Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Tale of Two Beretta .22s: The Model 948 and Model 21






The Beretta Model 948 is a .22 Long Rifle version of the Model 1934 which was Italy’s service pistol during WWII.  The 1934 was available in .32 ACP or .380 ACP and manufacture of the 1934 began in…you guessed it 1934.  The 948 was produced in the mid-1950’s and was offered with a 3.5 inch barrel or a less common 6 inch barrel.  The 1934 and the 948 look identical except that the Model 948 grips are different from the earlier Beretta models, instead of the usual 'PB' monogram at the bottom portion of the grip, the word 'Beretta' is embossed across the top.  The 948 also featured an aluminum frame.

The Beretta Model 21 Bobcat is a design that has been around quite a while and I can’t imagine too many shooters that aren’t at least familiar with this handgun whether they have fired one or not.  This one is the stainless steel INOX version.  For those who don’t know what Inox means (and this was new to me) I have turned to the vast online resource of Wikipedia which tell us:In metallurgy stainless steel, also known as inox steel or inox from French "inoxydable", is defined as a steel alloy with a minimum of 10.5 or 11% chromium content by mass.”   Wikipedia also tells us that Inox is a synonym for stainless steel.  So then, this is apparently an Italian pistol that speaks French.  Mon Dieu!  


Beretta Models 948 and 21 At-A-Glance






Handling
Terrible
Poor
Acceptable
Good
Excellent
Fit & Finish
Terrible
Rough
Acceptable
Good
Excellent
Sights
None
Too Small
Useable
Good
Excellent
Trigger
Terrible
Poor
Acceptable
Good
Excellent
Power Scale
.22LR
.380 ACP
9mm
.40 S&W
.45 ACCP
Carry/Concealment
Too Large
Compact
Ultra Compact
Micro Compact
Pocket Pistol
Reliability
Unreliable
Somewhat Reliable
Fair
OK
Completely Reliable
Accuracy
Poor
Fair
Acceptable
Combat
Bullseye

Let’s examine the individual characteristics of the two Beretta Pistols:






Handling
Terrible
Poor
Acceptable
Good
Excellent

Model 948 is a small pistol that handles like a larger pistol.  One of the redeeming factors is that Beretta put the magazine release on the left side of the frame and resisted putting it on the heel in typical European Style.

Like small dogs that think they are big the Model 21 wants to be a larger pistol.  It is small in every dimension except width.  It is about 1.2 inches wide which is the same width as some single stack 9mm pistols.  The width does not bother me in the least.  I have two problems with the new crop of micro .380 pistols that are rightfully so popular at the current time.  First, they are so thin that I cannot get a comfortable purchase on the trigger.  If I put too much trigger finger in then I am pulling the trigger with the bend of the second knuckle.  If I pull the finger out to the forepad it feels very awkward.    Secondly their anorexic grip literally swims in my hand every time I pull the trigger requiring me to reposition the pistol for a follow-up shot and one must realize that a small caliber pocket pistol is probably going to require multiple follow-up shots.  I have neither problem with the Beretta Model 21.  Its width allows for the trigger finger to naturally fall where it needs to be.  The width also allows me enough gun to hang onto.

One of the most innovative features is the tip-up barrel which Beretta has used on their small .22’s, .25’s, .32’s, and .380’s.   This allows the shooter to place the round in the chamber without having to rack the slide.  For people with arthritis or strength issues this is a real plus.  The problem with miniaturizing handguns is that the controls get smaller or compacted.  The lever that releases the barrel allowing it to tip up sits almost flush with the grip making it not as easy to access as you would like.  I have compounded that situation by putting Pearce rubber grips on my 21, not to ease recoil but to make the grip stick to my hand. 

Because of the compact amount of space on the pistol the magazine release sits in the left side grip panel.  An unusual place to put it but Beretta has made up for it by making it large and difficult to miss.  The slide safety is also fairly small although I had no problem disengaging it when ready to fire.  With the model 21 you have the option to carry it cocked and locked and ready to fire in the single action mode or you can carry it with the hammer down and fire it in the traditional double action mode where the first pull is a longer double action effort after which the pistol is cocked and fired in the single action mode.






