A Bit About Beretta Firearms
“How could one have such ties with an inanimate object,” James Bond asked in the 1958 novel Dr. No in reference to his .25 caliber Beretta firearm — a question that has been introduced hundreds of ways when the public by and large reflects on the firearms industry.
One answer among many: tradition. At this point, it might seem that gunpowder has replaced the blood within the veins of the Beretta family, which for 15 generations since 1526 (and possibly even earlier) has held family ownership over the oldest active firearms components manufacturer in the world.
Today’s Beretta Holding S.p.A., headed by Pietro Gussalli Beretta with his brother Franco and father Ugo, contains 26 companies spanning hunting, sporting, clothing, accessories, electro-optics, defense and law enforcement.
Early Beretta History Has Roots In The Italian Renaissance
Bartolomeo Beretta is the forefather of Beretta history, born in 1490 and the recipient of a contract in 1526 to produce 185 arquebus barrels for the Arsenal of Venice for a grand total of 296 ducats (gold or silver trade coins in the Middle Ages).
Bartolomeo’s son Jacomo continued the tradition as a master craftsman. The Venetian Republic legalized the Medieval rule stating that only the son of a master craftsman could become a master, according to The World of Beretta: An International Legend by Robert Wilson.
Jacomo’s sons Lodovico, specializing in gun lock fabricating, and Giovannino, following his grandfather’s footsteps in crafting gun barrels, led the charge and future generations into the family’s specialization.
In 1641, Giovanni Antonio Beretta engineered a breech-loading cannon, bolstering the family’s name alongside relatives like Bartolomio and amplifying the prominence of the Beretta clan.
The Berettas had a home within the village, which was strategically placed next to a range of mountains rich in iron ore. Gardone became known for its contributions to local and foreign armories.
The family’s quality and production numbers were benchmarked in 1698 when they were listed second out of a total 33 masters, manufacturing 2,883 barrels out of a total of 21,930 long barrels and 1,136 pistol barrels, according to The World of Beretta.
Production slowed in the 18th century due to increased competition and waning interest in the unique, intricate Gardonese barrels. This was later compounded by Napoleon invading Italy, taking over Venice, selling control to Austria and the deconstruction of the Italian guild system.
When the country’s industrial advancement was trying to find a place in fluctuating foreign and domestic markets, Pietro Antonio carved out a new path. He established relationships with importers, retailers and wholesalers. Importantly, his firm’s name is what lasts even to this day, Fabbrica d’Armi Pietro Beretta.
Pietro’s oldest son, Giuseppe Antonio Beretta, advanced his father’s firm and molded it into a full-fledge firearms manufacturer. By 1850-1860 there were about 250-300 guns built lock, stock and barrel annually, with the focus being on fine sporting guns. According to Wilson’s book, that number increased to 7,000 - 8,000 by the 1880s.
Giuseppe was considered a modern master. He unified all operations to build shotguns in one location and innovated machinery and organizational leadership. He was succeeded by his son Pietro Beretta (they were big on naming after ancestry it seems) in June 1903, who took control of the 10,000 square meters of factory space.
Pietro literally brought the company into a new era at the turn of the century, powering the facilities with a hydroelectric plant on the Mella River and later introducing the company’s Model 1915, engineered and designed by Tullio Marengoni. This was introduced for Italian Royal Army officers. Production was up to around 4,000 a month in 1915.
There were also conversions of the Vetterli Model 1870 and Model 70-87 rifles and carbines implemented. Gardone-native Marengoni had no formal scientific training, according to The World of Beretta, but served as the company’s Italian antithesis to John M. Browning.
From 1894 to 1965, he served the company by engineering several commercial, military and law enforcement arms such as the Model S1 Sovrapposto shotgun, Model 950 6.35 caliber automatic pistol, Model 1918 submachine gun (said to be the first of its kind), Model 922 Giustapposto hammerless shotgun, Model 418 and Model 1920 pocket automatic pistols.
