Many handgunners feel the need to fill a niche occupied from 1915 through 1977 by the magnificent Colt Woodsman .22 pistol. There was nary a gun expert with a bad word to say about it. Askins, Keith, Cooper, Grennell, Lachuk, et al raved about it. The Woodsman's slim profile lent itself to tucking in the waistband for a walk in the woods. Match target-grade accuracy was combined with superb fit in the hand, the quality of a Rolex watch and, of course, it was fun to shoot.
The Woodsman has been out of production for more than a quarter century. Many have striven to assume its mantle. Some have been too fat, too bulky, too clunky, or too inaccurate to be a successful pretender to the throne. But one of the few that does meet those five criteria--slimness, accuracy, fit, quality, and "fun factor"--is a little known pistol from Beretta, the Model 87 Target.
Beretta has made .22 Long Rifle sport pistols for years. One of their late, lamented classics is the slender, stylish Model 70, bought in large numbers by Mossad, the Israeli Secret Service, and in itself a contender for the Woodsman's vacated throne at one time. The Series 70 was replaced by the Model 87. Here's how I explained it in The Gun Digest Book of Beretta Pistols, soon to be published by Krause.
"Beretta introduced the Cheetah Model 87 in 1988. It was a companion gun to the Model 84 and Model 85 series .380s, and was functionally identical except for being chambered for the .22 Long Rifle cartridge. The same yeas the firm offered the Model 89 Gold Standard, an aptly named target pistol that was built on the same frame but in single action only mode, with a skeletonized slide running under a high sight-ribbed barrel. The Gold Standard came with an exquisite target grade trigger pull.
"Along about 2000, the Model 89 Gold Standard seemed to disappear from the line, replaced by the Model 87 Target. Where the Gold Standard had resembled a cross between a Cheetah .380 and a Hammerli match pistol, the 87 appeared to be a Cheetah frame with the trigger squared a little in front, and a barrel/slide assembly that was in essence the one from the Gold Standard, but trimmed down a bit from the top and with a Weaver-style scope rail that also acted as a low-profile (iron) sight rail. The Model 87 Target pistol has its own ten-shot .22 LR magazine and will not accept the seven-round mag of the .22 caliber Model 87 Cheetah."
In The Hand
The 87 Target feels lighter in the hand than its stated weight of 41 ounces. Give it five stars for that subjective category of "feel." Having been cloned from a "pocket pistol"...