Sunday, December 13, 2009

Beretta Tomcat 32: Stuck Safety Lever

UPDATE2 - December 18, 2009

To hell with it!

I have no more time or patience to deal with Beretta's maze of obfuscation, which you run in to whether on the computer or on the phone.

This Tomcat I'm disgusted with will be the last Beretta product I buy. My advice to anyone happening upon these words is to look elsewhere. Beretta has always been a good brand in my eyes, but no more.


UPDATE - December 18, 2009:

I took this little Beretta Tomcat shooting this morning, after having thought the problem of the stuck safety was fixed, but no.

After shooting just 40 rounds, the safety is stuck again. It is possible to free it from the OFF (down) position by the use of a small glasses screwdriver as shown in the last picture below, but I did not disassemble the pistol this time and the safety gets stuck in the OFF (down) position every time.

I will post Beretta's response. [See above. There's nothing to post.]


This little story gets around to the trouble I had with the safety on a Beretta Tomcat 3032 pistol. It started when my son and I purchased one of these little guns for my wife a couple of years ago. It was my fault that we purchased the Beretta over my son's preferred Kel Tek P32. I was swayed by my lack of familiarity with Kel Tek, my favorable impression of Beretta, the tip-up barrel and the heavier frame (which I thought would help with recoil).

I should have listened to my son, who has known far more than me about guns ever since he was ten years old. My bad. Sorry Eddie.

It turned out that the Beretta was not to my wife's liking because it was just too hard for her to operate. Racking the slide, closing the tip-up barrel, operating the safety and even opening the tip-up barrel all required too much force for her to enjoy shooting this little pistol, so my son and I reclaimed it and got something else for my wife.

All in all, the Beretta Tomcat 3032 that we bought has been a disappointment, largely because of the problems I had with the safety mechanism, which seems to reflect a design or materials flaw of some sort.

Shortly after we bought the little pistol for my wife, the safety lever got stuck in the OFF position. Nothing we tried would free the lever, so we took it to a local gun shop where there is a gunsmith we like and trust. The pistol never even reached our gunsmith, though, because the shop wouldn't work on it. I don't recall exactly why not, but the reason had something to do with Beretta policies. We had the gun shop mail the Tomcat to Beretta for warranty repair.

When the Tomcat came back the safety lever worked again, but in very short order the same problem occurred again. Nothing we did would free up the safety, which remained stuck in the OFF position. I cursed Beretta and put the thing away, and only took it shooting once since then.

Last night I came across the pistol as we were getting ready to go shooting today, and I decided to try to deal with the stuck safety one last time.

Here's a picture of the pistol. You can make out the safety lever in the upper right, shown in the OFF positon because the lever was stuck.

The following picture shows the safety lever in more detail, and you can see the red "safety off" indicator.

Following is an extract from the owner's manual showing three of the four parts involved in the mis-operation of the safety lever.

It's a little hard to visualize how part number 25, the safety lever, relates to the pictures I'm posting of the pistol, but consider that the schematic drawing is rotated 180 degrees about its up/down axis relative to the position of the pistol in the pictures I'm posting. In the schematic, the images are on the far side of the pistol, which would be pointed to the right. The long, downward-pointing shaft on part 25, the safety lever, traverses the frame of the pistol. Spring 27 fits into a small hole in the main body of the safety lever 25, and safety plunger 26 fits into the spring, which pushes the plunger up against a Safety Plunger Contact Pin shown in the picture below.

Sorry, it looks like you might have to click on the pictures to show them in a bigger size in order to be able to read the red text that attempts to explain what is shown.

In the picture above, the safety is OFF (rotated down).

In the picture below, the safety is ON (rotated up). Note in the picture below that the tip of the Safety Plunger (part 26) is visible, whereas it is not seen in the picture above because it is rotated to a position underneath the Safety Plunger Contact Pin. In the picture below, you can see the tip of the Safety Plunger because the safety is in the ON position (rotated up), and the Safety Plunger has rotated to a position above the Safety Plunger Contact Pin.

So, you can see how, when you rotate the safety back and forth between the OFF (down) position and the ON (up) position, the Safety Plunger (part 26) has to slide past the Safety Plunger Contact Pin, in the process compressing the Safety Plunger Spring (part 27), which releases after rotation is complete in order to secure the safety lever in its new position.

Here's another picture that might further clarify things, in which the safety lever has again been placed in the OFF (down) position, and the Safety Plunger is no longer visible, having been rotated back underneath the Safety Plunger Contact Pin:

As I was Googling this problem I came across forum posts in which people said they had lost the Safety Plunger while trying to deal with their pistol's issues, so I was aware the thing might take off. I was very careful about that when I removed the grip to try to get at whatever ailed the safety. Sure enough, the damned Safety Plunger came out anyway, but at least it landed right on the table where I could see it.

Fortunately, now that I think I know what the problem is, it should not be necessary to disassemble the thing to this extent to get the safety lever to work if it is stuck.

If the safety lever is stuck in the OFF position, it should be possible to free it by pushing on it with a small instrument of some sort as illustrated in the picture below.

You can't see the tip of the Safety Plunger when the safety is OFF (lever down), but by carefully feeling around for the Safety Plunger as shown above, applying a little pressure to push down the Saftey Plunger, and simultaneously applying reasonable upward force on the safety lever, you should be able to free the safety lever.

