The Beretta Cheetah, also known by its original model name of “Series 81″, is a line of compact blowback operated semi-automatic pistols designed and manufactured by Beretta of Italy. They were introduced in 1976 and include models in .32 ACP (Models 81 and 82), .380 ACP (9 mm Short) (Models 83, 84, 85 and 86) and .22 LR (Models 87, 87 Target and 89).
These two models are chambered for the .32 ACP cartridge. The 81 has a double stacked magazine with 12 round capacity, while the 82 has a single stacked magazine with 9 round capacity and resultant thinner grips.
Beretta 83, Beretta 84 and Beretta 85
These models are chambered for the .380 ACP (9 mm Short) cartridge. The Beretta 84 has a double stacked magazine with 13 round capacity, while the Beretta 83 and Beretta 85have a single stacked magazine with 7 and 8 round capacity respectively, and resultant thinner grips. The Beretta 84 and Beretta 85 have a 3.81″ barrel, while the 83 has a 4″ barrel.
The model Beretta 86 is also chambered for the .380 ACP (9 mm Short) cartridge, but differs significantly from other models in the series, because Beretta 86 has a redesigned front end with a tip-up barrel that hinges at the muzzle to open the breech. This allows the shooter to load a cartridge directly into the chamber and not have to operate the slide.
There are two distinct Beretta 87 models both chambered for .22 LR. The standard model is similar to other models, but the Beretta 87 Target has a longer barrel and slide, can accept optical sights, and is single action only.
The model 89 is also chambered for the .22 LR and is designed for competition and range training, with a lightweight frame and ergonomic grips.
There are potentially 5 versions for models Beretta 81 through Beretta 87. The features for each version in models Beretta 81, Beretta 82, Beretta 84 and Beretta 85 are consistent between models (i.e., the Beretta 81FS, Beretta 82FS, Beretta 84FS and Beretta 85FS all have similar features). This is not the case with models Beretta 83, Beretta 86, Beretta 87 and Beretta 89, which were not made in all versions.
Base versions (no letter suffix)
Base versions of models Beretta 81 through Beretta 87 are noted for having a rounded trigger guard and generally fewer safety features than subsequent versions. Safety is ambidextrous and frame-mounted. The frame is alloy, the slide is blued steel and the standard grips are wood.
The B versions of models Beretta 81, Beretta 82, Beretta 84 ,and Beretta 85 introduced an automatic firing pin safety, a shorter extractor and grooved front and back straps.
The BB versions of models 81, 82, 84 and 85 have more serrations on the slide, white dot and post sights and other subtle changes.
The F versions of models 81, 82, 84 and 85 introduced the “combat” trigger guard with a squared-off front that allows for a finger hold, plastic grips, a proprietary “Bruniton” finish, a chrome-plated barrel and chamber, and replaced the safety with a decocker, which lowers the hammer when operated. As a result, these pistols cannot be “cocked and locked”.
Current production Beretta models of .32 ACP and .380 ACP Cheetah pistols are in the Beretta FS configuration (e.g. Beretta 81FS). In models Beretta 81, Beretta 82, Beretta 84 and Beretta 85 they include internal improvements over the F versions that are not visible during casual inspection.
From 1977 to 1997 Beretta built the Browning BDA 380, which is essentially the model 84BB with a standard ejection port (instead of an open slide), a slide-mounted decocker/safety and a spur hammer. See external link below for BDA 380 owner’s manual.