Each plan's failure was punctuated by the cat's return the following day, but in a final act of desperation, Johnson went after the cat with a shotgun loaded with nails and dynamite. Needless to say, "Ninety seven pieces of the man is all they found. But the cat came back the very next day…" as the tune goes.
Being a cat owner, I can relate to the determination that won out in the end, and I've seen similar examples in the firearm industry, particularly when previous firearm designs return to market. Stoeger Industries' newest offering is a fine example. This time, the cat is back as the Cougar 8045 F—sporting the same innovative design as its predecessor, the Beretta Cougar, but with .45 ACP attitude and a surprisingly low price.
Sometimes, no matter how innovative a firearm design, it just falls short. Such was the case with the original production of the Cougar. Despite the popularity of the Beretta M9 and 92F pistols with the U.S. military and law enforcement, many still considered the higher-capacity semi-automatic too big and bulky. The company set out to develop a more compact pistol with enhanced concealability. More than just a shortened variant, the pistol's grip featured improved ergonomics.
Upon hearing of the Cougar's return, my reaction could best be described as one part enthusiasm with a dash of confusion. Why did Beretta choose to venture down a previously traveled road? I didn't have to look any farther than the logo on the pistol's box. Stoeger Industries, a Beretta subsidiary, makes its firearms in Turkey, using Beretta factory tooling. This results in guns that offer the same quality and tolerances as their Italian-made cousins—but for a fraction of the price. However, affordability is just one of this cat's admirable attributes.
In addition to its compact size, all the edges on the Cougar's non-glare steel slide are beveled to get rid of any sharp edges, which promotes a snag-free draw while also preventing the pistol from shredding a shooter's clothing, carry gear or hands with feline-like fury. The sample I received for testing was an 8045 F—the letter refers to the gun's ambidextrous decocking/safety levers protruding from the rear of the slide, located behind a pair of wide serrations cut on a gradual angle.
At first glance, the Cougar's grip configuration is reminiscent of a CZ 75, sporting a straight backstrap with an upper indent for the web of your hand. While it may sound less than appealing to some, the indent provides enhanced ergonomics by accommodating a wide range of hand sizes—despite its eight-round magazine. The Cougar felt good in hand. In truth, I'm uncertain whether the grip indent contributed to that, but the pistol was well-balanced and pointed extremely well for me. The frame also contains a heavy-duty dust cover with an integral rail for mounting lights or lasers.
While the Cougar has several beneficial features, the ones that impressed me most are its barrel and recoil system. A departure from the prevalent tilt-style system that dominates most semi-autos today, the 8045 F sports something different under its sleek, Bruniton-coated hide. A quick field strip revealed a locked-breech system utilizing a rotating barrel. The recoil impulse caused by firing pushes the barrel and slide to the rear. Barrel rotation is accomplished by a cam-like action against an angled protrusion on top of a locking block called the central block tooth—which rides on the guide rod and recoil spring inside the frame, rotating the barrel as it moves. This action unlocks the barrel and breech, allowing brass to eject before chambering a new round as the slide rebounds. While by no means proprietary to this pistol, the rotating design keeps the bore axis better aligned with the target, providing greater accuracy potential. What's more, the mechanism should also reduce felt recoil and muzzle flip—but only range time would tell.
In terms of my experience with the Cougar on the firing line, I tested its accuracy at 10 yards. The pistol handled extremely well, and functioned flawlessly with a wide range of bullet weights. Despite its large chambering, the .45-caliber feline's bite was less than expected—noticeable, but softer than anticipated and quite manageable. Unfortunately, the Cougar's double-action pull, although long, contained minor stacking toward the end, which took some getting used to. Nonetheless, its accuracy proved more than adequate at self-defense distances, and it displayed a penchant for heavier bullets printing .8-inch groups with both 200-grain Hornady Custom and 230-grain Winchester PDX1 ammunition.
While a cat may not be able to change its spots, the new Stoeger Cougar 8045 F is one fiercely determined feline that's back to stay.
Manufacturer: Stoeger Industries; (301) 283-6981,
Action Type: Recoil-operated, locked-breech, semi-automatic
Caliber: .45 ACP
Frame: Anodized AL 7075 alloy
Slide: 6.75 inches; Bruniton-coated, matte-black SAE 8641 steel
Barrel: 3.6 inches, chrome-lined, cold hammer-forged SAE 8641 steel
Rifling: 6 grooves, 1:16-inch RH twist Sights: Drift adjustable, three-dot configuration
Trigger Pull Weight: 5.5 pounds (single action); 9.4 pounds (double action)
Length: 7 inches
Height: 5.44 inches
Weight: 32 ounces
Accessories: Hard case, manual, two eight-round magazines, cable lock