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Review: Girsan MC 14T Pistol

From our vantage point here in 2024, it’s hard to believe that the John M. Browning-designed .380 ACP cartridge would ever have been moribund and teetering on the brink of extinction. Yet, back in the mid-1990s, that was exactly the case.

If you wanted a .380 ACP pistol in those days, there was the Walther PPK and a few clones, some blowback-operated, zinc-alloy “poverty pistols” and the SIG Sauer P230, which was basically a PPK that actually functioned reliably with a wide variety of carry ammo.

There was a small uptick in popularity when KelTec upsized its P32 into the P3AT (“Three Ay Tee” *nudge, nudge* get it? It was the dad joke of firearm nomenclature), but it wasn’t until Ruger introduced its LCP pistol back in 2008 that the chambering really began to experience what can be described as a renaissance.

Backed by the muscle of Ruger’s marketing might and the attractiveness of a quality, reliable handgun at a remarkably affordable price, the LCP drove the cartridge’s popularity to a point where demand for ammo far outstripped supply. If you were there in those days, you surely remember opportunistic scalpers selling off-brand boxes of .380 FMJ for $75 to $100 at local gun shows.

Fortunately, this supply crisis passed rather quickly, and in short order gun companies started looking around for new ways to apply the now widely available 9 mm Corto (this is a chambering with probably more nomenclature than any other: .380 ACP, 9×17 mm, 9 mm Kurz, 9 mm Court, 9 mm Short, et al).

One area where the caliber took root was in larger compact handguns aimed at the personal/home-defense market for people who, for reasons of infirmity, weak grip strength or lack of upper-body strength might have difficulty operating a standard 9 mm. Because of the cartridge’s mild recoil and low chamber pressures, pistols like Ruger’s Security-380 or SIG Sauer’s P365-380 could have light recoil springs and with easily manipulated slides.

The thing is, there was a .380 pistol doing this very job decades ago.

Beretta sold a handy little mid-size .380, with roughly the same dimensions as a modern Glock G19, that was available in single- and double-stack variants. It was shaped like a 5/8-scale Beretta 92, and it was as cute as a bug’s ear. FN sold a variant with an enclosed slide and conventional ejection port as the Browning BDA. Taurus manufactured a fairly straight-up clone as the PT58.

These were straight-blowback guns with fairly lightweight slides, necessitating reasonably beefy recoil springs, so Beretta offered a variant with a tip-up barrel like the ones found on its little .22 LR and .25 ACP pocket pistols.

The Model 86 Cheetah featured a single-stack, eight-round magazine and a tip-up barrel that obviated manually cycling the slide, allowing a full magazine to be inserted and then the barrel unlatched and a ninth round to be slipped directly into the breech. It was the go-to semi-automatic pistol recommended to people with grip-strength issues back in the day.

Fast forward to the current year and hey, look what EAA is offering.

The Turkish-made, EAA-imported Girsan MC 14T is not just a clone-correct reproduction of the classic Beretta 86 Cheetah. Rather, it features an entire suite of upgrades and improvements that make this reboot of a 1970s Beretta design into a worthy consideration for self-defense and home protection in 2024.

If you know someone who needs a soft-shooting, uniquely easy-to-operate pistol with a reasonably large mag capacity, you could do a lot worse than the MC 14T.

If we start at the top, we’ll find a set of conventional three-dot iron sights, with the rear sight being drift-adjustable for windage. They’re completely usable, but they do suffer from a problem inherited from their Beretta forebears. Namely, if you don’t like them and want to replace them, you’re out of luck because the front sight, a .130-inch blade, is integral to the barrel. Adding night sights is out of the question without some expensive gunsmithery, which would run contrary to the pistol’s affordability.

The barrel with which this sight is integral is 4.5 inches long, by the way, which will let a .380 ACP round work up a pretty good head of steam, as the chronograph revealed.

The slide is open-topped in the Beretta style, which pretty much eliminates the fear of failures to eject. It features 11 angled grasping grooves per side, and the portion with the grooves flares slightly toward the rear for even better purchase.

Just below the slide on the right-hand side of the frame, above the trigger where it’s easily reached by the index finger of a right-handed shooter, is a lever that renders the texture of the grasping grooves largely moot. Press it downward with a fingertip and the breech end of the barrel is unlatched and instantly pops up under spring tension.

This simplifies loading and unloading greatly, especially for folks who have difficulty manually cycling pistol slides. Insert a round into the chamber and press the barrel down to latch it and you’re ready to fire. To clear the chamber, you can just pluck the unfired round out with a thumb and forefinger, and the raised barrel renders the pistol completely inert and unable to fire. Clever arrangement, if you ask me.

It’s important to note that all tip-up-barrel pistols have an unusual manual-of-arms. The absence of an extractor means that tipping up the barrel and manually extracting a live round isn’t merely an option, but a requirement. Always use the tip-up feature and, of course, always read the owner’s manual.

