Beretta is a trusted name in the firearms community. Whether people like it or not, Beretta has a proven track record for developing strong, reliable, and innovative weapons that stand the test of time. Even today, the 92 series of pistols are still regarded as one of the strongest and best pistols on the market. But how does the old design of the 96A1 stack up to the new design of the PX4 Storm? Both of these pistols have seen use in a Law Enforcement capacity, and they are both in .40 caliber. So which one is best, and which one is the best one for the .40 caliber cartridge?
These designs have obvious differences. The 96A1 uses a locking block while the PX4 uses a rotating barrel to secure the barrel in lock-up. The locking block of the 96A1 is a time-tested design that has been labeled as a weak point of the pistol. Many people automatically assume that the .40 caliber will wear down the locking block even faster than the 9mm. However, when I talked to the techs at Beretta, they emphasized that the locking blocks used the .40 caliber pistols will last just as long as the 9mm if you change the recoil spring at regular intervals. That means that the current locking blocks can easily carry your pistol into round counts in excess of 30,000 rounds without failing. Not a bad deal if I do say so myself.
The rotating barrel of the PX4 Storm is known to be a very strong system. However, it does seem to have the same requirements as the 96A1 in terms of maintenance. As long as you change the recoil spring at regular intervals of 5,000-10,000 rounds, the camming block should last at least 30,000-40,000 rounds. The camming block is the piece that helps the barrel rotate, but it also absorbs alot of punishment when the barrel completes it's rotation. The barrel smashes against the camming block, and therefore it is crucial that you make sure that the recoil springs are strong in order to cushion the impact.
If we are to look at both of these designs and grade them based on their inherent strength, I think the PX4 Storm would be the clear winner. The rotating barrel design seems to be the stronger design in terms of lock-up and longevity. However, the oscillating locking block of the 96A1 is not far behind in terms of durability. I am, of course, making this judgement off of which design would last longer without proper maintenance. Though the round count difference would be small, I believe that the PX4 Storm would come out as the winner in the long run.
Both of these pistols may seem to have design flaws you don't have in pistols like the Glock. That is true, but the Glock has it's own problems like needing the recoil spring changed every 7,000 rounds to protect the slide integrity. In general, all pistols are going to have their own maintenance needs. There is no magic design that is free of this obligation. These two Beretta pistols have some of the best locking mechanisms available. As long as you take care of these pistols, they will serve you well. Just keep that in mind before getting upset about maintenance.
SIZE AND CAPABILITY
The size difference between these two pistols is obvious. The two pistols have about the same height, but barrel length is what separates them. Also, the grip size is a bit different on these pistols. The 96A1 has more of the older style grip found on the original 96 series. This makes it a bit chubby and hard to shoot for those of a smaller child-like stature. The PX4 has a slimmer grim with adjustable palm swells. The PX4 Storm is the clear winner in terms of comfort, but the grip of the 96A1 is not far behind for me in terms of how naturally it fits in my hand.
The barrel length of these two pistols can actually play a big part in how they are used, in my opinion. The 4.9" barrel on the 96A1 lends itself to being an ideal candidate for launching hotter 180 grain hollow points. The added barrel length should give it increased velocity, and therefore increase the penetration somewhat. Not to mention help make expansion easier since velocity is key. In general, most hollow point loads are designed to expand when fired from at least a 4" barrel. If the manufacturer has a little leftover powder after the 4 inches is fully traveled, the loading will more than likely benefit from the longer barrel of the 96A1.
The PX4 Storm utilizes a 4" barrel, which is the standard barrel length for hollow points. Personally, I think it depends on the type of loads you are putting in your pistol, but generally speaking I think the 4" barrel will be enough to encourage even most 180 grain hollow points to expand. The barrel on the PX4 Storm is also thick and beefy, which leads me to feel that it will last a while and remain strong under rapid fire.
The biggest difference between these two pistols is not only in their frame materials, but also in their magazine capacity. The PX4 holds 14 in the magazine while the 96A1 only holds 12. For some people that is the main consideration. However, I have found that this is not enough of a difference to dictate which one of these pistols is best. I like the added capacity of the PX4 but I am not concerned with a loss of two rounds in the 96A1. Realistically, I feel that the issue of capacity is an overblown one at best.
When shooting both of these pistols, they are someone different in their characteristics. The recoil impulse is sharp on both, but they both go back on target almost on their own. The vibration or felt recoil of the PX4 is considerably less than the felt recoil of the 96A1. The alloy frame of the 96A1 absorbs alot of the shock through an aluminum buffer insert, but the vertical serrations on the grip do cause my palm to be somewhat sore if I am shooting my hot reloads too much. The PX4 on the other hand has felt recoil that I would compare to a 9mm. I found the PX4 to actually be the softest shooting .40 caliber I have tried so far. I would credit the smooth grip texture and the buffer on the recoil spring guide for absorbing most of the vibration.
Both of these pistols have merit in terms of serving as a duty weapon. The PX4 is light and has low recoil and a good capacity. The 96A1 has a good sight radius, is easy to operate and comes from the 96 line, which has a proven reputation for reliability and durability. Both of these pistols have served or still serve in a Law Enforcement capacity. Both pistols are somewhat proven, and it would be hard to make a decision on which one is best. However, in my experience, the 96A1 is my choice between the two. I appreciate its longer barrel for greater terminal ballistics, the ability to use 92 series mags, the ease of use I have experienced, and the ability to clearly feel the pistol function. Everyone has to make a choice on what they want in a duty or home defense pistol. But I highly encourage you to adjust your priorities based on logic and not weird fears like mag capacity and weight.
Do It Rite
Alaska-Based Youtube Vlogger, Retired Marine, gun enthusiast, and passionate firearm and gear evaluator.