Beretta Model 70 “Puma”

Beretta Model 70 “Puma”

In 2010 I purchased this pistol at a farm auction in Stem, North Carolina. The gun felt sleek and precise and seemed well worth the $200 that I bid it up to, but I had no idea at the time what a gem I had stumbled into. The Model 70, chambered in .32 ACP, is one of the most precise pocket-sized handguns I’ve ever shot.

For those who have a familiarity with Beretta’s more common models (like the 92), the Model 70 will feel simultaneously familiar and strange. Like the 92 it has the open slide design and (in the case of the older Italian 92’s) the magazine release near the bottom of the grip. But unlike the 92, it has a much sleeker frame (à la Walther PP) and a pushbutton safety that anyone could be forgiven for mistaking as the magazine release (and I am guilty of having pressed it a few times, in utter futility, trying to release the magazine). And speaking of the magazine, it has a wonderfully curved base that catches the ring finger to provide a bit of extra stability.

The Mossad (who know a thing or two about precision shooting) carried Model 70’s and their .22LR brethren, the Model 71 for many years. They did this for good reason: the mild recoil of the .22LR and .32 ACP rounds allow for quicker recovery times and less anticipatory flinching. Anyone imagining that they need magic sights and fancy trigger work to achieve tight groups hasn’t shot a Model 70; with this gun I managed a 200 round 3″ group at 25 yards, with only three outliers.

Not bad for a 50 year old gun with a 3½ inch barrel and a round not known for its tack-driving accuracy.

For those who have recently come into possession of a Model 70 (and particularly one that hasn’t been taken down in a long time), the trick to getting the takedown lever to turn is to gently tap the muzzle end of the barrel with a plastic tipped hammer. This should relieve the pressure on the takedown lever, and with a firm twist it will allow the slide to move forward off of the barrel. The barrel can then be slid off of the frame, allowing it to be cleaned and examined carefully.

After a few hundred rounds the Model 70’s biggest weakness became evident: the razor-sharp corners of the slide that made me grip the gun a little more tentatively than I normally would. I don’t imagine that many people will be competing with a Model 70, but if you do you won’t want to carry this gun in a holster with the slide racked back. It will cut you.

The trigger weighed in at a very consistent 6.4 ounces, and I found the trigger’s break to be as crisp and clean as I could hope for. And with the proliferation of plastic striker-fired guns, the exposed hammer was something of a novelty and fascination to me.

This particular Model 70 carries its European hallmarks on the front of the trigger guard. This includes the XXIV date stamp, which this forum post tells me dates to 1968. This also makes this particular Model 70 a Curio and Relic handgun, which would perhaps make it a bit more appealing to collectors.

The relative scarcity of original magazines for the Model 70 means that it will probably be relegated to fun days at the range, but that’s not to say that someone shouldn’t consider making a reprisal of this fine weapon. It’s a superb piece of engineering that still holds its own against the best compact pistols on the market today.