I’ve lately found myself stuffing a small Beretta 21A chambered for .22 LR into my regular range kit. Why? Well, um, I guess it’s kind of become my backup range gun. It takes up almost zero space, costs pennies to shoot, and is actually quite enjoyable to fire for a micro double-action/single-action pistol.

The Bobcat is one of several charming little Berettas that feature tip-up barrels, though calling it the “Bobcat” is a bit of a tall order for what is more of a “Mighty Mouse.” Don’t get me wrong, .22 LR is nothing to sneeze at, and you’ll find me near the back of the line for volunteers interested in getting shot with any gun that isn’t part of the Nerf family of firearms. 

But it shines for me as an accurate little range gun in particular. Yeah, sure, .22 LR might be a bit anemic when compared to modern self-defense calibers, and the reliability would always be in the back of my mind if I carried this gun for that purpose. All of that is forgiven for how it performs on the range and the mechanical cool factor behind the pistols.

Budget Trigger Time

Beretta 21As are fun to shoot – full stop. Still, they really don’t offer you much luxury in the process. The small grip is enough for me to get just two full fingers wrapped around the gun with barely any room for my support hand. In fact, I do find that I force fewer malfunctions if I just shoot with a single hand because I tend to ride the slide rather aggressively with my support hand. 

If you think of it as a range gun, it certainly forces you to pay attention to your grip, trigger pull, and sight alignment. The trigger pull is heavy – smooth, but heavy – and runs about as long as a .22 LR round. The sights are minimalist and offer just 3.5 inches for the sight radius.

In fact, there’s not even an extractor. Instead, the pressure from the fired cartridge simply blows the casing out of the gun as it cycles. This is normally a reliable process, but you will likely have to learn how to clear a minor occasional stovepipe malfunction as you get the gun dirty during long range days. I’d almost call that a training bonus, and it should be on your list of skills anyway. 

Beretta 21A pistol with target
I'd call it fair to say this tiny pistol could shoot better than I can. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)
Beretta 21A Jam
It is still a .22 pistol, so jams are not common but not unheard of as it gets dirty. The fix takes seconds. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)

The tip-up design does spare you from having to rack the tiny amount of slide that exists on the gun. It’s a nice feature for people with weaker hands and also means you never have to cycle the gun to clear it. Though, you can also expect to fling a .22 LR round about 5 feet in front of the firing line if you push the tip-up lever and let the spring action do whatever it wants. That spring, by the way, is cleverly integrated into the trigger guard. Fans of clever gun designs should generally find a lot to appreciate about these Berettas.

Specs & Compact Quality

At the end of the day, it really all comes down to you paying attention to the little things you’re doing on the range. This all adds to the charm of the gun for me. Plus, it is plenty accurate if you do your part, and you can extend your range day whenever you want with a box of .22 LR and a few inches of space in your range bag for the pistol. 

The pistols are small, sure, but these USA-made metal guns are hardly the lightest micros out there. They fill your hand, and you can feel the comforting weight without it being a burden to shoot. The Taurus PT-22 is larger in both length and height but with nearly an ounce less to the weight. 

I enjoyed testing that Taurus, but I’m sticking with the Beretta for my money. The double-action trigger is a good 10.5 pounds, with the single-action trigger breaking at an average of 4.7 pounds. Mag dumps are an option, and my Beretta seems to like shooting faster mechanically.

Few things make you focus on the fundamentals quite like a long trigger pull and a small sight radius. The single-action trigger is quite enjoyable if you want to empty the magazine in a hurry, but you will notice the double-action trigger that kicks off your string of fire. I’ve added some more specs below, but suffice it to say that Beretta has favored quality and metal parts over the end weight:

  • Width (Widest Point): 1.1 inches
  • Height: 3.7 inches
  • Length: 4.9 inches
  • Barrel: 2.4 inches
  • Weight (Unloaded w/ Mag): 12 ounces 
  • Capacity: 7+1*

*Note: The mags hold eight rounds, but it’s impossible to seat them.

Final Thoughts

A Beretta 21A next to other pistols
The Beretta 21A, right, is small but only kind of comically so. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)

People seem to gravitate to this little pistol. I mean it. It can be sitting there on a firing line with ARs, Glocks, and a .308 bolt-action rifle with an outrageously aggressive muzzle break and hair trigger. Somehow, the Bobcat still commands the attention of curious range officers and passing shooter.

This is not my choice for a self-defense gun. I know it serves that role for many, and Beretta has put a fair amount of craftsmanship into the gun. I feel like there are many more options available to the modern shooter. I own this gun because I like it. That says something about the pistol. It would be a hard one to part with. 

Oh, and there are suppressor-ready Bobcats out there now if you want to go full James Bond. I wouldn’t blame you.

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