Girsan  MC 14T features

The safety and tip-up barrel allow the MC 14T to be carried safely in a variety of modes—double-action/safety on, double-action/safety off and single-action/safety on • On the right of the pistol, just over the trigger, is the barrel release. Just press it and the spring-loaded barrel pops up • With their thumb contours and mild texturing, the grips provide adequate purchase and comfort • Being of double-column design, the magazines greatly increase the firepower of the EAA pistol over Beretta’s Cheetah • A ledge at the front bottom of the magazine helps keep the gun in your hand and makes magazine removal speedier.

On the opposite side of the frame from the barrel latch is the slide-stop lever, which extends back such that it’s easily accessed by the shooter’s thumb. Do be aware, however, that this ease of access also means that an aggressively high two-handed firing grip can interfere with the lever and unfortunately prevent the slide from locking back on an empty magazine.

At the rear of the frame are ambidextrous safety levers that function in the familiar 1911-style fashion: up for safe and down for fire. In the “fire” position, a red dot is exposed that’s visible from clean across the room. If carrying cocked-and-locked is your jam, it’s entirely possible to do so with the MC 14T, and the thoughtfully placed safety is in a natural enough position that the thumb is unlikely to miss it.

Girsan MC 14T specsThe only thing I don’t like about the safety is that it does not incorporate a mechanical decocking function. Lowering the hammer safely requires you to tip up the barrel before pulling the trigger while pointing the firearm in a safe direction and controlling the hammer with the thumb. Of course, with the tip-up barrel, this process can be rendered extremely safe. So, minus one point for lack of a decocker, but Girsan makes it up due to the tip-up feature.

The magazine release falls readily to hand—er, thumb—and when depressed it causes the 13-round, double-column magazine to exit the pistol with some alacrity. The magazine itself is a glossy, blued steel and features the high-quality finish that typically comes with the Mec-Gar logo prominently featured on the tube.

In a perfect world, the opening to the mag well would be beveled, but in our imperfect and fallen one, alas it is not. At least the tapered shape of the magazine renders that lack of bevels less of a down-check than it would be if the MC 14T had the single-stack mag of its Italian ancestor. There’s a lanyard loop down there, if that’s any consolation, not that lanyards are much used on CCW pieces, but whatever.

Out at the other end of the frame you’ll find another departure from the Beretta original: a three-slot, Picatinny-style accessory rail. Alas, despite the 4.5-inch barrel length, the shape of the trigger guard limits the utility of the rail, preventing the mounting of full-size weapon-mounted lights (WMLs) like SureFire’s X300 series, but compact lights of the Streamlight TLR-7 variety will pop right on and off without a hitch.

The grips are a nicely textured matte polymer and combine with serrations on the frontstrap and backstrap to provide adequate purchase, especially since you’re only trying to tame .380 ACP recoil.

The curved, smooth-face trigger won’t be a stretch for any but the most diminutive hands and was surprisingly manageable. The double-action pull on the test sample measured at 6 pounds and 9 ounces on a Lyman digital gauge and featured an even pull with minimal stacking. The single-action pull averaged an almost-too-good 3 pounds, 10 ounces. In single action there was a short, weightless takeup and then a slightly crunchy break, but in a world of sproingy-triggered, striker-fired guns, that’s picking nits.

The biggest hang-up for accuracy off the bags at 25 yards were the sights. The front is entirely too fat—or the rear notch too narrow—resulting in almost invisible slivers of light to confirm the sight picture. Nevertheless, a couple groups with Hornady Critical Defense managed to dip into the low 3-inch range. That should be more than adequate for most self-defense scenarios.

Reliability over the course of touching off 300 rounds of assorted hollowpoints, mostly the aforementioned Hornady, and 200 rounds of SIG Sauer 100-grain FMJ ammo was 100 percent, save for one quirk. The Speer 90-grain Gold Dot ammunition I had on hand is from a lot that tested as pretty spicy for .380. When fired through a SIG P250 compact a few years back, it was putting up numbers on the threshold of supersonic, and it repeated that performance in the MC 14T. It averaged 1,057 fps out of the Girsan, and twice during testing with it the slide bottomed out under recoil hard enough to trip the barrel latch.

Girsan MC 14T shooting results

Everything else functioned with utter reliability and no failures of any type. Solution: Use different ammunition. This is the classic “Doctor it hurts when I do this” dilemma: “My gun malfunctions with Brand X magazines” Is it reliable with all other magazines? “Yes.” Well, I have your solution, then.

As a final improvement over the Beretta original, the axle of the barrel’s hinge is a sort of Chicago screw arrangement and secured with a roll pin. The original Beretta axle was pinned in and staked, meaning that it was nigh impossible to change without junking the frame.

So, to sum up, if I could improve the pistol, I’d want it to have replaceable sights and it would be nice if it shipped with more than one magazine. Oh, and maybe reshape the trigger guard to allow a wider variety of accessories to be used.

On the other hand, since the barrel is accessible from the breech end, it doesn’t need to be field stripped for cleaning; it’s easy for even people with reduced grip strength to operate, and it was almost entirely reliable over the course of 500 rounds.

If you know someone who needs a soft-shooting, uniquely easy-to-operate pistol with a reasonably large mag capacity, you could do a lot worse than the MC 14T.

Girsan MC 14T

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