I recently had the chance to pick up what is just about the cutest little pistol ever made. The Beretta model 21A (a.k.a., the Bobcat). Beretta stopped producing these little gems, so if you fancy one and find one in good condition you should snatch it up.
.22LR Ammo for Self-Defense
I’ve had a lot of people ask me about the use of .22LR guns for self-defense and home protection. My answer is that they beat harsh language. The .22 was never ever intended for defense work. It was designed from the get-go to be a sporting cartridge, and in that arena, it does very well. The .22LR is probably the greatest single cartridge ever invented for sport. For self-defense it is just about the worst, being trumped for the honor of worst of the worst by the .25ACP. More on the .25ACP in a second.
The magazine holds 7 rounds and you have an easy to use tip up barrel to load the chamber so you don’t have to work the slide.
I work at a gunshop, one of the largest in the state of Utah. We have a huge selection of handguns that spans just about everything you could ever want. And if we don’t have it, we can get it for you. We have Kahr PM9s, Walther PPKs, Glock 26s, CZ RAMIs… and tons of other great guns for the specific purpose of concealed carry. But you would not believe how many Walther P22s I sell for protection. I am amazed! I try to hook up the buyer with something more suitable, but they won’t have it. The Walther is so small and light… Yeah? So is an Airweight .38 you nitwit! Seriously, I advise everyone to forget the .22 as a weapon. The only exception to that is the NAA Mini Revolvers, which because of the sheer lack of size are in a category all by themselves. You can carry those little things between your toes.
Now, if you insist upon packing a .22 for defense, at least pack a small one like the Beretta 21A Bobcat. It is just about as small as an auto pistol can get without being ridiculous. The magazine holds 7 rounds and you have an easy to use tip-up barrel to load the chamber so you don’t have to work the slide. You tip the barrel up, load the chamber, and click the barrel locked shut again. Done. Your weapon is hot.
Recommended Ammo for the Beretta 21A Bobcat
For ammunition to feed your Bobcat, I recommend CCI ammo. Stingers, Velocitors, or Mini Mags—your choice. I prefer the Velocitors because they use a heavier bullet and this offers better penetration. A defensive .22 is all about penetration. Don’t even worry about hollowpoint expansion. Even a perfectly expanded .22 isn’t going to do enough to bother with; you want your rounds to stab deep. The heavier load also cycled the stiff Bobcat action with greater authority and reliability. I’ve had no malfunctions with my Bobcat on a strict Velocitor diet.
The accuracy is shocking. At ten paces, I can easily keep all my shots in the 10X ring. For a little pistol with only nubbins for sights and hardly any barrel to speak of, it is amazing.
Just because I’ve had no problems with one brand of ammo does not mean the gun is full worthy of duty. The Beretta 21A Bobcat has one potentially fatal flaw. It has no extractor. This means if a round fails to fire, you can’t just cycle the action to eject it. Instead, you have to tip up the barrel and use the tip of your pocket knife to pry out the dud. In a defensive situation, this is a worst-case scenario. A jam of this sort is likely to be something that gets you seriously injured or killed in the face of an angry goblin. This is why I don’t want to hear about anyone actually packing one of these for defense. The only thing worse you could carry is a Bobcat in .25ACP.
The .25ACP cartridge is drastically cute. It looks like a mini .45ACP. Unfortunately, that’s about it. The .25 is a centerfire cartridge, so the reliability of ignition is probably greater than that of .22LR, but the shells are so anemic and weak that they are just about useless. This is a true story: In Virginia, near the home of Patrick Henry, I took a small .25ACP handgun, a box of the best .25ACP ammunition that I could find, and I went into the back 40 of a farmer’s spread.
Target Shooting with this Beretta
For a target, I put a bright orange Frisbee that I picked up at a dollar store for 50 cents. It was so cheap that I’ve seen tougher disks keeping your I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter® fresh and sealed. It was also warped so it didn’t even fly well. But it made for a perfect target. I set this orange disk down at the base of an old tree stump, and backed up about ten paces. When I fired, I was almost instantly hit square in my chest with the very same .25ACP slug I had just launched. I know this because I saw a glint in the grass at my feet. I bent down and there was the slug. Looking fresh and ready for another go.
Examining the disk, I could see a dent, just off center. The damn thing had bounced off the Frisbee and hit me in my chest. I fired the rest of the rounds at other targets just get rid of the poxy ammo and the next day I got rid of the gun. Totally useless. A .22LR will at least have the energy to stab into the target and penetrate deep enough to damage something important. But this doesn’t make the .22 something worth betting your life on.
“No sir, I don’t think my plane will have engine failure, so I’ll just get the smallest parachute you have, thanks.” A better analogy would be to brag about how unsinkable your new ship is so you don’t bother with carrying enough lifeboats. That has always worked out well enough, hasn’t it?
Conclusions on the Beretta 21A Bobcat
I really do like this little Beretta 21A Bobcat. Have I mentioned how adorable it is? It’s like a real Beretta had kittens or something. It certainly is fun enough to shoot. The accuracy is shocking. At ten paces, I can easily keep all my shots in the 10X ring. For a little pistol with only nubbins for sights and hardly any barrel to speak of, it is amazing. One thing that helps this is that this gun probably has the best trigger of any pocket pistol I’ve ever felt. The double-action pull is long and about 8 pounds worth of pull, but it is smooth. This single action breaks crisply at about 5 pounds. It even has a nice frame-mounted safety lever that actually works. Up for safe, down to fire. There is no decocker. Just be very careful lowering the hammer down while pointing in a safe direction.
The attention to detail in the build quality is impressive. I don’t think Beretta so much set out to build an actual self-defense weapon, but to make some sort of militant jewelry. You could almost wear one as a tie tack—if you wear ties. Maybe as a lady’s brooch. You could probably polish it up and take it out on the town if you really wanted, just be sure to carry your real weapon in your normal position.
I picked mine up for a hundred bucks. I couldn’t pass it up and I’m glad I didn’t. While I do like this little kitty, I’m not planning on packing it around any. It just goes into the range bag with some other odd guns, waiting for the next plinking session. However, even as cute and fun as this little thing is, if I want to plink with a .22 pistol, well, that’s what my Browning Buckmark is for.
Photography by George.