.  Probably because I’m stupid.  Or old.  Or some combination of the two.  Whatever the reason, more than once I found that I had painstakingly loaded some or all of the sixteen pellets facing the wrong way.  I then had to poke them out with a matchstick and start again.

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The magazine has to be pushed deeply into the grip to lock.  Once it’s in there, you’re ready to go.  The first shot can be fired in double action and there is no need to rack the slide.  In double action, the trigger pull is predictably long, heavy and not very precise.  Blowback ensures that subsequent shots are fired in single action.  However, even in single action the trigger pull isn’t especially pleasant.  Just as in the Desert Eagle, the moving slide only cocks the hammer.  Cueing up the next pellet is done during the first part of the trigger pull.  In the first stage of the SA trigger pull, this can be clearly felt as resistance and a graunchy feel before moving to the much lighter second stage.  It requires a fairly heavy pull in the first stage, and this one of the few replicas I have fired inadvertently when the pressure used to overcome the heavy first stage in single action led me to move through the second stage and fire before I was ready.  The second stage release point is also a little vague.  The slide doesn’t lock back on empty, so you do need to count your shots.

It fires with a satisfying bang and the blow back is crisp and very strong.  Grouping is reasonable – I generally saw 1¼” – 1½” groups at six yards freestanding.  However, both my PX4s fired high and to the left.  On my first example this was most marked – at six yards the point of impact was typically around three inches above and to the left of the point of aim.  I was later offered another used PX4 and I bought this mainly to see if it shot any better.  This one hit around two inches high and left at six yards – better, but still not great.  The non-adjustable sights mean that there isn’t a great deal you can do about this.  I tried several different pellet types and weights, but nothing made a significant difference.  I have read other accounts from PX4 owners reporting similar issues, so I do wonder if this is a general fault of the PX4?

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Six shots, six yards freestanding with my first PX4.  Aim point was the centre of the black inner circle.  Outer circle diameter is 6″.

I spent a fair amount of time trying to resolve this problem and I did notice an odd feature.  Shooting at six yards, rested, the first eight shots were often in a fairly tight group somewhere above and to the left of the point of aim.  Turning the magazine round often resulted in an equally tight group but either closer to or further from the point of aim, though this wasn’t consistent (i.e. using one end of the magazine didn’t necessarily always result in hitting closer to the point of aim).  I really can’t explain how turning the magazine round could affect accuracy, but it certainly appeared to.  The magazine is also retained by a fairly strong spring – it twangs briskly out of the grip when you press the release.  It’s very easy to have it bouncing across the floor unless you keep a hand under the grip.

I fitted my second PX4 with a small laser sight.  With this, tight groupings right on the point of aim were possible.  Personally, I prefer shooting over open sights, but if you’re happy to use a laser sight, it is possible to overcome the tendency to shoot high and left.  Or you could go for the Storm Recon with its bridge mount and red-dot sight.   I haven’t shot the recon version and it didn’t appeal.  Umarex haven’t used the suppressor to hide a longer barrel (as done on the similar Gamo PT-85 Tactical, for example).  So what you get is something as unwieldy as the Desert Eagle, but with no more power or accuracy than the basic PX4.  Though you can adjust the red-dot of course, so it should be capable of hitting the point of aim.

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My second PX4, with laser sight

The PX4 seems very sensitive to pellet choice.  During my attempts to cure the tendency to shoot high, I tried a range of pellets.  Air Arms Ultimate CO2 Pistol Pellets and Dynamix Triple P1 pellets were consistently problem free, but RWS Superdomes jammed so often that using them was pointless.  If you’re having jamming problems, try different pellets.  Because of the risk of eroding the rifled barrel, I didn’t try either of my PX4s with steel BBs.

Umarex claim 380fps for the PX4.  Which sounds about right – my second version shot around 330-340 fps in fairly chilly conditions (I wasn’t able to chrono the first version).  Perfectly reasonable for target shooting, but not close to the power of the Umarex Desert Eagle.  However, for a blowback pistol the PX4 is very frugal with CO2 – I was regularly able to get more than 60 full power shots.

