Monday, February 20, 2012

Guns: Beretta 21A Bobcat review - A Tiny Training .22


The .22 LR pistol is an important part of any shooter’s arsenal, as it allows you to train the fundamentals of handgun shooting without the expense of centerfire calibers. That being said, most .22s are heavy target pistols ill-suited for replicating the feel of a pocket-size CCW gun. For people who carry these types of mouseguns, the Beretta 21A Bobcat is probably a better choice for a .22 trainer.

First Impressions

The Bobcat is made in America, in Beretta USA's plant. It comes in a standard Beretta handgun case (comically large considering the size of the gun) with one magazine. Beretta offers both a standard black version and a more expensive stainless steel model.

Out of the box, the first thing you notice is that the gun is tiny – a mere 11 ounces unloaded. It's similar in size to pocket pistols like the Ruger LCP, the Kel-Tec P3AT, and, of course, Beretta's own line of micro-sized handguns (the Tomcat, the 950 Jetfire, etc.). The gun's black finish and plastic grips aren't exactly beautiful, but they're functional.

A Unique Operating System

The 21A has a DA/SA trigger, a manual safety, and a button magazine release that's located near the heel of the gun's frame. Like most of the micro Berettas, the Bobcat uses a tip-up barrel; push a latch on the side of the gun, and you can drop a round into the chamber without racking the slide. It's a handy way to load:

The 21A is part of Beretta’s "Jetfire line." That means that while the Bobcat operates on the familiar blowback principle, it doesn’t use an extractor – the expanding gases of the ignition sequence push the cartridge case out of the gun. I'm sure the lack of an extractor saves quite a bit of time and effort (less slide machining needed, fewer parts), and it's reflected in the price - the Beretta Bobcat retails for under $300.

Range Report

The Beretta's double-action trigger is absurdly heavy, gritty, and long - in other words, perfect training for shooting the small .380s that are in vogue right now. Similarly, the sights on the Bobcat are tiny, difficult to see, and non-adjustable, just like most pocket guns. The one saving grace of the 21A is its usable single-action trigger; it's the only way I could shoot groups good enough to actually be called "groups."

The poor sights and trigger hamper practical accuracy - this is the best 14 round group I could crank out at 10 yards (with CCI Mini Mag). As you can see, the gun shoots about two to three inches to the left of point of aim:

In terms of reliability, the 21A is just reliable enough for its intended purpose - small training gun. When the Bobcat was clean, I experienced a stoppage of some sort (usually a failure to feed or a failure to extract) about every 50 rounds, regardless of ammo type (CCI, Federal, Winchester, and Remington .22s of all sorts and descriptions - none were perfect, though hotter ammo tended o run better). If the gun was dirty, extraction would begin to suffer, and stoppage rates increased to about one in 20 to 40 rounds.


I've read that some people carry the Bobcat for defense. I wouldn’t. Even setting aside the anemic caliber, the gun simply isn't reliable enough to bet your life on. Plus, if you ever do have a failure to extract, the normal malfunction drills won't clear it because the gun has no extractor (you have to resort to picking the shell out with your fingers - not something you want to do in a gunfight). I wouldn't even use the Bobcat as a kit gun on the trail - with its poor-to-middling accuracy, it'd be hard to score good hits on squirrels, snakes, and other denizens of the wilderness.

On the other hand, the 21A Bobcat is a great stand-in and training aid for pocket guns. Shooting a small frame pistol with vestigial sights and a heavy trigger is a fairly specialized skill, and it takes many repetitions to really get proficient. Instead of running boxes of pricey .380 ammo through your LCP during this time period, you can get much of the same practice with the Beretta  I guess the old adage is true...

--It is better to feed one (Bob)cat than many mice(guns). - Norwegian proverb


At 3:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good article but my Bobcat doesn't have these problems. It is one of my favorite guns.

At 2:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My Bobcat has the exact same problems. I wouldn't even use it as a training gun--it's too unreliable. And every 50 rounds or so, the slide comes off the muzzle end and jams up tight on the rails. Really poor design or manufacturing.

At 1:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

prionaDHey poser. Bobcat doesn't have slide or rails. Learn a little about what you are talking about before trolling.

At 1:44 AM, Anonymous FredKenpo said...

