Category Archives: Firearms

Beretta Week — 21A “Bobcat” from 1986

Beretta Week Family Portrait

Time to move on to something considerably smaller than the .380 ACP/9mm kurz Beretta 84B Cheetah depicted above to the left. That brings us to the second of this week’s Beretta Week entries — the Beretta 21A “Bobcat.” The firearm you see here was manufactured in 1986 at Beretta’s former Accokeek, Maryland facility. As production of the Model 21A began in the U.S. in 1984, that would make this pistol a very early example. Today, the 21A Bobcat is made at Beretta’s Gallatin, Tennessee facility, as is its slightly beefier .32 ACP/7.65mm cousin, the wonderful Beretta 3032 Tomcat. Now for a look at this little gem chambered in .22 Long Rifle (.22 LR):

1986 Beretta 21A Bobcat

The Beretta Bobcat has a thumb safety that allows it to be carried cocked-and-locked (hammer cocked; weapon in single-action mode). The magazine release is placed in the same unusual position as on the Tomcat and the featured firearm in this week’s Fun Firearms Friday, on the lower left corner of the left-side grip. Now let’s talk about that nifty little lever you see just above and behind the trigger. That’s the barrel release, as this is one of Beretta’s famed tip-barrel pocket pistols. Just pivot it forward and the barrel pops up, away from the slide, exposing the chamber:

The 21A Bobcat is another of Beretta’s famed tip-barrels.

The tip-barrel allows one to do several things that cannot be done with a standard magazine-fed semi-automatic. You can drop a round directly into the chamber without raking the slide. You can clear the chamber without dropping the magazine and then raking the slide. And, finally, the Beretta 21A Bobcat lacks a decock, but because of the tip barrel that’s not a problem. If you want to safely decock the loaded weapon, just tilt the barrel, pull the trigger, and gently lower the hammer with your thumb (Beretta recommends against dry fire, so don’t let the hammer just fall). Using this procedure, it’s not even necessary to remove a loaded magazine to safely decock the weapon. Once the Bobcat is decocked, just push the barrel with the chambered round back into place. Voilà, your Bobcat is now in double-action mode.

Beretta 21A; barrel tipped up and chamber waiting for a round

Yep. Your read that correctly. The 21A Bobcat, like its similarly sized but weightier Tomcat cousin, is a true DA/SA (double-action/single-action) semiautomatic, and the magazine of the diminutive 21A holds an impressive seven rounds of .22 LR. But wait! There’s MORE! Is .22 LR a bit too persnickety for your tastes? Does the higher misfire rate of a rimfire cartridge leave you cold? Prefer the reliability of a centerfire round? Not to worry. The 21A also comes available in .25 ACP/6.35mm., and that variant holds 8+1 rounds.

Best word to describe this handgun — Diminutive

Disassembly is incredibly simple: Cock the hammer, tip the barrel and pivot it fully forward, retract the slide a fraction of an inch, lift the front of the slide, then pull the slide forward off the rails.

Beretta 21A Tomcat, slide removed

So, what else came with this particular example? Well, like Monday’s 84B Cheetah, this Bobcat came with a box and an instruction manual. Unlike the Cheetah however, this box was original to this weapon:

Beretta 21A with original box, owner’s manual, and a spare magazine

How do I know this is the original box paired with this gun? The same way that I knew Monday’s 84B Cheetah box was not; the serial number on this box matched that on the Bobcat:

Model 21; Caliber .22LR; Grips W(ood); Serial Number (matched to pistol)

I’ve not yet fired the Bobcat, but its turn is coming. I’ll be taking it out at some future date along with this week’s Fun Firearm Friday. But before I do, I’ll need to acquire some .25 ACP/6.35mm ammunition for Friday’s subject. And, no, that upcoming pistol is not a .25 ACP variant of the Bobcat. It’s something a bit more historic in nature — a later, improved version of Beretta’s very first tip-barrel pistol.

A complete set… AND a spare magazine

Beretta 21A Bobcat specifications:

  • Trigger: Double-action/single-action; cocked-and-locked capable
  • Caliber: ..22 LR or 25 ACP (6.35mm)
  • Steel slide, alloy frame
  • Length: 4.92″/125mm
  • Width: 1.1″/28mm
  • Height: 3.7″/94mm
  • Weight: 11.8oz/335gr
  • Barrel length: 2.4 inches/61 mm
Final Look: Beretta 21A Bobcat cocked-and-locked

Слава Україні! (Slava Ukraini!)


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Beretta Week — 84B “Cheetah” from 1982

Beretta Family Portrait of this week’s subjects

Next week I start a new travel series, but in the meantime, this is Beretta Week. Can you guess from the image above what’s on tap today, Wednesday, and this week’s Fun Firearm Friday? Hint number one: Although it looks similar to the larger and much more famous Beretta 92, the firearm on the left is a smaller blowback pistol chambered in .380 ACP/9mm kurz. Give up? Well, then, the one on the left is a Beretta 84 Cheetah. Specifically, the firearm we’re perusing today is an 84B dating back to 1982.

