Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Beretta 950BS Minx In 22 Short - It's About Time I Do A Critique

What a better way to take a break between firing fairly large sized caliber rifles (.308, 30-30, 35 REM & 300 WIN MAG) than to pull out a tiny pistol with a tiny sting and start blazing away with it. The tiny pistol was my Beretta 950BS and the tiny sting were the CCI 22 Short rounds I was firing through it at the range this past Saturday. I had the pistol there not so much to try it out as I did to try out a new Triple-K after-market magazine I had bought for it. It was not until I picked up that magazine and compared them while getting ready for the range that I realized oof two things about the mag that came with the gun and this new after-market mag - either both of them were aftermarket or Triple-K must have bought out the patent from Beretta and made an almost exact duplicate. I tend to doubt that they made one that close to an original so am guessing my 950BS came with a replacement mag from Triple-K.

Well, as I may or may not have written in my post about my first impressions of the little Beretta, the mag that came with it worked just great. Sadly, the one that I picked up at the Mesquite Rodeo Gun show two weekends ago was a dud. There is no way I can load rounds into properly. One goes in and seems okay but when I tried to get a second round into it, that one would not go in properly. When i looked the mag over with a critical eye, I saw that some indentations on the outside of the mag body near the front left side of the mag's mouth were double indentations as if stuck twice and not aligned properly causing an offset double indentation. The purpose of the indentations seems to be to create nubs (or whatever you would call them) inside the magazine to hold in place a feed ramp inside the magazine; the feed ramp seemingly also continues down the front spine of the mag acting as a bullet nose guide. When I compared the ramp to that on the mag that worked properly, I could plainly see it was set back further from the front of the mag-well than was the one on the working magazine. So, when trying to load the mag, the rounds will not line up properly and even the one (yes only one) that I can get loaded seemingly correctly will not feed out of the mag into the chamber. Not good and it made for a lot more reloading of the one mag that worked. Oh well, I sent an email to the dealer today to see if he will replace it even though he never gave me a receipt nor do I have the packaging since I threw it out on Friday before leaving home on my way to Brendan's in Benton, AR; we hit the range together on Saturday. Time will tell whether he or maybe even triple-K will replace it; I will contact them if the dealer does not send me another.

The bad mag is to the viewers left in each of the two photos.

Okay, that was not so much about the gun as it was about the magazine, so let me get to the pistol itself. The Beretta 950BS Minx is chambered in 22 Short. It comes with a 6 round magazine (at least that is the capacity of the mag that came with mine) and can hold a seventh round in the chamber. This little beast is one of the pop-up barrel types manufactured by Beretta. So, to load or unload one in the chamber you can either do it from the mag by pulling back on the slide and letting it put one into place or you can hit the barrel release allowing the rear of the barrel to pop up and you can manually place a round into the chamber and then push the rear of the barrel back down into a locked position. IThe only point I see to loading that way is that this is a single action pistol and you may not want to load from the mag by pulling the slide back and letting it slam forward because that leaves its external hammer in a cocked position.  Sure, you can always carefully pull the trigger with your thumb on the hammer allowing it to very slowly and gently move into the uncocked position or you can place the safety lever into the safe position which means you would be carrying cocked and locked or you can open the barrel assuring to not let it fly open quickly and eject the round you just pout in in and then drop then carefully drop the hammer with no round and even no chamber in front of the firing pin, or you can load the chamber the way I described by popping up the barrel and manually loading a single round.Which do you think is safer and more practical; take your choice - I prefer to load a round out of the magazine and then safely and very carefully drop the hammer slowly and gently by keeping my thumb on it so it will not fire. 

As for unloading and cycling ammo through it, the Minx does not have an extractor. It operates on blowback and the shell casing is extracted by way of gas pressure and recoil alone. In the even a shell casing ever gets stuck in the chamber, popping up the barrel will give you better access to it to remove it manually. The location of the release for the barrel is on the left side of the slide right about where the mag release wold be positioned in a modern made larger self defense pistol tat does not have the pop-up barrel feature. So where does that leave the magazine release? The mag release is a button positioned within the lower rear portion of the left grip panel (and I think this was the same for the Jetfires as well as best I recall). Depressing it will make a fully loaded magazine fall out of the mag well; however, an empty mag has to be pulled out while depressing the mag release - at least on mine. That may loosen up and it may freely fall out when the mag release is depressed once the release has been used enough.

All in all, I like the Beretta 950BS models of which there were essentially two - the Jetfire and the Minx - with different versions of each over the years such as the non-BS models without safeties and the BS models with safeties. The other main difference in the models was the caliber - the Minx in 22 short and the Jetfire in 25 ACP - probably two of the most useless calibers for self defense or for anything else except maybe shooty goodness kind of fun. I have owned at least three, probably four and maybe even five Beretta 950BS models chambered in 25ACP; I had these while in the Border Patrol and Customs Patrol and carried one in my pocket or boot as a last ditch back-up gun regardless of the less than pea sized caliber. 

