Many handgun experts would consider the .380 ACP cartridge – AKA 9x17mm, 9mm Kurz, 9mm Corto – to be marginal, the absolute bare minimum caliber acceptable for self-defense. Others may counter that plenty of good guys have won the fight with smaller calibers such as the .32 ACP. And of course, there’s the truism that “A hit with a .22 beats a miss with a .44 Magnum.” So, the .380 ACP, which has been around since 1908, and it should come as no surprise that two of the finest guns chambered for the round are manufactured by the world’s oldest gunmaker, that being Beretta. Say hello to the Beretta Models 84F and 85F, from the firm’s Cheetah series.
Beretta 84F History & Specifications
Beretta released the Model 84 back in 1975, though the company didn’t actually apply the “Cheetah” name to it and the other pistols in the series until sometime in the 1990s – around the same time they started designating other pistols models with feline names like Tomcat, Bobcat, and Cougar. It’s a traditional double-action (DA) semiautomatic pistol, but is similar to the CZ-75 in the sense that it allows for cocked-and-locked carry – fans of single-action autopistols like the M1911 and Browning Hi-Power appreciate the feature – due to the fact that the manual safety is frame-mounted, is swiped downward into the Fire position, and does not de-cock the hammer, as opposed to the slide-mounted, upward-to-fire, decocking safety lever you typically see on traditional direct action autos such as the Beretta 92FS and Smith & Wesson Model 39.
The Model 84 uses the same open-top slide that the Beretta 92 and M1951 Brigadier use, which goes a long way to eliminating stovepipe jams. As is typical of so-called “pocket pistol” – also derisively called “mouse guns” – calibers, the Cheetah uses a direct blowback action. As with the 92F, the 84F has an aluminum alloy frame. The magazine capacity is a double-stack 13+1 rounds. The barrel length is 3.81 inches, the overall length is 6.8 inches, and the weight is 23 ounces.
Moving on to Beretta 85F History & Specifications
The Model 85F iteration of the Cheetah came along in the early 1980s, roughly five or six years after the 84F. The 85F is thinner due to its single-stack 8+1 magazine capacity, making it more ergonomically friendly for shooters with smaller hands and more CCW-friendly due to that thinner grip frame. At 22 ounces, it’s also one ounce lighter than its double-stack brother, which may not sound like much, but when you’re carrying on a full-time basis, every little bit of weight saving helps. The barrel length and overall length are the same as the Model 84.
Personal Shooting Impressions
My firing experience with the Beretta 85F goes way back to June 1990, a couple of weeks shy of my middle school graduation. A friend of mine – who also happened to own two AR-15s back when you could still legally own those things in California – brought his little Beretta .380 for a range outing at an outdoor range in Santa Clarita, Calif. with the highly original and creative name of A Place To Shoot.
We ended up using the pistol on steel silhouette targets rather than paper ones, so I won’t be able to give you a report on group size, headshot vs torso shot scores, and that sort of in-depth analysis I typically provide in my live-fire range reports. But I can tell you that the targets were at a distance of 25 yards, and even though at that point in my life I had less than a year of shooting experience under my belt and therefore my marksmanship skills were nowhere nearly as honed as they would be in my military and law enforcement days, far more often than not I received positive auditory feedback – technically known as “clang” – affirming that I was indeed firing the pistol accurately. Felt recoil and trigger pull were quite pleasant, and the reliability was flawless.
Other Shooters’ Impressions
Back in March 2019, Brad Miller, Ph.D. of Shooting Times Magazine, conducted a thorough accuracy test of the Model 84FS; it averaged out to 4.5 inches for five-shot groups at 25 yards, which isn’t exactly tack-driving accuracy but is more than sufficient to strike a human target in the chest at that distance. Brad’s best single group measured 1.55 inches – which is impressive for any handgun, let alone a pocket pistol – and was attained with Speer 90-grain Gold Dot factory-loaded ammunition.
Meanwhile, in order to test the Cheetah’s practical accuracy and ability to perform under pressure more intense than the static range environment, “redmenace109,” author of the Pro-Gun Millennial blog, decided to use his Model 85F along with his actual carry gear in an International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA) match. Now, for those of you not familiar with IDPA, it’s definitely not intended for “mouse guns.” That said, redmenace109 reported thusly: “I finished 26th out of 76 shooters despite my equipment handicap and deliberately taking penalties on the one stage with movement. Not bad for a little pocket pistol.”
Want Your Own?
Beretta discontinued the 84FS and 85FS back in 2017, but they still have a current double-stack .380 iteration of the Cheetah designated the 80X Cheetah, the manufacturer lists a current MSRP of $799.00 USD. Meanwhile, Gunbroker.Com listed used Model 84s for as low as $290.00 and used Model 85s for as low as $281.00 if you act fast in putting in your bid.
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Christian D. Orr has 33 years of shooting experience, starting at the tender age of 14. His marksmanship accomplishments include: the Air Force Small Arms Ribbon w/one device (for M16A2 rifle and M9 pistol); Pistol Expert Ratings from U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) Criminal Investigator Training Program (CITP); multiple medals and trophies via the Glock Sport Shooting Foundation (GSSF) and the Nevada Police & Fires Games (NPAF). Chris has been an NRA Certified Basic Pistol Instructor since 2011.