Well, a couple of guys wanted me to write up a review of my Beretta Cx4 Storm. After having it for a few months, finally wringing it out a little, and making modifications, I have finally gotten around to doing this.
The backstory is that a guy that I work with picked it up from a friend, who bought it on a lark. I'm the third owner, but the original owner claims to have put less than 100 rounds through it. Based upon condition, I believe him. The second owner never shot it. Said second owner simply had to have a new Glock, so I basically bought this thing LNIB with two standard-capacity Beretta 92 mags for $425. Not too shabby.
The gun in question is a 9mm model, designed to take 92 magazines. The gun will also take PX4 magazines if you purchase a magwell insert from Beretta and swap out the 92 insert. Not owning a PX4, I haven't tested how well it runs with those magazines. It runs great with 15 and 18 round OEM mags. The gun came with all of the usual Beretta accessories; two magazines, a trigger lock, an instruction manual in italian and english, a hard case, a cleaning rod and a tool for the sights. It also came with a small section of rail that can be placed on either side of the rifle for lights, and a cosmetic "barrel shroud" (you know, that shoulder thing that goes up). These seem to be aftermarket accessories sold by Beretta.
The gun itself is light and handy, with a slight nose-heavy balance (possibly due to the barrel shroud, but I'm too lazy to remove it to see). Because the design feeds through the pistol grip, the action sits a little further back than a conventional design, so the overall length is pretty short (about 29"). The charging handle, safety and magazine release are reversible (though I haven't tried it). Safety is a standard cross-bolt. All controls are made of plastic (more on this later), as is the entire outside of the gun. The sights are metal and protected by plastic "ears". The front sight is adjustable for elevation, and folds flat for optic use. The rear sight has three positions: Short Range, Long Range and folded flat. According to the manual, the two apertures are not same-plane and are optimized for use at 50 and 100 yds, respectively. It is not at all clear what loading this SR/LR combo was designed around. Under the barrel is a plastic section of picatinny rail that slides into a recess in the stock. I doubt that it would work well with a laser (seems to deflect easily under finger pressure), but it would be perfectly good for a pistol-type light.
Takedown is achieved by pushing one plastic "pin" through far enough to grab, then pulling it out. The upper and lower then separate. The metal "chassis" inside of the gun is then revealed, along with more plastic parts (more on this later). The bolt itself is metal, squarish, and seemingly heavily built. From the field-stripped position, you can reverse the ejection.
Shooting the gun casually revealed three things immediately; the gun is comfortable and accurate, and the trigger sucks. The sights are OK, the dimensions of the gun are reasonable (you don't feel crowded or cramped, which is nice, given its short dimensions). Anyone worried about the "thumbhole" importation fig-leaf stock getting in the way can relax, Beretta did a great job of unobtrusively complying with our silly rules. The magwell in the pistol grip is a two-edged sword; on the one hand, it does a good job of directing the magazines into the chute, but it also makes it slightly harder to seat standard-length magazines. You have to press up with your thumb to lock it in. 18 round magazines sit perfectly flush and lock in readily. The trigger is usuable, but ... meh. Heavy, with lots of stack and pretravel. Add in the fact that it and a lot of the internal parts are plastic, and I knew that this would be a prime candidate for upgrading.
So, before I did any serious work on dialing the gun in, I purchased the Sierra Papa all-metal trigger/hammer/guide-rod upgrade kit. This replaces everything key in the FCG that is plastic with metal parts. Beretta used plastic as a nice cost-saving device, and while it has, apparently, proven to be reasonably durable, it does present some issues. In order to make a plastic (read: light) hammer that will reliably ignite primers, they had to overspring it like a mofo. They can't really make a crisp, light sear engagement because, well, everything is plastic and the hammer is wound up pretty tight. The fairly heavy trigger pull is exacerbated by plastic trigger, which (allegedly) flexes when it is pulled. Add all of this together and the end result is a hot mess. It works, but it ain't pretty.
