An enemy of Israel believes that he has successfully slipped away from the Mossad after his heinous act of terrorism. It’s a beautiful evening and time for a stroll. As the terrorist steps out of his apartment his chest is peppered with a handful of .22 Long Rifle bullets that immediately end his terrorist career. The only thing that the local police find is a dead terrorist and a small pile of .22 LR brass casings sprinkled close to the deceased.
The Beretta Model 70 and the functionally identical Model 71, both in .22 LR, have served with great distinction as the signature terminator pistol of the Mossad, the premiere intelligence agency of the State of Israel. The Beretta 70 was also carried by Israeli Sky Marshals.
The Beretta Model 70 and 71 are compact single-action .22-caliber semi-automatic pistols that accommodate an eight-round magazine, weigh 17 ounces with an unloaded magazine and have a 3.5-inch barrel. The Beretta Model 71 and the 70 are basically identical in every respect except that the Beretta Model 70s come equipped with a low-profile, adjustable rear sight. One feature that appears on both models is either a thumb safety or a cross bolt safety. These pistols also have the magazine release on the left side of the grip, near the bottom of the frame. According to a reliable source in Israel, the .22-caliber Beretta 70 was taken out of service in the mid 1970s and was replaced by a 9mm Beretta.
One of the most famous incidents involving the use of a .22 caliber Beretta 70 “Jaguar” pistol occurred in February of 1969. After the 1968 hijacking of an El Al airliner by Palestinian terrorists, the Israeli government decided to dramatically increase aviation security by placing sky marshals on board. Eventually, the decision was made to place armed veteran Israeli soldiers aboard El Al aircraft. This Israeli sky marshal program was top secret and never publicized.
During the incident that took place in February of 1969, Israeli Sky Marshal Mordechai Rachamim engaged several heavily armed Arab terrorists as they attacked an EL Al airliner on a snow covered runway in Zurich. Despite the odds against him, the young Israeli sky marshal expertly used his issued Beretta Model 70 pistol to kill one of the Palestinian terrorists, moments before the Zurich Police arrived and took the remaining terrorists into custody. The three surviving male Palestinian terrorists received 12-year jail sentences for attacking a commercial airliner with machine guns and explosives that resulted in the killing and wounding of several passengers and crew. Sky Marshal Mordechai Rachamim became an instant hero at home in Israel.
Rachamim told the author that during this engagement at least two of the rounds fired from his Model 70 hit the mark and were responsible for one of the male terrorists being KIA—pretty good shooting, considering that Rachamim single-handedly charged the enemy position while he emptied his .22 caliber pistol at the heavily armed terrorists. Even though Israeli Sky Marshal Rachamim was only armed with a .22, far too much was at stake for him to miss his target. Failure was not on option.
In May of 1972, Rachamim participated in another daring and equally dangerous tactical operation involving aviation security when he and other members of Israel’s elite Sayert Matkal commando unit rescued passengers and crewmembers onboard a hijacked Sabena Airline flight at Lod Airport (now, Ben-Gurion) in Tel Aviv. At the time, this unit was under the command of Ehud Barak, a future Prime Minister of Israel.
Effective, Compact Tools
During this operation, Rachamim and other Israeli commandos assigned to Sayeret Matkal disguised themselves as airline mechanics before storming the hijacked Belgian airliner. As the signal to move was given, Rachamim once again used his issued Model 70 to kill one of the Palestinian terrorists. A second male Palestinian terrorist was also gunned down.
Once again the Israeli sky marshals and Sayert Matkal commandos proved that you do not necessarily need to be heavily armed with sub-machine guns and major-caliber pistols to stop terrorists and criminals. Just like David killed Goliath with a slingshot and a small rock, the Israelis in more modern times used .22s to eliminate a different type of monster from the field of battle.
Ranhamim recently advised Tactical Weapons that during the commando raid on the Sabena Airline jet in 1972, he carried two spare magazines for his issued Beretta. After drawing his pistol and racking the slide, Rachamim recalls charging at one of the male terrorists while he “stabbed” his pistol out in front of him toward his target as he “released rounds.” As he fired his pistol, Rachamim remembered being close enough to see some of his bullets hit the mark. The sight of blood draining from the dead hijacker’s mouth confirmed that the terrorist that he engaged inside the crowded cabin would no longer pose a threat.
