I never thought there would be a year when the old tip-up-style barrels would be making such waves. It’s the end of 2023, and we’ve seen a rise in the number of tip-up guns. Beretta released a few new models, or at least a few new SKUs involving different finishes and the new covert series. Girsan released some copies of the old Cheetah models in .380 with tip-up barrels. My favorite was Langdon Tactical making good on an April Fool’s joke of creating an optics-ready 3032 Tomcat.
Sadly, in the midst of all this good news, there was some bad news. Even though Beretta threw some force behind the Tip-Up guns, they’ve decided to discontinue the series. They announced that 2023 would be the last year of the tip-up guns. Why? Well, to be fair, they are outclassed by the modern era of pocket pistols. Plus, the modern world of concealed carry pistols is dominated by micro-compacts.
I’m a fan of the tip-up guns. I own four of them. I have two Tomcats, a Bobcat and a Minx. While I love the guns, and I’d love to see the idea explored and perfected, it’s admittedly a tough sale.
The History of the Tip-Up Guns
Beretta has a long history of producing micro-sized handguns, starting in the early 1900s. Guns like the M1915 would inspire their creation, and the M1934 and M1935 established the small gun design of the Beretta. In 1952, Beretta produced the first Tip-Up design, the Beretta 950, which came in .25 ACP and .22 Short. The .25 ACP was known as the Jetfire, and the .22 Short was called the Minx.
These little pistols were aimed at being concealable and pocket-sized. The tip-up barrel design offered a few advantages. If you’ve ever handled one of these little guns, the slides are incredibly small and tough to operate with your hands. Allow your hands to get a little sweaty, and operating these slides becomes pretty tough.
The barrel pops up and makes the chamber easy to access. A user could manually load a round in the chamber without ever operating the slide. The tip-up design necessitates a blowback action and eliminates the ability to mount an extractor. The cases are ejected purely by blowback operation.
The 950 series were single-action, hammer fire guns. The original had no safety, but later, a 950BS model integrated a frame-mounted safety into the design. While they predated the 92 series, most people will be familiar with the open slide and exposed barrel design that screams Beretta. The 950BS was produced until 2003.
The New Generation of Tip-Up Guns
The Beretta Cheetah series could be seen as an advancement of the Beretta Tip-ups. They are blowback-operated guns chambered in .32 ACP and .380 ACP. There are several models of the 80 series, and the model 86 featured the tip-up barrel design. It was only available in .380 ACP.
In 1984, Beretta introduced the 21A, which would known as the Bobcat. The Bobcat is a little different than the 950 series. It’s a DA/SA gun and chambers the .22LR cartridge. It maintains the overall design of the 950 in terms of tip-up barrel and general operation.
In 1996, Beretta upped the ante to the .32 ACP with the Beretta 3032, aka the Tomcat. This might be the most effective and prominent of the tip-up guns and the only one I’d carry for self-defense. Like the 21A, it used a DA/SA design, a safety, and a tip-up barrel design.
Thoughts On The Tip-Up Guns
I adore the tip-up guns, and I like shooting them. They are neat and certainly novel. I own several of them for a reason. Still, if you asked me, should I get the Beretta 21A or 3032 before they are fully out of production? I would pause and have to ask questions. If it’s for collecting and owning a neat pistol before it’s gone? Sure.
If you ask me, should I buy a tip-up gun for self-defense? I’d say no. What about for plinking? No, not unless you don’t mind being a little frustrated. Of the four I own, my favorite is the Minx in .22 Short. The .22 Short is a blast to shoot, downright cute, and surprisingly reliable.
The 21A is one of the most maintenance-heavy, ammo-picky, and use-picky guns I’ve ever owned. Ammo pickiness is a pretty normal affair with .22LR pistols, but this one is really picky. It’s Velocitors or Punch, or nothing. Even then, it doesn’t always run reliably. If your hand is too high, it gets a bit of slide bite, which interrupts the function of the pistol. If you hold the gun too tight, it affects the function of the pistol. When the fun fails to extract, it requires a good two minutes to fix.
The 3032 is much more reliable. However, it does have some nasty slide bite to it. It will cut you across the hand nicely. Oh, and it’s ammo-picky, but in a different way. If you use ammo that exceeds 129 foot-pounds (IE, the good stuff), you can crack the frame. Plus, the recoil is surprisingly sharp.
Not For Everyone
The Tip-up guns aren’t for everyone. At least know what you are getting into if you get into one. They are novel and neat, especially if you appreciate micro-sized DA/SA guns like I do. I’m not surprised they are on the way out, but I’m sad to see them go. Now, I just need to get my slide sent to Langdon to attach an optic.