I'm thinking of buying one used, but described as in "very good" condition, with only 50 rounds in it. It's failure to feed every 50rds? I got the same problem with the Springfield Armory XD; I think that's part of the price you pay for using SA's. I plan to use it to shoot, plink, and maybe take out of the safe and admire (It is a Beretta after all). My carry gun is a .357 Magnum Rossi. Totally reliable, incredibly accurate, and can't think of many situations where it wouldn't be useful. But I digress.

At 10:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just came home after spending some range time with my 21A. I've managed to get 200 or so rounds through it in 3 visits to the range, but have found the gun very unreliable. I encountered failures to feed, failures to fire and failures to extract. Geting through 100 rounds this am was almost painful. All in, had at least 10 failures today. Was shooting 40 grain CCI minimags. I have heard it takes 500 rounds to break this little gun in before it becomes reliable. I'm sort of in for the ride at this point, but cannot recommend this weapon for any reason unless the reliability vastly improves. As another reviewer mentioned, the malfunction rate increased as the gun got dirtier. I think I had 3 failures on the last 2 clips I shot.

At 2:53 AM, Anonymous Mass gun license application said...

Beretta 21A is the perfect gun for a new shooter. The ammo is inexpensive, 22 is welcome to be fired at any indoor and outdoor range, the noise is low, zero recoil - it is the best firearm to learn marksmanship on.

At 10:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I realize this is an older post but I pickup up one of these used a week ago. Im betting it got traded because it didnt work very good. It jammed 10 out of the 50 rounds I put through it. I didnt pay much for it so I figured I would work on it. Dremmel tool cone shaped felt tip and some red compound and a little lube on the inside and now it is as reliable as any 22 pistol. other than the bad sights it is pretty accurate for such a little gun. It is a great trainer and a decent trail gun. Small critters at 10 yards or so should be doable. Mine does not like low cost walmart federal though. No enough power to always cycle the slide.

At 6:47 PM, Blogger Mulliga said...

Thanks for the comment, 10:12.

These posts are constantly getting viewed by people searching for info about a particular firearm, so I think it's never a waste of time for folks to pass on their knowledge.

At 1:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just bought a used Beretta bobcat in nickel plated and fired 60 rd of Remington golden bullet cci mini mag. It ftf once, fte twice and 2 bad primer or weak firing pin fired and the rest is flawless after the 4 mag with the Remington . I also fired 60rd cci mini mag 40grain solid and 36grain hp without any problem. The little pistol was made in 1990. Pretty lucky to find this deal cause all the local gun shop dont have any and they said its discontinued. Get one if you ever come across one in case Beretta stop making them. Nice looking little pistol.

At 11:43 AM, Blogger GatorDude said...

In Ian Fleming's original James Bond novels, 007 carried a .25 caliber Beretta 418 that had similar proportions. A gun like this gives you a chance to tie into that experience. It's a nifty addition to your colection. For practical self-defense, there are obviously newer guns in more potent calibers that would be better choices. But it's o.k. to add a gun to your collection just because it is nifty and fun.

At 6:25 PM, Blogger Mulliga said...

Thanks GatorDude. I actually picked up a Beretta 950 Jetfire for the same reason - 007-like coolness. And, weirdly enough, the 950 has proven to be very accurate and reliable so far...I'll probably get around to reviewing it sooner or later.

At 10:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have owed a Nickel plated one for 10 years or more. Mine has a decent but long trigger pull, and a very crisp SA. And is way more accurate than it should be given the size and the almost no existing sights. Most of these failures are because of limp wresting or drag caused by your hand on the slide. I can shoot mine all day with no failures, except a bad primer. I have noticed after about 125-150 rounds it gets dirty and starts to have extraction problems as there isn't anything but chamber pressure popping out the case, but that isn't a big deal. My poor wife on the other hand can hardly get a full mag shot without some sort of issue. She hates the gun, and the fact that I can just fire off mag after mag and nothing but fun happens drives her crazy. I never thought about it being used for training just a fun gun. I like to take it on walks around the farm to plink at hedge apples and the ever present beer cans in the ditch along the dirt road by the second hay field. All in all it is a fun, tiny little gun and the only little gun that hasn't been confiscated by my wife after I brought it home. Heck I am thinking about getting a .32 tomcat just to drive her wild.

At 11:47 PM, Blogger Ronald Tucker said...

Very interesting comments.The Beretta line of small frame handguns has an international reputation for being reliable and accurate so called "mouse guns"...I think I will invest in purchasing the 3032 Tomcat Inox. At $448 plus transfer fee of $20 it will be a modest investment but well worth the price.


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