James Bond has come to be associated with the classic Walther PPK, but he didn’t always carry the little German mouse gun. In both novel and film, 007 has been armed with a multitude of weapons, but his first, and perhaps most humorous, was the Beretta 418. The handgun saw Bond through the first five novels by Ian Fleming to be traded in for the Walther PPK. This change is documented in the first film, Dr. No in 1962. I may not have received my Beretta 418 from Q, but I am pleased to own this little piece of Bond’s history. Let’s dig into this firearm’s real-world story.
The Beretta 418 is a semi-automatic pistol that has its origins in post World War I Italy and was manufactured by the famous Beretta firm until 1959. It saw limited service with the Axis in World War II, but was more at home in the field of personal protection in the tough streets of Europe.
The 418 utilizes an open slide design, not unlike some of its modern Beretta handgun brethren. True to pocket gun form, the pistol’s profile ha little on which to snag (important for concealed carry considerations). This striker fired pistol’s sights are low profile—just bumps on the slide. There is a safety lever on the left side of the gun that can be pushed parallel to the slide to prevent it from firing. The safety mechanism can also be employed to lock the slide open. Pushing the safety down against the grip disengages the safety, making the gun ready to fire. The Beretta 418’s magazine holds eight rounds of .25 ACP ammunition and the magazine release is a European style heel release at the bottom of the grip. The .25 ACP is an under powered cartridge, namely when compared to more common self defense rounds of today (9mm Luger, .45 ACP, .40 S&W, etc.), but the round has enabled pistols of such remarkably small size that some of them, have stuck around. I think the little Beretta 418 holds its own as one of the best of these kinds of pocket pistols.
For review, I shot the Beretta 418 at [virtually] point blank range (with the target a mere handful of feet away), standing at seven yards, and again at twenty five yards. The ammo I used was Remington 50 grain full metal jacketed .25 ACP. I used FMJ ammunition because with the low velocity of the .25, I would want all the penetration I could get. Beyond that factor, old auto pistols were made before the use of hollow point defense ammo, so I didn’t want to risk jamming the 418 with ammo for which it wasn’t designed.
Loading the Beretta is easily accomplished, but the stiff recoil spring and the general small size of the gun makes it tricky to chamber a round. Most .25 ACP pistols are blowback designed and need a stiff spring to keep the slide in place during firing. Fortunately, the rough cocking serrations to the rear of the slide help when chambering. Although it’s not the best I’ve seen from comparable pistols, I’d consider the Beretta’s trigger pull to be adequate. Naturally, a pistol this small does not allow for a full grip. Fortunately, the perceived recoil of the tiny .25 doesn’t make shooting without a full grip a challenge. In fact, I found shooting the M418 to be a pleasure.
The low profile sights can be hard to pick up, namely in less-than-ideal lighting conditions, but for a gun like this, your most successful application would likely be within “bad-breath” distances. That being said, the little Beretta 418 is still a solid shooter. At a standard self defense distance of seven yards, I was able to put all eight rounds into a four inch bullseye with regularity. Many shooters would not consider shooting a pocket pistol of this size from twenty-five yards, but I gave it a shot just to see. The M418 lobbed the bullets into a torso sized target, not bad for a little mouse gun. Another plus to this little Beretta is that, to date, I have yet to experience a malfunction of any kind.
Though you likely won’t find the Beretta 418 in a vest pocket as in its heyday in war torn Europe, it has proved to be an enduring piece in my ever changing collection. What it lacks in caliber, it makes up for in class, function, with a touch of Bond flare.