(This is a reader-submitted review as part of our gun review contest. See details here.)
By Eugene Hamrick
Going to the local gun shop and looking at the used gun section often ends with me drooling over the SIG SAUER collection that I can’t afford and leaving disappointed. Occasionally I will buy something on the cheap that is unique and fun to shoot at the range, but rarely do I find anything that is applicable to my daily carry needs.
A few months back I walked into my LGS and found a Beretta 950B (also known as Beretta Jetfire or Minx depending on the caliber). My first thought was “what a funny looking mouse gun,” as if someone took a shrink ray to a Beretta 92. After picking up the pistol, checking out its features, and finding out that was nearly 50 years old, the $250 price tag was tempting enough for me to take it home.
Introduced in the 1950’s as a backup gun for law enforcement and a concealed carry gun for civilians, Beretta marketed the 950B as a concealed carry gun, ideal for protection or plinking (depending on whether it was the .25 ACP or .22 model).
The Beretta 950B that I bought was made in Italy and based on the Roman numerals stamped to the frame, it was built in 1968. Having an Italian-made Beretta definitely added to the cool factor of the gun as the Gun Control Act of 1968 eventually led to Beretta moving their manufacturing Maryland. After production started in the U.S., Beretta added an external safety to 950B renaming it the 950BS.
The 950B is a single action only blowback design made of a carbon steel barrel and slide and an aluminum frame. The tip-up barrel design allows for one in the chamber and an 8-round magazine for a total of 9 rounds of .25 ACP, all without having to rack the slide or cock the hammer.
While there is no external safety, the 950B does have a half-cock mechanism to keep the trigger and hammer safely locked while loading and carrying. The lack of an external safety is ideal for left-handed shooters like me that struggle with right-handed design like you see on most 1911s or on the M&P Shield.
Takedown is simple by rotating up the tip-up barrel and then removing the slide from recoil spring attached to the frame.
An ideal backup gun
While I do like the reliability of .25 ACP over a .22 rimfire cartridge, the 950B is not something I would consider a primary CCW given its caliber limitations. There are too many better options on the market from micro .380s to single stack 9MMs, that I would much rather carry my SIG 320 or Honor Guard 9mm for the extra firepower.
The 950B is much more suited as a backup gun to keep in the car or throw in my pocket, particularly when I leave the house in a hurry or a hot summer day has me weary of pressing anything against my skin. This mouse gun disappears in my pocket due to the short height and length, giving it a big advantage in the concealability department.
For being an all metal design, the Beretta 950B is extremely light, weighing just under 10 ounces. The grip is short and has room for two fingers, but it felt right in my hand and I had no issues with getting a good purchase on the gun.
The magazine release is a button on the lower left-hand of the grip; I didn’t have a single issue with the mag release even with my entire palm covering it while shooting.
The tip-up barrel feature makes the gun easy to load for those who lack the hand strength to chamber a round with the slingshot technique. This was an unintended but pleasant surprise at the range as my wife has a form of arthritis that makes it incredible difficult for her to rack the slide on most of our handguns, especially striker-fired ones.
Unlike newer Bobcat 21A and Tomcat 3032 models that feature a DA/SA design, the 950B has a 1911 style trigger. This avoids the trigger trouble that many including myself have with mouse guns where the longer trigger pull can lead to your finger curling around to touch your palm on the other side of the frame.
I have found through trial and error that mouse guns and micro compacts are usually not fun and are sometimes painful to shoot. The trigger on the Ruger LCP and M&P Bodyguard have left my trigger finger hurting for days in the past and I typically do not associate smaller guns with a good time at the range. The 950B is an outlier in this department as I found myself not only having pain-free fun shooting at targets, but running out of ammo and wishing I had more the run through the 48-year-old gun.
Due to the metal construction of the 950B there was no felt recoil; the gun was easy to shoot and fired most rounds with a one-hand grip.
Accuracy on a gun this small is limited by distance and the lack of actual sights (there is a small post in the front). My experience with micro guns has shown me that 10 feet should give you somewhat decent accuracy and anything over 15 yards you should be happy if you hit the target. After putting about 200 rounds through the Beretta 950B I had fairly accurate shots at seven feet off-hand.
Reliability is a strong suit of the gun as I went through 200 rounds of Remington UMC 50 grain with only one FTE. Being a used gun, I do not know how many rounds have been through this 950B in the half decade it has been around, but the fact that it was able to shoot through that many rounds with very little issue given its age is very impressive.
Other than the one FTE, the only other issue I ran into at the range was the occasional slide bite. Being a smaller gun the slide is very close to the top end of the grip meaning if you try to grip the 950B too high, the wedge of your hand or thumb could get pinched. This wasn’t a major issue and only happened a couple times, but I was quick to learn that I shouldn’t grip the tiny gun so high and tight.
The Beretta 950B is a small, reliable, and useful gun that I am glad to have in my collection. It is a piece of history that also stands the test of time showing how firearm engineering stands up over the years.
Accessories are limited to grips and magazines, but grips are widely available and in many different customizable forms given the 950’s 50-year production history.
While difficult to acquire since being discontinued in 2003, the 950 can still be found for sale and at reasonable prices. A quick internet search showed a couple of them in the $300-$350 range in seemingly decent condition. Beretta has replaced the single action model with the slightly beefier .32 ACP Tomcat and .25 ACP Bobcat that are both DA/SA at prices range from $300 to $450. I may at some point getting one of the two to see if I have any affinity towards DA/SA controls. Until then, I am very happy to have stumbled upon this tiny reliable Beretta.
Specifications: Beretta 950B
Chamber: .25 ACP (Also available in .22)
Barrel Length: 2.4”
Weight: 9.8 oz.
Ratings (out of five stars):
Reliability: * * * *
One failure to eject out of 200 rounds, pretty solid considering the age of the gun.
Ergonomics (carry): * * * * 1/2
Other than the hammer, the design is snag-free and disappears in your pocket. The tip-up barrel is great for those with weaker hands. Slide bite may be a concern for those with larger hands.
Ergonomics (shooting): * * * * 1/2
This gun will not win any distance challenges at the range, but for what it is this gun is very accurate within 10 feet.
Customize This: * * *
No sight options available, but the aftermarket on grips is similar to what you see for 1911s. Custom wood grips galore.
Overall: * * * *
For the price paid and concealability, this little Beretta makes an excellent backup-gun. It is worth having this little piece of history around.