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Piss Ant August 1996
Gerhard Schroeder  

One of my handguns was stolen recently, out of my vehicle. The replacement dollars burned an immediate hole in my pocket. My choice for the 'new one' fell on Beretta's pocket pistol, a Model 21A in .22LR caliber.

Looks are a subjective matter, and to me that little thing radiates a mix between cute and homely. Either way, it clearly shows that its roots grew under the Beretta tree. Yes, I'm partial to Beretta's, since I am nuts over outside hammers. Gotta have one of those. It all began with the Model 76, my bread & butter .22. With its 6" barrel, it has endured almost 20 years of my ownership, during which it ate some 5 digit number of rounds, and still keeps munching quite nicely. That drove me to the Model 92, now with more than a thousand rounds also with absolutely no complaints. Now, the two are joined by the smallest in the family.

I had been eyeing the Beretta pocket version for some time, but years ago decided against it because its sights are wimpy. They are. However, as it turns out, they do well enough for aimed shooting. Just don't call them quickly and easily acquirable. The small gun's main feature has to be that tilt barrel. Push the lever, and the barrel flips up at the breach; with enough force, by the way, that a loaded round is smartly ejected from the chamber. Clever is the arrangement of the trigger guard, which functions also as the leaf spring that acts on the 2.4 inch long tilt barrel, forcing it upward. Also interesting is the arrangement of the slide and springs. Yup, there are two of them, not parallel to the barrel, instead angled downward along the grip. As the slide travels backwards, these springs are compressed by levers that engage narrow grooves in the sides of the slide. Consequently, disassembly is simple: tilt up the barrel, pull the slide about a quarter inch back and lift it off the gun. Done.

The gun is small, 5 inches long, 3.7 inches tall, and 1.12" wide. It holds 7 rounds in the clip. It actually holds eight, but then it will not fit into the gun. If you had about 2 1/2 hands, you could fill the clip with eight rounds, then pull the slide back and hold it there with your hand, insert the clip, and let the slide go. Believe me, its easier to simply put the eighth round into the barrel. The gun does not have an extractor, and the slide does not stay back after the last shot is fired. It features a double action mechanism, with outside hammer! There is a safety, blocking both the slide and hammer, in either cocked or rest position.

Again, this Beretta showed its bloodlines when in action. Unlike the Model 76 this one is definitely ammo sensitive. Forget anything with a PMC label on it. Their brass must be quite soft, turning the 21A into a repeater rather then an autoloader, because ejection is just not happening. See the table below for comparison of several types of fodder:

* Worst of two 5-shot groups at 20 steps, with shooting hands and arms supported on the tailgate.

** This recent ammo from Winchester is interesting, for two reasons. It is hollow point, weighs 40 grains, whereas all others are either 38 (Win; Fed Eagle), or even 36 grains (CCI, and the new Federal stuff in the 550 count boxes). The power point ammo deserves its name, threatening with a large hollow cavity, about 40% more in diameter (app. 0.1") than the others, clearly noticeable. I'll keep this number in mind for small game chasing.

Also noteworthy is the 21A's pointability. Without looking at the sights or gun, instead focusing on the target (a beer can) at about 15 steps, and then "pointing" at it, hits are often possible, and all shots land comfortably close.

Practical experiences went like this: on our second .22 silhouette event I tried the baby on the line-up of pigs. Aiming just slightly high, the CCI HP's took down the first three pigs! Then did in two more before the clip ran out. Not too shabby for a pocket gun! On a desert outing I got it bloody. I detected a jackrabbit hiding in the shade of a mesquite tree, resting during its morning patrol. My first shot must have been close, the jack moved, but not far enough before it stopped again, on its haunches. The second CCI hollow point echoed back with the familiar 'thud', anchoring the critter. While approaching the kill, I counted 72 steps!

A couple of weeks ago, someone here got free tickets for Caswell's indoor range. We cashed them in, and I took the little Beretta with me. A friend tried it, fell instantly in love, and actually bought a used one in the store that same night before going home. Since it is small, but still provides quite a bite, we now affectionately call it "piss ant". Anybody interested in a PAL (piss ant league)?

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