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Beretta Cougar 

Specifically this is a Beretta Mini Cougar .45.  I sent off to Anchorage Alaska for it, and it took forever and a day to get here.  The Cougar is now safe and sound here at home.  At the gun shop where I had it transferred through, I inspected the little pistol while the clerk handled the paperwork.  I had the initial impression that I had made a huge mistake. 

This Cougar was the worse feeling Beretta I had ever encountered.  I shook my head, but took the gun home.  Once home I immediately stripped the gun down.  Inside, the gun was not just bone dry, but fouled with carbon like the inside of an M-16ís bolt carrier.  No wonder it felt like shit. 

Once I got the gunk scraped out, inspected and lubed properly with FP-10, the gun felt like a real honest to goodness Beretta.  The barrel was absolutely filthy.  I donít think this Cougar has ever been cleaned.

The previous owner of this unit was rough on her, abused and neglected her.  The owner must have been a rough cop or just a filthy slob.  She needed some love.  Luckily she cleaned up real nice.  There are some scarsÖ I canít do anything about that.  We all have our scars.  But the overall package is very nice. 

Sheís a hot little Italian, curvy and sexy.  Feels good in the hands.  Handles very well for the subcompact frame.  Points naturally.  Iíve yet to shoot it.  I donít have time to do so today, dang it!  Maybe tomorrow morning. 

The gun is an odd unit thanks to the rotating barrel and a closed slide... but the gun is all Beretta inside and out.  Many things are very similar to the 92 series and I instantly felt right at home with it.  The controls are all easily reached and well placed.  I don't see any problems that way.  Some say the Beretta 92 series is just too big.  I disagree.  I don't think many people that slam the 92 for that would say anything about the Cougar.  I don't think it's too big at all.

The muzzle end is monolithic, brutal, and unyielding in it's appearance... but that's the business end of it.  From the operators perspective the gun looks dead sexy.  The sights are functional, but nothing special.  I am thinking of getting some Express 24-7 sights for it... and some wood grips would be nice too.  The factory plastics are too cheap for such a fine Italian... Like vinyl seats in your Ferrari. 

I'm packing the Cougar in my ten dollar belt slide holster I got 6 to 8 years ago, and it fits perfectly in it.  Not only that, but it conceals very well too.  I think many people have the impression that Berettas are more bulky than they really are.  The guns thickness isn't really a problem at all, and thanks to the Mini Cougar's short grip, printing is not a concern at all.  I'll review this gun more after I spend some more quality time with her.

For those wondering about the ammo, I picked up a box of CCI Blazers when I paid for the transfer fee.  The Blazers are not reloadable and for that reason some people scoff at it.  However during some ammunition testing, Blazers were found to be the most consistent ammunition shot per shot.  It might be cheap, but it's excellent quality.  Not only that, but it has very good energy levels.   I have some other ammunition I will test with it... some 230gr JHPs from a couple different makers, Triton, Federal, some reloads... But this 3.6 inch barrel is making me thinking about using 200 grain loads instead.

I only shot 120 rounds of various loads... but most of them were 230 grain Blazers. Fed and fired all with no problem. Even with mixed mags. Slide even locked back every time. No fault at all in any function. 

Notice how my pinky finger is under the bottom of the mag?  This doesn't necessarily mean the gun is hard to control.  Far from it.  You can get a nice solid grip on it still.  Look at my thumb.  No problem getting to the mag release, slide release, or the safety.  It's very ergonomic and feels very good. 

Accuracy was Minute of Coke Bottle, all the way out past 15 yards easily.  I didn't shot for groups to measure... I had no way of doing that given only flat desert and a few soda bottles. However I have a feeling that this Cougar will group very well. 20 Ounce bottles out to where they are getting hard to see in the snow makes for a challenging target, especially when they are clear and you've blasted the red label off. Yet this Cougar hunted them easily.

Sights are dead bang on. Point of aim, point of impact with everything. Of course they were all 230 grain loads, so the energies were all pretty similar.   I'll have to take this to a range where I can bench it and really see how accurate it is... but it has already made a good showing in my opinion. 

The recoil felt different from other .45's. Kinda softer... same .45 push... but the recoil pulse felt different. Like it had a shock buffer in it or something. I get the impression it could handle +P's with no problem. The recoil spring feels heavy... 23 pounds maybe?  Not much of a testing... but I was strapped for time.

