When I am not shooting here in sunny Arizona, I stay in shape by riding my bike. I carry concealed while riding, and since my cycling clothes don’t have a lot of room, I carry the tiny Beretta Bobcat 21A in .22 LR rimfire

This unassuming small defender is surprisingly reliable and hard-hitting for its size. It is not readily detectable, and its double/single-action design makes it a safe choice to carry. Think that a .22 has no stopping power? Stay tuned as I put it to the test in Arizona’s Area 51.
 

Table of Contents

History
Function
My Thoughts
Specifications
Range Time
Pros & Cons
Conclusion

HISTORY

 

Beretta Bobcat Model 21A .22 LR pistol
The Bobcat packs a powerful punch in a tiny package designed for concealed carry. (Photo: Ben Philippi/Guns.com)


After 450-odd years of building firearms, in 1984 Beretta decided to make a better semi-automatic pocket pistol for self-defense. I think the company succeeded. 

The Bobcat is designed to be user-friendly and reliable. Intended for off-duty law enforcement officers and citizens licensed to carry, it is small, unnoticeable, and powerful.  
 

FUNCTION

 

Beretta Bobcat Model 21A .22 LR pistol
The tip-up barrel is released with the lever on the left side of the frame... (Photo: Ben Philippi/Guns.com)
Beretta Bobcat Model 21A .22 LR pistol
...and pops up to let the user see if the gun is loaded. No need to pull the slide back. (Photo: Ben Philippi/Guns.com)


The Bobcat’s most noticeable feature is its tip-up barrel. Release the barrel with the lever on the left side of the frame, and the barrel pops up for inspection, instantly allowing the user to see if the chamber is loaded. This design also eliminates the need to pull the slide back to load a round from the magazine – a big help to those with weak or small hands, or in wet, slippery conditions.
 

Beretta Bobcat Model 21A .22 LR pistol
Safety first: while the Bobcat's double-action trigger pull comes in at over 7 pounds, making it pretty well impossible to accidentally discharge in your pocket, the gun also features a frame-mounted safety catch.(Photo: Ben Philippi/Guns.com)


Safety is an important consideration in small concealed-carry pistols, and the Beretta Bobcat has multiple safety systems. The frame-mounted safety catch may be engaged to prevent the trigger from being pulled and slide from moving back. Another carry method is to carry without the safety engaged and rely on the heavy double-action trigger pull of over 7 pounds to prevent accidental discharge, as with any double-action revolver.  
 

Beretta Bobcat Model 21A .22 LR pistol
The blowback action requires quality high-velocity .22 LR ammo to properly function. (Photo: Ben Philippi/Guns.com)


The Bobcat’s action has no ejector. It is blowback and relies on the brisk reward reaction of the bullet firing to blow the empty case out of the gun and reciprocate the slide. It is crucial that the gun be loaded with quality high-velocity .22 long rifle ammunition! Inexpensive bargain ammo will cause failures to eject and should be used only for informal practice. I recommend CCI Stinger hollow points exclusively as my self-defense load.
 

MY THOUGHTS

 

Beretta Bobcat Model 21A .22 LR pistol
The Bobcat is certainly reliable, having served me well for 30 years. (Photo: Ben Philippi/Guns.com)
 

I have owned and felt secure carrying this gun for 30 years. Its small size makes it concealable but does not hinder its firepower. Usually, I carry my big Glock 17 in 9mm. The Bobcat is tiny by comparison, feeling toy-like in my hand. Even my mid-sized hands overlap the bottom of the pistol grip, and my trigger finger over-extends the trigger guard. Despite this, it is a solid, well-made, well-proven design. 
 

Beretta Bobcat Model 21A .22 LR pistol
The hefty double-action trigger takes a good squeeze to get going, but runs easier after the first shot. (Photo: Ben Philippi/Guns.com)


Jams are non-existent when using quality ammo. The double-action trigger pull requires much effort to squeeze off the first shot, but subsequent shots are much easier. 

The sights are primitive but adequate for this up-close-and-personal defensive pistol. I really hope I never need it, but am glad to have it with me.    
 

SPECIFICATIONS

 

Beretta Bobcat Model 21A .22 LR pistol
After 30 years with my Bobcat, it has picked up some desert dust and shows some wear, but it is as solid and reliable as ever. (Photo: Ben Philippi/Guns.com)
  • Overall Length: 5 inches           
  • Barrel: 2.4 inches, rifled        
  • Width: 1.1 inches
  • Weight: 11.8 ounces (!)                 
  • Height: 3.7 inches                   
  • Magazine capacity: 7+1 rounds of .22 LR
  • Action: Single/Double action    
  • Trigger: 2 or 7 pounds        
     

RANGE TIME

 

Beretta Bobcat Model 21A .22 LR pistol
I feel safe with the Bobcat in my pocket, even though my other EDC Glock 17 dwarfs it by comparison. (Photo: Ben Philippi/Guns.com)


When riding a bike, saving weight is important. Carrying my 2-pound full-size Glock 17 is just not an option. My Bobcat weighs 11.8 ounces and is less than half the size of the Glock. It easily fits into my bicycle pants or shorts. 

Today in Area 51, I put the tiny gun through its paces. Insert the all-steel magazine loaded with 7 rounds, then tip up the barrel and load a single round. No need to pull back the slide. Notice the lack of kick as the gun fires and throws the empties straight up and out. Hitting paper or steel targets is no problem.
 

Beretta Bobcat Model 21A .22 LR pistol
The Bobcat uses a steel magazine that holds seven rounds of .22 LR. (Photo: Ben Philippi/Guns.com)


Now it is time for some 2-liter root beer fun. Having never shot soda bottles before, I was not sure what to expect. The 2-liter bottles burst as if hit by a much bigger round I am amazed at how that little .22 rimfire tore up those plastic jugs – it smells like root beer in the Arizona desert! 

Amazing how something as small as this Beretta can cause so much trauma! It may be difficult for you to hear how loud it is in the video, but the sound of this gun will scare anything. Notice the way it destroys the soda bottles. It is still a firearm, and a potent one, that I can count on in a last-ditch defense situation.
 

Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Highly concealable               
  • Lightweight              
  • Easy-load tip-up barrel
  • Solid aluminum alloy and steel construction     
  • 7+1 capacity beats a revolver
  • Safe to carry in multiple ways                                
  • Reliable

Cons:

  • Ammunition-sensitive             
  • Small caliber  
     

CONCLUSION

 

Beretta Bobcat Model 21A .22 LR pistol
Light, reliable, easy to conceal, and well-built by a manufacturer that's been in the business for almost 500 years – what's not to love about the Bobcat? (Photo: Ben Philippi/Guns.com)


This design has been around for nearly 39 years. It is available in .22 LR and .25 ACP, as well as the larger .32 ACP version known as the Tomcat. My first choice for a defensive gun is my 12-gauge shotgun, but often practicality must take the place of first choice. 

The Beretta Bobcat is light, reliable, concealable, and well-made. Therefore, it is my first choice when nothing else will fit. Beretta has been around for a long time, and I count on my Bobcat to deliver close-range firepower.

revolver barrel loading graphic

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