Fit & Finish
Terrible
Rough
Acceptable
Good
Excellent

The fit and finish of the Model 948 is good and much better than the Model 1934 .380 that I owned.  That pistol was made in 1944 and was in pristine shape from a mechanical standpoint (I used to joke that the officer it belonged to must have surrendered soon after being issued the pistol) but the finish of the frame had developed a plum patina.   The Model 948 having been made in the peacetime of the 1950’s maintained its blackened color over the years.

The model 21 INOX is a slick little pistol.  I have had several of these over the years and they are all engineered and executed very well.






Sights
None
Too Small
Useable
Good
Excellent

Of the two pistols the Model 948 has better sights.  The rear sight is dovetailed into the frame and should be drift adjustable for lateral movement but mine was difficult to move and I opted not to force it.  The sights are black on black with not very much daylight showing around the front sight when aligned with the rear sight.  As the rating states “useable” but not “good”.

On the Model 21 the sights are almost an afterthought with just a half moon front blade and a notch in the slide for the rear sight.  Still, you will be surprised at the practical accuracy at the short ranges that this pistol was intended for. 






Trigger
Terrible
Poor
Acceptable
Good
Excellent

The trigger on the Model 948 is Single Action only.  There is a slight bit of creep at the beginning of the pull with a good release and minimal over travel after the round has fired.  My pistol averaged 5.0 pounds on my Lyman Digital Trigger Pull Scale.

The Model 21 is normally carried in the traditional double action mode.  The double action pull is fairly long and breaks cleanly at 10.8 pounds while the single action pull is 6.5 pounds.






Power Scale
.22LR
.380 ACP
9mm
.40 S&W
.45 ACP/GAP

OK, they are .22s.  No one would carry one for self defense but each year quite a few people taken to the morgue have been shot by a .22.  No one would carry one for self defense but the Beretta Model 21, the North American Arms line-up of mini-revolvers, and the Taurus Model 22 sure aren’t target pistols or varmint guns.  Nope they are last ditch self defense pistols.  My Beretta 21 was carried as a back-up gun by a police officer.  He could have carried a .32, .380, .38 Special, 9mm, or .357 Magnum—all come in relatively small sizes.  But for some reason this officer just like many citizens with a concealed carry permit choose to go with a .22.   There are a couple of reasons someone might opt for a .22:

1.      1. They cannot handle the recoil of anything larger.
2.      2. They cannot afford the cost of larger caliber ammunition.  

      Around my parts a 20 to 25 round box of defensive ammo runs between $25 and $30.  At the best price you’re sending a buck downrange every time you pull the trigger.  Some folks just want to have something with which they can afford to become proficient.

In a defensive pistol I prefer something along the lines of a .45 ACP but a .22 that is reliable, accurate, and can be brought into action fast has those three factors going for it.  For more on the use of a .22 for self defense I would refer you to this Shooting Illustrated article: http://www.shootingillustrated.com/Ammo/Rifle/22lr.html







Carry/Concealment
Too Large
Compact
Ultra Compact
Micro Compact
Pocket Pistol

Both pistols carry very well and can be tucked in a pocket holster.

Uncle Mike's Pocket Holster

I also carry the model 21 in the Remora Clipless Inside-the-Waistband Holster







Reliability
Unreliable
Somewhat Reliable
Fair
OK
Completely Reliable

Both pistols were completely reliable with CCI ammo.  Cheaper brands did cause feeding problems in both pistols especially after the Model 21 had about 50 rounds through her and was good and dirty.






Accuracy
Poor
Fair
Acceptable
Combat
Bullseye

As always, the target speak for themselves.   These are close quarters weapons so I did not fire them for accuracy beyond 21 feet.