The magazines... The flush fit mag (pictured) holds 6 rounds, so you can roll 6+1.  The full size mags hold 8, giving you 9 rounds in the gun and a full hand grip to work with.  This is the only downside to the gun. Looking at the mags, there has got to be a way to get these things to hold more rounds. I mean heck, there are other guns with mags the same size that hold 10. This weird (perhaps retarded is the technically correct word) magazine issue puts the gun in a direct comparison with the SIG P245 because of the capacity. No one really slams the SIG for it's capacity, so perhaps it's unfair to hold this against the Beretta... but the Cougar really should be able to hold more rounds. I think this is what has made the Cougars a slower selling item here in the US.

I think a full sized Cougar would make one hell of a good duty weapon for a law enforcement agency that is currently using the 92 series and is wanting to go with a .45.  It's just like the 92 in it's feel and function so no retraining would be required... and it has the three things you want in a duty gun.  Accuracy, Reliability, and Authority.

Here is a link to the Ownerís Manual PDF.

Article written for Concealed Carry Magazine:

Iím of the opinion that no clothes feel better than my old faded blue jeans.  When I pull them on, they donít just fit, but feel like they are a part of me.  Through the belt loops I slip my Ted Blocker gun belt and my old leather belt-slide holster.  Into that holster goes my handgun.  When the handgun first slid into the holster, it was like pulling on my favorite old pair of jeans.  It felt right at home. 

The pistol that Iím wearing now was acquired through trade from a joint called ďGun RunnersĒ up in Anchorage Alaska.  It is a .45 caliber Beretta 8045 Mini Cougar.  The Mini is simply a Cougar with the grip frame cut short.  It retains the same length barrel and slide as the regular Cougar, but itís just easier to conceal.   Most handguns out there made for concealment are all just short barreled, and thatís fine for making the gun easier to carry.  But a short barrel alone does nothing for the weaponís concealability.  When you carry a handgun concealed under a shirt or jacket, what part is most likely to print and is most likely to be noticeable?  Itís the grip.  Shortening that grip makes the gun that much easier to conceal because there is that much less grip to print and give you away.  

Selecting this chopped down Beretta was easy.  Not too long ago I fell in love the Beretta 92FS.  This was kind of like one time when I used to fight with this girl who I hated, and who mutually hated me and one day all the sudden we both realized at the same time we were head over heals for each other.  I never liked the 92 series.  I thought they were too big for a 9MM and the worst sin of all in my mind was that it had a slide mounted safety.  I couldnít stand the 92s.  One day I was shopping for a high capacity 9MM for 3-Gun competition, and I was aiming for a Browning High Power.  At my favorite gunshop I noticed that the guy behind the counter kept making furtive and suspicious motions in an effort to cover up a certain pistol.  It was a Beretta and he confessed to trying to hide it on purpose to keep it from getting sold because he wanted it.  Of course I had to ask to see it.  For some reason as soon as I held it in my hands I knew I had found the gun I was shopping for.  Suddenly everything I hated about Berettas just melted away and I was head over heals crazy about it.

After running with this Beretta 92FS for awhile I came to the conclusion that while attractive and fun, it just wasnít a gun that I could live with every day.  It had two faults that eventually began to trouble me.  For one thing, it was just too big for every day carry.  On top of that it was a 9MM and I just simply prefer a bigger caliber.  Fortunately for me, the 92FS has a sister.  This sister pistol has all the Beretta genetic traits that I grown fond of, and in my preferred caliber. 

I have heard a lot of talk about Berettas being too heavy to carry well.  This is hogwash.  Weight in a handgun is not an issue, even for all day carry.  If your handgun is ďtoo heavyĒ for you, there are two solutions.  One is to hit the gym more often.  Itís a handgun for crying out loud, and not an M1 Garand that you have to carry from Anzio to Berlin.  Two, is that you are wearing the wrong belt and holster.  The belt and holster discussion is a whole other topic for another day.  The fact of the matter is that the Cougar is not too heavy for carry, not by a long shot.  At 30 ounces, it is heavier than other pistols frequently used for daily carry, but this weight has a very specific advantage. 

We carry handguns for a very specific reason, Iím not going to beat around the bush about thisÖ we donít carry them as a status symbol like the jeweled handled flintlock pistols of old.  These days our guns are carried concealed, hidden under wraps and tucked deep to keep it secret.  The reason for this is to have a weapon on us when our hour of need arrives.  There is no romantic way of putting itÖ we carry a handgun so we can shoot it.  A heavier handgun is easier to shoot, and we could all use more time at the range shooting.  The more practice we get shooting with our carry guns, the better we are with them.  The better we are with them, the better our chances of surviving a hostile encounter, and that is why we carry concealed in the first place.