Beretta 84B “Cheetah”

I’ve clued you in on the remarkable Beretta 81-series pistols before, but with the current FS models. First was in November of 2016 with Shooting a Pair of Cheetahs — Comparing the Beretta 84FS and 85FS. I followed up in February 2019 with a bit of a rarity: Beretta 81FS Cheetah — And tips on gun collecting. Today we’re going back in time, back to when the Beretta 84B was produced. That would be during the short span from 1980 to 1984.

Beretta 84B with “PB” (Pietro Beretta) medallion missing

You’ll note that this example is in remarkable condition for a handgun celebrating its 38th birthday. Save for the left grip missing the “PB” — short for Pietro Beretta — medallion, there’s not much here about which to complain. The bluing is in good condition, the factory wood grips are relatively unmarred, and a replacement “PB” medallion has been ordered and should be here by the time you read this! And while you’ll note from the image below that this example came with a factory box, don’t get too excited. I wasn’t.

Beretta 84B factory box

I mean, sure, it looks complete, but there’s a catch:

Beretta 84B box, warning card, cleaning rod, and owner’s manual

This box, while correct for the 84B and the year this example was born, is not the box originally issued to this specific firearm. How did I know this before I even decided to take it? Simple. The serial number on the label doesn’t match that on the firearm. Neither the clerk nor the store owner had noticed the discrepancy. This is something to watch out for when you think you’re getting a complete set on a collectible.

Right era box; wrong firearm

Nevertheless, that’s not that big a deal. It beats the later expense of having to purchase a correct era box and owner’s guide on eBay. Besides, this example was not priced out of line even for a firearm that was missing the extras. And it’s always great to have an original owner’s manual:

“Armi Beretta” translates to Beretta Weapons

Now time for a little history lesson. The Beretta 81-series pistols began life in 1976, and would eventually include 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 dropped 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.
  • Browning BDA380: Now, this one is a bit tricky. The BDA380 was indeed based upon the Beretta 81 and 84, but examples were made not only by Beretta (.380 ACP/9mm kurz), but also Fabrique Nationale (FN) Herstal (.32 ACP/7.5mm) of Belgium. Visual differences include an enclosed barrel and a slide-mounted safety. Even the grips look nearly the same, down to the medallion inserts. The primary difference there is that the medallions show “B” for Browning rather than the three arrows on the right grip and the “PB” on the left.
Beretta 84B, slide removed

As for those letters that follow the model number? Let’s stick to the Model 84 specifically on this. The original 1976 Model 84 had no letter following the number. In 1980 the improved 84B arrived, with a shortened extractor, groves added to the frame at the front and back straps, an automatic firing pin safety, and a trigger disconnect when the safety is engaged. The 84BB changes included improvements to the sights, which previously were all black combat-style. Additional cocking serrations were placed on the slide, and the slide was made wider and slightly heavier. There were also changes to the guide rod and recoil spring.

Beretta 84B slide with barrel, guide rod, and recoil spring in place

Things got more interesting with the change from the 84BB to the 84F and later FS. Engaging the safety on the original Model 84, 84B, and 84BB resulted in a 1911-style cocked-and-locked situation in which the hammer is cocked, leaving this Double-Action/Single-Action (DA/SA) pistol in single-action mode once the safety is disengaged. Internally the barrel and chamber gained chrome lining.

Beretta 84B — Cocked and locked (hammer back; safety engaged)
Beretta 84B — Single-action mode (hammer cocked; safety disengaged)

Cosmetically, the differences between the 84BB and 84F were huge. The finish went from high-gloss blue to Beretta’s more durable, semi-matte Bruniton finish (and, yes, I’ve seen a factory nickel version of the FS as well). Gone were the wood grips with medallions; they were replaced with hard plastic grips. The elegantly rounded trigger guard gave way to a squared-off combat-style with some front serrations. The slide was also notched at the safety, and the slide indentation for the catch was now hidden from view. You can see some of these changes in the image below from my previous 2016 article on the 84FS and 85FS Cheetahs:

Beretta 84FS (top) and 85FS (single-stack variant)

As for the changes between the 84F and 84FS, you won’t see any, but there’s one internal difference. The safety on the 84FS supposedly has a more positive engagement. The criticism with the 84F was that you could halfway engage the safety, leaving one with the mistaken tactile impression that the safety was engaged. The hammer would remain cocked, and if you pulled the trigger, the gun would still fire. Now, I tried this on an 84FS and 85FS, and as far as I can tell it still operates that way. So, if you have either an F or FS, be warned — that safety must be fully and forcefully engaged to the point where the hammer drops before the gun is truly placed in a safe condition.

Beretta 84B with barrel, guide rod, and recoil spring removed

As with the previously reviewed Beretta 84FS, most of the specifications remain the same save for the weight. This is a result of the slightly narrower, lighter slide. My measurements show a difference of 40 grams/1.4 ounces.

Beretta 84B:

  • 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): 22.4 ounces/634 grams
  • Barrel: 3.82 inches/97mm
  • Capacity: 13+1
13+1 rounds of .380 ACP/9mm kurz (or “corso in Italian)

I hope you’re enjoying Beretta week. We’ve now finished with the firearm on the left (see below). On Wednesday we move on to something even smaller, that little guy in the middle:

Beretta Family Portrait

Слава Україні! (Slava Ukraini!)