Overall a powerful shooter capable of producing tight groups, but on both my examples this was marred by the lack of adjustable sights and the tendency to shoot high and left.

Quality and reliability  11/15

Overall, this feels like a reasonably well made and finished replica.  The paint on the slide seems thick and resistant to scuffing (even if it isn’t a particularly good match for the finish on the frame and grip).  The plastic used for the frame and grip seems robust and well finished.

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However, the slide on both my PX4s didn’t seem to be well fitted and both rattled annoyingly.  I also didn’t like the long and crunchy trigger pull, the lack of adjustability in the sights or the twangy plastic magazine.  Overall, this just didn’t feel quite as well made as (for example) the similar blowback Umarex Walther CP99 Compact.  Is this because the PX4 is made in Japan, compared to German manufacture for the Compact?  I don’t know, and although it’s better made and finished than many replicas, I didn’t feel that the PX4 matched the quality of the best Umarex replicas.

Other than a tendency to jam when using some types of pellet, I’m not aware of any particular operational or reliability problems with the PX4.

Overall Impression  10/15

For almost every positive with this replica, there seems to be an equivalent negative.  It’s compact and has good weight, but it feels unbalanced.  The finish is good, but the slide and frame don’t look as if they belong together.  It has good power and accuracy, but neither of the examples I owned were capable of hitting the point of aim over open sights.  It’s blowback, so you can do most of your shooting in single action, but the SA trigger pull is long, crunchy and unpleasant.  You get sixteen shots without reloading, but reloading is fiddly.  It looks reasonably like the original, but has a cheap and nasty safety catch/decocker which seems to have been lifted straight from the Walther CP99 Compact.

This feels as if it could have been something very special indeed, but just misses out in several important areas.

Conclusion

On paper, the Umarex Beretta PX4 Storm sounds great – a handily sized blowback pellet shooter with good power and reasonable accuracy.  For me at least, the reality just didn’t live up to the promise.  Most important was the inability to hit even close to the point of aim, but as noted above, there were several other niggling things I didn’t care for.  As a result, both my PX4s spent more time gathering dust at the back of the gun cabinet than being used.

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Of course, it’s possible that the shooting faults in my examples weren’t typical and certainly a PX4 that shot straight would be much better.  Overall it’s a fun and inexpensive action shooter, but you might want to try a shooting test before buying.

Total score: 68.5/100

Related Pages:

Umarex Beretta PX4 Redux

What can I say? I bought yet another PX4, just to see if I could make it shoot better…

WE Bulldog (Beretta PX4) Review

Anics Beretta 9000S review

Umarex Desert Eagle Review

Umarex Walther CP99 Compact review

How to hit what you’re aiming at

Links

Umarex web site

WE Bulldog (Beretta PX4 Storm)

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Time for a review of an airsoft pistol which suffers from something of an identity crisis.  The WE Bulldog is very obviously a replica of the Beretta PX4 Storm, though you won’t find any Beretta markings here or any mention of Beretta on the packaging or manual.  I believe that early versions of this pistol were sold with Beretta markings and identified as the PX4 but this has changed due, I assume, to licensing issues.  This seems to something of a theme for WE pistols – The WE Big Bird (stupid name alert!) bears an uncanny resemblance to the S&W M&P 40 and the WE X-Tactical could easily be mistaken for a Springfield XDM pistol.

Real Steel background 

Beretta began as commercial gunmakers in 1526 when they were commissioned by the Arsenal of Venice to produce 185 arquebus barrels. 500 years later, the company is still manufacturing firearms and is claimed to be the oldest continuously operating manufacturing company in the world (it is said that the original bill of sale for those arquebus barrels is still held in the company records).

In 2001 Beretta launched their first polymer framed pistol; the Beretta 9000S. This wasn’t a great success, though it did feature styling by the Giorgietto Giugiaro Design group, the company responsible for such iconic automotive designs as the Lotus Esprit, De Lorean DMC-12 and Maserati Spyder.  In 2004 this was followed by the PX-4 Storm, a much more successful pistol which used many of the styling cues from the 9000S.

