Few guns inspire me to swear by them for their cool factor alone. But, man, these little Beretta’s are just plain fun. I carried an M9 Beretta for a bit in the military. It was fine. To be honest, I felt it was a bit of a burden. 

There’s nothing quite like a piece of serialized government gear to remind you that you don’t really own the gun you have strapped to your body armor. If the Beretta M9 felt like a pound of lead and a professional burden, the Beretta 21A Bobcat feels like a featherweight with just enough personality to make it a regular for range time.

The tipping barrel on the Beretta 21A allows shooters to load the gun without racking the small slide. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)

This little .22 LR tip-up barrel pistol comes in at 11.1 ounces unloaded on my scales. That might not seem like much, but it feels like a solid chunk of metal at just 4.9 inches in length. Her cousins weigh in at around 9.9 ounces for the .25 ACP Beretta 950 and 14 ounces for the .32 ACP Beretta 3032 Tomcat.

If you are looking for pure enjoyment at the range on a budget, I recommend the Bobcat. The reliability of .22 for self-defense is always going to leave you with some lingering questions and concerns – Although, Federal's Punch line is set to add some new self-defense ammo in .22 this year. 

The frank fact of the matter is that .22 may not make the best self-defense round, but I’ve never met anyone who wanted to get shot with it. If you wanted to consider this gun for carry, you can always opt for the centerfire versions in .25 ACP or .32 ACP.

Why I Really Love These Pistols

Beretta’s tip-up Bobcat really earns its place in my gun collection because of the innovative barrel. It is fair to say that the slide on these pistols is hard to rack. But that’s not really an issue. Just push the lever on the side of the gun and slide your first round into the pipe. It couldn’t be simpler.

However, you might want to be careful when releasing the barrel. These guns do have a habit of flinging rounds across the room like tiny catapults. But the gun is an enjoyable little plinker, and you can shoot all day long without breaking the bank on .22 ammo.

Beretta’s baby pistols come in .22 LR, .25 ACP, and .32 ACP. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)

The double-action trigger is long and heavy. In fact, it’s too heavy for my trigger gauge. But it’s relatively smooth and still enjoyable to shoot. The single-action trigger comes in at 5.5 pounds, and it’s easy enough to put shots on your target within a few yards. With basic notch sights and a stubby 2.4-inch barrel, these really aren’t meant for competition anyway. 

Carry & Shooting


The Beretta 21A is very small for self-defense, but there are some good holster options available if you did choose to carry it.  (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)

Don’t expect precision shooting past 7 yards. In fact, don’t even expect to get both your hands wrapped around these little handguns without forcing some malfunctions. My last trip to the range had two failures to “extract,” both completely user error as my hands were riding the slide.

It’s at this point that I should also note that the Beretta 21A doesn’t actually have an extractor. Instead, the pressure from firing forces the slide back and simply blows the casing out of the gun. The system works, but you might want to keep a range tool handy if you do have a failure to expel the spent casing.

These are seriously fun guns, and they feel solid in your hands. There are also a few decent holster options out there for them. I have a Sticky Holster SM1 that fits the gun like a glove. It really spends most of its time just protecting the gun in my safe.

The magazine release is located on the grip, but it’s far enough out of the way to avoid accidentally ejecting your magazine while shooting (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)

The safety is also tactile, positive, and audible. I don’t even mind the small magazine release built into the bottom of the grip. For my hands, it is in just the right place to avoid getting bumped. I also tend to only shoot it one-handed to avoid obstructing the slide and causing malfunctions. The sights are minimal, but plenty effective within that 7-yard range. 


Killing paper at the range is really the only duty my 21A performs. It points naturally, and the trigger guard is wide enough to let you easily slide your finger onto the trigger. The trigger guard actually does double duty as the spring for the barrel. Newer versions also come in a wider selection of colors and can mount a suppressor.

I bought my gun used. In a testament to how fun it has been, the previous owner is now searching for a replacement. I’d say that is a ringing endorsement if you love a gun enough to buy it twice.

I’ve taken this gun to my last four range trips, and it still tickles me to drop a round directly into the barrel and start shooting. I would highly recommend trying one out, but just remember what it is not. This is not the star of the next “John Wick” movie. Or maybe I’m wrong. I’d pay to see some high-speed gunplay where the .22 saves the day.