Sunday, February 8, 2009

Biweekly Gunshots 2 - The Beretta Jetfire

Okay, the first guns that appeared in this feature were rifles, pretty rugged ones at that and suitable for all sorts of jobs from hunting, to home defense, to possible military or law enforcement use. For the second my Biweekly Gun Shots feature I thought I’d stick with a defensive firearm, but a diminutive one at that. So small in fact that many consider it a waste of metal and plastic as far as self defense goes. I beg to differ, and I can tell you I would depend upon one of them as a last ditch backup piece any day of the week. In fact, I have owned at least 4 (and if I recall right actually 5) of these small pistols.

The pistol to which I am referring is a fine piece of craftsmanship whether you are lucky enough to find one of the Italian made ones, or buy a more current production American made edition of it. It is the Beretta Jetfire (model 950) in .25 caliber. Please do not mistake this small pistol with the Beretta Model 21, it is a significantly different pistol. I am not taking anything away from the model 21, it is a good little pistol. I am, however, saying that I wish Beretta could have manufactured the Jetfire in .22LR (as they did with the model 21) instead of just manufacturing it for .25 and .22 short calibers. The Jetfire in my opinion is a much better made and much better functioning pistol than is the model 21 (and as I said the 21 is a good pistol); but for whatever reason Beretta declined to chamber them in .22LR.

All of the ones I have owned were chambered in .25 caliber as I remember; but I owned my last one many years ago and memory may fail me on that. So, I could have owned one in .22 short but I think not. Yes, I know, the .25 caliber round is considered virtually ineffectual at best and totally useless at worst. Again, I beg to differ. The Beretta Jetfire pistol came with blued steel slide and barrel, a black anodized alloy receiver, and black plastic grips. It was able to hold 9 rounds fully loaded, 1 in the chamber and 8 rounds in the box magazine. They can be loaded via the magazine, or individually by operating the barrel pop up feature and feeding single rounds into the chamber (same as the barrel pop up feature on the 21 series). The sights consist of a small hump front sight, and a groove cut into the top and rear of slide. It was single action only pistol and could be carried cocked and locked, though I usually carried mine in a pocket with hammer down on a live chamber. Mind you not the safest way to carry this little pistol as it had an inertia firing pin, but safe enough for me at the time, and safer than with it cocked and locked. With its small size it fit very nicely into a pants pocket, or into a boot holster. In fact it was easy to conceal almost anywhere on the body. I knew one supervisory Border Patrol Agent who had one and carried it exclusively in his boot as a backup weapon. To that end he removed the plastic grips and replaced them with sheet metal grips of his own making. He just cut out two pieces of sheet metal with the same perimeter as the grips and drilled in some screw holes slightly counter sunk. They made it all the more concealable because the grip are was now thinner and flatter. NOTE: Never try this with a model 21 series pistol from Beretta. The Model 21 I owned had its recoil spring set under the grips, and that spring was dependent upon the grips on each side for holding the springs in place. In fact, I do not even recommend this modification with a Jetfire even though the design back then did not make the recoil spring dependent upon the grips.

As for being easy on the draw, it was quite easy to draw from a pocket, or a holster, or a boot, or a handbag, or wherever due to its small size. Once it hand all the controls such as the thumb safety, the barrel release, or the hammer were easy to find and operate. The trigger was smooth and crisp on all of the ones I owned. As for accuracy it was pretty accurate and I could easily place shots, using the sights, into center mass on a man sized silhouette at up to 15 yards. I was able to do the same at 25 yards to, but it was not as easy as at 15 yards. At 7 yards or less it was a point and shoot type of pistol, and for me it always hit that at which I had pointed it.

If the Jetfire been chambered in .22LR, it would have been a much more fun gun to shoot. The .25 caliber rounds are centerfire ammunition and therefore are quite expensive. As for the Jetfire in .22 short, while the ammo was not as expensive as .25, it was at least two to three times as expensive as was .22LR. Despite the ammunition, this is a well made little pistol that is good for a last ditch effort pocket gun. It is made well, and stands up to a lot of abuse but what else would expect from Beretta! As for me having owned 4 or 5 of them, I wound up selling at least two maybe three because I wanted to buy something bigger. Then I wanted something smaller and got another each time. Two other ones – well they succumbed to corrosion, but that was to be expected considering the conditions. One was a constant companion pocket gun in the sweltering heat of Calexico, CA and it got both soaked with perspiration and covered with salt from salt cedars. After a while (about 2 years of that), no matter how often I cleaned it and oiled it, it gave way to some surface rust. I liked the pistol more than enough to promptly buy another. My last Jetfire was in my pocket when on a detail to Key Largo, FL when we loaded bale after bale of seized marijuana onto a boat. First we had to carry it through the water to get it back to the boat from the mangrove swamp in which it had been dropped off. Did I neglect to mention it was saltwater. I forgot it was in my pocket and many hours later (about 10 or 12) finally remembered it. Oh well! Even had that one been stainless steel, it probably would have corroded quite a bit. As I said though great little pistols, I would have another anytime and hopefully not put them through as much abuse as I did some of my previous ones.

All the best,
Glenn B