Beretta Mini-Cougar Range Report
I purchased my Beretta Cougar used in 1999 for $350. It is an 8040F, meaning it shoots .40S&W and is a "Mini-Cougar". The controls of the pistol are set up almost exactly like the Beretta 92FS. I suppose the boys in Gardone Val Trompia feel they have an ergonomic winner there. Like the 92/96 Series, the 8000 Series guns use a double stack magazine. Cougars were also available as DAO guns, with a spurless hammer and no decocking device.
Cougar pistols incorporate an idiosyncratic rotating barrel locking system, in which the barrel rotates on recoil to unlock itself from the slide. The rotating motion of the barrel is controlled by a groove on its bottom, which follows the a stud cam in a steel frame insert. To decrease peak recoil and stress to the frame, the insert is mounted on the recoil spring and is buffered. The Cougar frame is made from lightweight aluminum alloy. The system works well. The Cougar slide deviates from the typical Beretta open top slide design. This same locking system was used again on Beretta's new polymer framed PX4.
One brilliant design element of the 8040F is the ability to decrease the grip length by an entire inch simply by changing the magazine. The extended magazine carries 11 rounds, the shorter magazine holds eight. This design is one that other handgun or even magazine manufacturers could incorporate to increase flexibility of short gripped handguns. The polymer piece on the extended magazine blends the extended grip seamlessly together in your hand. It does not feel like you are holding a pistol with an exended magazine, but rather a pistol with a longer grip.
I have kept this pistol because I like the peculiar rotating barrel design, as well as it's not so subtle Dick Tracyesque blocky profile. It's a pistol that exudes serious business. If the truth be known however, back in 1999, I could not hit squat with it. With it's rotating barrel locking system, the 8000 Series is inherently accurate, but I did not possess the ability to harness that accuracy. The heavy, double action Beretta trigger was unmanageable for me. Since that time, I have been honing my skills on the Smith & Wesson double action revolvers, so when the 8040F rose to the top of the pile in my safe, I decided to try it again, six years later.
I went to the range with a Value Pack of 165 grain Winchester White Box ammo. I shot the 8040F at ten yards with both the extended and the short magazine. The extended magazine fit my hand well, while the short mag forced me to curl my pinky finger underneath the grip. I rediscovered why I left the DA/SA wonder guns behind in favor of the 1911, and why I left the .40S&W behind in favor of the .45ACP. The Beretta trigger was heavy with pronounced stacking. Every time I fired the pistol double action, the muzzle was pulled low as I increased pressure on the trigger. Single action shots were somewhat better, but the trigger was still heavy and creepy. I have been shooting 1911s and Smith & Wesson revolvers for half a decade now. I know the difference. The difference is demonstrated on the concentric circles of the target. The width of the Beretta grip and the performance of the Beretta trigger do not enhance my shooting. Some might describe this as acceptable combat accuracy, with the implication that demanding greater accuracy is preparing for target shooting, not combat. I disagree. In combat, precision is needed to prevent injury to friendlies, and to get the job done with minimal expenditure of time and ammo. Accuracy is a good thing. Excuses are not. To confirm that I was not just having a bad day, I unholstered my carry 1911 and placed eight rounds in the black.
I reholstered my 1911 dinosaur gun, boxed up the Beretta, and went home. I was done.
Mad Ogre's Mini-Cougar Review