A Nurse with a Gun

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Beretta Mini-Cougar Range Report

The Beretta Mini-Cougar was perhaps a pistol ahead of it's time. The Cougar line was well received in Europe, but in the United States it never really took off. Perhaps this was due to the incredible popularity of the Beretta 92/96 series in the States, perhaps it was something else. The Cougar line of pistols (also known as Series 8000) were developed for the .40S&W cartridge, and later were produced in 9mm, .357Sig, and .45ACP. They first appeared on the market in 1994. Importation into the U.S. ceased in January, 2005.

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. 10 YardsEvery 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

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Blogger Cutter said...

Good post. The Cougar is one of the few Berettas that I’ve been seriously interested in, but I’ll think twice after reading this.

I would disagree with your statement that its rotating barrel locking system is unique though. Several pistols have used similar mechanisms, the earliest of which (that I know of) being the Steyr M1912.

3:54 AM  
Blogger Xavier said...

True, the rotating barrel lock-up is not unique. I was at a loss for the proper words. I hope the changes expresswhat I meant better. Thank you.

The cougar is a good gun, but I would have to shoot it a heck of a lot to master that heavy, stacking trigger.

7:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had a DAO mini-Cougar in 9mm (CDNN), and the gun felt pretty good, but the trigger was the suck. I got rid of it (broke even) and haven't regretted it at all. The DAO trigger is just horrid.

I'd buy a .45 ACP Cougar if it had a frame mounted safety for cocked and locked use, and a single action trigger pull like a good 92 does.
Of coarse, I'd also buy one in .45 cause it would be a good excuse to buy a Storm in .45.

10:35 AM  
Blogger EgregiousCharles said...

This may represent an opportunity. Spend a lot of time doing dry-fire trigger practice, and you'll become able to shoot any gun well, not just those with nice triggers.

6:28 AM  
Blogger Xavier said...

I don't know Charles, I spent close to a decade trying to shoot this and other wondernines well, and i put in a lot of dry fire time doing it. I shoot S&W DA revolvers well above average, both SA and DA, I shoot Kahr semis above average, and of course, I shoot 1911s very well. I shoot other DA gunswell above average. i do not shoot this one well because of the unnecessarily heavy stacking trigger. Sometimes it's appropriate to just say this gun has a sorry trigger, or even that it was not designed well and move on to something else rather than continue tobang your head against a brick wall.

6:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great comments. Berretta makes a great fire arm. Just need to get some extended mags.

Just got my 'used mini-cougar; wish I had read your blog first. Oh well. Still got my 1911's and Glocks...in 45ACP; just can't seem to keep them from going "BANG" every time I pull the trigger.

Darrell in Katy, TX

8:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've owned my 9mm mini-cougar for what I'd guess to be around five years, and have put several hundred rounds (1000's??)through it. The trigger does leave something to be desired, when compared to some others I own, however after shooting the pistol quite a bit, I now believe I am more accurate with it than any other pistol I own, SA or DA. And I'm a fairly good hand with all of them.

The mini-cougar's size makes it a great concealed carry pistol, and of course, the 9mm is not a .45, but in Federal Hydra-shok, I think it's certainly adequate.

I pesonally like my cougar very much, and don't think I'll be parting with it anytime soon. Practice and familiarity do wonders for accuracy, and as for reliability, I have never had any problems.

I pull the trigger - it goes bang.

10:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very Good detailed report.
I purchased the 8040 Cougar in 2001for personal protection. I have been very pleased with my purchase and time at the range with the Cougar!

12:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ive put nearly 1000 rounds through my 8000 cougar F, and have had no malfunctions of any kind. Itll eat anything in quantity. The DA trigger is heavy and long, but I havent noticed stacking. I carry mine unlocked and grab the hammer as I put the front site on target. If I dont have time to grab the hammer, than the threat is close enough to where it doesnt matter. Sixteen rounds of Federal 147gr. HST is a mean payload!

10:09 PM  
Anonymous JasonUSN said...

I purchased my Mini-Cougar almost 6 years ago and put close to 5000 rounds through it without fault. Like many of you on this thread, I always felt something was wrong with it. Don’t get me wrong its a good gun, just not the best, a pretty good home defense gun at most. The grip is too wide and clumsy for concealability, even though it has a shorter handle it still isn't easy to hide. The trigger is too firm in both DA or SA. Forget about precision, it takes a lot of practice to even become accurate with this firearm,. A lot like the author of this article this gun has also made it to the bottom of my gun safe and has been replaced by a 1911 Which I find more comfortable, concealable and accurate. Even though I didn't go for the 1911 just because of the larger round, it was the over all comfort and versatility I fell in love with. My cougar will always have a place in my gun safe and heart, it's just not as good of a gun as it could be.

11:19 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Much like JasonUSN I too bought my 8000D about 6 years ago and have fired well over 5000 rounds through it. I have never had a single jam or miss fire and the only fault I can give it is the trigger is a little testy at times. Fireing quickly at times and, well, not other times. I find no problem keeping a tight group (7inchs) at 15 yards. Perhaps this is becasue I have the 9mm but I don't really think so.

Is this the best fire arm on the market today? I don't believe it for a second. However I do trust it to gaurd my family 100%. I know that not many share my complete faith in the Mini Cougar, but I love this little gun and wouldn't trade it for anything. Well, perhaps a pound of fifty's.

10:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

.... I own the 8045 Cougar and absolutely LOVE it.... by far the smoothest .45 ACP that I have ever fired..... .

Eric SWG

8:24 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I am strongly considering buying a Cougar 8045 for $400. Every review I read before reading this is mostly excellent. Now I'm questioning. I sold a S&W Sigma .40 because I never liked how heavy the trigger was. I'm hoping this will be a more accurate gun to bring to the range. Comments?

5:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I actually sold my Sigma .40VE and ended up purchasing a Beretta 8040f mini cougar. Personally, I miss my S&W, not enough to trade back my Beretta. It shoots much smoother and much less like a hand canon...both recoil-wise and trigger-wise. I did like the ergonomics that came from the polymer frame on the SW, but unlike everyone else...I like the larger grip.

11:39 PM  

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