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Beretta PX4 Storm

The PX4 is a semi-automatic pistol with a lightweight polymer frame, replaceable backstrap, Picatinny rail and (unusually for Beretta) a fully enclosed slide.  This pistol is notable for a having a rotating barrel which is claimed to improve cooling.  The system uses counter-clockwise torque generated by firing to reduce the amount of pressure required from the rotating barrel lock’s cam and pin system to effect unlocking.  The pistol is intended for personal defence and law enforcement use, and has proved very popular since release.

The WE Bulldog

WE is a Taiwanese metal mould manufacturer which began producing airsoft replicas in 2003.  They offer a range of replicas of blowback semi-auto pistols.  Amongst some people, WE have a reputation for belonging to the “cheap and cheerful” end of the market.  While certainly cheaper than their Japanese counterparts, I have owned several WE pistols and have found them all to be well-made, functionally and visually accurate replicas which also shoot well.

With the launch of the Advanced Weaponry Simulator System (A.W.S.S.) in 2008, WE set out to produce gas blowback airsoft replicas which are sufficiently accurate in operation and function to be used as training options for military and law enforcement personnel.  The Bulldog follows this design brief.

The Bulldog is a gas operated, 6mm, blowback pistol with a metal slide and fittings and a polymer frame with replaceable backstraps.  It has a 3½” barrel, 26 round, full-size drop out magazine and weighs around 2 pounds.  WE also produce the Bulldog Compact, which appears to be a replica of the smaller PX4 Compact.  The Bulldog is occasionally referred to as the “Bulldog Fullsize”, to distinguish it from the compact model.  The Bulldog is available in all black, or with a polished metal slide.

Packaging and presentation  3/5

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The WE Bulldog is provided in a cardboard box with polystyrene inlay cut out to fit the pistol and accessories.  The Bulldog is supplied with three alternative backstraps, a single gas magazine and a brief user manual.  The packaging is of reasonable quality, though not something you’d use to display the pistol.

Visual accuracy  9/10

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WE Bulldog left, Beretta PX4 right

Ironically given the lack of Beretta licensing, this is a very accurate visual replica of the PX4.  The Bulldog really is indistinguishable from the real PX4 – every pin, slot and contour of the frame and slide are faithfully reproduced.  The inner barrel is recessed approximately ¼” from the outer barrel, and so isn’t particularly obvious.  The outer barrel is threaded for a suppressor.

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The paint finish on the slide is a very close match to the finish on the polymer frame, making the two parts look as if they belong together (something that not all airsoft replicas manage – look at the mismatched paint on the KJ Works PX4 slide, for example).  If you can find an early version with Beretta markings, this is as close a visual replica as it’s possible to find.

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 WE Bulldog left, Beretta PX4 right

The only minor difference here (and I’m struggling to find any at all) is that the dots used on the rear and front sights are white, rather than the luminescent originals.

Functional accuracy  14/15

Given that WE replicas are intended to be used as training weapons, it’s no surprise that the Bulldog replicates every aspect of the operation of the original. The slide operates and locks as it should.  The ambidextrous slide mounted safety operates correctly as a safety and decocker.  The slide release, takedown slider and mag release all operate as per the original weapon and the Bulldog can be field stripped.  The Bulldog shoots in single and double action.  Even the rotating barrel of the original is replicated – as the slide is pushed back, the outer locking sleeve of the barrel rotates through approximately 90°.  The weight of the Bulldog is also very close to that of the PX4, something that really helps to replicate the feel of the original.

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I can’t find anything on the Bulldog which doesn’t fully replicate the operation of the real PX4.  I fully believe that this could be used as a viable training option for the real weapon.  However, there is one slightly odd thing about the operation of the Bulldog – the hammer in the down position sits about 8mm back from the fully-forward position of the hammer on the real weapon.  This doesn’t affect shooting in any way, but does look slightly odd.

