Production began in 1984, but the story of this pocket pistol began much earlier.
Beretta began their foray into the pocket pistol market with the model 1920, introduced in 1919. The model 1920 led to the introduction of the model 318 in 1936 and the model 418 in 1937.
The model 418 is known as being the gun James Bond carried before switching to the Walther PPK, the opening scene of the movie Dr. No shows 007 reluctantly giving up his trusty Beretta in .25ACP for the Walther in .32ACP.
The model 418:
Beretta refined the model 418 into the model 950 "Jetfire" in 1952. The new Jetfire featured the external hammer, tip up barrel and same overall profile seen in the model 21A.
The gun was imported into the US until the unconstitutional 1968 Gun Control Act went into affect. The GCA outlawed the importation of small handguns. This forced Beretta to open a factory in the United States and produce the guns domestically.
The Beretta 950 "Jetfire":
Refinements to the model 950 were rolled into the model 20, one of which was a double action trigger for the first shot (just like their big brother, the model 92). Production of the Model 20 ended in 1985, one year after the introduction of the model 21A.
Here is a description of the 21 A from Beretta's website:
User-friendly design is common to all Beretta small frames. The exclusive tip-up barrel allows the user to easily load a round directly into the chamber without racking the slide. It also assists in the safe clearing of the pistol by giving an easy and absolutely safe way to check the bore and and remove a live cartridge. Jamming and stove-piping problems are virtually eliminated by the open slide design shared by all small frame Berettas.
Keeping an eye on uncompromising quality helps keep Beretta small caliber semi-automatics ahead of the pack. Beretta pistols in the 21 Series utilize a tough forging process for their barrels, while slides are fashioned from solid steel bar stock--and frames from solid aluminum forgings. The new stainless-steel version (“Inox”) employs the finest and toughest steels, making it exceptionally corrosion resistant and durable (see below).
In addition to the traditional black finish, the 21A Bobcat is available in Inox (stainless steel) finish. This model has a stainless steel slide and barrel. The alloy frame is grey anodized to match the color and finish of the stainless components. The other metal parts (trigger, hammer, trigger guard, safety, magazine, etc.) are black finished.
The model 21A has a fixed (yet tilting) barrel design using blow back to operate the slide and eject the cartridges. The pistol has no ejector/extractor, it relies solely on the pressure of the exploding gun powder to drive the slide and the empty case away from the chamber. This means that high velocity cartridges are almost a requirement for proper operation. This also means that the ejection of the spent cases tends to follow the slide, so they come back towards the shooter, usually high enough to avoid contact, but sometimes they end up hitting the shooter in the face or chest.
The sights are minimal, and that is not unexpected in a gun like this. Having very low rise sights prevents snagging on clothes when drawing from a pocket.
The Model 21A comes in either .22 LR or .25 ACP (6.35mm for you folks outside North America...) The magazines hold 7 rounds of .22 or 8 rounds of .25.
The magazine release button is located in the lower section of the grip panel. The magazines drop free when empty or loaded and the gun will operate with or without the magazine inserted.
Likewise the frame mounted thumb safety can be engaged at any time, with the hammer at rest or when cocked.
Here are the guns stats, from Beretta's website: (click on the pictures for a larger version)
In addition to offering the Inox (Stainless steel) models, Beretta also offered the model 21EL that came with wood grips and gold accents
They also offered this limited edition "Lady Beretta" model
I would be remiss if I didn't mention that Taurus USA makes a look-a-like copy of the model 21A called the PT22. These pistols are made in Taurus' Miami factory.
I purchased this particular gun at a gun show about 10 years ago, it came with no box or extra magazine, but the extra magazine was easy to come by (see below). It has the polished blued steel and anodized aluminum frame.
Shortly after I acquired the gun above, my Father liked it so much that he bought one. His came with a matte finish
To date I have had very few issues with the gun and carry it often. It is perfect for those summer days when you do not have a jacket pocket or room for a holster. I load it with CCI Stingers
Cleaning is very easy on this gun, tipping up the barrel gives complete access to the chamber & barrel (also makes it easy to see verify that the gun is unloaded). After cleaning the breach face of the slide with some Hoppes #9 and an old tooth brush, I run some wet patches down the bore and follow with a bore snake.
The factory magazines are made by Mec-Gar and are found in the aftermarket labeled with either Beretta or Mec-Gar. They are available from the local gun stores, online suppliers, Beretta's factory online store or from Mec-Gar's website
Grip panels are available from a variety of sources. If your gun came with the plastic grip panels and you would rather have wood, you can buy a factory set from Midway USA
Altamont makes a variety of grip panels to fit the 21A Bobcat.
Their laminated grip comes in Silver/Black, Rosewood and Walnut. In case you were not aware, grip panels for the Beretta model 3032 "Tom Cat" also fit the 21A and vice-versa.
Their faux bonded Ivory:
How about faux mother of pearl?
or smooth Rosewood
Triple K offers these smooth plastic panels with the Beretta logo.
Crimson Trace offers their popular laser grips for the model 21A Bobcat & 32 cal. Tomcat:
If you like the look of the Model 21EL, you can dress up your standard model with these gold plated accent pieces from Beretta.
If you would like to add a silencer/suppressor to your 21A, Hi-desert dog has replacement threaded barrels:
Some model 21As with silencers:
The pictures above were found freely on the world wide web and are used under the guidelines of Fair Use, per Title 17 of the U.S. Code. Where possible the source has been credited.
If you own the copyright to any of these images and wish them to be credited or removed, please contact me immediately.
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