Beretta, the legendary Italian gunmaker, recently imported a large number of surplus Model 84BB .380 ACP pistols. They had served the Guardia di Finanza, Italy’s rough equivalent to a DEA/CBP/IRS agency, for many years. Are these worth the money, or just a neat novelty?
Beretta @ TFB:
Before we get into it, we always need to discuss the terms of the review. In short, there aren’t any. James Reeves did a review of the 84BB for TFBtv. His experience with the gun convinced me to buy one for myself. I picked this one up on GunBroker. Beretta doesn’t know who I am or that I have this pistol.
Back in the days of yore, long before the P365 and Hellcat sparked the micro 9mm revolution, and before the Glock 19 had become the gun every manufacturer was trying to kill, the gun market was different. There were not many high-capacity compact options available on the shelf of the average gun store.
One exception to that rule was the Beretta Cheetah family. Still in production today, these compact pistols have been made in both single- and double-stack models. They were also made with several different models of safety/decocker assemblies.
This particular gun was marked as being in “Very Good” condition. I might characterize it as the high end of good rather than very good, but these matters can be subjective. It shipped in a plain cardboard box with one 13-round magazine. Additional magazines are still in production and can be purchased directly from Beretta or from various distributors carrying Mec-Gar magazines.
As mentioned earlier, these pistols were previously issued by the Italian Guardia di Finanza. The right side of the frame was marked “G.F.” to denote that ownership. The slide was also marked with Beretta’s information because they acted as the importer. That import mark is thankfully small and blends in well enough with the other markings on the gun.
On The Range
The trigger/decocker/safety mechanism on the 84BB deserves a close examination. Other models in the Cheetah family feature a broad range of options, so these remarks are specific to the 84BB. Unlike other versions, the safety is not a decocker. This means it can be carried “cocked and locked” with the hammer back and the safety on. The safety is located on the frame which is a much better location than the slide. Being on the frame means it is out of the way during slide manipulations but still easily accessible to the thumb. It is also an ambidextrous design.
The trigger is capable of double action or single action operation, but there is no decocking mechanism. Someone determined to carry with the hammer down could pull the trigger while slowly lowering the hammer, but that does create an obvious risk of firing the gun if the hammer falls accidentally. I did practice lowing the hammer and found it fairly easy to do, but it still felt a little old school for my liking. One method that I like using is while holding the hammer, pulling and then releasing the trigger. The hammer can then be lowered to a half cock position. It is then possible to carry with the safety on or off depending on user preference and provides a double action first shot before single action follow-up shots.
Shooting the 84BB is a blast. Recoil is more stout than would be expected from a .380 in a gun of this size, but it is not bad. The sights are alright for a gun of this age. They are not better than a modern pistol, but are better than would commonly be found on 1970s pistols. It points well and follow-up shots are fast.
The magazine capacity of 13 rounds is still respectable today, as well. Its four-inch barrel makes the most of the .380 cartridge. Now, it does not magically make the .380 the best defensive caliber in the world. But it does narrow the gap to 9mm Parabellum performance to some extent. Carrying the 84BB is not a completely stupid idea, which is more than can be said of many pistols of this vintage.
Every time I hold the 84BB, I smile. It just exudes panache. This is a classy gun made by stylish people. Some guns transcend their function as simple tools, and when you hold them they feel special. The Beretta 84BB is that kind of gun.
However, all of this positivity does require a counterpoint. The 84BB is a great surplus pistol but it should be judged through the lens of other surplus pistols, not new ones. A .380 ACP makes little sense in a gun this size. And a gun much smaller than this can hold 10+ rounds of 9mm ammo today. But I would take this over most other surplus pistols without hesitation.
Don’t buy a surplus 84BB if it is your only handgun. A more practical choice like a micro 9mm or Glock 19 should absolutely come first. If, however, you want a little slice of the “dolce vita” to carry with you to low-risk events, the 84BB may fit the bill. Or, if you just like surplus guns generally, this one is a far more pleasing gun to use than many other sidearms out there on the market. I can confidently say I would buy it again if I had to do it all over again. I might even buy two.