By Bob Campbell,
There are certain handguns that have great appeal based on size, weight, handling and quality of manufacture. A very few have a reputation that precedes them. Such is the Beretta 84 pistol.
The Beretta 84 is a stand out in a world filled with miniature .380 ACP handguns. The Beretta is a full-sized handgun for the caliber, but compact and light compared to service grade handguns. The Beretta features flawless reliability that smaller handguns in the caliber cannot claim. Accuracy potential in trained hands is superb.
The Beretta isn’t a backup gun, but it is concealable with a minimum of effort and with the choice of a proper concealment holster. The pistol’s primary asset is Beretta quality and excellent reliability. The pistol resembles the full size service grade Beretta 92 but it is far from a miniature Beretta 92. Other than the family appearance the two have little in common. Compared to smaller .380 ACP pistols the Beretta 84 features a longer sight radius, a larger grip, greater magazine capacity, and less recoil. While the power of the .380 ACP as a defensive cartridge leaves something to be desired, when the pistol is examined as a package it is very attractive.
Our pistol is an import that once served with a Middle Eastern police agency. The pistol’s stainless slide contrasts with an anodized frame. The Model 84 features plastic grips. The pistol is a blowback action. The slide simply recoils off of the barrel on firing in contrast to the larger service grade Beretta locked breech type handguns. In the locked breech system, the slide and barrel remain locked in recoil until the pressure in the barrel has abated after firing. For a cartridge of the modest power of the .380 ACP this is acceptable. The slide is steel and the frame is a weight saving aluminum alloy. The Beretta weighs a light but solid feeling 25 ounces.
When handling the Beretta one thing is obvious—there are no sharp edges. The pistol is very smooth. The safety of this version does not allow decocking. The safety may be placed on with the hammer down or with the hammer completely to the rear, allowing cocked and locked carry. (Cocked and locked—hammer to the rear, safety on.) This is an interesting variation on the Beretta 84. I think the real advantage of this safety is that after you fire the first shot in double-action mode, the pistol may be quickly placed on safe during tactical movement.
Unlike other Beretta 84 pistols this example will fire without the magazine in place. This is an important variation—no decocker, no magazine safety—and this must be understood for safe operation. The two magazines supplied with the pistol each held thirteen rounds of ammunition, with witness holes at steps in the loading process.
The Model 84 is a first shot double-action design. A long press of the trigger both cocks and drops the hammer. After the first shot the slide recoils and cocks the hammer for subsequent single-action fire with a short press of the trigger. The trigger face is .350 inch wide. The rowel-type hammer is .250 inch wide. The trigger incorporates a trigger stop into the design. When you have fired the pistol and wish to lower the hammer, since this variant does not feature a decocker operation, the hammer must be manually lowered by pressing the trigger while controlling the hammer. The double-action first shot breaks at approximately twelve pounds. The single-action trigger is a crisp four and one quarter pounds with no creep or backlash. The safety is positive in operation. The slide lock is small, sized correctly for this pistol, and requires concentration to operate properly. The black plastic grips offer sufficient abrasion for a good grip when firing. The grip shape and the smooth S-curve of the backstrap offer a good hand fit for most shooters. The trigger reach is ideal for most hand sizes.
Despite a thirteen round magazine the pistol was not oversize for most hand sizes. The sights are good examples of sights designed for personal defense. However, since they are all stainless and practically white in bright light it would be advisable to enamel the sights for greater visibility in all light conditions. The barrel crown is well done and in all particulars the pistol exhibits excellent quality fit and finish.
In loading the magazines a standard drill for handling high capacity magazines was followed. The magazines were loaded with three to four rounds and the magazine was tapped on the boot heel to ensure that all cartridges were properly seated. When this procedure is followed double column magazines will exhibit enhanced reliability. The pistol was lubricated lightly and the magazines loaded for range testing. Initial testing was undertaken with the Black Hills Ammunition 100-grain FMJ load. This load uses a slightly heavier bullet than the 95-grain FMJ commonly found in .380 ACP ammunition. This provides more momentum and greater functionality, in my opinion. The pistol proved completely reliable in firing one hundred of these cartridges. Results on human-sized targets during rapid drills at 5-, 7- and 10-yards were excellent. The pistol is controllable, fast to a rapid first shot hit, and easily kept on target for multiple shots. One of the magazines sometimes failed to lock the slide open on the last shot, which is understandable considering the pistol has at least a decade of service behind it. Any used pistol should have the magazines inspected and the magazine springs or magazines replaced with new ones. (Brownells.com is the best source I have found.)
The pistol is an ideal size, controllable, and accurate in rapid fire. The sole shortcoming of the Beretta 84 is wound potential. Beretta set out to manufacture the best possible handgun in a popular size and caliber and they have succeeded. The piece demands careful ammunition selection for viable use in personal defense. I tested the Black Hills Ammunition 90-grain JHP, the Hornady 90-grain FTX, the Hornady 90-grain XTP and the Federal Cartridge 99-grain HST. All of these loads gave good feed reliability. The Beretta 84 isn’t a pistol that is finicky concerning ammunition selection but a reliable handgun that demonstrates good accuracy with quality ammunition. Recoil isn’t a factor.
In testing for accuracy the pistol was fired off of a solid bench rest with every effort taken to maximize accuracy. The range was fifteen yards. Two five-shot groups were fired for accuracy with five loadings. The results were excellent. No groups strayed over two inches but the average of two five-shot groups for the Hornady FTX (Critical Defense) load was 1.1 inch. This would be good performance for a full-sized service handgun. While there are smaller .380 ACP pistols, the Beretta 84 is more accurate than any of these I am aware of and more reliable than most as well.
Where does the Beretta fit in? With a fourteen round capacity, with the magazines fully loaded and a round in the chamber, the pistol has a good ammunition reserve. It fits most hands well, the action is smooth in operation, and the piece conceals easily. Ergonomics are outstanding. The pistol gives the owner considerablepride of ownership yet the Beretta is affordable. For those that shoot straight and pay attention to detail the Beretta 84 is a credible choice.