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Review: Beretta 80X Cheetah

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Introduced in 1976, the Beretta Model 84 quickly became a concealed-carry favorite, particularly for 92FS aficionados who were looking to shed some weight. Chambered in .380 ACP, this variant used an uncomplicated blowback-operated firing mechanism and featured all-metal construction, save the pistol stocks. That being said, it earned a reputation for being extraordinarily soft on the wrists and a general joy to shoot.

Sadly, in a world of polymer micro-compacts, this design seemingly faded into obsolescence, and Beretta ceased production in 2017. I would imagine it didn’t take long until the letters started rolling in from unhappy fans looking to add one to their collection. Therefore, its omission from the lineup only lasted approximately six years. In 2023, Beretta realized the hole the company had created and refilled it with a new and improved 84, dubbed the 80X Cheetah.

Beretta 80X Cheetah handgun pistol .380 ACP gun dynamic quarter angle right side on white black metalImage courtesy of Beretta.com.

The phrase “new and improved” is always approached with trepidation, and I treat it like something uttered by a used car salesman. However, if we look at the original through an honest pair of eyes, it did have some issues that needed to be addressed. For starters, it was a defensive firearm that choked on hollow-point ammunition. That makes it a non-starter in my book. Second, like its bigger brother, the grip was far too bulky for most and didn’t make sense on a pistol that was meant to be carried. Lastly, and although I’m not part of it, there is a movement for red-dot optics on concealed-carry pistols. The 80x Cheetah hits all of these issues head-on and, I believe, nailed it across the board.

Beretta 80X Cheetah .380 ACP pistol shown on bullseye targets with magazine and ammunition Freedom Munitions black gun pistol brass cartridges

Let’s begin with the ammunition problem, as that’s naturally my biggest concern. By redesigning the magazine and feed ramp to feature a bit more of a slope, blunted nose projectiles slide freely and make their way into the chamber without a hiccup. Now, this does indeed mean that the 80X is not compatible with 84 magazines, but Beretta ships the gun with a spare, so you don’t have the task of sourcing a backup.

Turning our attention to the grip, the 80X got the same Vertec treatment that proved popular with the 92 family. The straighter angle and thinner profile better fit most hands, and the aggressive texturing to both the front and backstrap are far better for control than the initial serrated pattern. A touch of this still exists. However, it is where the pinky lies, making it less important in this location.

Lastly, the optics-cut slide is going to make a lot of folks happy. Removing a pair of Torx screws reveals this groove, and footprint-specific mounting plates are available directly from Beretta. Frank Melloni, the gun owner, would have liked to see at least one included, but Frank Melloni, the gun writer, understands this only passes down unnecessary costs to those who don’t care for optics, like Frank Melloni.

Beretta 80X Cheetah top view of slide barrel gun parts optic plate sights black metal aluminum steelImage courtesy of Beretta.com.

The safety/decocker on the 80X Cheetah is quite interesting and could get an uneducated user into some trouble. When the hammer is cocked, it appears to have a middle position, distinctly clicking into place when it arrives at the mid-point of the red dot. It’s important to understand that this is not a “cocked and locked” position; it is merely the beginning of the decocking stroke. The pistol will indeed fire in this position. Users are to ride past this until the hammer falls, decocking the firearm and disabling the trigger. Once decocked, this middle position becomes no more, and despite my best efforts, I could not get the selector to rest there with the hammer decocked.

Beretta 80X Cheetah safety decocker lever closeup detail image rear of slide hammer rear sight red dot slide serrations plastic polymer black grip plate screw

Beretta was kind enough to loan me a holster with my test sample, so all I had to do was select ammunition to take this pistol to the range. The battle cry of 9 mm Luger enthusiasts is to the tune of affordable practice fodder; however, if you know where to shop, there is plenty of inexpensive .380 ACP out there, too. Freedom Munitions makes an excellent 100-grain FMJ load that also features a flat point. This is not only cheap to shoot but will help me confirm that Beretta cleaned up the feeding issue with ammo like this. Fiocchi’s latest Hyperformance Defense load was also on the menu, as it features a hollow-point XTP bullet and is crafted specifically for self-defense.