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Bulldog hammer in fully forward (fired) position

Shooting  32/40

Before talking about the Bulldog, I’d like to talk in general about airsoft gas blowbacks.  I previously lived in the Highlands of Scotland where I had a large collection of airsoft pistols.  While I admired their functional accuracy, none shot particularly well.  They produced a subdued “phut” rather than a bang, power was low and and slide operation was, well, relaxed.  I recently moved to Thailand and have started buying airsofts again.  Here, they are completely different.  Crisp blowback, decent bangs and generally much better power and accuracy.  I spent time thinking about different valves, gas, etc. before recognising the blindingly obvious – it’s the heat, stupid!  It’s so warm here that gas pressure must be significantly higher.  So, be warned, if you are shooting airsoft pistols somewhere chilly, you may have very different results.

The Bulldog is loaded by filling the full size magazine with gas and BBs.  Filling is done without drama or leaks.  The magazine holds up to 20 BBs, and I found the pistol worked well with .2g ammunition.  The slide is racked for the first shot, which pushes a BB into the chamber and cocks the hammer for single action.

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The  trigger pull in single action is crisp, light and consistent.  In double action it is longer, but still fairly light and consistent.  The three white dots on the non-adjustable sights make lining up the target simple.  The pistol has adjustable hop up, though shooting .2g BBs at six yards, I found that no adjustment was required.  Blowback is crisp and strong and I have had no misfeeds or failures to fire.  The magazine holds gas for more than two weeks without appreciable leaks.

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Six shots, six yards, .2g BBs

I don’t currently have access to a chronograph, so I can’t say what the fps is.  However, BBs hit the target hard at 6 yards and penetration is good.  Accuracy is very good indeed.  Groupings are around 1¼” – 1½” at 6yds.  Rested and shooting carefully, 1″ groupings are possible.  For an airsoft pistol with open sights and a three and a half inch barrel, that’s pretty impressive.  At 6yds, best accuracy is obtained using .2g BBs.

Quality and reliability  10/15

The slide fits well with no side-to-side movement and no rattles.  The hammer, trigger and all other controls work well without play or slop.  The magazine locks and releases cleanly.  The finish on the slide looks good and (so far) hasn’t chipped or marked.  The finish on the slide matches the finish on the polymer frame well.  Finish on other parts isn’t as good – paint on the high spots of the safety, slide release and inner barrel are wearing after very little use.  A serial number plate is provided below the barrel. I have had no functional problems with this pistol in two months of ownership although (and this is just a general impression), it doesn’t feel especially robust.

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I am not aware of any reported issues with this pistol.  However, I would add a word of caution.  I have previously owned several older WE replica pistols and some (especially the Luger) don’t seem to have good longevity.  The quality of metal used on some internal parts seems low.  The sear on the WE Luger for example, is prone to rapid wear causing the pistol to fire in full auto.  I have no reason to believe that this applies to the Bulldog, but it’s worth bearing in mind if you are considering long-term ownership.

Overall Impression  13/15

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I like my replicas to be as close as possible to the original weapon in looks, feel and operation, and this is about as good as it gets.  Other than markings, it’s indistinguishable in look and operation from the real weapon.  It’s a significantly better replica than (for example) the Umarex PX4 BB shooter, and it also feels better made and put together than that pistol.

Conclusion

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I like this replica a lot.  Visually and operationally it’s difficult to see how you could have a closer replica of the real weapon other than by including Beretta markings.  It’s well-made and reasonably finished and has convincing weight.  It’s a pleasure to shoot and accuracy is consistent and good enough for target shooting.  That it’s also significantly cheaper than some Japanese alternatives is an added bonus.  How the finish and mechanical reliability hold up long-term remains to be seen, but other than that one question mark I don’t see how you can go wrong adding a WE Bulldog to your collection.

Total score: 81/100

Related pages:

WE Tokarev TT-33 review

Gun Heaven Nagant M1895 revolver review

Anics Beretta A-9000S review

Umarex Beretta PX4 storm review

Lubricating air and airsoft pistols

What makes a great replica pistol?

Links

WE website