Back in the late 1960s and 1970s even the Israelis were still learning how to improve security. Israeli’s selected the Beretta 70/71 because this .22 caliber pistol is a compact, accurate and flawlessly reliable performer that could easily be used to quickly and accurately deliver multiple rounds into vital parts of a human body. The Beretta Model 70/71 in .22 Long Rifle has virtually no recoil and can be easily controlled in rapid fire. There was also little chance that a .22 caliber bullet would cause significant collateral damage inside the crowded cabin of an airliner. No group of armed professionals ever used a .22 caliber pistol as effectively as Israeli Mossad operators and Israeli sky marshals.
Although the Beretta 70 & Model 71 are no longer being manufactured, you can still find these outstanding pistols on the used gun market. Like the Beretta family, I share a proud Italian heritage but that doesn’t influence my thoughts on these fine .22 pistols (had I been king, I would have chosen the 9mm SIG 226 or the 9mm SIG 228 over the 9mm Beretta M9 as the standard-issue U.S. military handgun). But for the record, the Beretta Model 70 and 71 are two of the best .22 caliber pistols ever produced.
The .22 caliber Beretta Model 70 & 71 were not designed to serve as a traditional personal defense handgun in a military or police application. However, just like other handguns that have been pressed into government service, the Beretta 70 and 71 proved their effectiveness as an up-close-and-very-personal specialized weapon for certain Israeli government operatives.
After many years firing these pistols, it is easy to see why the Beretta 70 and 71 in .22 LR were identified as a favorite of Israeli Mossad officers and sky marshals of yesteryear. Due to their lightweight design, they are incredibly easy to operate using the Israeli technique of drawing the handgun, then quickly racking the slide to load the weapon, before punching the pistol toward their target and opening fire—a fast way to empty an eight-round magazine of light-recoiling .22 Long Rifle ammunition. To use the Israeli method all you have to do is carry a pistol with a fully loaded magazine and the chamber empty.
I suspect that Israeli Mossad operators and sky marshals liked using the Beretta 70 and 71 because these pistols do not feel like a dainty little handgun that a lady would use to make a mugger take his business elsewhere. When you grip a Beretta 70/71 you feel confident that you are holding a pistol that is capable of winning a gunfight, even though it is chambered in a caliber that is not known for significant stopping power. Israeli operators have proven that, when used properly, a .22 can be very effective in stopping a terrorist or an enemy of the state dead in their tracks.
The Reliability Factor
My pair of Beretta 71s were reliable at all times. In fact, one of my Beretta 71s was flawlessly reliable even though it was fired several times without being cleaned. Both of my Beretta 71s have digested CCI Mini Mags, Remington 40-grain soft leads, Federal 36-grain hollow points and Remington Golden Bullets in 36-grain HP without a problem.
Even though my Beretta 70 does not like CCI Mini Mags, this pistol works flawlessly when used with standard velocity Federal, Remington and Winchester .22 LR ammunition. The Beretta 71 and 70 are designed to be carried with the hammer on safe, fully cocked and ready to fire. All the operator has to do to fire a cocked and locked pistol like a 1911 or a Beretta 71/70 is lower the thumb safety and pull the trigger. This means the Beretta 71 and 70 can be carried cocked and locked with a live round in the chamber just like a 1911. You can also use the Israeli method to load and fire the Beretta 70 & 71.
Over the years the Beretta 70 and 71 have proved to be an excellent platform to train young shooters how to safely operate and use a single-action semi-automatic pistol. Both of my sons trained with a Beretta 71 when they were young: The Beretta 71 and 70 are tremendous confidence builders because they are amazingly accurate, flawlessly reliable and exhibit virtually no recoil. The Beretta 70 and 71 are also excellent pistols for people who suffer from arthritis and find it difficult to operate the slides, or tolerate the recoil of handguns that are chambered in more potent calibers. These pistols are very easy to hold onto, especially during rapid-fire drills. Even with rudimentary fixed sights you will impress yourself with the level of proficiency you can display with a .22 caliber Beretta Model 70 or 71 in a CQB (Close Quarter Battle) drill.
Whether practicing rapid-fire drills at point-blank range, or trying your hand at long-range plinking, the Beretta 70 and 71 are more than capable pistols to train with and use in an emergency. Like other Berettas, the Model 70 and 71 are easy to dissemble and maintain. Anyone who is interested in a reliable and compact .22 LR caliber pistol should try to find a Beretta 70 or 71 on the used gun market. I promise you that you will not regret adding this to your arms chest.