After the First World War, the company once again focused on civilian arms and Beretta reintroduced the Lario “Italia” model shotgun. Fascism circulated Italy in the late ‘30s, but according to Wilson’s historical record, Pietro Beretta had a close relationship with the company’s laborers, making this an issue that his Val Trompia factories did not have to wrestle with.
The Second World War once again pushed production, with the Italian government requesting the Model 1934 automatic pistol and Beretta’s automatic rifle, the MAB38A. Beretta’s facilities were occupied by German SS troops in 1943 and Pietro was captured by Nazis near the end of the war.
Modern Beretta History Saw Success In The American Market — Plus Several Others
Beretta history was brought into a new era of ubiquity under the rule of Pier Giuseppe and Carlo, Pietro’s sons who took over following their father’s demise.
Soon, the company pushed several new firearms into the civilian and military markets. The BM59 in 7.62 NATO with semi-and full-automatic capability was introduced, which is held in comparison to the M14. Other firearms built were the Model 1951 pistol, the PM12 submachine gun, the AR70 military rifle and the SO series of deluxe over-and-under shotguns, according to The World of Beretta.
Pier Giuseppe and Carlo broadened Beretta’s presence across borders and oceans, establishing presences across Europe from 1961 to 1971, and manufacturing handguns from 1971 to 1980 in a São Paulo, Brazil plant for the Brazilian Army.
The company sold that plant to Forjas Taurus S.A. after that government contract ended, and focused on the American market. Taurus later used this location to produce the PT92, a mimicry of the Beretta 92, which was an important model for Beretta and catapulted the brand into further popularity.
The 9mm Model 92 was introduced in 1975 and was quickly adopted by the Brazilian Police do Escercito, and the Italian police and military. The Model 92 was the chosen sidearm for several countries’ law enforcement personnel, including the French Gendarmerie Nationale, U.S. Armed Forces and more than 1,600 law enforcement agencies in North America over time, according to Wilson’s historical account.
In 1977, the Model 92 transitioned into the Model 92S with its new decocking lever safety, used by the Italian State Police and entering the US market. It then transitioned into the Model 92S-1 and then 92SB, adopted by Italian State Police, Carabinieri, Guardia di Finanza and the Connecticut State Police.
The U.S. Military contract for the M9, which the Model 92 transitioned into, in 1985 called for about 315,000 pistols at a total value of $75 million. The M9 was again requested (56,000 models) in 1989, the same year it saw service in Panama. The U.S. Army awarded a $580 million contract to Sig Sauer to replace the M9 in early 2017.
Ugo Gussalli Beretta, the company’s managing director since 1981, took over as president in 1993 when his uncle Giuseppe passed away. The umbrella company added more acquisitions to its portfolio in the early 2000s with Benelli Arms S.p.A., Aldo Uberti & Co., s.r.l. and Sako Ltd.
Beretta’s firearms have transitioned models and hands so many times over the past 500 years that entire historical texts and several museums document the immense lines of pistols, shotguns, rifles and other categories that have grown over centuries of advancement.
Modern Beretta Handguns For Everyday Carry
Modern Beretta handguns range from full size to compact, with the most recent addition to the U.S. market, the Beretta APX, being a full-size, striker-fired, polymer-framed pistol chambered in 9mm (17 round magazine capacity) and .40 S&W (15 round magazine capacity).
It had circulated international markets for about a year before Beretta started shipping it to the U.S. in late April 2017. Both calibers’ weights are roughly 28 oz. unloaded, and the pistol (which has a modular chassis system) accommodates right and left-handed users with an ambidextrous slide stop and magazine release button that can be reversed either direction.
The Px4 Storm Full Size has four types. Type C is constant action with the hammer in a half-cocked position, whereas the double action only Type D has a hammer that falls all the way down upon each time firing. Type F and Type G are single/double action.
