Shooting a Pair of Cheetahs — Comparing the Beretta 84FS and 85FS


These Cheetahs travel in packs of two

These Cheetahs travel in packs of two

Next week I’ll return to travel and photography with a series on West Coast cruising to San Francisco, California; Astoria, Oregon; and Victoria and Vancouver, British Columbia.  This week, however, will solely feature firearms.  So, sorry, travel and photography fans, but I owe a bunch of people some promised gun articles.

A sampling of the included goodies

A sampling of the included goodies

Today, I shoot a pair of Cheetahs.  Relax, wildlife fans.  I’m talking about the Beretta series 80 Cheetah pistols, which include the Cheetah models 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 87 Target, and 89.  If you’re wondering about those designations, here’s a breakdown:

  • Model 81: .32 ACP/7.65mm with 12-round, double-stack magazine and wide grip
  • Model 82: .32 ACP/7.65mm with 9-round, single-stack magazine and thin grip
  • Model 83: .380 ACP/9mm kurz with 7-round, single-stack magazine, and longer 4-inch/102mm barrel
  • Model 84: .380 ACP/9mm kurz with 13-round, double-stack magazine
  • Model 85: .380 ACP/9mm kurz with 8-round, single-stack magazine
  • Model 86: .380 ACP/9mm kurz with 8-round magazine; differs from other Cheetahs in that it has longer 4.37-inch/111mm barrel, and a unique tipping barrel that allows a round to be cropped directly into the chamber rather than necessitating a load from the magazine
  • Model 87: .22 LR with 10-round magazine
  • Model 87 Target: .22 LR with one of the longest barrels in the Cheetah line at 5.91 inches/150mm
  • Model 89: .22 LR with 8-round magazine; this is the competition model of the Cheetah series; it has the longest barrel at 5.98 inches/152mm and weighs in at a rather hefty 41 ounces/1,160 grams.
85FS on left; 84FS on right

85FS on left; 84FS on right

All Cheetahs are blowback operation.  The current .32 ACP and .380 ACP pistols are all FS versions.  FS pistols have a squared “combat” style trigger guard, a manual safety that also serves to decock the hammer, a chromed barrel and chamber, a firing pin safety, a magazine safety, and a very tough proprietary “Bruniton” finish on the steel slide mounted over a lightweight alloy frame.

Magaines — 9-round vs. 13-round

Magaines — 8-round vs. 13-round

The models I’m reviewing today are an 84FS double-stack and an 85FS single stack, both in .380 ACP/9mm kurz.  Both models come standard with dual, ambidextrous safety/decock levers.  Specifications are:

Beretta 84fs:

  • Length: 6.77 inches/172mm
  • Width (see text): 1.37 inches/35mm
  • Width (at grip): 1.37 inches/35mm
  • Height: 4.8 inches/122mm
  • Weight (with empty magazine): 23.3 ounces/660 grams
  • Barrel: 3.82 inches/97mm
  • Capacity: 13+1

Beretta 85fs:

  • Length: 6.77 inches/172mm
  • Width (see text): 1.37 inches/35mm
  • Width (at grip): 1.18 inches/30mm
  • Height: 4.8 inches/122mm
  • Weight (with empty magazine): 21.9 ounces/620 grams
  • Barrel: 3.82 inches/97mm
  • Capacity: 8+1
Right profile view

Right profile view

Both the 84FS and 85FS are still available from Beretta, but you must watch carefully for them.  Beretta quit importing them a few years ago, and only recently started reimporting them in small, limited-run batches.  I had acquired the 84FS back in late 2012 when it appeared they would be leaving the market permanently, and just recently snagged the 85FS in early October when the latest batch hit the market.  Indeed, you will find neither listed on the U.S. Beretta website.  Here locally the street price was in the $730-$738 range for both.  Grabagun.com shows online prices at just over $660.

Left profile view

Left profile view

Shooting Cheetahs:  I had previously fired the 84FS and was not impressed with my accuracy, especially compared to how well I fire the Walther PPK and PPK/S (link:  PPK review).  But there were a couple of saving graces in favor of the 84FS over the .380 ACP PPK/S — the recoil was much more manageable, allowing for quicker reacquisition of the target; the 84FS gave me a whopping six-round advantage over the PPK/S.  Nevertheless, I found myself going back to the PPK/S for carry, on the rare occasions when my trusty P99c AS was too bulky (link:  P99c AS review), despite the unpleasantness of the recoil.  The 84FS just feels too bulky, which it is because of the width of the grip, and I just didn’t shoot is as well.

Disassembled Cheetah

Disassembled Cheetah

I didn’t expect to do appreciably better with the 85FS, but I was wrong.  In direct, back-to-back firings alternating between the 84FS and 85FS the latter had it all over the former in accuracy.  I found this astounding.  I would not have thought going into this comparison that a grip width only .19 inches/5mm would make that much difference, but apparently it does with me.

Grip width comparison — 84FS vs 85FS

Grip width comparison — 84FS vs 85FS

And whereas the PPK/S is an absolute beast when it comes recoil, neither Cheetah exhibits this behavior.  Indeed, both recoil with about the same lack of drama one gets when firing a locked breech 9mm Parabellum.  Both Cheetahs lose on this front however in comparison to the milder recoil of the .32 ACP/7.65mm PPK, which is the caliber for which the PP-series was originally designed.

Grip width comparison — 84FS vs 85FS

Grip width comparison — 84FS vs 85FS

Now a word about concealability.  As I hinted earlier, the 84FS offers no real advantage in this area over the higher powered 9mm Parabellum, 10+1 rounds offered in the P99c, and four additional rounds of lower energy ammunition just isn’t worth the trade-off.  The 85FS may change my mind, however.  True, both the 84FS and 85FS are technically 1.37 inches/35mm wide, but that’s deceiving.  That width is measured at the widest point, which just happens to be those ambidextrous safety/decock levers, which are negligible in size and this add no real bulk in actual concealment.  It’s the grip width that is the failing in this area for the 84FS, and the 85FS addresses that problem very well indeed.  The grip width of the 9+1 capacity 85FS is 1.18 inches/30mm.  This compares to an overall width of 1.26 inches/32mm on the P99c, and a miniscule .98 inches/25mm on the PPK/S.

85FS versus . . .

85FS versus . . .

. . . 84FS

. . . 84FS

For a minor .2-inch penalty in width I gain two additional rounds in the 85FS in a package that better handles recoil and which aims just as intuitively as the PPK/S.  Not a bad trade-off indeed.  And while the numbers would seem to dramatically favor the PPK/S in concealment, side-by-side comparisons show it doesn’t really have that great an advantage as you can see below.

Two .380 ACP Classics — Beretta 85FS and Walther PPK/S

Two .380 ACP Classics — Beretta 85FS and Walther PPK/S

Like the Walther PPK/S, the Cheetah has a double-action/single-action trigger.  Single-action is a tad lighter on the PPK/S, and reset is shorter.  Double-action is a different story.  The Cheetah is both lighter and smoother in this area.

Here are some additional comparison views of the 85FS against the PPK/S:

Height comparison 85FS vs. PPK/S

Height comparison 85FS vs. PPK/S

Length comparison 85FS vs. PPK/S

Length comparison 85FS vs. PPK/S

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2 Comments

Filed under Firearms, R. Doug Wicker

2 responses to “Shooting a Pair of Cheetahs — Comparing the Beretta 84FS and 85FS

  1. rogparish

    In the table of dimensions, the imperial measurements have lost their decimal points: “77 inches long”!