Fiocchi 380 Auto Hyperformance ammunition box shown on bullseye target with loose rounds ammunition cartridges loaded mag resting on top of ammunition box

For your best comfort, I think it’s best to address the 80X Cheetah like a cozy OWB handgun, otherwise, you’ll be disappointed in how it feels tucked inside of a waistband. On my hip, I barely knew it was there as I packed the car, drove to the range and unloaded. I began with a benchrest accuracy test and was stunned at this tiny pistol’s performance.

From a distance of 15 yards, the Freedom Munitions load punched groups as small as 0.64”, while Fiocchi’s defense ammunition grouped as tight as 0.98”. Averages came out to 1.40″ for the Fiocchi and 1.01″ for the Freedom Munitions. This is unheard of performance out of a pistol this small, but the sum of many excellent features made this possible. First, the sights were sharp and clean and zeroed perfectly, I might add. Second, the trigger was everything you would expect from Beretta and more. It broke at a measured 4 lbs., 8 ozs., and featured a relatively straight profile, which will satisfy newcomers and purists alike.

Beretta 80X Cheetah in holster on belt jeans waist black shirt outdoors

Stepping away from the bench for a little bit of movement, I decided to work with the 80X as if I were carrying it. Using the decocker drops the hammer and moves the trigger about halfway back for a faster first-round impact without sacrificing the safety that comes with a heavy trigger. In this mode, I measured a breaking point of 6 lbs., 12 ozs., which is exceptionally light for a double-action press. A snappy reset made for expedited double-taps and touching of rapid pairs was a sheer delight. Altogether, several hundred trouble-free rounds were fired without a single feeding issue, so I feel it’s safe to say they fixed the ammo problem.

Author Frank Melloni standing outdoors in black american flag shirt wearing sunglasses holding Beretta 80X Cheetah 380 ACP pistol

I ended my range day with a little experimentation with the safety halfway engaged. The pistol does indeed fire, but it will not cycle—this is because it blocks the slide from retracting. At first glance, this appears problematic; however, outside of not having the gun decocked when it was holstered (an altogether bigger problem), there are few, if any, instances where this condition would be met organically.

The only one that I could come up with would be if your thumb were pressing up on the lever when you were firing, but after expending more than 100 rounds in an attempt to create this failure, I simply could not. Therefore, I’ll report that the only possible “issue” with this mechanism would be user error, and if that’s the criteria for calling something a poor design, then we need to do the same with every trigger ever created. Beretta is pretty clear about its operation in the manual; all we need to do is read.

Beretta 80X Cheetah pistol left-side view parts disassembled gun slide barrel spring magazine frame shown on white backgroundImage courtesy of Beretta.com.

I’m a sucker for medium-size guns chambered in sub-calibers, so the 80X Cheetah is a hit in my book. I enjoyed the ease of carry and how enjoyable it was on the range. Although today I don’t gravitate toward pistol optics, a day will come when my eyes can no longer pick up iron sights. I think the Vertec grip is Beretta’s best innovation, and I was happy to see it employed on this compact, as it only made it better. As a whole, I think the 80X is an excellent addition to the lineup, once again offering a “miniature 92” to those who enjoy that platform. For more information, visit beretta.com.

Beretta 80X Cheetah pistol shown in clamshell padded carry case with magazine lock keyImage courtesy of Beretta.com.

Beretta 80X Cheetah Specifications
Action Type: double-action, semi-automatic, centerfire pistol
Chambering: .380 ACP
Frame: aluminum
Barrel: 3.9″
Magazine: 13-round detachable box
Overall Length: 6.8″
Height: 4.9″
Width: 1.4″
Weight: 25 ozs. (unloaded)
MSRP: $799

Article by FRANK MELLONI

 

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