Beretta 948

Here are 50 rounds of Remington "Golden Bullet":

CCI Mini-Mag



CCI Quick Shok

Beretta Model 21


50 rounds of CCI Velocitor at 15 feet


50 rounds of Remington "Golden Bullet" at 21 feet


All in all I like these pistols as inexpensive plinkers and limited duty self defense weapons.  I don't advocate the .22 as a primary firearm but if your personal situation demands a small caliber and small framed pistol these are good choices.  The Model 21 should be available just about anywhere that sells handguns while the 948 is a vintage pistol that you will have to look a little harder to find.  A quick check of the internet showed none on GunsAmerica and one up for bid on Gun Broker.

13 comments:

Raven said...

Hey Joe! Great review. I inherited my Dad's Beretta 948 with a 1953 build date. I have a question about your statement
"Model 948 is a small pistol that handles like a larger pistol. One of the redeeming factors is that Beretta put the magazine release on the left side of the frame and resisted putting it on the heel in typical European Style." My Dad's has the heel mounted mag release, and looking at your pictures yours does to. Am I missing something? Again, thanks for the review I enjoy shhoting the 948. Any idea where to find a PDF of the owners manual?
Andy

Raven said...

Joe: Great review. I have a 948 with a build year of 1953 that my father picked up in Naples while he was in the Navy. I have a question about the statement.
"Model 948 is a small pistol that handles like a larger pistol. One of the redeeming factors is that Beretta put the magazine release on the left side of the frame and resisted putting it on the heel in typical European Style."
My pistol has a heel mag release, and looking at your pix yours does to. Am I missing something? I relly enjoy shooting the 948, and again great review.

Average Joe said...

Raven,

You are 1000% correct! Normally when I write a review I have the pistol on my desk; this time I didn't and paid the price! Hang on to yours.

Raven said...

Thanks Joe... Any idea where to get a PDF owners manual for the 948? My dad must of tossed his. I tried Beretta with no luck.

Average Joe said...

Raven,

I don't think you are going to find one for the 948. But you should be able to find one for the model 1934; they are basically the same pistol especially if you are lookng for disassembly instructions. Here is a link to one manual for the 1934 in Italian:

http://www.berettaweb.com/Munuals/beretta%2034.pdf

Alain said...

Thanks for the review-22's are fun and of course can be deadly- I bought the S&W 317 revolver and it is fun to shoot but for the price in retrospect I probably would have done as well with the beretta as a BUG gun and cost factor again an excellent review
Thanks Joe
Al

Alain said...

Thanks for the review-22's are fun and of course can be deadly- I bought the S&W 317 revolver and it is fun to shoot but for the price in retrospect I probably would have done as well with the beretta as a BUG gun and cost factor again an excellent review
Thanks Joe
Al

Texans Fan said...

How interesting. My grandfather (passed away) carried a 1934 as his plainclothes primary sidearm when he made LT. for the Houston PD. My dad had it out of the safe the only 2 days ago and we noticed it still had 30+ year old rounds in it. I'll have to pass on to my pops that the 948 is around as he may want to pick one up :)

Anonymous said...

BEWARE! I love these Berettas but the 948 is unsafe. Unlike other Berettas (model 1934, 1935, 70 etc.)
The 948 has no half cock OR inertial firing pin. The firing pin rests soundly against the primer rim of the cartridge and if dropped CAN fire. I cannot understand why such a fine company released this weapon as is.

Anonymous said...

Sorry but the 948's firing pin does not rest against the cartridge and is spring loaded. IS THE FIRING PIN SPRING IN YOUR GUN BROKEN OR IS YOUR GUN JUST DIRTY AND RUSTY?

WillJulian said...

Thanks Joe for this review. I inherited that gun from a distant uncle. I am glad to be able to read about it a bit.
However, I would really like an IWB holster for it with a clip.
Do you or anybody reading this question have an idea what holster I can use?
Thank you

1963lwrnc said...

My Dad's 1957 model 948 has a 1/2 cock notch and spring loaded firing pin. I suspect the one mentioned above has broken parts.

sully v said...

Hi--this post is now 6-years old, but one of my favorite pistols is the 21A, I don't carry it much for self-defense (but better than a rock), but it is fun to shoot. I would recommend that every serious shooter should have one, it'll make a honest shooter out of you--great review thanks JOE.