Beretta 950 Jetfire A Semi-Automatic Derringer

Beretta 950 Jetfire Review: A Semi-Automatic Derringer

When you think of the word ‘derringer’ you likely think of a supremely small pistol that can be stashed in a pocket and meant for extreme close range self-defense. 

The concept of the ‘derringer’ has been around since the days of the flintlock pistol. But as firearms technology evolved, the concept of the derringer evolved as well. The first derringers from the early 1800s were single shot, and the next from the days of the Old West had two or more barrels. 

Today, we have very small semi-automatic pistols that could be thought of as ‘derringers’ and fit largely the same role, only in the modern era. 

If Beretta had a gun from within the last fifty years that could be classified as a modern-day derringer, the 950 Jetfire would be it. 

The Beretta 950 Jetfire is about as small as semi-automatic pistols come. Mine was bought used but was in great shape, arriving with a high-quality leather OWB holster that conceals well.

I’ve owned my Jetfire for almost a year now. I’m someone who buys, sells, and trades guns often, but there’s a few guns in my collection that I’ll keep forever. The Jetfire has become one of those guns. That’s because the Jetfire is a special little gun that also happens to be very well-made and easy-to-shoot. 

Let’s investigate more about what this tiny and yet mighty has to offer. 

History of the Jetfire 

History of the Jetfire 

The 950-series of pistols, produced from 1952 to 2003, remains to this day as some of the smallest guns that Beretta has ever made. 

Beretta had actually been in the business of manufacturing .25 ACP pocket pistols many years before the release of the 950. The most prominent of these was the Beretta 418, which was manufactured from the early 1920s up until the mid-1950s and served as James Bond’s concealed carry pistol of choice in the first four Ian Fleming-written novels. 

The 950 Jetfire was essentially an evolution of the 418, and like its predecessor it was made for use as a concealed carry pocket pistol for detectives and civilians or as a backup pistol for law enforcement officers. 

Also like the 418, the 950 Jetfire is extremely diminutive with a single-action trigger and blowback action. Its main differentiating feature, which we’ll get into later in this article, is the tip-up barrel design. 

A quick note, Beretta 950s chambered for .25 ACP are designated as the Jetfire, whereas Beretta 950s chambered in .22 Short are designated as the Minx. I personally would highly recommend the Jetfire as the .25 ACP offers superior performance, but we’ll talk about that more in a bit. 

In 1968, Beretta added a manual thumb safety to the left side of the frame. This permits the gun to be carried cocked-and-locked if the user so desires.

The initial run of these guns were classified as the 950B, and they were produced in Italy without a manual safety lever on the frame. After the United States Gun Control Act of 1968 went into effect that year, Beretta was forced for legal reasons to manufacture the pistol in the United States, which they did so in Accokeek, Maryland. 

It was at this time that Beretta opted to add a manual safety to the frame, and henceforth the pistols were designated as the 950BS. 

Design of the Jetfire 

Design of the Jetfire 

What makes the Jetfire so distinctive is not just its diminutive size but also its tip up barrel design. When you engage the lever on the side of the barrel, the barrel ‘tips up’ out of the slide.

This means that the user never has to rack the slide on the Jetfire to chamber a round. I’ll be the first to say that this is a most welcome feature, because racking back the Jetfire’s slide manually is definitely a struggle. 

Furthermore, when the Jetfire’s barrel pops up, the round loaded in the chamber will be ejected out. This allows the user to safely unload the pistol merely by removing the magazine and then popping up the barrel. 

The Jetfire’s distinctive feature is the tip-up barrel design. A round loaded in the chamber will be ejected when the barrel is tipped up, permitting safe unloading of the weapon. 

As a single-action only hammer-fired pistol with a frame-mounted safety lever, the Jetfire’s manual of arms isn’t all that different from a 1911. The hammer must be pulled back for the gun to fire. 

The user has the choice of either carrying the pistol with the hammer lowered or if with the hammer backed and the safety engaged, much like how 1911s are often carried. Either way, the user will need to either manually pull back the hammer or push down the safety lever to fire the weapon before engaging targets. The safety requires you to be very positive in switching it on or off as well. 

The magazine release for the Jetfire is located on the bottom of the back of the grip, which is a bit unconventional by American standards but nonetheless easy to access. The magazine holds an impressive 8 rounds of ammunition plus one in chamber. That being said, I’ve read that many users of this gun advise only to load 7 rounds in the magazine plus the round in the pipe for reliability purposes. 

Still, 8 rounds in a mouse pistol as small as this one is impressive. 

The Jetfire is a sleek and elegant looking weapon in a small package.

There is also no extractor on the Jetfire. Instead, the gun relies on the force of the recoil to eject the spent shell casings. 

The Jetfire has also proven to be a reliable pistol.  I’ve only experienced one malfunction with my personal Jetfire, and that was on the old magazine that the gun had shipped with. I wonder if this was because the magazine was worn down, as I have read that the springs in the older Jetfire magazines can wear out rather fast. 

