Beretta's new 80X Cheetah proved to be a supremely shootable pistol, but the author's had an issue that may make you reconsider carrying one.
There was a time when Beretta’s 13-round, .380 ACP Cheetah pistols were arguably the best concealed carry guns available, but that was many years ago. Today, the market is dominated by smaller and lighter polymer handguns with similar capacities of 9x19mm. This is worth mentioning early on, because the new Beretta 80X Cheetah isn’t for everyone, and it was never intended to be.
The 80X is a compact pistol, but it’s not tiny by any measurement, and that already says a lot about the philosophy behind it. This wasn’t designed to be the most concealable gun that you can carry, it was designed to be the most shootable gun you can still conceal. For those who have difficulty making good hits with micro-compacts that disappear into your palm, the revamped Cheetah handles much closer to a full-size pistol, and the .380 ACP chambering combined with a metal frame helps to keep its recoil light as well.
Many were quick to dismiss the 80X Cheetah as a viable carry gun because it’s not a 9mm, but Beretta clearly believes that there’s a market. I think that mostly includes shooters with small hands, individuals with hand strength issues and concealed carriers who just don’t practice enough to master a smaller gun. Training as often as you can with your carry gun is always a good idea, but some people simply don’t or can’t get out that much. If someone can naturally make better hits more consistently with an 80X Cheetah, that’s far more valuable than carrying a more potent round that they’re going to miss with.
After getting to handle an 80X at this last SHOT Show, it struck me as being a very well-made pistol full of good design choices, so I almost immediately got in contact with Beretta to secure a review sample. Spoiler: I was mostly left very impressed after my time with it, but I also discovered a pretty glaring issue with mine. We’ll get into exactly what that was after discussing everything the pistol got right.
As I already said, the 80X Cheetah immediately struck me as a very well-designed pistol. Besides the obvious modernizations like the optics-ready slide and accessory rail, there are plenty of more subtle changes to appreciate as well. The white 3-dot sights are excellent, the new Vertec grip angle felt very ergonomic to me and the DA/SA trigger was one of the best I’ve ever shot—I say that as someone who is typically indifferent about triggers.
The true double-action pull is long but very smooth, and the single-action is incredibly short and crisp. It has a very short reset, so firing fast is easy, and when the hammer is decocked using the lever, it shortens the travel length of the double-action pull. This is undoubtedly the best way to carry the gun, as you still get the safety of a heavier double-action trigger but only about half as much travel.
The blowback action has caused some to describe the pistol as snappy, but I felt it was softer shooting than similar pistols I’m accustomed to. The grip is just large enough to accommodate all of my fingers, and the flat trigger guard enables one to use the index finger of their support hand for extra control. This technique has mostly fallen by the wayside, but I prefer it for certain pistols and would count the 80X among them. I at least felt this method gave me better control than a traditional two-hand grip given the pistol’s smaller size.
The slide also features nicely textured front slide serrations, which combined with the relatively weak recoil spring makes it very easy to rack and perform press checks. This ease of operation is another reason why the new Cheetah seems like it would be a good choice for someone with weaker hands.
The design lends itself to good mechanical accuracy, and Beretta reengineered the magazine to feed hollow point ammunition more reliably. For a defensive pistol, that last point is a big deal. I didn’t have any hollow point ammo on hand to try myself, but word on the street is that the 80X can eat just about anything you feed it.
Disassembly is just as easy as with any other classic Beretta handgun, the fit and finish are excellent and the pistol was almost perfectly reliable in the 200 rounds of Magtech 95-grain FMJs I ran through it.
When it comes to the 80X Cheetah’s reliability, it was nearly flawless. I never once experienced a traditional failure to feed, failure to eject, double-feed or anything else like that. What I did discover, however, was a very easy-to-engage method of consistently inducing a malfunction on the pistol I was sent.
To explain, we need to go back to SHOT 2023 when the 80X was first announced.
If you look online, you’ll see that many gun writers (myself included) originally misreported that the new Cheetah was capable of cocked-and-locked carry. Why did we believe this? Because it definitely feels as if it should be able to.
This is due to the fact that when my pistol’s hammer is cocked, the safety lever very positively engages in between safe and fire—what I’ll refer to as the middle position. When the lever is in this position, the red indicator dot is only partially obstructed and the slide cannot be manually cycled. Move the lever above this point and the hammer will decock, the dot will be fully covered and the trigger will be disengaged.
Based on what others have said about their 80X Cheetahs, there seems to be some inconsistency in manufacturing going on. While some report that the hammer will not fall while the middle position is engaged, others have reported that theirs will.
Regardless of the behavior of individual Cheetahs that have been sold, the owner’s manual emphasizes that the 80X’s safety lever has only two positions: all the way down is fire, and all the way up is safe/decock. Despite what the official literature says, it seems undeniable at this point that the pistol’s safety does have a very distinct middle position. The only question then is how does the pistol perform when this position is engaged?
On my example, not well.
While it did prevent the slide from being manually cycled, it did not prevent my pistol’s hammer from falling or the gun from firing. I initially discovered this by accident when I engaged the middle position halfway through a magazine while at the range.
When I fired my test gun in this middle position, the case failed to eject and the slide became severely jammed in the rearward position. The cause of the jam was clear—the slide got pinned underneath the safety lever, I could tell this by the finish worn away on this area. I only managed to free the slide by forcefully pressing the safety lever down on the edge of a table.
Attempts to intentionally induce this malfunction proved fruitful, as the gun consistently jammed in the same way when fired in this safety condition.
When I voiced my concerns about the ease of repeatability of this malfunction, and how it could accidentally be induced, Beretta’s Pistol Product Manager responded with this:
Could you expand on why you should shoot the gun with the safety partially engage? I don't understand the reasoning behind doing it while expecting the gun to work without jamming.
So, it seems that the company’s official stance on the issue I experienced is that because the manual explicitly states that the gun is not safe in this middle safety position, nobody has a reason to ever intentionally shoot it in this condition. On the surface, I agree. The manual’s wording ensures that no user should have a reasonable expectation of the 80X being safe unless the lever is fully moved up.
But that doesn’t change the fact the 80X Cheetah I tested had a “jam instantly” setting, and all it took to engage it was a small flick upwards of my thumb.
Even if it’s unlikely that someone would do this during a gunfight, it is possible, and knowing that means I could never fully trust my life to the 80X Cheetah. At least not with the specific gun I got to test.
Overall, I really enjoyed my time with the 80X Cheetah, and I was expecting to be enthusiastically recommending it as a carry gun to anyone interested in a supremely shootable little pistol.
Unfortunately, however, the issue with the safety is too glaring of a potential reliability problem for me to be able to recommend it as a defensive piece. If you just want to blast some .380 at the range, I still say go for it, just be careful to avoid shooting it while in the middle safety position in case yours behaves the same way that mine did.
If you’re deadest on carrying one, keep an eye on user reports from the wild. Another Beretta representative acknowledged that of the 80X Cheetahs currently on the market, behavior pertaining to this issue varies. That leads me to believe that it’s something that will eventually be fixed. If that happens, I think it will make a great carry gun.
Beretta 80X Cheetah Black Specs:
- Caliber: .380 ACP
- Capacity: 13 + 1
- Action: Single/Double
- Overall Length: 6.8 Inches
- Overall Height: 4.9 Inches
- Overall Width: 1.4 Inches
- Barrel Length: 3.9 Inches
- Weight (Unloaded): 25 Ounces
- MSRP: $799
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