Tag Archives: Beretta

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

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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

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A Tale of Two Berettas — 92FS and 92FS “Reverse Two-Tone”


Standard Beretta 92FS (top); uncommon 92FS “Reverse Two-Tone”

The Beretta 92 family of handgus  is a design that until recently I hadn’t much interest. It’s big, bulky, and heavy, and there are smaller, lighter high-capacity pistols out there — the exceptional Walther P99 comes readily to mind (for a review of the P99c AS compact see: When Fashion Goes Macho—Walther P99c AS in 9mm). And while Beretta would love for you to believe they invented that locking block system that keeps the barrel parallel to the frame during recoil operation, first with their M1951 (1949-1980) and later with the more famous Model 92 (1976-current) the fact is that Walther beat them to it by eleven years with the P38/P-1 (designed in 1938, produced 1939-2000).

Beretta 92FS with 15-round magazine; 17-round magazines also available

 

But, darn, if that Beretta isn’t just one sexy looking pistol with that beautiful, sleek, naked Italian barrel peeking up through that indecent, open-top slide.

Open top slide with exposed barrel

Indeed, exposed barrels are a bit of a thing with Beretta. Another way to put it is that Beretta makes the world’s largest ejection ports. To illustrate what I mean, here’s a family portrait featuring a 92FS, 85FS Cheetah, and a 3032 Tomcat (for additional information of the latter two see: Shooting a Pair of Cheetahs — Comparing the Beretta 84FS and 85FSPocket Pistol Week — Beretta Tomcat  and  Fun Firearms Friday — Pocket Pistol Shootout: Colt Mustang vs. Beretta Tomcat):

Three different Berettas — all with open slides

Beretta Family Portrait

So, when one day I stumbled across a used (2013) 92FS in good shape at a reasonable price, I was intrigued. That this particular 92FS was actually manufactured in Italy rather that the U.S. made me reconsider my previous reluctance in acquiring one. Yeah, I’m a bit funny that way — if I’m going to get an Italian pistol then I prefer that it come from the original Italian factory. Consequently, that particular 92FS followed me home like a forlorn puppy looking for a good home, complete with the original box, both magazines, and all the extraneous goodies:

Used Italian-manufactured 92FS

While this example may be “used”, it certainly is clean:

Italian-made Beretta 92FS

Field stripping and cleaning the Beretta 92FS is pretty straight forward. Step one in disassembly is locating the take-down button on the starboard side of the pistol and push it:

Beretta take-down button

While holding in the button, locate the take-down latch on the opposite side of the pistol:

Beretta 92 take-down latch

Rotate the lever clockwise 90°:

Beretta take-down latch rotated to disassembly position

Pull the slide and barrel forward off the frame as a unit. Unlike a SIG P22(x), FNX, and many other pistols, you don’t even need to lock back the slide to engage the take-down controls. Taking apart the barrel, guide rod, and recoil spring is a straight forward operation from this point:

Disassembled Beretta 92FS

As previously mentioned, the 92FS uses a falling locking block system that keeps the barrel parallel to the frame during recoil operation rather than John Browning’s more familiar tilt-barrel design used in most locked breech pistols made today. Here is the locking block in both positions:

Locking block engaged (position when the barrel is locked with the slide)

Beretta locking block dropped (the position when the barrel disengages from the slide)

The 92FS is a combat pistol. It’s the M9 version of this pistol that in 1986 began replacing the famed Colt M1911, which had been in common U.S. military use for the preceding 75 years and which some U.S. military units continued to use until just recently — over 100 years in service! Being a combat pistol, the 92FS uses rather basic but functional three-dot sights:

92FS rear sight

92FS front sight

I’ve not yet fired this pistol (or any other 92 for that matter), but I have studied its operation and manipulated the controls. I rate the double action trigger pull as fair, about what one would expect from a double-action/single-action hammer-fired pistol (rated at 11.3 pounds)/5,100 grams). Single action pull is a tad on the heavy side for what I would expect (rated at 6.6 pounds/3,000 grams), but it breaks cleanly and predictably. In comparison, a SIG P22(x) trigger is rated at 10 pounds/4,400 grams double action and 4.4 pounds/2,000 grams single action. The double-action/single-action striker-fired Walther P99 comes in at 8.8 pounds/4,000 grams and 4.4 pounds/2,000 grams respectively. No wonder I love my P99 pistols and variants!

As for use as a concealed carry pistol, well . . . . Did I mention that the 92FS is huge? And heavy? The Beretta 92FS weighs in at a hefty 33.3 ounces/944 grams empty, even though it sports an alloy frame. The SIG P229 also has an alloy frame, yet weighs in at 29.6 ounces/839 grams. And that polymer frame Walther? An empty full-size P99 comes in at a relatively svelte 21.3 ounces/605 grams. Nevertheless, I’m sure the Beretta will acquit itself quite well at the range. Watch for a firing review at a future date.

Now let’s take a look at that other reason I bit the bullet (pun intended) on this example, the roll mark:

Beretta Gardone V.T. (short for Val Trompia) — Made in Italy

Are Italian-made Berettas superior to those made here in the U.S.? No. But that isn’t the point. Would you rather have a Walther PPK/S stamped “Made in Germany” or one marked “Houlton, Maine”? A SIG P225 proudly bragging “Made in Switzerland”, or one from Exeter, New Hampshire?

Which brings us to this next 92FS, which I stumbled across at my favorite local gun store (Collector’s Gun Exchange). This one is rather unique and somewhat hard to find in that it’s a “reverse two-tone”, meaning that the slide is Bruniton, the barrel matte blued, and the alloy frame set in “Inox” finish even though it’s not an Inox (stainless) frame. If you decide to track down one of these pistols for your collection, the model number is SPEC0523A.

Beretta “Reverse Two-Tone” 92 FS

Unlike its all Bruniton (slide)/black anodized (frame) brother, this pistol also comes with an ambidextrous safety:

Beretta “Reverse Two-Tone” 92 FS with ambidextrous safety

And, yes, this one also comes from Gardone Val Trompia, Northern Italy.

Beretta Gardone V.T. — Made in Italy

The reverse two-tone 92FS appears to have come to the U.S. in very limited quantities, and I believe none have been imported since around 2012. This particular example was made in 2011, and like its 2013 Bruniton brother it was never registered with Beretta by any previous owner. That’s my tip of the day for collectors, by the way. Always check to see if a used firearm has been registered by the previous owner with the manufacturer or distributor. You would be shocked at how many times this isn’t done, and you become the “first” owner in regards to warranty as far as the manufacturer/distributor is concerned.

This 92FS has been fired, and there are a couple of minor scratches on the left front frame and slide, but otherwise it’s in excellent condition. As such, this pistol’s days at the range are over. It’s been cleaned, treated with Renaissance (museum restoration) Wax, lubricated, and slides greased, and now officially retired.

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