Tag Archives: Beretta Cheetah

Beretta 81FS Cheetah — And tips on gun collecting


Beretta 81FS Cheetah — The complete kit

We’ve looked at the Beretta 80 Series Cheetah before, but the Cheetah in today’s article is one you seldom see imported anymore. How seldom? The Beretta 81FS Cheetah is chambered in .32 ACP/7.65mm, and .32 ACP is frowned upon in the U.S. and mocked as a ‘mouse cartridge’ unworthy of use for defense (it most certainly is not, but that’s a discussion for a later date). As such, I’ve not seen a newly imported 81FS in any gun store ever. I know they’ve been imported in small batches over the past several decades; I’ve just never seen one before this. Today’s example was manufactured in 2016, and the distributor shipped it out to my favorite local gun store (Collector’s Gun Exchange) just nine months ago. That means this Cheetah probably sat out pretty much all of 2017 in a warehouse somewhere in Gardone Val Trompia, Italy.

Beretta 81FS Cheetah box and label

Beretta 81FS Cheetah

For a shooting review of the .380 ACP versions of Beretta’s Series 80 Cheetahs (the double-stack 84FS with 13+1 capacity, and the single-stack 85FS which hold 8+1 rounds) please see: Shooting a Pair of Cheetahs — Comparing the Beretta 84FS and 85FS.

Beretta 81FS Cheetah 12+1 rounds of .32 ACP/7.65mm

First, the relevant statistics for the .32 ACP/7.65mm 81FS:

  • Length: 6.77 inches/172mm
  • Width: 1.37 inches/35mm
  • Width (at grip): 1.37 inches/35mm
  • Height: 4.8 inches/122mm
  • Weight (with empty magazine): 24.2 ounces/685 grams
  • Barrel: 3.82 inches/97mm
  • Capacity: 12+1

Beretta 81FS Cheetah — Double-action/Single-action

Interestingly, while the barrel length, total length, width, and height measurements match those of the .380 ACP/9mm kurz 84FS, the 81FS comes in weighing .9 ounce/25 grams more (probably from a thicker barrel padded out so as to use the same slide as the 84FS) and loses one round of capacity (which really makes no sense no matter how you slice it). Thrown up against the single-stack .380 ACP/9mm kurz 85FS, the weight disadvantage stretches to 2.3 ounces/65 grams. Ammunition advantage between the latter two, however, swings to the 81FS at 12+1 over the 8+1 capacity of the 85FS.

Beretta 81FS Cheetah

Fit and finish among these three recent Cheetahs (the 84FS and 85FS were manufactured in 2012 and 2016 respectively) is comparable, meaning excellent as usual for Italian-made Berettas. All three have Beretta’s superb, highly durable, and, in my view, very attractive semi-gloss Bruniton finish on both the steel slides/barrels and the alloy frames.

The double-action/single-action trigger is excellent. Double-action is smooth and consistent all the way to trigger trip. Single-action has a crisp break, but only after a longish take-up. The only disappointment, and I’m not a short-reset snob by any measure, is the seemingly endless third of an inch/8mm reset. That may not sound like much, but compared to most of my other handguns, such as the superlative Walther P99c AS, it feels ridiculous.

Beretta 81FS Cheetah — Rear sight

Beretta 81FS Cheetah — Front sight

I personally feel that the Beretta 80 Series Cheetahs are among the most attractive compact handguns in existence. True, they are large and a bit heavy for the calibers they handle, but they exude a certain panache simply not found in more current designs. They are natural pointers, almost on par with the Walther PP-series (my original concealed carry weapon being a PPK/S in .380 ACP/9mm kurz) in that regard, but they are not nearly as ammo finicky. The sights are certainly better than the Walthers, and unlike the PP-series the Cheetahs give you a slide stop release and an ambidextrous manual safety. The gun seems to soak up recoil much better, especially in the .380 ACP/9mm kurz round, which results in more control and faster follow-up shots.

Beretta 81FS Cheetah

Beretta — Makers of the world’s largest ejection ports!

Gun Collecting Tips using this Beretta 81FS example:

Fortunately, I knew in advance that Collector’s had one of these 81FS rarities coming into the shop, as they gave me a call when it shipped from the distributor. Unfortunately, the Cheetah arrived the day after we departed for a month-long trip to Shanghai, China; various cities in Japan; Petropavlovsk, Russia; and several locations in Alaska. By the time we returned, that Beretta 81FS Cheetah was snagged on layaway, and Collector’s owner Paul Lee informed me that his distributor had already shipped out the last of his meager supply.

Ambidextrous manual safety

But then a funny thing happened on the way to disappointment. Two weeks later I got another call from Collector’s telling me that the person holding this rare, recently imported 81FS had found something in the shop that he liked even more. Unbelievably, he decided that he wanted a Ruger Mini-14 Paul had in stock more than the Cheetah. Knowing my disappointment for having initially lost the chance at the 81FS, Paul did nothing to dissuade the layaway swap, and two days later I was in luck.

Ambidextrous manual safety

Now, far be it from me to complain here, but this is where a little firearms knowledge comes in handy, especially if you’re just starting a collection. Mini-14 Ranch Rifles are very commonplace, and there is currently no danger that you’re going to miss out if you don’t take the first one you see. Or even the hundredth, for that matter. Not so on a newly manufactured, recently imported Beretta 81FS Cheetah. In my book, that’s a bit like passing on a bargain-priced, minty-condition stainless Colt Mustang Plus II (Friday’s subject) in favor of a current production Ruger SP101; or forgoing what appears to be a barely used original, first-year-of manufacture Ruger Police Carbine with a red dot sight included (Wednesday’s featured firearm) in order to snag a dime-a-dozen Mosin-Nagant 91/30 (a subject for a future article, I’m sure).

You’ll also notice that my established relationship with Paul Lee and the salespeople at Collector’s Gun Exchange, forged over many years, helped me in acquiring something Paul knew would interest me. By now, they know what I like, they call me when something is either coming or being shipped to them, and they give me a good break on the price. Same with Henry Bone over at Sportsman’s Elite. If you’re serious about collecting, it pays to establish a bond with the locally owned gun store rather than the big box operation (I’m looking at you and your ridiculous used gun prices, Cabella’s) that may occasionally undercut them in price on new firearms. It also doesn’t hurt to have that local store sell you a box or two of ammunition now and again, even if you might pay a fraction of that amount over at Walmart.

By the way, don’t bother going to the U.S. Beretta site to look for any Beretta Cheetah, not even the more popular .380 ACP 84FS and 85FS versions. They’re not listed there anymore (but they are on the Italian site), even though they’re still made in Italy and occasionally imported. So, if you see a new one, don’t pass on it if you even think you may be in the market for one at some point. You may not see it again. This is especially true of the 81FS, which isn’t even listed on the U.S. Beretta site for warranty registration; only the 84, 85, and 87 (.22 LR version) are listed as options, and the 87 isn’t even made anymore.

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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 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.
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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