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Gun Review: Beretta 80X Cheetah in .380ACP

Beretta 80X Cheetah (Image courtesy JWT for Shooting News Weekly.)
Beretta 80X Cheetah (Image courtesy JWT for Shooting News Weekly)

The Beretta Cheetah is one of those true cult classics. Originally released in 1976 and chambered in both .32 and .380ACP, the little guns were used by several military and police forces and were included in a wide range of films and TV shows.

Image courtesy JWT for Shooting News Weekly

They were always cool little guns, but as the 9x19mm gained complete dominance, the diminutive .380, much less the .32ACP, fell into disfavor. The new Beretta 80X Cheetah chambered in .380ACP may change all of that.

Unlike most of its predecessors, the 80X isn’t just easy to carry, it’s also easy and fun to shoot. And even though it says “Beretta” on the side, you’re getting a big value in this little gun.

Image courtesy JWT for Shooting News Weekly

The “X” in 80X comes from Beretta’s X-treme Double/Single trigger. If there’s a better DA/SA trigger on the market, I don’t know what it is. It’s a silky smooth pull all the way back, with no grit or stacking at the rear.

Pistol marksmanship is nothing more than keeping your sights aligned with the target until the trigger breaks and the 80X’s double action trigger makes that surprisingly easy. Especially with my first round out in double action, this little gun made me look like a much better marksman than I actually am.

As the average of five pulls from my Lyman digital trigger scale showed, the double action trigger pull measured 6 lbs., 4.4 oz. The single action trigger pull measured 4 lbs., 2.7 oz. The overtravel is user adjustable, with the reset as short as 1mm.

Image courtesy JWT for Shooting News Weekly

The updated 80X Cheetah includes the straight Vertec grip frame. Although the straight grip is often considered more visually appealing, most people shoot an arched rear grip a bit better, as the heel tends to fill the palm and keep the muzzle down in recoil. The straight grip tends to conceal a bit better, though.

The 80X Cheetah’s grip is heavily textured both front and back and the frame includes a short, but wide beavertail. The effect is rock-solid purchase on the little gun, with either a single or double-handed grip.

Image courtesy JWT for Shooting News Weekly

Unlike Beretta’s venerable 92 series so many of us were issued, the 80X Cheetah’s safety is located on both sides of the frame rather than the slide. It’s a two-position safety/decock. There’s no way to carry the pistol with the hammer back and the safety on. As it is, the safety engages, or disengages with a sweep of the firing hand thumb.

Image courtesy JWT for Shooting News Weekly

The front sight is drift-adjustable and has a simple white dot. The rear is a two white dot setup without any adjustments.

One of the interesting features of the new 80X Cheetah is that it comes optic-ready. The rear sight is removed with two screws and the appropriate mounting plate is installed in its place. This particular T&E gun shipped with the “H” plate installed, meaning it will fit the Holosun 407k optic and other identical footprint optics. Other plates can be purchased on the Beretta website for about $40 each.

Image courtesy JWT for Shooting News Weekly

The 80X Cheetah’s frame comes with a two-slot Picatinny accessory rail. Shorter lights, like the TLR7A or the new TLR7X would work well here, but would add significant size to the overall footprint of the gun.

Like the 92 series, the 80X comes apart with a simple takedown lever for easy cleaning and maintenance.

Image courtesy JWT for Shooting News Weekly

In slow fire, the 80X Cheetah performed well. The best shooting round was the least expensive, the Armscor 95gr FMJ, printing 2.2 inches. Right on its heels was the Remington 88gr JHP, at 2.4 inches. The worst performing round was an ancient Tennessee Cartridge 100 gr bullet at an even 3.1 inches, which also printed 2.5 inches lower than the 90gr offerings.

Underwood’s 68gr Xtreme Defender printed at 2.5 inches, and given its proven terminal performance, that’s the round I’d be shooting if I carried a .380ACP. All shooting for group size included five rounds averaged over four shot strings, untimed, off bags at 25 yards.

There were zero issues with reliability. I fired 500 rounds through this review, mostly Armscor’s 95gr FMJs, but also Remington’s 88gr JHPs, Liberty’s Civil Defense 50gr HP, inexpensive PMC 90gr FMJs, Underwood’s 68gr Xtreme Defender, and that those Tennessee Cartridge 100gr FMJs. I experience no issues with any round at any time. In addition, the magazines never failed to lock in with a push or quickly eject.

Image courtesy JWT for Shooting News Weekly

Part of that reliability is the Cheetah’s simple straight blowback design. In a pistol of its size and chambering, that works perfectly. The recoil will be a bit snappier than you might think for a .380ACP, but the upside includes a fast slide and supreme reliability.

Image courtesy JWT for Shooting News Weekly

That simple design, coupled with a great trigger makes shooting the 80X Cheetah a lot of fun. With 13 rounds on hand and low recoil, it’s a fast, fun gun to shoot. I put 360 rounds though this pistol in one brief morning of shooting. It’s not particularly small in the hand, but weighs very little. Beyond comfortable carry, that makes target transitions quick, with fast starts and more importantly, fast stops of the muzzle. It was tons of fun.

Everything about this gun is fast. The magazine well is funneled and the mag release is easy to find and requires no change of the grip to engage. For someone with size-large hands, the slide lock/release also requires no grip change in order to actuate. Reloads are very fast, especially for a smaller gun.

Image courtesy JWT for Shooting News Weekly

The 80X Cheetah also looks like it would cost a lot more than it does. Beretta sent it in a fancy leather case, upping its “elegantly cool” factor a good bit. I’d love to see a threaded barreled version of this gun under an NV capable optic with a small, lightweight suppressor and 100gr subsonic ammunition.

As it is, right out of the box, the 80X Cheetah is a good looking, fast shooting, incredibly fun gun to shoot. It’s very easy to rack, and very easy to reload. The .380ACP isn’t a particularly powerful round, but in a gun that shoots this well and this fast, it may be appropriate for more roles that I would have immediately considered.

Specifications: Model: 80X Cheetah Green

Caliber: .380
Magazine Capacity: 13 +1
Action: Single/Double
Grip Width: 1.06″
Overall Length: 6.8″
Weight Unloaded: 25 oz.
Barrel Length: 3.9″
Overall Height: 4.9″
Overall Width: 1.4″
MSRP: $999.00

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