I had always wished they would come out with one in 22 Long Rifle but they never did. Instead they came out with a somewhat similar model (pop-up barrel, small size) in 22LR called the Beretta 21A Bobcat (they also make another but larger one in 32ACP). I owned one or two of them as well but despite the fact they were in 22LR, I liked them less than the Jetfire and Minx. The reason for that being that if you take the grips of of a Jetfire Model 950BS in 25 Auto, the gun will function without them. You can also add flat metal grips to the Jetfire allowing it to be more easily concealed in a boot or pocket; one of m supervisors in the Border patrol used to make them out of sheet metal.Anyway, the grips on the model 21A must mesh with the spring that operates its slide. Without the grips in place you can get off one shot and then forget about another loading. I always worried that if I dropped the 21A and cracked one of the grips badly enough, it may have then malfunctioned. At least that is the way it used to be - design changes in one or the other may have changed things for the respective pistols.

Speaking of the grips on the Beretta 950BS - both my Jetfires and now my Minx - had/have what I believe are European style screws securing them in place; that regardless of the fact that my Minx and probably at least some of my Jetfires were made in the USA and not in Italy (where the main Beretta plant is located). European screw heads, at least at one time, have or had very narrow slots in them and thus the great majority of screwdrivers you can find for sale in the US of A do not fit into them. I have some pretty narrowly bladed screwdrivers and they do not fit into the slots on the Minx. This gun was made in Accokeek, MD here in the US (if you consider MD is still part of the USA and not a commie satellite country within our borders). Why they never bothered to changed to screws with a wider slot is beyond me; I know that when I purchased my Beretta 92SB (precursor to the 92F and 92FS pistols) it too came with those screws with the very narrow slots. Some time later, Beretta replaced them for me with the American style with wider slotted screwheads; and Beretta started to manufacture guns, at least in the US, with those wider slotted screws.

You can plainly see the barrel release, the safety switch, the mag release button and tiny size of the 22 Short.
Staying in the area of the grips, the Minx has black plastic grips although the more recently manufactured Beretta 21A that comes with wood grips (and maybe some with plastic grips too). I don't know if the Beretta 950 Minx or 950BS Minx (or the Jetfires in 25 ACP) ever came with wood grips buy my guess is they were probably available. The grips on the older 950 are not interchangeable with those of the 950BS because a cutout had to be placed on those of the 950BS to allow for the travel of the safety switch. The safety is typical of a single action pistol - up to make it safe and down to allow the pistol to be fired.t has a good strong positive click as it goes into either position.It is essentially positioned much like a 1911 safety.

Okay, so much for the idiosyncrasies of the Beretta 950BS Minx. Now as to how it was made and how it functions. This little beauty has a steel slide, barrel, hammer, trigger, trigger guard and magazine; and it has an alloy frame (likely anodized aluminum). I has an external hammer that has three positions - down, half-cock and fully cocked. The fit and finish are excellent. It also has Beretta's pop-up barrel feature. The operation is single action only.

I am happy to say it has functioned flawlessly both times I took it to the range. One odd thing though was that the first time I fired it, it shot a decent sized group the size of my fist, more or less, at 7 yards. This time out that almost respectable rapid fire group size was nowhere to be found. I'd estimate at best, the shots were in an area the size of my open hand and were all to the left of point of aim by several inches. Brendan shot it with the same abysmal result. I tend very much to doubt this was caused by the pistol or by the shooters. I say so for the pistol because it has not been damaged in any way since the last time I fired it and was cleaned well after firing it the first time around and was also cleaned before firing it the second time. As for the shooters being at fault - two with the same results seems unlikely to make it shooter error. Of course, it could have been us. I have to note, those groups were shot while both of us actually tried to use the minuscule sights; I think I'd have been better off just point shooting this thing for how long it took my eyes to acquire the sights. Maybe I only point shot it the first time, I cannot remember. 

If not user error or the fault of the pistol though, the other culprit then is the ammo. While we used the same ammo this time as we did on our first range trip with it - CCI 22 Short HP, 27 grain copper plated - the ammo was not stored well for a few months. In fact, it was stored in much less than desirable conditions inside a non-climate controlled storage shed wherein the temperatures during storage probably reached at least 100 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit almost every day for weeks on end. I have no clue if that could affect a round's accuracy but am guessing it may have been the cause. Another range trip with that ammo and with fresh and different brands of ammo should clue me in to that. 

At best, the Beretta 950BS Minx in 22 Short, for me, is a very concealable, 7 round, last chance desperation back-up gun that I'd probably only fire at a maximum range of 15 yards and that I expect would be used at a range less than that if I ever needed it to defend myself. I'd much prefer to use a 45 or a 9mm for self defense but a mouse gun may be better than no gun at all should my primary carry piece fail or should I for some reason not have it with me and only have the Minx. Other than carry as a last chance hideaway gun, the only other uses I can think of is as a fun plinker or a mouse killer if those tiny critters ever decide to move in and overrun the place. I think it is a gun befitting all three of those situations. No matter what, I like it - no better gift than a gun from my son!

All the best,
Glenn B

A New Life In Texas Deserves...

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Glenn B