Sunday, July 15, 2018

Guns for Fun: The Beretta 84

     I've argued before against having a large number of firearms per person for prepping purposes, because of the cost both in money to purchase the firearms plus accessories, and lay aside a sufficient stock of ammunition, and time for training and practice. But I have also stated that I didn't want to discourage the reader from collecting firearms if firearms are their hobby.

       I have a friend who likes to collect firearms, and his latest quest is to find a Walther PPK or, if necessary, a PPK/S for a reasonable price. Why? Mostly because he wants the James Bond gun. Of course, Bond's PPK (at least in the books) was a .32 ACP model which are rarer than the .380 ACP models, but I think my friend would settle for a .380.
Box cover for the Top Secret role playing game

      I too have long wanted a "spy" pistol, but for me, the quintessential "spy" pistol is the Beretta 84. Why? Some of you may remember that I was a fan of role playing games (RPGs) when I was a youth. One of my favorites was TSR's Top Secret, which, as it name implies, was an RPG in the spy and espionage genre as typified by the James Bond films and books, the Mission Impossible television series, The Man From Uncle, and so on. And featured on the cover of the Top Secret box was an '80s version of the Beretta 84.

      Needless to say, I've wanted one since I was a kid, but for one reason or another, didn't get one when I was younger. Obviously, I couldn't even hope to get one until I was 21, but at that point, I wanted a pistol in something more powerful than .380. Also, the Model 84 has always been relatively expensive, and so finances have also played a role. And, what with family and jobs and many other things, the thought of one disappeared from my conscious thought ... until a few months ago.

     The first thing that probably started to dredge this up from my subconscious was my friend's quest for a Walther PPK at the right price point. I started keeping an eye out for something that might fit my friend's criteria. Thus, when I was going through a gun show a few months ago, instead of concentrating on something for my AR, I was paying more attention to handguns. And that is when I saw it (or them, because there were two): a couple of used Beretta .380s with the older swept trigger guard just like that pictured on the box above, rather than a squared off trigger guard as found on newer versions of the pistol.

Beretta 84FS "Cheetah".
I don't really like the squared off trigger guard.
      I wasn't prepared to buy anything right then, but it started nagging the back of my mind, so, eventually I decided to go to the store which had the table at the gun show to see if they still had the pistols in stock. They did, but either I had remembered the wrong price or they had jacked the price up $100 or so. So, I didn't get one. But I still kept thinking about it. I looked around locally, but no one else seemed to have any on hand. I went on-line and found a good deal on a used Model 84BB, which I believe is the model shown on the Top Secret box cover.

       The particular firearm I picked up was apparently a police trade-in from some European country, so it has a lot of finish wear from carrying, but probably hasn't been shot much. Although it looks rough, it seems to function just fine.

       The pistol has an obvious visual similarity to the Beretta 92, except much smaller. Because it is in .380, it uses a simple blow back system. It has an aluminum alloy frame with steel slide, barrel, and trigger mechanism.

      The Beretta 84FS is listed as having a weight (unloaded) of 23 ounces, an overall length of 6.8 inches and a barrel length of 3.8 inches. Mine weighs 20.5 ounces without a magazine.

      Speaking of which, it uses a 13-round, double-stack, detachable box magazine. Because Beretta still manufactures the Model 84, you can purchase new factory magazines. Mec Gar also makes magazines for the pistol that are a bit less expensive. The only difference I see is that the Mec Gar use a plastic base plate (the magazine that came with mine had a steel baseplate), and the witness holes are on one side of the magazine instead of its spine. I suspect that Mec Gar (which is also an Italian company) makes the factory magazines. Certainly the Mec Gar magazines have worked in my pistol without issue.

      The pistol is a double-action/single-action (DA/SA), where the first shot is fired double action, or the hammer can be cocked and shot single action. Of course, subsequent shots to the first are all in single action. I don't have a trigger pull gauge, so I can't tell you what the pull weight is, but I would guess about 12 pounds in double action (it is less than my .38 J-frame) and about 3.5 pounds in single action. The double action is actually very good--better than many revolvers--with only a slight hint of stacking. The single action has a bit of take up, a nice break, and fairly minimal over travel due to the over travel bump on the back of the trigger. Reset is easily discernible and pretty short.

      The newer models employ a de-cocker style safety. However, the 84BB uses a two position safety which is engaged when the safety is pressed upward. Thus, when the hammer is cocked, it blocks the trigger and prevents the hammer from falling; and when the hammer is down, the safety disengages the trigger so it won't actuate the mechanism. The pistol has a "half-cock" which is designed to catch the hammer if it slips when you are manually de-cocking the pistol. You can engage the safety in half-cock, but do not carry the weapon this way. At least with my pistol, which doesn't appear to have any mechanical defect, when the safety is engaged in half-cock, it may appear to disengage the trigger, but if you pull the trigger all the way back, there will be a wall, and then a bit more pressure will cause the trigger to fall. This is not a de-cocker feature. Although the hammer is only falling a short distance, mine at least had enough force to ignite a primer and discharge a cartridge (of course, the weapon won't cycle with the safety up because the safety levers will catch on the slide). In examining my pistol, I couldn't find any evidence of mechanical breakage or wear that would explain what happened, but I also couldn't find any reference to this happening to anyone else when I Googled it. However, I did find admonitions that the pistol should not be carried on half-cock. So, don't carry the weapon at half-cock and safety on.

       Take down is similar to the Model 92, except that the take down lever is on the right side of the frame. If you haven't field stripped a Model 92, I will just add that it is probably the easiest take down of any semi-auto pistol in existence. There is a small plunger that holds the take down lever in place, which you depress, and then push the lever down and that's it--just slide the slide and barrel assembly off the pistol.

      Newer models have a chrome lined chamber and bore, but mine appears to be plain blued steel.

       The sights are fairly small, as standard for the period. Mine sport a white dot on the front sight and a single white dot on the rear sight just below the slot. The rear sight fits into a dovetail on the slide and is, therefore, adjustable for windage.

      I'm very pleased with the pistol. First of all, it looks really "cool" in my opinion. It fits my hand well and the ergonomics are great. It is hard to describe, but between the short length of the cartridge (which is reflected in the pistol's grip) and the thickness of the grip because of the double stack magazine, it nicely fills the hand. Mine is mechanically sound, and has reliably fed both ball and hollow point ammunition that I have fed it. I've only shot it at 7 yards or less from a free standing position, but accuracy is more than acceptable. My wife thought the recoil was snappy, but she is rather sensitive to recoil. I don't find the recoil uncomfortable at all. In short, I like it.

       I'm sure a lot of gun gurus would not see much reason for this pistol anymore. It's size and weight is comparable to a lot of smaller 9 mm pistols. And .380 is considered by many as inadequate for self-defense--or, at best, only marginally effective. However, just as advances in bullet technology have made the 9 mm a more effective defensive round, so too the .380 had benefited from advances in design. And, as I've discussed in this blog, and pointed to other's discussion on the topic, shot placement generally counts far more for a handgun than the size or power of the cartridge. In any event, this handgun falls into a nice medium where it is large enough to shoot for fun at the range, but small enough it could be used as concealed carry weapon. It is enough for me that I enjoy owning and shooting it.


  1. Nothing wrong with that! I always wanted a M1 Carbine..some of the vets in my childhood neighborhood brought them home. Not as practical as your .380 but still a decent choice for home and livestock defense.

    1. I remember passing by some great deals on M1 Carbines back in the early '90s, and kick myself for not having picked one up. I imagine that they would be a hoot to shoot, and handier than most long guns.