I have recently returned from the range, and before I begin with reviewing the little C&R pistol I just shot, let me tell you it is nice to be shooting at an outdoor range again. With the exception of two ranges (the NRA HQ range and the range at USMA at West Point) I despise with indoor ranges with a fiery burning passion. Anyway, on to the Beretta.
A little history, first. The 1935 Beretta is a .32 ACP blowback operated semi-automatic pistol that was used as the primary sidearm of the Italian Air Force and Navy during WWII and up until the 1951 Beretta was adopted. Functionally, it is exactly the same as its bigger brother, the ’34 Beretta, which is chambered for the larger .380 ACP cartridge. During WWII, the ’35 Beretta was also found with German officers, and was popular with GIs as a capture item, who were fond of its light weight, simplicity, and durability.
I picked mine up off of Gunbroker, and my first impression was very favorable. Mine was manufactured in the 50s, so it’s collector value is low – but I didn’t buy it to have it sit on a shelf. I was also pleasantly surprised to find out that this is the easiest firearm to field-strip that I have ever owned in my life. Drop the mag, lock the slide to the rear, pull the barrel out of the “Beretta” slot in the slide, then unlock the slide and pull it off the front of the weapon. Done. I can literally take it apart and put it back together again in under 20 seconds, it’s that easy.
So, off to the range I went with it. I wasn’t planning on carrying this gun for serious social work, as it’s got a very annoying safety that has to be rotated 180 degrees to bring the weapon into battery; the safety is also in an awkward position to manipulate. At the range I had a box of Speer Gold Dots (20 rounds), and a box of good old Winchester white box (50). All shots were fired at seven yards, due to the rather rudimentary sights on the old gun.
The very first round failed to feed from the magazine, it went nose up. The 50 year old spring was apparently still going strong – good for it. Once I figured out to just load 6 rounds, the gun ran fine on the WWB ammo. Group size at 7 yards isn’t really worth mentioning, however I was able to keep rapid fire strings in the A zone of an IDPA target. The only time the pistol failed to run properly was with the Gold Dots (which is too bad), as the hollowpoint nose would sometimes snag on the ramp. I could fix this if I wanted to carry the gun, but since I’m just going to use it for busting dirt clods on the farm, I’m not too worried.
Ejection was clean and positive; the extractor is located on the top of the pistol so empties would often land in my hair, a mildly disconcerting side effect for someone who shoots mostly revolvers. Recoil was mild to nonexistent, and once I figured out where to put my mitts on the thing, the slide didn’t bite my hand.
All in all, this gun is one of those guns that you don’t really own for any good reason, other than it’s a lot of fun to burn ammo with it. Which, when I think about it is more than reason enough. I did have one thought about the little Beretta, however. Due the fact that it’s very user friendly, accurate, and easy to field-strip, I think with one design tweak (that damn safety), this would make an excellent carry gun. Actually, I’d like to see that. Make the safety more like the type on your 1911s; chamber the pistols in either .32 ACP or .380 ACP and they would sell like hotcakes, I guarantee that. A pistol like that would be able to give the Bersa Thunder a run for its money in the “economy sub-caliber” market.
I’d buy two.