I’m of the opinion that no clothes feel better than my old faded blue jeans. When I pull them on, they don’t just fit, but feel like they are a part of me. Through the belt loops I slip my Ted Blocker gun belt and my old leather belt-slide holster. Into that holster goes my handgun. When the handgun first slid into the holster, it was like pulling on my favorite old pair of jeans. It felt right at home.
The pistol that I’m wearing now was acquired through trade from a joint called “Gun Runners” up in Anchorage Alaska. It is a .45 caliber Beretta 8045 Mini Cougar. The Mini is simply a Cougar with the grip frame cut short. It retains the same length barrel and slide as the regular Cougar, but it’s just easier to conceal. Most handguns out there made for concealment are all just short barreled, and that’s fine for making the gun easier to carry. But a short barrel alone does nothing for the weapon’s concealability. When you carry a handgun concealed under a shirt or jacket, what part is most likely to print and is most likely to be noticeable? It’s the grip. Shortening that grip makes the gun that much easier to conceal because there is that much less grip to print and give you away.
Selecting this chopped down Beretta was easy. Not too long ago I fell in love the Beretta 92FS. This was kind of like one time when I used to fight with this girl who I hated, and who mutually hated me and one day all the sudden we both realized at the same time we were head over heals for each other. I never liked the 92 series. I thought they were too big for a 9MM and the worst sin of all in my mind was that it had a slide-mounted safety. I couldn’t stand the 92s.
One day I was shopping for a high capacity 9MM for 3-Gun competition, and I was aiming for a Browning High Power. At my favorite gun shop I noticed that the guy behind the counter kept making furtive and suspicious motions in an effort to cover up a certain pistol. It was a Beretta and he confessed to trying to hide it on purpose to keep it from getting sold because he wanted it. Of course I had to ask to see it. For some reason as soon as I held it in my hands I knew I had found the gun I was shopping for. Suddenly everything I hated about Berettas just melted away and I was head over heals crazy about it.
After running with this Beretta 92FS for a while, I came to the conclusion that while attractive and fun, it just wasn’t a gun that I could live with every day. It had two faults that eventually began to trouble me. For one thing, it was just too big for every day carry. On top of that it was a 9MM and I just simply prefer a bigger caliber. Fortunately for me, the 92FS has a sister. This sister pistol has all the Beretta genetic traits that I grown fond of, and in my preferred caliber.
I have heard a lot of talk about Berettas being too heavy to carry well. This is hogwash. Weight in a handgun is not an issue, even for all day carry. If your handgun is “too heavy” for you, there are two solutions. One is to hit the gym more often. It’s a handgun for crying out loud, and not an M1 Garand that you have to carry from Anzio to Berlin. Two, is that you are wearing the wrong belt and holster. The belt and holster discussion is a whole other topic for another day. The fact of the matter is that the Cougar is not too heavy for carry, not by a long shot. At 30 ounces, it is heavier than other pistols frequently used for daily carry, but this weight has a very specific advantage.
We carry handguns for a very specific reason, I’m not going to beat around the bush about this…we don’t carry them as a status symbol like the jeweled handled flintlock pistols of old. These days our guns are carried concealed, hidden under wraps and tucked deep to keep it secret. The reason for this is to have a weapon on us when our hour of need arrives. There is no romantic way of putting it…we carry a handgun so we can shoot it. A heavier handgun is easier to shoot, and we could all use more time at the range shooting. The more practice we get shooting with our carry guns, the better we are with them. The better we are with them, the better our chances of surviving a hostile encounter, and that is why we carry concealed in the first place.
The Mini Cougar is a shooter, without a doubt. What some people would call overweight yields a great deal of pleasure when you make it to the range. The shortened grip allows me to only put two fingers around it. Thanks to the weight, shooting even stout .45 loads is no problem. There is another reason for this shootability, and that is the Cougar’s unique rotating action. Most handguns use a modified Browning action, where the barrel tilts as the slide moves back to unlock. In the Cougar, as the slide moves back from recoil, the barrel rotates to unlock. This system has been used in the past, and the only other gun that I know of in current production is the Mauser M2 pistol. Now, I can’t put my finger on it, but it feels like this twisting action absorbs more recoil energy than a simple straight tilt, thus giving the pistol a slightly “softer” feel. What ever it is, this twisted little gun is a very pleasurable pistol to shoot.
