In a sea of plastic mouse guns, the decidedly old school Beretta Tomcat stands out with its Inox (aka “stainless steel” for those who don’t speak fluent Beretta) slide and forged aluminum frame. While this makes it thicker and heavier than a modern injection molded pocket pistol, it pays dividends elsewhere. In fact, the 3032 Tomcat has a few unique features that make for a very good deep concealment piece.
Diminutive in size, the Tomcat is just 3.7″ tall and 4.92″ long. It’s small enough to stash just about anywhere as long as there’s room for its thick-by-modern-standards 1.1″ width. Despite the short height, it still holds 7+1 rounds of .32 ACP in a particularly easy-to-load, single-stack magazine.
Unfortunately, it only comes with one of those — possibly the biggest gripe I have with this pistol, actually. On the plus side they’re only $22 on Beretta’s website, so perhaps the review can continue after all.
It may seem silly to some, but the best feature on the Tomcat is its “tip-up” or tilting barrel design. While tiny guns often get recommended to small people — women, those with small hands, older folks, etc. — it’s usually ill-advised. A tiny gun has a tiny slide allowing minimal purchase and typically has a stiff recoil spring.
In fact, semi-automatic pistols in general can be difficult to manipulate for anybody with less grip strength or dexterity. Just ask the guy I bought my HK P7 from; an older gentleman selling off his entire semi-auto pistol collection due to arthritis that made it too difficult to rack a slide.
On the Tomcat, there’s potentially no reason to ever rack the slide. Push the barrel release lever forwards and the barrel pops up, providing full access to the chamber. Simply drop your +1 round into it, click the barrel closed, and you’re good to go.
This whole process can be done with the safety lever engaged, making it safer than chambering a round in most semi-autos. Plus there’s no fear of bullet setback. Heck, it even allows you to clean the chamber, bore, and breech face without disassembling the firearm at all.
Not that disassembly is hard. Simply tilt the barrel forward until it stops, lift the front of the slide up off the frame, then pull the slide forwards off the rear rails. There are no other pieces.
No, seriously. There’s no guide rod or separate recoil spring. On each side of the frame there’s a little tab sticking up above the grip panel. That tab indexes into a slot in the slide. That tab is the tip of a lever that drives the recoil spring, which is hiding inside the grip staying nice and clean.
Heck, there’s no extractor. This straight blowback pocket pistol has few parts in need of servicing and is a cinch to clean and lube. It can be field stripped, cleaned, lubed, and reassembled properly by even the slowest clownshoe bloghole in the land.
Or just don’t clean it. Mine went 250 rounds straight out of the box running like a champ until I decided it was too filthy to look at and wiped it down. Barrel up, slide off, wipe wipe with some CLP, and back together fast enough to make a NASCAR pit team blush.
Two thumbs up for Tomcat usability, then. Any old crippled midget could load and maintain it and, thanks to the relatively wide, metal frame and .32 ACP chambering, comfortably shoot it, too. The Tomcat is an absolute pussycat on recoil. A declawed, sedated pussycat. Oooh she shoots soft for her size.
She shoots pretty straight, too. At 7 yards shooting offhand, I was circling around the 1″, 5-shot group mark (red bull is 0.75″ on these targets). During rapid fire, the Tomcat stayed on target and outperformed my expectations with its very solid practical accuracy.
That’s not to say shooting this little gun accurately isn’t without its challenges, though. A pocket pistol should be generally rounded and snag-free, which the Tomcat is. Even its teeny little sights get the low-pro, low-snag treatment. Great for carry and for drawing from a holster, but not so good for bullseye competition.
Again though, I was surprised by how well it shot in practice. The raw stainless steel finish of the front sight — an integral part of the barrel, by the way — stands out enough in the all-black rear sight that picking it up was easy. Combined with the low recoil, the Tomcat was a cinch to keep right on target.
Then again, the aforementioned (in what I can only assume was a gun review “first”) crippled midget could run into issues staying on target while pulling the Tomcat’s trigger. Seen above at top is the trigger position with the hammer down, ready for a double-action pull, and above at bottom with the hammer cocked for a single-action pull. In both instances the shooter is presented with a relatively heavy, not particularly smooth trigger pull.
