Beretta 81 Cheetah

Now more commonly available from Italy, the 32 ACP Beretta 81 Cheetah will likely cross your bench. Here’s how to work on them.

by Brian R Smith

The market has recently been flooded with the 32 ACP Beretta 81 Cheetah, a quality-made 32 ACP pocket pistol from Italian police service. They can be found in a variety of conditions, from finish worn to as-new, and there is a very good chance you’ll be seeing one or more in your shop.

Until recently, the Beretta 81 Cheetah was not readily seen in the US firearm market for two reasons; one, it is a quality, well-made weapon that is relatively expensive, costing as much at retail as its larger, more prevalent 9mm sibling. Second, the 32 ACP/7.65 Browning cartridge has never been popular in the United States; it’s been considered to be less effective than the 380 ACP/9mm Kurz/Corto/Short and American shooters have always been of a “more is better” mindset. Until the last 20-25 years, many law enforcement officers carried either revolvers in 38 Special or 357 Magnum, a 1911 in 45 ACP, or sometimes 38 Super. Since the late 1970s and early 1980s, law enforcement agencies have switched to one high capacity “wondernine” or another, like the SIG 226, the Glock family, or Beretta 92, and the plethora of newer 9mm, 40 S&W, and 45 ACP handguns that have been developed and offered since.

In Europe however, the 32 ACP/7.65 Browning has for much of the 20th century been the favorite cartridge of the numerous police agencies of many countries. John Browning’s first semi-auto pistol cartridge was the…

Read more in the May 2021 issue.

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