Mini .22 Pistol Smackdown: Beretta 21A vs. Taurus PT-22 Tip-Ups
“Don’t move! I’ve got a gun. Not here, but I got one.” -Leslie Nielsen, “Wrongfully Accused”
I guess we’ll start by getting the small gun jokes out of the way. I’m not going to lie, there’s something almost funny about these two firearms. They shoot tiny rounds out of tiny barrels inside tiny pistols. That begs the question, “Why?”
Terrible jokes aside, I can confirm that the almost comically small Beretta 21A and Taurus PT-22 are guns. I would rather have one on me than no gun at all. They are tiny, but the similarity in size is not as interesting as their similarity in function: .22 caliber, no extractor, and a tip-up barrel.
These guns feature a tip-up barrel that allows you to load and unload the gun without ever racking the slide. They also rely on the pressure from firing the round itself to simply blow the case out of the chamber. Frankly, it’s mechanically beautiful in its simplicity.
Now, if we’re being really honest about these guns, they look like one twin just dressed up fancier than the other. So, we decided to do some head-to-head testing. Let’s start with the well-groomed Beretta.
Beretta 21A Specs
The Beretta 21A Bobcat actually comes from a litter of small tip-up pistols. You could call the Bobcat the runt of that litter, due to its .22 caliber chambering. But from the start, you can feel the quality of this all-metal gun. The grip grooves on the butt of the pistol and the grip shape itself lock your hand in well.
You can also feel the weight. While the grip leaves zero room for my pinky, this little pistol still comes in nearly an ounce heavier than the Taurus PT-22, which is longer in both length and height. The single-action trigger breaks at 4.7 pounds on my Lyman gauge, while the double-action trigger averages at around 10.5 pounds. I’ve listed some additional stats below:
*Note: The mags hold eight rounds, but it’s impossible to seat them.
Beretta Pros & Cons
The double-action/single-action trigger is good and bad. The gun does allow you to carry it cocked and locked in single-action mode. But the transition between single action and double action can throw you off as a shooter.
The double-action trigger take-up is long and feels like it varies in pressure throughout the trigger pull. The trigger reset to single action is very short, around 0.1 inches, with a bit of creep on the pull. I’d complain about the small notch sights – calling them sights feels generous – but the gun stays in the black just fine at seven yards. Not bad for a “sight” radius of only 3.5 inches.
I actually really like the mag release on the side of the grip panel. I’ve never bumped it with my hands, and it helps to load, unload, and clear jams on such a small pistol. Yes, if you start pumping lots of .22 LR through the gun, it might jam from time to time. After 200 rounds on my last range trip, I did have one failure to feed and a failure to fully eject.
Overall, the controls are all easily accessible. The magazines also work well for a micro .22 pistol. They drop freely, insert easily, and lock audibly. The Taurus magazines offer some additional grip area for your pinky, but those mags come with their own costs.
Taurus PT-22 Specs
Before we judge the Taurus. Let’s note that this little .22 comes at half the price point. It’s small, but it feels much larger the moment you put it in your hand. When I opened the box of various test guns from Guns.com, my wife went straight for this little Taurus. That doesn’t really happen much at my house, so I was thrilled.
As a lifelong southpaw, my wife also found the ergonomics and controls easier on the PT-22 over the 21A. The pinky extension, barrel release lever, safety, and magazine release are all better tailored for ambidextrous use – though they are not actually ambi. Below are some additional stats:
The gun is a double-action-only pistol. The trigger pull on this one averaged in at 8.2 pounds. There was around 0.6 inches of trigger pull before the break, with consistent felt pressure for the entire pull. The trigger reset was equally long and runs basically the entire length of the pull. But don’t count it out for that just yet.
Taurus Pros & Cons
I’m no expert shot with a micro pistol, but that double-action trigger felt good for what it is. It also shot well for me at seven yards. I actually prefer the predictability of the Taurus trigger to the DA/SA trigger on the Beretta 21A. The pistol also has a better sight picture, balance, and overall ergonomics. The pinky extension on the mag helps quite a bit but at the cost of some size.
Still, there are some things that I personally dislike. First, this pistol has a magazine disconnect, which is annoying, but worse when you deal with the mag itself. The gun also has a lot of polymer features. I’m fine with polymer, but the magazine well is sticky. Mags don’t drop freely and are finicky to seat inside the gun. You really need to give them a nice firm press into the gun and a tug to ensure they locked in after.
I also found the magazines to be less reliable. My three Beretta mags all function the same, with only the occasional (and expected) issues after shooting a dirty micro .22 pistol. The Taurus mags were 50/50 for reliability. One fed to near perfection on 100+ rounds. The other failed to feed consistently between rounds.
It’s not a deal-breaker issue to me for a fun gun. When she shot, the PT-22 shot well and was a cheap, fun date on the range. Just check your mags before you curse the gun, because she shot as fast as I could pull the trigger when I sorted that out. At the price, you can solve the mag issue and still walk away with a nice little plinker.
Both of these guns have a place. For me, that place is just having fun plinking on the range, getting in some extra training time, or sharing an awesome gun with someone else who has never shot one.
I’ve grown quite accustomed to my little Beretta 21A. I already own that pistol, but I gave some serious thought to keeping the Taurus. They are just great guns to extend your range day at a fraction of the cost in ammo. They are also enjoyable, accurate little shooters for training on a dime. For now, the Beretta 21A still gets to live a rent-free life in my safe.