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A look at the Beretta 21A

The Beretta 21A Bobcat is a small sleek pocket pistol with a special feature. You can tip the barrel up for loading. The Bobcat is available in .22 LR (like the one above) and .25 ACP. There is a larger model the Beretta 3032 Tomcat which is in .32 ACP.


Some years ago I was talking to a friend of mine and he was asking for suggestions for a pistol for his wife. Due to health issues and hand strength, she was not able to rack the slide on most pistols. I suggest he look into these pistols as the barrel can be tipped up for loading. Not that long later he showed me that he picked up one up, and liked it enough he was using it him self.

Now if someone was to get one for self defense, I would recommend the .25 or .32 ACP models over the .22LR. .22 Long Rifle ammunition doesn’t have as reliable ignition as other calibers.

Some years ago I decided if I saw one at a reasonable price I would buy it. Funny story, I was wanting to buy a Colt AR6951 and was trying to find one local. A dealer 2 hours away from me had them listed on Gunbroker, so I swung by to buy one. Turns out they didn’t keep any in stock and were just drop shipping them from a distributor. I was pretty annoyed, but when I left I took the long way home and stopped by ever gun shop I saw along the way. Well, actually I stopped stopping at the gun shops after the tenth one as I had spent too much money.

I saw this new stainless 21A in .22 for sale, right at the maximum I was willing to pay. I hear they are back in production, had I known that I could have probably shopped around and got a better deal ordering one, but I am happy with this one.

While this pistol has the awesome feature of the tilt up barrel, it does have a few quirks that can make it less than ideal for some people as a fighting self defense weapon. The safety is small and on the left side only. I find it easy to flip on and off when I have the pistol in my right hand, but I can barely flip it off when I hold the gun left handed only. It has a long double action pull. Fortunately the small safety can be employed with the gun cocked.

If I understand correctly, the manual indicated that the pistol is not drop safe with a round chambered. That might be a good argument in it self to go with a more modern pistol for self defense.

When I started shooting it I had a couple of malfunctions in the first few dozen rounds. I haven’t had any more since then. One important note is that the Bobcat does not have an extractor. I’ll come back to why that is important to know. I found if I wasn’t paying attention I could stuff 8 round in the 7 round magazines and that would induce a malfunction. I’m not sure if the other malfunctions I had was due to this.

If the choice for someone was no gun or a Bobcat/Tomcat, I would whole heartily recommend this Beretta. But once we start comparing it to other guns, we see the long heavy double action trigger pull, the small safety, the diminutive sights. It is by no means a bad gun, but we have lots of new options in pocket pistols now.

About 7 yards, give or take

I hate to say it, but I was not getting very good accuracy or grouping out of this pistol. But to be fair I was using old .22 ammo that is likely at least as old as I am. I’ll have to buy some better quality new ammo and see what it can really do. The sights leave a fair bit to be desired.

There is one last big point to make about this gun. I used to hear people say they preferred military guns as they were designed to be shot more and take more abuse. Different designs have different pros and cons. This simple design lacks an extractor. That is not an issue if the pistol is clean. But as it fouls, it will eventually stop function correctly. The little 21A is a whole lot of fun to shoot, but it isn’t a gun for shooting bricks of .22 all day long.

I really like the 21A, and I find it a whole lotta fun. The tip up barrel is a great feature, not a gimmick. But I wouldn’t recommend it as a first choice for a fighting gun. Still far better than no gun.

Now some real fun would be throwing a silencer on it.

3 thoughts on “A look at the Beretta 21A”

  1. “Now some real fun would be throwing a silencer on it.”

    I knew a guy once whose dad was a cop in small-town Appalachia. The dad bought a .22 rifle with a can for dispatching not-quite-roadkilled deer and such. The son asked, “Why didn’t you just get a pistol with a suppressor?” The dad replied, “Some things are just too large a temptation, even for me.”

    -John M.

  2. The high end CCI like Stingers and such run really well in mine, pretty much 100% for about three magazines and then it needs cleaning. But these things were designed to be “get off me” guns so I’m good with that. I keep mine tucked into sweat jacket or gym short pocket inside the house. Something bigger and better is on me when I leave the house and generally there’s something a lot more effective within close reach when inside, but I feel better with something right there right now.

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