Guns: Beretta 950B Jetfire review - Blowback Backup
As a gun blogger, I sometimes experiment with old firearms to see how well they hold up in modern times. Today's subject is the Beretta 950B Jetfire, specifically a nice pre-1968 example made in Italy with no external safety lever. These pocket pistols were wildly popular back in the day (the 950 was in production for fifty years), so let's determine whether you might still be able to carry one effectively in 2017.
Form Factor - "Nice and light... in a lady's handbag."*
The main thing the Jetfire has going for it is size. Even though it predates the polymer-framed .380s by many decades, its svelte aluminum frame and diminutive barrel give it about the same carry weight as a Ruger LCP II. And, since it shoots (ruinously expensive) .25 ACP, you can stuff eight rounds into the magazine, which is a lot of shots for such a tiny gun.
*I realize these Dr. No quotes refer to an M1934.
The 950 has other advantages. Like the Beretta Bobcat I reviewed previously, the blowback, extractor-less tip-up barrel design allows for loading and unloading the chamber without manipulating the slide. This is a big boon for people with limited hand strength:
As far as ergonomics go, the button mag release is sensibly placed near the heel of the gun, and is well protected by the plastic grips. The gun is single-action only, which gives the little devil a surprisingly good trigger pull. Finally, the sights, though tiny, are actually useful for making precise hits. One major caveat - the 950B versions of this gun are only safe to carry in half-cock, meaning that you have to manually cock the hammer in order to shoot the first round.
I tested the Jetfire with a variety of ammunition, including decades-old Remington FMJ cartridges and new-production Remington UMC.
Accuracy was astounding, at least for a pocket pistol. The Jetfire can empty two entire magazines' worth of garden-variety range ammo into a group smaller than a soda can at 7 yards.
10 yards is where things start to get dicey. The tiny little backup gun, which is older than I am, simply can't make surgical hits at that distance. Here's some Remington and Aguila groups to demonstrate:
"It jammed on you last job, and you spent six months in hospital in consequence."*
The obvious downside of being a little blowback .25 is that the Beretta is not terribly reliable. I experienced fail-to-feeds from all brands of ammo in my testing, and 95% of the time it was on the next to last round in the magazine. Being predictably unreliable is better than being randomly unreliable, I guess, but I still wouldn't ever carry this one.
Despite being flawed as a weapon, the Jetfire is still a fun gun. There's a weird novelty in shooting so many rounds out of a pocket pistol, and the recoil and muzzle blast are negligible thanks to the anemic caliber. If you manage to pick one up for a good price, you're getting a tiny little Italian time machine - a carry gun of yesteryear.