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This is a straight blowback pistol, with no lock up. This method of recoil operation is common in pistols of this caliber, and is sufficient for the power of the .380 round. Though built by Beretta, using the same machinery, and design as the Model 84, the little BDA lacks the distinctive Beretta open topped slide. It also features an ambidextrous slide mounted safety, rather than the frame mounted safety of the Beretta version. In all other respects the two guns are basically the same model. It was offered from 1977, until 1997; though I notice that there is a limited edition reissue 2006 model available from Browning, in nickel finish only.
The blue version of this gun has a black, alloy frame, and a richly blued (almost black enough to match the frame) steel slide. The later models were shipped with the clinton mandated 10 round magazines, but the design capacity of the gun is 13 rounds. I have a preban model, which came with one of the old 13 rounders, but the hi-cap magazines will also fit the newer guns. Whatever the capacity, these are staggered, double column magazines, and give the grip a bit more purchase than most other guns in this caliber. This makes the BDA, very comfortable to shoot; but a bit less concealable than some competitive offerings, like the Walther PPK. As far as I know, this is the only large capacity pistol designed for the 380, or for any other minor level cartridge. My only real complaint about the gun is it's magazine safety, a feature that I never saw much use for. One other minor irritation, is the hammer drop safety, which renders the gun incapable of being carried "cocked, and locked" like a big forty five. Neither of these is anything major, and neither is unique to the BDA.
The magazine catch is located behind the trigger, rather than at the base of the magazine as is the case with many European style autos. The slide stop, and safety are also right where the American shooter would expect them to be. The sights are reasonably good, a bit better than is generally expected of this type of gun, and are drift adjustable. The single action trigger pull is light, and crisp, with no more take up than one would anticipate in a double action gun. The double action pull itself is smooth, and quite light. The wide trigger, and smooth pull, along with the wide grip, make this a considerably easier gun to shoot than the PPK. These features, along with the good sights, and hefty grip, make the gun a bit more accurate too. The .380 caliber cartridge, is a shortened version of the 9mm, and is considered to be an adequate defense round. It is generally thought to define the lower end of power judged suitable for defensive use. The gun is easy to take down for cleaning. A push on a small locking pin, allows the take down lever to pivot, so that the slide may be simply pushed forward off the frame; simple. This gun also features a loaded chamber indicator, which is basically just a bit of red paint on the extractor, and a slide hold open when the magazine empties. I have personally never thought much of loaded chamber indicators, and feel that placing one's trust in such a thing, is an accident waiting to happen.
The 380 is gaining in popularity, in part because new cartridge developments claim to make the sub 1000 fps round expand reliably. I have not tested this myself; but certain gun writers claim this to be a fact. There is also a growing number of women taking an interest in guns, and they appreciate the reduced recoil, and smaller firearms offered by the 380 chambering. Men, too, are not immune to the attraction of the lighter recoiling rounds, and smaller, lighter guns. This is particularly true for those with shorter fingers, or smaller hands. Though there are smaller 380 caliber pistols, there is nothing made which combines the compact size, and large magazine capacity of the BDA/M84. There is also something very elegant and civilized about these little pistols. They are well made, and nicely finished, with no military pretensions. These are civilian guns. This is more important in some European and South American countries, than it is here in the U.S. In certain countries, firearms using military cartridges, or using cartridges above a certain power level, are banned. Most firearms manufacturers emphasize the military and police markets, making it somewhat difficult to find a really high quality pistol chambered for a non standard cartridge. The BDA/M84 is one of the few exceptions.
This gun begs for comparison with the Walther PPK, or PPK/S, not only because of the caliber fired; but because of the similarity in operation, the comparable size, and the role which both were designed to fill. A side by side photo of the BDA alongside my well worn PPK/S, is shown to the left. The BDA has twice the capacity of the PPK, though this slightly compromises it's concealability. The PPK is fairly unpleasant to shoot, compared to the BDA, in large measure because of the extra width in the grip of the little Browning. The double action pull of the BDA is far superior to that of the PPK, though the single action pulls are about the same, being perhaps a shade lighter on the PPK. Though each of these guns is designed to hold the action open after the last shot is fired, the BDA has an external slide release, while the slide of the PPK needs to be pulled back in order to close the action. Both guns were designed for police use, rather than military applications, and both have been adopted by European police departments. In both cases, these medium framed guns have been popular with civilian users. The BDA is slightly longer, and slightly taller than the PPK, making it about the same height as the PP, or PPK/S. The Browning, with it's alloy frame, is lighter than the PPK/S, and about an ounce heavier than the PPK. Of the two, frankly, I prefer the Browning.
My particular gun is equipped with Pachmeyer rubber grips, and came with a single, 13 round magazine. The gun is capable of 3" groups, at least in my hands, and is an absolute pleasure to shoot. The fit and finish are wonderful, as are the handling qualities. The combination of fairly easy recoil, small size, and comfortable grip width, would make this a wonderful gun for a woman, or for a man with small hands. The photograph does not really do this lovely little gun justice, making it seem a bit chunkier, than it really is. It also does not adequately show the depth or richness of the dark finish. This series is no longer in production for Browning. Beretta still produces the open top. model 84, but it's days, too, may be numbered. There is one model of the double column 84, but a whole series models based on the similar, single column Cheetah. It would be a shame if this gun were to go out of production altogether. I consider it to be the best .380 on the market, beating out, even by beloved PPK (with apologies to James Bond).
Operation, and disassembly