.he gun performed flawlessly on all rounds fired after that initial hiccup, and it had no problems whatsoever with a new factory Beretta magazine that I bought for the pistol as well. 

The .25 ACP

The .25 ACP

It’s impossible to talk about the Jetfire without talking about the caliber that it shoots, the .25 ACP, otherwise known as the .25 Auto or 6.35mm.

The .25 ACP is a very small, semi-rimmed cartridge that was primarily designed as a centerfire pistol round that could fit into pistols built around rimfire .22 cartridges. 

The Jetfire next to an 8-round magazine and one round of .25 ACP.

The reason for this was simple: .22 rimfire is notoriously known for being a dirty cartridge that can easily cause fowling in smaller pistols (which traditionally are already known for being finicky) after prolonged shooting periods. With the .25, the thought was that a .22 ‘mouse gun’ would be made more reliable.

While the .25 is indeed a comparatively tiny round and often gets scorned as a result, just remember that many people have used this round to defend themselves successfully in the past. 

I also found the Jetfire in .25 to be very easy to shoot and manage on the range. In contrast, the .380 ACP pistols I shot next to the Jetfire (the Ruger LCP II and Walther PPK/S) were significantly snappier.  


The biggest negative to .25 ACP for me is the expense and unreliable availability of ammunition. My local sporting goods stores will only stock boxes of .25 ACP periodically, and when they do it’s almost always more expensive than the .380 ACP and 9mm that are stocked right next to it. 

Is the Jetfire Still Viable Today? 

Is the Jetfire Still Viable Today 

My personal belief is that as long as your pistol is A. reliable, and B. something that you have trained well with and can shoot well, then it’s perfectly viable as a defensive arm. 

So with that in mind, can you still defend yourself with the Jetfire today? Absolutely.

Does that mean you should select it over other concealable guns that you can get? Now that’s the real question.

In my opinion, the Jetfire has two very big advantages going for it, and one very big disadvantage, in comparison to more modern pocket pistols that it now competes against.

For concealment  of the Jetfire I purchased a DeSantis Trickster Pocket holster. It hides the gun effortlessly like it’s a wallet in my pocket.

The first advantage is that the Jetfire is incredibly small and light, even compared to modern offerings on the pocket pistol market, and thus ridiculously easy to conceal. For example, it’s smaller and lighter than my Ruger LCP II in .380 ACP.

The second advantage is how easy the Jetfire is to shoot. At the range, recoil out of the Jetfire was almost non-existent, and I was able to accurately place shots on target while shooting from a distance of around seven yards. I found it very pleasant to shoot when most pocket pistols (like .380 mouse guns or .38 snubnose revolvers) are anything but. This is important for training purposes, because if you don’t enjoy shooting your concealment pistol it might require extra motivation on your part to practice with it at the range. 

The biggest disadvantage to the Jetfire is the relative complexity. The LCP II, for instance, has no external safeties or controls to worry about. You just pick up the gun and fire it like you would a Glock.

The Jetfire is a single-action only hammer-fired pistol where you have to remember to either manually cock back the hammer or switch off the safety (depending on how you prefer to carry it like we discussed above) when you present the pistol to defend yourself against a threat. 

My advice is to practice extensively with the Jetfire if you decide to carry it so you get used to the controls on the gun. Switching off the safety or cocking back the hammer should become muscle memory when drawing the pistol from your holster to shoot, for instance. 

Conclusion: Beretta 950 Jetfire Review

Conclusion

I’ve become quite fond of Beretta’s little Jetfire. It’s by far the easiest pocket pistol to shoot that I’ve ever used thanks to its tame recoil and smooth trigger. It’s well-finished and reliable, and the tip barrel design is most welcome. It’s also a bit more complex in operation than other pocket pistols made today, and that’s something to consider. 

If you’re thinking about adding a .25 automatic to your gun collection, I’d include the Jetfire on your shortlist of options. 

FAQ

Is the Beretta Jetfire for Self Defense?

The Beretta Jetfire can be employed for self-defense, particularly in scenarios requiring a compact and concealable option. Though chambered in .25 ACP, which is considered a less powerful caliber, its compact size and ease of use make it a viable choice for close-quarters, personal defense.

How Much is the Beretta 950 Jetfire?

The price of the Beretta 950 Jetfire varies widely based on factors like condition and rarity, as it is no longer in production. Typically, prices can range from $200 to $400. Collectors and those seeking a compact pistol value it for its design and quality manufacturing.

How Does Beretta 950 Work?

The Beretta 950 is a semi-automatic pistol operating on a simple blowback mechanism. Chambered in .25 ACP, it features a tip-up barrel design allowing for easy loading and chamber inspection, enhancing safety and convenience in handling and operation.

What is the Capacity of the Beretta 950?

The Beretta 950 Jetfire has a magazine capacity of 8 rounds of .25 ACP ammunition. This compact semi-automatic pistol is known for its reliability and ease of concealment, making it a choice for those seeking a backup or secondary firearm for self-defense.

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