The Beretta Cougar .45

Written and Photographed by Randy Mays

Beretta Model 8045 Cougar with spare 8 round .45 ACP Magazine


For the longest time I figured that the best all around handgun might be the Glock 20. The Glock 20 is a 10 mm pistol, but with barrel changes it can also fire .40 S&W and .357 SIG ammunition. There is even a 6 " hunting barrel available for it. The only problem I could find with the Model 20 was its size. It is just a little bit too big to conceal. If you have it in a holster under a vest, there's always some concern that either the barrel is showing or the outline of the rather large grip will be seen. This same size problem is present with my other favorite handguns, the Beretta Model 92 FS and the SIG Sauer Model 226 (both 9 mm). They're big. Once out of the holster and pointed at the target, the Glock 20 and the two 9 mm pistols are great, but not so great for concealment. Smaller, easier to conceal guns are available, but there are always trade-offs with things like magazine capacity or the power of the cartridge.

If I can't have a 10 mm pistol, the next best caliber is the .45 ACP. I don't care what the magazine articles say about "stopping power." The new SOCOM pistol, and the new FBI SWAT team pistols are both .45s. The people who made these equipment decisions know more about guns than I do. The .45 ACP round has been through several wars. Take a look at the pictures of the "tunnel rats" in Viet Nam. "Tunnel rats" were U.S. soldiers who went into tunnels to find enemy soldiers. The "rats" carried a flashlight and a Model 1911 .45 pistol. It might have been a little easier to take a .38 Special revolver for close range shooting, but the .45 was something you could count on .

The Beretta Cougar came out a couple of years ago. I'm not sure, but I think Beretta looked at the basic Model 92 design, then looked at the sales of the shorter Centurion models, and figured something else was needed for the growing U.S. "concealed carry" market. It's always a good idea to bring out new guns in 9 mm and they did. That was followed by a Cougar in .40 S&W. Both guns were large in terms of their caliber. You can get smaller 9 mm and .40 S&W pistols. But the guns were shorter and could be concealed, while still retaining the familar trigger and operating controls of the military's Model 92. This year the Cougar arrived in .45 ACP. It has an 8 round magazine that looks a lot like the magazines used in the Model 92.

Other than the caliber, there are two big differences between the Model 92 and the Cougar. The grip angle is just about perfect on the Cougar, and your hand is very high up in relation to the axis of the barrel (this is a big advantage over the SIG 226). The other difference is the rotary barrel. As the pistol recoils, the barrel rotates as it unlocks. The barrel doesn't move up and down as it does on the traditional Browning designs. Since the barrel stays on the same axis, the potential for accuracy is better.

I fired the .45 Cougar for the first time at the Clark Brothers outdoor range near Warrenton. When you shoot there, you buy ammunition there and I picked up a box of generic 230 grain .45 ammunition. The first shot went right into the center of the target and most of the rest went into the same area. The sight picture on the Cougar allows for plenty of daylight on either side of the front sight, a sight picture that's like the Makarov, and a picture I like a lot. The sights are blurred with my regular glasses, but with all that daylight, I can line them up well enough to hit the target. With shooting glasses that focus on the front sight, the groups get smaller.

The next time I fired the Cougar was at the range used by the 43rd Virginia Rifle and Pistol Club. This time I used Blazer ammunition. There were no problems. The Cougar has never jammed or misfired (and I don't expect that it will as long as it is clean, lubricated, and using commercial ammunition). I also fired several of the Federal "Personal Defense" rounds. It's obvious the velocity of the Federal rounds is higher (the bullets are 165 grain), and the accuracy of the Federal ammunition is great. I was able to group all of the rounds into the top part of an IDPA target. Another shooter who had been firing a Model 92 tried the Cougar and said he shot it better than the Model 92.

The next exercise with the Cougar will be an IDPA type match. The next challenge will be to find some additional magazines and a good holster. The Cougar hasn't arrived on the market in sufficient numbers yet to have a lot of people making holsters for it. The new Safariland adjustable holster may be the best one to consider. I just need to be sure that the "Officer's Model" size holster will fit the .45 Cougar.

If you have a medium to large size hand, are familar with the Beretta 92, but want a .45 ACP pistol, I can recommend the Beretta Cougar without reservation. It is accurate, reliable, concealable, and available in a proven caliber.