While shooting, I was very impressed by this gun’s consistent accuracy with all loads I ran through it. However, I noticed a preference in this gun for Winchester’s Super X brand of 185 grain Silver Tip hollow points. These rounds are now my duty loads until I find something else that impresses me more. Most loads ran under two inches, with the worst being yellow boxed UMC that ran at just under three. All firing was done freehand, standing, in cold weather, while it was snowing. (I also had to hike two miles up hill both ways to just reload the magazines) I suspect that if I were to benchrest this pistol, I might find an even greater degree of accuracy. Unfortunately benchrest accuracy is a different animal than practical accuracy. Practical accuracy is what you can get out of the gun after many variables such as sights and trigger and comfortable shooting grip.
These variables can be overcome while benching it. Since defensive situations where handguns are deployed are rarely at a shooting bench, such testing is moot. The mini cougar comes with two magazines. One is a flush fitting 6-round magazine and the other is a longer 8-round magazine. The longer mag is a standard 8045 Cougar magazine and it sticks a good 1⁄2 inch out the bottom of the grip. My first impression was that this bothered me. However after mulling it over in my mind, I came to the conclusion that this doesn’t matter one bit. You see, once you draw from concealment, engage a threat, and have to reload, you will appreciate both the higher round count and the better grip obtained thanks to the full-length mag and spacer. Concealment at this point is moot. I am pretty sure that everyone will be aware you’re armed at this point.
The vogue these days in automatics is to have a huge ejection port in the slide. SIG, Ruger, Glock, Springfield XD’s…they all have ports large enough to eject empty beer cans out of. These oversize ports are really not needed, and are almost exaggerated. Of course some of these guns also use that port as a means of facilitating lock up. In the Cougar the port is much smaller. It is big enough to eject a live round through, but it’s not fashionably super sized.
The reliability in this gun is excellent. I’ve yet to experience any stoppage in it at all, even with the cheap UMC ammo that can gum up almost any gun.
Take down is simple and straightforward. It takes down in similar fashion to the 92 series pistols. The only difference internally is that the recoil spring and guide rod go through a curious block that the gun uses to facilitate the barrel’s rotation. An arrow points the block in the right direction for reassembly. For lubrication I have been using FP-10 as I have been having good results with it in other guns as well. This rotary action doesn’t seem to require any special care or feeding.
As good as the Mini Cougar is, it’s not perfect. I have two complaints that Beretta USA will quickly put into the Round File. First off, the grip panels extend past the bottom of the frame. These panels match up nicely with magazine base plates – put with the magazine removed, it leaves a couple rather sharp edges. Nothing to really worry about, but it is something that I might have to break out my Dremmel to work on. The other issue I have is the magazines. These 6 round flush fitting magazines should really be able to fit at least 8 rounds. Looking at other compact .45’s similarly sized, they hold more rounds. Such as the Taurus PT145 or the now discontinued Charles Daly DDA the Cougar even without the longer magazine should be able to carry a load of 8+1.
The Mini Cougar has a fairly small peer group of other .45 caliber double-action compacts. The SIG P245, Taurus PT145, Witness Compact .45 are examples. In this small group the Mini Cougar really stands out in terms of refinement and style. Accurate, reliable, feels good in the hand, ergonomic, and easy to shoot well. The Mini Cougar is an excellent choice for a Concealed Carry Weapon. For some reason the gun remains very under rated and it gets very little press or discussion, this is why I selected to review it for Concealed Carry Magazine.
[ George Hill is an NRA Certified Pistol and Personal Protection instructor and the writer and publisher of Mad Ogre.com. Visit his web site for more information on Mad Orgre. (http://www.madogre.com) ]
Photography by Deveni.