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Fun Firearm Friday — A Revolver Week Fraud!

Severe, exceedingly obscure, fascinatingly trivial, yet amazingly fun history lesson follows! Approach with extreme caution.

A Webley Mk VI… or is it?

Webleys are the iconic English military pistol. They’ve been around since 1887, and continued in Commonwealth and U.K. military service until withdrawal in 1970. The most famous of the Webley series was the Mk VI dating back to World War I, all of which were factory chambered in the oddball .455 Webley (most have since been rechambered for reduced pressure .45 ACP loadings). Worldwide there are probably tens of thousands of these things still being used in former colonies of the British Empire.

A Webley Mk VI… or is it?

Well, this certainly looks like a Webley. And it’s even stamped “WEBLEY PATENTS” above the trigger guard:


And it’s stamped as a “MARK VI” along the backstrap:

“MARK VI” stamp

The “broad arrow” stamps are a nice touch as well. The “broad arrow” was used as a British property stamp, and those “broad arrows” are all over this weapon. And I do mean all over it.

British “broad arrow” property stamp
I count five “broad arrows” on this image alone
Even on the trigger!

Indeed, this weapon even operates like a traditional top-breaking, self-extracting Webley revolver. You can see in the sequence below how this thing elegantly breaks open at the top. Then, as you continue to rotate the barrel-cylinder assembly away from the frame, the star extractor arm extends to eject cartridges from the cylinder. Finally, continue even farther and the extractor arm snaps back into its recessed position, ready for the user to reload the cylinder with fresh rounds.

Thumb the cylinder lock below the hammer to break open
Continue rotation to extend the star extractor arm (above the cylinder) to unload spent cartridges
Extend farther and the star extractor snaps back into the cylinder for reloading

I believe Smith & Wesson pioneered this break-top, self-extraction concept back in 1870 with their S&W Model 3. If there is an earlier version, I’d love to hear about it. And, yes, I am aware of the break-top 1858 French Divesme, but it used a manual extractor rod to push cartridges out from the front one at a time rather than an automatic self-extractor to pull out of them simultaneously from the rear. At any rate, this Smith & Wesson-style extractor is now more closely associated with Webley revolvers.

“Broad arrow” acceptance marks even on some of the screws

As you may have guessed by now, looking at all the bizarre “broad arrow” proof marks, there is something decidedly amiss with this “Webley.” But there are other clues, such as nonsensical “English” stamps:

“AMEBRAHIMLEE&SON”? Really? And bracketed by yet more broad arrows?
And don’t even ask me what these three cylinder stamps represent

Well, let’s take look at the serial number for some additional clues:

Serial Number 1950

But, wait. What’s this stamped above the trigger guard?


So, which is it? Is the serial number 1950, or 195018? Being on the cautious side, and noting that the frame usually bears the serial number, the gun store went with 195018 on the ATF Form 4473. Probably a good move, as I’m pretty sure that’s the number it would have been imported under. Although… there is no import stamp, so it’s very likely a G.I. bring-back from…. Any guesses yet? I’ll give you a clue. This had to have wound up in the duffle bag of someone returning from a recent combat zone which would in the past have been under the United Kingdom sphere of influence (hey, it is after all a WEBLEY, right?). And the logical suspect would be…

More nonsense, probably from a non-English speaking “manufacturer”

I’m sure some of you have probably guessed by now that this an infamous, and here in the U.S. a very rare and much sought, “Khyber Pass clone” from somewhere along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. These clones are still made today by local gunsmiths operating their own metallurgic furnaces, casting and forging parts copied from abandoned relics of conflicts from long ago. In other words, this is a poor copy of a Webley revolver made at the hands of some backyard smithy. He then embellished his work of art with fake stamps meant to convey a place of origin on distant soil this gun never saw.

More gibberish and additional “broad arrows”

The only question remaining is which side of the Kyber Pass did this gun originate? Was it the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region of Pakistan, or was it Afghanistan’s Nangarhar Province? My gut tells me Nangarhar, but who knows? It’s a mystery, and likely to remain as such.

Cylinder stamp

This particular example of a Khyber Pass clone is not something I’m ever going to test fire. The cylinder lockup is sloppy, and that’s an understatement. The metallurgy is suspect enough that I wouldn’t trust it to handle even the weak .38 S&W “Short for which it is supposedly chambered. Which, by the way, is a round for which the Mark VI was never chambered. Yet another clue that something is amiss.

Gibberish Galore!

I hope you enjoyed today’s Fun Firearm Friday, which closes out Revolver Week here at the blog. Next week we return to travel, with my first week-long ever review of a single cruise ship. And what a ship it is — 226,963 Gross Tonnage, 5,479 double-occupancy passenger capacity (6,780 maximum capacity), 2,300 crew, and seven distinct “neighborhoods” throughout this behemoth.

Meanwhile, if you found today’s article interesting and would like to know more about these Khyber Pass gunsmiths, here’s a nice, informative article for you to peruse:

The Gunmakers of the Khyber Pass

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