The Beretta 71 seems like an ordinary rimfire pistol. However, it has an extensive history with Israeli assassins and air marshals. It also happens to be one of the most fun .22 LR pistols money can buy.
Beretta @ TFB:
There are no disclosures that need to be made for this review. I bought my Model 71 at retail many years ago, back when they were cheap.
The Beretta 71 is more famous for its users than for any particular design element. It’s a fairly simple gun, after all. It uses a traditional layout with a “fixed” barrel and open-top slide as is common on Berettas. It is a single action only design with an exposed hammer and manual safety.
So what makes this basic rimfire pistol so noteworthy? In short, it was heavily used by the Israelis for wet work and spy stuff. My friends at 9 Hole Reviews created an excellent video discussing the Beretta 71 and some of the interesting situations where it turned up.
This video didn’t exist when I bought this particular gun, but their history with Mossad was well known. Was this gun originally threaded for use by an Israeli assassin? Maybe, but I think it is more likely a gun that came out of the stockpiles of the sky marshals or police and was threaded to facilitate importation. But I will never really know, and that is part of what makes this gun interesting.
A batch of these pistols were imported by Century Arms several years back. In order to get around the asinine import regulations enforced by ATF, large fake suppressors were pinned to the threaded barrels. This added size allowed the 71 to score enough points on the arbitrary scoring rubric to enter legally.
As stupid as that situation is, once the gun is in the country it doesn’t need to remain in this configuration. I used a m̶u̶l̶t̶i̶p̶u̶r̶p̶o̶s̶e̶ ̶h̶o̶m̶e̶ ̶g̶u̶n̶s̶m̶i̶t̶h̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶t̶o̶o̶l̶ Dremel to cut off the fake silencer, which took me an hour or two. I probably count have been done much faster, but I was unable to remove the blind pin and ended up cutting the silencer body away from the threads. It wasn’t a difficult job and could have been faster, but I was careful not to damage the threads underneath the fake silencer. The barrel threads had a small spot that was damaged where the blind pin was attached. The thread pitch is 1/2×20, so an adapter is generally needed to attach a silencer. I cleaned up the damaged area with a set of files until a thread adapter would spin on.
On The Range
I don’t shoot rimfires very often, but when I do, it’s almost always the Beretta 71. Because it frequently joins me on my trips afield I found a small plastic hard case to carry the pistol, a suppressor, and a box of ammo. This little box gets thrown in the truck any time I’m headed out into the woods or the desert, even if shooting isn’t a planned activity.
Its steel slide and aluminum frame contribute to very light recoil. It just shoots softer than other rimfire pistols. And it does this without being large or abnormally heavy. It’s roughly the size of a PPK but weighs less, has less recoil, and is far more reliable.
One of the best features of the 71 is how well it shoots suppressed. I have used mine about 90%+ of the time suppressed with a SilencerCo Sparrow. It will not cycle ultra lightweight ammo like CB loads, but has cycled some suppressor loads that had warnings about not cycling semiautos.
The only real flaw with the Model 71 as a suppressor host is the sights. True to form with compact pistols of this era, the sights are minimal. They are completely obscured by the silencer, even though a rimfire silencer usually has a very small diameter. Some users have painted a white stripe on the top of the silencer to act as a rudimentary sight, but I haven’t felt it necessary to do so. I just know I won’t be picking off tiny targets while shooting suppressed. It is still plenty capable for assassinating plastic bottles, though.
If you have any interest at all in the Model 71, you should get one. It is both interesting from a historical perspective and an incredibly fun gun to shoot. Prices have gone up substantially (read: triple what they used to cost) over the last few years, but it is hard to find a more enjoyable surplus pistol than this.