I think what's happened is that either the Safety Plunger tip, or the Safety Plunger Contact Pin, or both, are insufficiently polished and/or insufficiently hardened, and until they are polished enough by repeated rotation of the safety lever there is too much friction, which effectively locks the safety lever in the OFF position because one is reluctant to apply more force to the lever for fear of breaking something. As it was, I don't think I could have exerted much more force on the safety lever without a pair of pliers (which would probably have been a stupid thing to try).

I suppose the problem could be something else entirely, but clearly, there is an issue for Beretta to deal with. Maybe it's a manufacturing defect in my particular gun, where the Safety Plunger hole is drilled at the wrong angle. Maybe the Safety Plunger wasn't machined correctly, but then why didn't they catch that when they worked on this gun? Maybe the Safety Plunger Contact Pin is not positioned correctly in the frame due to some manufacturing issue. Maybe the Safety Plunger Spring is too strong. Whatever.

I don't know, but it seems that the safety lever on this particular Beretta Tomcat is now working correctly as a function of repeated rotations having polished the contact points of the Safety Plunger and the Safety Plunger Contact Pin, thereby reducing friction between them to an acceptable level.

I hope this was a unique circumstance with this one pistol, but that seems unlikely at the moment. I know I could have benefited from a post like this as I searched the Internet, so here it is in case anybody else has this problem.

Beretta, you owe me.


Anonymous said...

THANK YOU. You clarified it. I just ordered the parts today as well. This was VERY HELPFUL.
(Why could Beretta not provide this documentation...)

Jeffrey Morgan said...

Baretta should recall this gun. It's a total piece of junk. Bought one for my wife, returned for work 3 times so far. Bought 3/4/10, today is 4/12/10. Last time the gun jammed completely after 7 shots. $44 postage each time returned. The warranty is worthless. I've owned 25 or 30 guns over the years, never one like this. When did this company start producing such a poor gun?

Anonymous said...

Dude, mille grazie for the photos of where those micro parts go. The spring landed in my lap, but I didn't know what else I was looking for until I found a scematic on the Brownells site ( Fortunately, the plunger hit the back of the desk and didn't travel too far. So I had the parts, but not a clue where they went. Thanks for your documentation here. Who knew changing grips could be such an adventure.

Anonymous said...

I'm having the same problem and have lost plunger. Also found that the magazine button often gets depressed when carrying concealed causing the magazine to release. I to am thinking of geting rid of this unreliable pistol

jeffry said...

Just bought the gun today based on utility as pocket gun and price from a friend who needed the cash. When I broke down the grips to check it out the safety plunger pin fell out of nowhere. Never would have fixed it without you. My question is the effect of removing the pin altogether. Functionally, what would happen if the pin were never replaced?

Steve said...

I don't think I'd use the gun without the safety fully assembled. In my case, the safety is fully assembled, but stuck in the Fire position.

I assume you are wondering about not installing the safety plunger, part number 26 in the picture above. If that piece isn't in place, then what will constrain the safety lever itself into either the Safe or Fire position? It would be free to rotate to positions in between. Something tells me that's not OK.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe I didn't lose those parts and was not sure I had them all or what to do with them till I found this post. You saved my tail! Much thanks for taking the time to put such detailed information out here!

Anonymous said...

I found out its because of the design... the safety has outward play which is so slight but just enough to get stuck or eject the plunger.. unreal...piece of SHIT. its a shame such a cool gun is so unreliable. :( I'm stuck w my Beretta now and wanna sell it. I don't know who the heck would buy this crap though lol. Great post man, thanks!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the pictures. Saved me a trip to the gunsmith after removing the grips. Thanks again for taking the time to post this.

M Hu said...

This and the Bobcat (21A) are one of the few Berettas out there that doesn't have a detailed disassembly guide for the armorer. I had utilized my thirty years of experience working with small arms to disassemble and reassemble this pistol to the armorer level. I highly suggest that unless you are an expert, DO NOT take the risk of taking out the safety plunger unless you have the ability to recover parts as large as a pen tip. Although it does have it's faults, the 3032 is fine for what it was designed to do. Deliver a .32 ACP round out to 7 yards fairly accurately. Disassembly of the weapon past it's field disassembly level is not recommended for the average guy. It is tricky and in my own evaluation, extremely small and time cumbersome.

JohnRob said...

I've owned/used/carried many Berettas including multiple Bobcats over the decades and can tell you they are on the whole awesome weapons.

A stuck or stiff safety on these guns can be fixed by anyone, including the average guy, in about 4 minutes if you stop you're whining.

Simply remove a small portion of the safety plunger spring with cutters to get the right tension on the safety and/or to prevent the plunger from pushing too far up out of the channel and sticking. You may also smooth out the tip of the plunger a bit by buffing it lightly with a piece of shop leather.

A replacement spring is just a couple bucks from Brownells if desired for original tension or if you take too much off.

R Morris said...

JohnRob is right. Stop bitching. It is just a machine. Clip one coil at a time from the spring until you have just enough tension to keep the safety in place. Polish the contact area on the inside of an old leather belt. Clean your work area just in case you need to find the parts. Beretta is a fine gun and I have used them for years but they are just a machine

mass firearm school said...

Beretta tomcat is better but I prefer to shoot with the Bobcat in .22. It is good hollow points are easier to find and the cartridge is pretty reliable.

Timorhy said...

Thanks. I bought a used Bobcat 21A. When I to to the house and tried to check it out, the safety was stuck in the off position. I used your information to free the safety. Thanks so much