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Saturday, June 6, 2009
Beretta 950 BS Jetfire .25 ACP
The .25 ACP single action semi-automatic Beretta 950, once commonly called the Jetfire, was made between 1952 and 2003; it has been replaced by Beretta’s DA/SA model 21 Bobcat. On an old 950 B there is no safety like on the 950 BS (I believe this was a 1968 improvement). Some folks think that the 950 BS is okay to carry cocked-and-locked, something I do not feel comfortable doing with this gun. No, I am not an expert and I cannot cite any specific cases of negligent discharge; I humbly just don’t feel it is a very hygienic practice with this firearm. A pin through the alloy frame keeps the safety intact; I have found that this pin can “drift” on some guns, making the safety overly loose or even non-functional. That aside, I have never been crazy about cocked-and-locked on any pistol other than quality 1911 models.
Although not a firearms instructor, on occasion I do make my guns, my ammo, and myself available to new shooters once they convince me they can understand the safety rules. Usually I will bring five or six handguns to the range, a mix of revolvers and semi-autos in calibers from .22 through .45. At first look and feel, some newbies think the cute Beretta 950 is what they want as an “only gun,” but after firing all of the offerings, most new shooters rank the Jetfire as their least favorite. As an aside, I find most new shooters also don’t like the .45 ACP government model but, strangely, most are usually more accurate with it than with the other centerfire handguns in the mix. Never one to advocate a particular handgun, I do suggest that people are best served by shooting a wide selection of handguns over time so they can make their own decisions; one range session where a half-dozen handguns are sampled is probably not enough. Another humble suggestion is, whenever possible, people should seek training from a professional. Caveat emptor, your local gun store clerk is usually no more of a pro than I am; ask to see credentials.
Risking the wrath of some folks, I will offer that the 950 is not as easy to shoot as it looks to be. Its unconventional design takes a bit of study before it becomes familiar. My guess is that many professional firearm instructors cringe when a student shows up for class carrying a Jetfire. If a round in the chamber misfires, a tap-rack-bang maneuver will only result in a double-feed jam because there is no claw extractor to yank an unfired case from the chamber when racking the slide. To remove an unfired round from the chamber, slide the barrel release lever forward and the barrel will flip up. You can pick the cartridge out with your fingernails if it does not fall free by inverting the gun. Having relatively low recoil and a low level of noise, the 950 usually is not intimidating to most new shooters; they are more likely to develop a flinch from anticipating hammer-bite or the slide-cuts caused from having too high a grip (or from having meaty hands). The sights on the Jetfire are not very good so the instructor may have a challenge getting the student to shoot a qualifying score.
These pistols are available used, in good condition, often for less than $200. The shelves at your local gun store usually will have at least a couple lying around. My guess is that many people bought them new and found that they did not fit the niche they believed they would so they traded them in on something else. Mine has less than 300 rounds put through it over the many years I have owned it. It only comes out of the safe for light range time (empty the two mags, clean and lube the gun, reload), for use as an alternate kit gun, or for self-defense carry around the house when the arthritic pain in my hands has me doubting that I could handle the recoil of anything more substantial.
While searching the different blogs I found nobody spoke in favor of the .25 ACP as a defense load. Of all commercially available centerfire cartridges, the .25 ACP scores the lowest in stopping power. Nothing has yet convinced me that hollowpoints or the hot frangible loads offer much improvement over ball ammo; IMHO, the .25 ACP is just rock bottom no matter how much it is tweaked.