September 21, 2021
In the era of cutting edge, tiny, feather-light polymer-framed striker-fired pocket pistols, the Beretta 84F is a dinosaur. By the standards of modern 9mm pocket guns it is big…and it’s a .380 ACP. But it and numerous variations of this pistol (collectively known to most as the Beretta Cheetahs) were hugely popular around the world, and sold for over 40 years. I own a Beretta 84F, and lately have been keeping it keeping it handy during my workouts, so don’t think this design is ineffective, it’s just…old-fashioned.
In construction and appearance, the Cheetahs are basically reduced-in-size versions of the famed Beretta 92, available in various calibers and capacities. The Models 81 and 82 were chambered in .32 ACP, 83,84, 85 and 86 in .380 ACP, and the 87 and 89 in .22 Long Rifle. The most popular versions in America were the .380 ACP 84 and 85, and the only difference between them was capacity—the 85 was fed by a single-column magazine for an 8+1 capacity, and the 84 had a double column magazine for a 13+1 capacity.
The Beretta 84 has a DA/SA trigger system and an aluminum frame with black polymer grips. Sporting a 3.82-inch barrel, the Beretta 84 is 6.97-inches long, 4.75-inches tall, and 1.45-inches wide. Empty it weighs 23 ounces. If you compare those numbers to a modern subcompact 9mm, you’ll see that the Beretta is bigger and heavier than most of them, while being chambered in the less-powerful .380 ACP.
This pistol has the iconic open-topped slide design of the Beretta, and as such it is very reliable. The pistol even has a chrome-plated bore, something I find hard to understand on a .380…but then again, I’ve never sold pistols to police departments full of ill-trained officers. These pistols were issued to a lot of cops and detectives in Europe, and most of the used guns you’ll see for sale come from there.
There have been various iterations of this model over the years, and I own an 84F, which means it has a squared “combat” trigger guard and a combination safety/decocker. Often, I don’t like decockers, but the position and function of this one is a winner. This bilateral lever is positioned right where the thumb safety on a 1911 would be, and you push it up to decock the hammer and engage the safety. After so many years of shooting/carrying a 1911 I shoot everything with a thumb-high hold, and my right thumb rides atop the safety lever of the 84F. When decocked the hammer doesn’t go all the way down but rather to a “quarter cock” position which shortens the trigger pull a bit. This pistol is also equipped with a magazine disconnect safety, which I don’t like but can live with. The last production models were the “FS” line, which featured automatic firing pin blocks.
The front of the trigger guard is horizontally serrated, and the front and rear of the frame are vertically serrated. The plastic grips are checkered. Sights are pretty basic—the front sight is small and all one piece with the slide. It sports a white dot. The rear sight, adjustable for windage, has a shallow notch, with a white semi-circle underneath it. The gun has Beretta’s Bruniton finish, and even after twenty-plus years it still looks good. When it’s not accompanying me to the gym this pistol stays loaded in my house, positioned somewhere convenient for the use of all family members.
I originally bought the Beretta for my now-ex wife over twenty years ago, but because it is a traditional .380 it has a straight blowback recoil system, which means a very strong recoil spring. Between that and the double-action first shot, my wife didn’t like the pistol, but to my surprise, I did. A lot. And I still do. I still have the gun, but I’m divorced—what does that tell you?
Sure, it’s “only” chambered in .380 ACP, instead of 9mm, but because it is a relatively big and heavy .380 it is very easy to shoot fast and accurately. The open-topped slide is light, which means less reciprocating mass, which means less recoil. The grip on the 84 is thicker than that of the single-stack 85, but only fractionally, and I liked the idea of those five extra rounds on board. In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, there really wasn’t a better option, in my opinion, if you wanted a reliable, concealable, shootable, double-stack carry pistol.
Double action trigger pull on my sample has always been smooth and currently weighs nine pounds. Single action the pull is just under five pounds, with a bit of takeup. Because I can get my whole hand on the gun, and it is a mid-size gun chambered in .380 ACP, with a shockingly low bore, quick and accurate fire is easy with this pistol. You can run it like a full-size gun, unlike the light, tiny, hard to grip modern subcompact .380s and 9mms. My current carry ammo in this gun is Black Hills Ammunition’s 60-grain Honey Badger. This copper solid bullet does over 1,100 fps out of this gun and produces more tissue disruption and similar penetration to standard .380 loads, while having less recoil. Another excellent choice would be Federal’s 99-grain Tactical HST, which passes the FBI Ammunition Testing Protocol.
I bought my pistol new. You don’t have that option. While the single-stack 85 seems to be more common, you can find models for sale (used) quite often on Gunbroker or through various online retailers (AIMSurplus, etc.) starting at $400 and going up from there. They’re a cool piece of history, and they work. Earlier versions of this gun (BB suffix, for example) don’t have a decocker, and you can carry them cocked-and-locked. If you need spare magazines, they’re under $25 from Mec-Gar, who was the OEM magazine maker for Beretta.
Beretta Model 84 Pistol Specs
- ACTION: DA/SA semi-auto
- CALIBER: .380 ACP
- MAGAZINE CAPACITY: 13+1
- BARREL: 3.82”
- OVERALL LENGTH: 6.97”
- OVERALL HEIGHT: 4.75” (with magazine inserted)
- WIDTH: 1.4”
- FRAME: Aluminum
- GRIPS: Black polymer
- SLIDE: Steel
- BARREL: Steel
- SIGHTS: Post front, notch rear
- TRIGGER PULL: 9-11 lbs. DA, 4-6 lbs. SA
- SAFETIES: Decocker, firing pin block
- WEIGHT (empty): 23 oz with empty magazine inserted
- PRICE RANGE: $400-$1,500+ depending on model, finish, and condition (no longer in production)