The Mini Cougar is a shooter, without a doubt.  What some people would call overweight yields a great deal of pleasure when you make it to the range.  The shortened grip allows me to only put two fingers around it.   Thanks to the weight, shooting even stout .45 loads is no problem.  There is another reason for this shootability, and that is the Cougarís unique rotating action.  Most handguns use a modified Browning action, where the barrel tilts as the slide moves back to unlock.  In the Cougar, as the slide moves back from recoil, the barrel rotates to unlock.  This system has been used in the past, and the only other gun that I know of in current production is the Mauser M2 pistol.  Now, I canít put my finger on it, but it feels like this twisting action absorbs more recoil energy than a simple straight tilt, thus giving the pistol a slightly ďsofterĒ feel.  What ever it is, this twisted little gun is a very pleasurable pistol to shoot.                                     

While shooting, I was very impressed by this gunís consistent accuracy with all loads I ran through it.  However I noticed a preference in this gun for Winchesterís Super X brand of 185 grain Silver Tip hollow points.  These rounds are now my duty loads until I find something else that impresses me more.  Most loads ran under two inches, with the worst being yellow boxed UMC that ran at just under three.   All firing was done freehand, standing, in cold weather, while it was snowing.  (I also had to hike two miles up hill both ways to just reload the magazines) I suspect that if I were to benchrest this pistol, I might find an even greater degree of accuracy.  Unfortunately benchrest accuracy is a different animal than practical accuracy.  Practical accuracy is what you can get out of the gun after many variables such as sights and trigger and comfortable shooting grip.  These variables can be overcome while benching it.  Since defensive situations where handguns are deployed are rarely at a shooting bench, such testing is moot. 

The Mini Cougar comes with two magazines. One is a flush fitting 6 round magazine and the other is a longer 8 round magazine. The longer mag is a standard 8045 Cougar magazine and it sticks a good Ĺ inch out the bottom of the grip.  My first impression was that this bothered me. However after mulling it over in my mind, I came to the conclusion that this doesnít matter one bit.  You see, once you draw from concealment, engage a threat, and have to reload, you will appreciate both the higher round count and the better grip obtained thanks to the full length mag and spacer.  Concealment at this point is moot.  I am pretty sure that everyone will be aware youíre armed at this point.

The vogue these days in automatics is to have a huge ejection port in the slide.  SIG, Ruger, Glock, Springfield XDísÖ they all have ports large enough to eject empty beer cans out of.  These oversize ports are really not needed, and are almost exaggerated.  Of course some of these guns also use that port as a means of facilitating lock up.  In the Cougar the port is much smaller.  It is big enough to eject a live round through, but itís not fashionably super sized.

The reliability in this gun is excellent.  Iíve yet to experience any stoppage in it at all, even with the cheap UMC ammo that can gum up almost any gun. 

Take down is simple and straight forward.  It takes down in similar fashion to the 92 series pistols.  The only difference internally is that the recoil spring and guide rod go through a curious block that the gun uses to facilitate the barrelís rotation.  An arrow points the block in the right direction for reassembly.  For lubrication I have been using FP-10 as I have been having good results with it in other guns as well.  This rotary action doesnít seem to require any special care or feeding. 

As good as the Mini Cougar is, itís not perfect.  I have two complaints that Beretta USA will quickly put into the Round File.  First off, the grip panels extend past the bottom of the frame.  These panels match up nicely with magazine base plates Ė but with the magazine removed, it leaves a couple rather sharp edges.  Nothing to really worry about, but it is something that I might have to break out my Dremmel to work on.  The other issue I have is the magazines.  These 6 round flush fitting magazines should really be able to fit at least 8 rounds.  Looking at other compact .45ís similarly sized, they hold more rounds. Such as the Taurus PT145 or the now discontinued Charles Daly DDA the Cougar even without the longer magazine should be able to carry a load of 8+1.  

The Mini Cougar has a fairly small peer group of other .45 caliber double action compacts.  The SIG P245, Taurus PT145, Witness Compact.45 are examples.  In this small group the Mini Cougar really stands out in terms of refinement and style.  Accurate, reliable, feels good in the hand, ergonomic, and easy to shoot well.   The Mini Cougar is an excellent choice for a Concealed Carry Weapon.  For some reason the gun remains very under rated and it gets very little press or discussion, this is why I elected to review it for Concealed Carry Magazine.


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Copyright G H Hill 1999-2012


The 4 Rules of Firearms Safety:

1.  Handle all firearms as if they were loaded.

2.  Never point the gun at anything your not willing to destroy.

3.  Keep your finger off the trigger and out of the trigger guard until you have made the decision to fire the weapon.

4.  Know your target, and know what is beyond the target.

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