Eventually I managed to clamp the lilliputian mohaska into TTAG’s Dvorak TriggerScan to provide y’all with a better idea of exactly what a 3032 Tomcat trigger feels like. In blue above is the graph of a long, gritty double action pull weighing in at a peak of just under 10.5 lbs, and in red is a much better — still significant room for improvement — single action pull of about 5.4 lbs.
Actually, aside from a bit of polishing to remove the roughness and grit, I think these trigger pulls in both weight and travel distance are basically ideal for this type of self-defense pistol.
Also on the topic of safety, when the Tomcat’s manual thumb safety is engaged it blocks the sear, locks the slide, and prevents a decocked hammer — yes, the safety can be engaged with the hammer down — from being fully cocked (though it can be half-cocked). The gun can also be carried cocked-and-locked.
While there is no decocker function, the tip-up barrel design can increase safety here as well. Simply tilt the barrel to move the chambered round out of the danger zone before manually lowering the hammer.
There’s another danger zone right behind the Tomcat, though, in particular for a shooter with dude-sized hands who’s used to gripping a gun nice and high.
I had to consciously hold it lower than my muscle memory dictates, less I wanted a kiss from the slide.
A final, unique note that may warrant some training time is the location of the magazine release. It isn’t in the standard spot just rear of the trigger guard, and it isn’t a European-style heel release, either.
The button finds itself floating somewhere in-between, low and to the rear of the left-side grip panel. I found it best to use my left thumb to press the button while using the rest of my left hand to strip the magazine from the gun.
On the range this tiny pistol feels surprisingly good in the hand. Even a man hand. I think it just may well work for anybody. It certainly shoots soft and straight enough to suit any shooter.
It was completely reliable for me except with the Underwood loads featuring Lehigh’s Xtreme Cavitator projectile (review with gel block results here). Although it would have been nice to see it function without the occasional feeding problem, it’s hard to hold that against the Tomcat considering the very unique bullet design. The pistol fed every other FMJ and hollow-point I got my hands on.
Overall, choosing a metal gun in a polymer age can be about more than nostalgia. The width and mass make it incredibly soft-shooting, and the tip-up barrel design means it’s accessible to shooters of any strength or dexterity level.
Specifications: Beretta 3032 Tomcat Inox
Chambering: .32 ACP
Magazine Capacity: 7+1
Slide & Frame Build: Inox (stainless steel) slide, forged aluminum frame
Trigger Mech: DA/SA hammer-fired
Sights: Metal. Fixed front, drift-adjustable rear
Barrel Length: 2.4 in
Overall Length: 4.92 in
Overall Height: 3.7 in
Weight: 14.5 oz
RATINGS (out of five stars):
Accuracy * * * *
It ain’t an Olympic pistol, but considering the size of the gun and its sights I’m pretty impressed. Especially on the range while shooting in more of a practical style, its accuracy was great.
Reliability * * * *
Other than having some issues feeding the Xtreme Cavitator bullets reliably enough to, well, rely on them beyond dropping one into the chamber as my +1, the Tomcat ran smoothly and confidently. Its simple action works well.
Concealed Carry * * * *
It isn’t as light or as skinny as the polymer .32 options on the market (heck, there’s no shortage of lighter, skinnier .380s), but it’s still a teeny tiny “mouse gun” and it conceals easy as pie.
Ergonomics * * *
Totally fine, just watch out for slide bite.
Customize This * *
Other than replacement parts, there are a couple wood grip options and various holsters, but not much more.
Overall * * * *
The Tomcat is a deep concealment classic and it’s easy to see why. It’s one of the softest-shooting, most accurate little pocket pistols I’ve encountered and the tip-up barrel design is awesome.
[EDIT] The review originally identified both the slide and the frame as stainless steel. This is not the case, and the review has been edited to reflect that the slide is Inox (stainless steel) while the frame is forged aluminum. Apologies for the error. — JS