The replacement was reasonably straight forward. I won't go into a how-to here, but at one point the instructions should have read "hold this with your right hand, hold this with your left hand, and with your third hand ... " Other than that, it was not too bad. You end up with an all metal hammer, reduced-weight springs, a metal guide rod and link, and a metal trigger that is adjustable for pre-travel. The difference is immediately noticible and beneficial, and the whole system is probably more durable and reliable as well.
Another optional part that I purchased was a Houts Enterprises top rail. Beretta has their own rail for the Beretta, but the Houts Enterprises rail is a bit cheaper and claims to be milspec. It isn't. Or, at least, the one that I got wasn't. It looks nice, installed easily into screw holes built into the Storm's frame, but the rail slots aren't to spec. I took an Aimpoint mount and tried every slot on the rail, and only the very front and the very rear slots allowed it to lock down. I contemplated sending it back, but as it turns out, the sight I ended up using works OK with it. Apparently if you take an out-of-spec rail and mate it with an old OKO Holosight with plastic attachment points, you can torque it down hard enough to hold. So, to be fair to Houts, I did not give them an opportunity to fix the problem. That said, if I was doing it again, I would not waste my time with the Houts mount, I'd go straight to Beretta USA.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the OKO Holosight, it is an older, plastic-housed reflex-style red dot. It is not military-rugged, is probably not waterproof (dunno for sure), has mediocre (by 2011 standards) battery life, and has a fairly crisp red dot. The sight is very light and has an easy-to-use dial for on/off and brightness, and a built-in backup sight (notch and post style). It sits just a skosh too high to allow cowitness with the Storm's iron sights. All in all, it is not a sight I would take into battle, but it is about perfect for a plinker like the Storm.
Going back out with the new trigger group, a chronograph and the Holosight (to be installed after the sights were dialed in), yielded some more fun facts. I took a variety of 9mm ammo, and the difference in performance was interesting. Standard Blazer 115 gr was almost unfelt in the recoil department, and grouped fine with the irons (2" at 100). 147 gr Hydra-Shoks were fun; the recoil was still almost non-existant, and the sensation of *BOOM* ... *THWACK* as the heavy round trundled downrange was entertaining. 124 gr Gold Dots were actually able to be felt; they stung your shoulder a bit, were very loud, and were very obviously stepping out smartly from the Storm's 16" barrel. They grouped about 1.5" and were trucking right along at 1370 FPS.
Reliability was very good. The gun has not malfunctioned once. The trigger upgrade was a solid improvement in the feel of the trigger. The Holosight has found a permanent home atop this carbine; it is about the perfect height to get your head up without causing you to have "chin weld". Controls are properly placed and work fine. All in all, the gun works as you would hope it would.
My opinion on the rifle? For a plinker, it is about as perfect a 9mm carbine as one could request. It is light, handy, reliable, has provision for mounting optics, has decent iron sights, and takes readily available magazines. The only drawback is the cost, for a new gun. Add in the cost of a rail (for optics) and the trigger upgrade, and the benjamins start to pile up.
For a defensive gun, it gets more complex. I give it a qualified thumbs-up for that purpose. Out of the box, I don't like the plastic trigger group and recoil spring guide rod. The caliber has advantages and disadvantages, too. The recoil is light and the concussion of lighting off a handgun round inside is a lot less damaging than discharging a rifle indoors. Practice is cheap with 9mm. Smaller-statured and recoil-sensitive shooters will enjoy the Storm more than, say, a shotgun or an AR. 18 rounds of 124gr Gold Dots zipping along at 1370fps from a gun that has zero muzzle rise is nothing to sneeze at. That said, rifle rounds are more powerful, and I would want to upgrade the trigger group on a Storm that I was using for defense. Once you do the upgrades, you're almost to AR territory with the price.
I'm happy with my purchase, but I'm mostly happy with the deal I got. At the going prices for new guns, I probably would not have bought it. As is, I got the gun LNIB, did the upgrades, and ended up with a better gun for about the price of a new one. My advice is look for a gently used gun, as they make a lot more financial sense than a new one. The pistol calibers are unlikely to cause significant wear, except maybe on the parts you'll probably want to replace anyway. The exterior is all plastic, so "finish wear" is not really a concern. The financials are really the gun's one negative; it's really hard to determine if it is worth the price Beretta wants for it.