I’ve always been a fan of Beretta’s Tip-Up barrel designs. There is something admittedly cool about these little guns and their unique designs.
The Tip-Up guns from Beretta go way back, but they weren’t the first. The JO.LO.AR. is often considered the first tip-tup semi-automatic pistol. It was at least the first successful. This handgun was unique for many reasons and, while interesting, didn’t have the staying power of the Beretta designs.
A Tip-up barrel is a specific design often used on small caliber pistols. A small leer allows the barrel to open up on a hinge, almost like a single-shot shotgun. With the barrel tipped upwards, the shooter can then load a round directly into the chamber, close the barrel, and know the gun is ready. Beretta made their first tip-up barrel gun with the 950 Jetfire, and the trend has continued ever since.
Beretta uses this novel barrel design in their pocket pistol lineup. These guns chamber rather weak cartridges like the .32 ACP, .25 ACP, and .22LR, and there was even a .22 Short version of the 950. The small calibers and lower PSI ensure the safety of the design. In larger caliber with greater pressure levels, the tip-up barrel could be a flaw that opens at the wrong time.
Beretta’s famed open-slide design really lends itself well to these guns. It makes the barrel easy to access, and the slide design is already proven successful.
What’s the Purpose of a Tip-Up Barrel?
A tip-up barrel’s main purpose is to allow those with weaker hand strength to easily load the first round into the chamber without having to rack the slide. This makes loading and clearing the gun easy and capable for someone with reduced hand strength. These little pistols use a direct blowback design that requires a heavy recoil spring, and the slide offers barely any purchase on the gun.
Even your average experienced shooter will note how hard the slide can be to pull on one of these little guns. Being able to hit a lever and easily load an extra round into the gun is quite nice. There is an added benefit of being able to easily unload the weapon as well. Constantly unloading a round and reloading it can cause the bullet to seat further back into the case, which can cause reliability issues. That’s not an issue with a tip-up barrel.
The Current Crop of Tip-Up Guns
Beretta remains the king of tip-up pistols and still produces two notable examples. The first is the 21A Bobcat which is a .22LR handgun. It’s simple and a lot of fun to shoot. The 21 Bobcat is the 25 ACP version of the gun, which offers centerfire reliability in the same micro-sized package.
The 3032 Tomcat is another Beretta tip-up that fires the 32 ACP cartridge. If I had to pick one of these three guns for daily carry, I’d choose the 3032. Even though it’s a tiny gun, the little .32 ACP round isn’t hard to shoot, and the recoil tends to be fairly mild for a pocket pistol.
Taurus also makes the PT22 and PT25, which could be mistaken for Beretta clones. They are both tip-up pistols but have some differences. Taurus makes variants with polymer frames or cast aluminum. The hammer is spurless, and the gun is a double-action-only design.
Are these little guns still valid for concealed carry? Sure, they could be used effectively. However, they tend to be a little pricey compared to contemporary pocket pistols. They do have a bit of novelty to them, and collectors do love them. However, with pistols like the Ruge rLite Rack LCP 2 in 22LR being about 25% cheaper, it’s easy to see why one would pick it over the Beretta. Although the 3032 is, one of the few modern production carry guns chambering the .32 ACP.
The tip-up barrel design is for sure a neat one. It does limit you to a specific set of calibers, and the additional complication certainly raises the price of the gun. That being said, it’s tough to beat the cool factor of a tip-up barrel.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine gunner who served with 2nd Bn 2nd Marines for 5 years. He deployed in 2009 to Afghanistan and again in 2011 with the 22nd MEU(SOC) during a record-setting 11 months at sea. Travis has trained with the Romanian Army, the Spanish Marines, the Emirate Marines, and the Afghan National Army.
He serves as an NRA-certified pistol instructor and pursues a variety of firearms-based hobbies.
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1 thought on “The Beretta Tip-Up – Short and Sweet”
I have owned a M21A since the 1970’s. It has been an ultra-reliable (as in NO JAMS EVER with a wide variety of ammo) .22 LR pistol that is surprisingly accurate. In other words, its a typical Beretta. The sights are tiny and hard to see which makes this an up-close and personal point and fire weapon. It is so small that it disappears into almost any pocket. I consider it to be a last-ditch defensive option. Sure the .22 LR is not my preferred self-defense caliber but let me ask you – would you want to be shot with one? On paper the .32 ACP will be more effective but it is also more expensive and harder to find. I have practiced extensively with this pistol and feel relatively proficient which I could not afford to do with another caliber. I will keep this one forever.