Beretta Cheetah Model 84BB Review

For perhaps a decade and a half I had gone unarmed. Having grown up in rural Southeastern United States, I had been exposed to the many varieties and applications of firearms. The recent absence of firearms in my home had not been a result of any discomfort with the instruments, but rather – quite to the contrary – being a man of modest means, a function of budget. With the growing dangers in our local communities and unrest in the international community, I bore my lack of arms with increased thoughtfulness. Or perhaps it was my own maturity, my increasing awareness of current events and of history, coupled with an intense love of the spouse and children in my charge which compelled me to once again pursue my God given right to bear arms.

Whatever the case, it was time to rearm myself, and to become reacquainted with the sport of shooting that I had sorely missed for so many years.

The process began with research – lots of research. It is a step I would encourage anyone unfamiliar with current production firearms not to skip. I familiarized myself with calibers and their capabilities, compared shapes, sizes and weights, and read all the reviews and articles I could get my hands on. For this process, I found my access to the Internet to be indispensable. Next, I went to one of my favorite gun shops that had a firing range. They offered an array of firearms that I could handle and fire, helping me to narrow down my choices.

I was in search of a handgun suitable for my needs – small in size, easy to carry, and functional for personal protection at my home, as well as away. I wanted something that I would enjoy for range practice and plinking – with an affordable price and chambered for an affordable round. In short, I was in search of the ideal “first” firearm.

I settled on a .380 caliber pistol. I won’t go into the endless debate on caliber here. Let me say only that with the premium rounds available today the .380 (sometimes called 9mm short, 9mm Browning or 9mm Kurz) is considered by many to be sufficient for civilian carry or law enforcement backup. While heavier calibers are available in today’s compact frames, this little brother to the 9mm NATO round is certainly no peashooter.

The variety of firearms chambered in this caliber almost boggles the mind. What I found was the Beretta Cheetah. This model 84BB – not Beretta’s latest model, but still in production along with current revisions – sat in my dealer’s “Try and Buy” case and nearly called my name as I picked it up. The story went that it was one of a collection brought in by a lady whose dear husband had passed on. Having no idea what to do with her late husbands firearms, she offered the collection up for a fair price. I relay the story now because such was the dealer’s fondness of the memory that rather than feeling guilt at gaining from the good lady’s misfortune, I relish the bit of humanity attached to the pistol now in my possession.

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My Cheetah is in one of several configurations: Blued four inch fixed barrel, white dot sights, double stack, thirteen round magazine and factory hardwood grips. The Beretta has a reversible magazine release, ambidextrous safety toggle, magazine safety, and ribbed for and back straps. I found the white dots to be highly visible and was able to quickly acquire my target. The wooden grips add some substance to the stock without being too thick, and formed comfortably to my hand. I would later find the same to be true under fire as well.

On my first outing with the Cheetah I bought two boxes of the ranges ammunition, a remanufactured brand with which I was unfamiliar. They grouped adequately enough and served to allow me to settle in with the pistol. Beginning at twenty feet or so, I began to touch off the first magazine. With no great concern as to my accuracy I was able to place grapefruit-sized groups onto the target while getting a feel for the new gun. I was intrigued by the pistol’s accuracy and steadied myself for some controlled shots. My groups tightened up amazingly! Near the end of my first box I was able to group my shots inside the size of a tennis ball, with a few wide single holes. The fixed sights were right on point of aim for the practical distance at which I was shooting. At twenty to twenty-five yards my groups opened up considerably, as might be expected, but still impressive for a handgun of this type. I am quite sure that someone who is a better shot could achieve superior results.

Regrettably, after the second box I had to leave. However, I did stop by the cashier, of course to return the gun and say that I would take it. (Interesting procedure, that.) I filled out the appropriate forms so that my government could check to see that I was in fact fit to possess a firearm, and went home. I returned a week later armed with 100 rounds of Winchester 85 grain Silvertip HP’s, twenty-five rounds of Federal 90 grain JHP’s, and another box of my dealer’s range specialty. The range ammunition grouped similarly as before, while the Winchester and Federal shot ever so slightly higher. I attribute this the lighter Winchester bullet and Federals hotter premium load. I also found my shots meandering to the right. This was easily remedied with an adjustment to my grip technique suggested by a range mate. Due to the Cheetah’s substantial all-metal frame and the comparatively mild .380 rounds, muzzle flip was minimal and I was able to rapidly reacquire my target after each subsequent shot. With a heft and balance characteristic of a much more expensive firearm, I found it to be a pleasure to shoot and extremely controllable.

Later trips to various ranges and with various loads have been equally satisfying. The Beretta Cheetah remains accurate, comfortable, and cool under fire. The only malfunction I have experienced was traced back to an aftermarket Mac-Gar magazine I purchased. The slightly lighter spring in the aftermarket intermittently fails to lock the Beretta’s slide open on the last round. Bordering a non-issue, this should be easily corrected with a replacement magazine spring. My Beretta has thus far greedily fed, chambered and ejected any round I have loaded – from hollow point ammunition to round nose; from CCI Blazer, Federal, Winchester, Magtech and PMC to unspecified bulk loads. While I have found favored rounds for accuracy, to the Cheetah hollow points and round nose bullets are created equal. I carry the modest .380 loaded with Federal’s 90 grain Hydra-Shok® JHP with supreme confidence.

The Beretta Cheetah sports a half-cock hammer position, lightening the initial double action trigger pull and relieving any pressure on the firing pin. The slide spring provides a rather heavy pull, in the neighborhood of twenty pounds or more. For this reason this configuration may be unsuited to those with weaker hand strength. Beretta has resolved the issue with a pop-up barrel configuration. Simply release and lift the barrel to access the chamber. The first round fired will chamber the next round and place the pistol into battery. I would recommend this gun to anyone who would like an affordable, compact pistol suitable for personal protection and loads of fun plinking in the field or at their favorite range. •Spike