Gun Review: Beretta 21A Bobcat

Beretta is one of the oldest firearms manufacturers out there, having been around for almost 500 years now. They’ve had plenty of time to make mistakes, learn from them, and then apply those lessons to another generation of firearms. They do still make mistakes (hey, who doesn’t?), but those mistakes are rare, meaning that if you go to buy or shoot a Beretta firearm, chances are that it will perform just as you expect.

The little Beretta 21A Bobcat is no exception to this. I’ve shot these guns in both the .22 LR and .25 ACP versions on multiple occasions over the years. Most recently I looked at the Bobcat for .22 LR ballistics tests for Ballistics By The Inch.

Beretta 21a Bobcat black handgun

The Bobcat, like many of the other small Berettas, is a subcompact pistol. It has the ideal size and shape for concealed carry gun, on top of a reliable performance.

The Beretta Bobcat

The Bobcat is small—just about five-inches long and about the same measurements in height. The gun is mostly grip and trigger, actually, with the barrel and slide assembly presenting a very small profile above your hand when you shoot it.

The Bobcat is a well made gun with an excellent fit and finish, something you would expect from Beretta. Accuracy is fine with these guns because its design keeps the barrel solidly mounted to the frame in usual operation. The barrel release, the mag release and the safety all work well on the different models I have shot. Sights are pretty simple and designed to minimize the risk of snagging.

It is solidly made, though still very light, thanks to an alloy frame. Total unloaded weight is 11.5 ounces, but it’s probably more like 12.5 ounces while fully loaded. I have large hands, so really small guns are not easy for me to shoot well as a general thing, but the Bobcat is less of a problem for me than some other guns because of its design.

A tip-up barrel

Beretta Bobcat with the tip-up barrel tipped upA feature people tend to like about the Bobcat is the ‘tip-up’ barrel. It allows the user to load the gun and check that it is loaded without operating the slide—a feature some people with poor grip strength really like. This makes the gun user-friendly for the elderly and those with some kinds of disability.

It also allows for clearing a misfire quickly under some circumstances. The tip-up barrel is released with a lever on the left side and in the event of a misfire the barrel can be flipped up to expel a bad cartridge quickly and easily—so long as the cartridge isn’t jammed in the chamber.

If the cartridge is jammed then it will be necessary to either pry it out from the back or to ram a rod down the muzzle in order to dislodge the round. That’s because the design of the pistol means there is no extractor. Rather, the gun operates on a direct blowback system, where a portion of the expanding gas from firing is used to push the spent case out of the chamber. When this works, it works well, but it can lead to jamming.

This is the one thing I dislike most about the Bobcat: the guns are quirky about what ammo they eat reliably. Slower, lower-pressure rounds tend to be more of a problem, both in my experience and in comments found online from other Bobcat owners. Keeping the gun clean and lightly lubed usually helps with this problem.

Final thoughts

Neither the .22 LR nor the .25 ACP are particularly good rounds for self-defense purposes in my mind. But either, particularly out of a well-operating gun like the Bobcat, is a lot better than nothing.

If you do get a Bobcat, and intend on having it for any self-defense duty, be sure you find out what ammunition it likes and stay practiced with that. Keep it clean, get a decent holster and it should serve you well.

MSRP is $271 to $355 depending on finish, and they don’t deviate too much from that price.

Image credit: Arms List

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