It has a 4 inch barrel (4.1 in .45 auto in Type C, D and F) and is chambered in .40 S&W, .45 auto, 9x19 (para) and 9x21 IMI. Depending on the type and caliber, its overall length is 7.55 inches or 7.68 inches, overall height is 5.51 inches and overall width is 1.42 inches.
It has a 3-dot sight system, ambidextrous safety, automatic firing pin block, Commander-style hammer, interchangeable backstraps, a Picatinny rail and a reversible magazine release.
The Px4 compact models come in Type F and Type G (the Type G has a low profile decocker), both single/double action, offered in 9x19 (para) (15 round capacity), 9x21 IMI (15 round capacity) and .40 S&W (12 round capacity) at a 5 inch height, 3.27 inch barrel length and 1.42 inch width.
The Px4 SubCompact Type F is a single/double action, concealed carry option with a 3 inch barrel and 6.22 inch overall length, 4.8 inch height and 1.42 inch width. It’s available in 9x19 (para) (13 round capacity), 9x21 IMI (13 round capacity) and .40 S&W (10 round capacity). It is 26.1 oz. unloaded.
It has an ambidextrous safety, interchangeable backstraps, a commander-style hammer, an automatic firing pin block, Picatinny rail, reversible mag release and a grip extension for the little finger of the dominant hand.
There are multiple variations in the 92 Series. The 92G has a hammer decocking lever on the slide. The lever will decock the hammer and rotates the rear part of the firing pin, and once complete the decocking lever returns to the firing position after operation.
The 92FS Vertec Inox has a stainless steel finish, Picatinny rail, vertical Vertec grip, a barrel flush with the slide for slimmer profile.
The 92 Brigadier is meant to minimize recoil and increase durability with a heavy slide profile. It also has soft Hogue grips to absorb recoil. The 92 Compact (and the railed model) is, well, just what one would expect it to be — more concealable and smaller than its ilk.
The M9A1 is a response to military requests to improve the M9 in a few areas, specifically its ability to weather sandy conditions through modifications to the magazines and pistol. It also has an aggressive internal bevel to quicken reload times.
The 92A1 saw similar upgrades, but has a few subtle differences like a rounded trigger guard, no military markings, and a removeable front site. It has a frame integrated recoil buffer.
The M9A3 has a Vertec-style thin grip, universal slide design convertible from safety-decocker to decocker-only, a beveled magazine well, oversize magazine release button and a 3-slot Picatinny rail.
The 92FS, 92 Vertec Inox, 92A1, 92G and 92 Brigadier are single/double action, 5.4 inches in height, 8.5 inches in overall length, 1.5 inches wide, 33.3 oz. unloaded and chambered in 9x19 (para). The 92 Compact (as well as the 92 Compact with Rail Inox and M9A1 Compact Bruniton chambered in 9x19 para) 9mm is 5.25 inches in height, 7.75 inches in overall length, 1.5 inches in width, 31.6 oz. unloaded and has a 13 round magazine. Its model in 9x19 (para) has a 15 round magazine, is 5.4 inches high, 8.5 inches in length, and 1.5 inches in width. The M9A1 has similar dimensions, with the M9A3 only slightly larger in length.
There are two more narrowly targeted models for the concealed carry market: the BU9 Nano and Pico models. The striker-fired BU9 Nano comes chambered in 9x19 (Para) and 9x21 IMI with a 6 round magazine. At 19.8 oz., it is 4.17 inches high, 5.63 inches in total length and 0.9 inches in width. It has a reversible magazine release, a striker deactivator for service and disassembly, snag-free design, adjustable 3-dot sights and replaceable polymer frames with the serialized chassis.
The miniature .380 auto Pico has a 2.7 inch barrel and is 11.5 oz. unloaded. This double-action-only pistol is 4 inches high, 5.1 inches long and 0.725 inch (18mm) wide. It comes with an extended grip magazine and a magazine that sits flush.
There are even more compact models with tip-up, 2.4 inch barrels in the 21A Bobcat (4.92 inches in total length and 3.7 inches high, chambered in 25 auto and .22 LR with 7 round magazines) and 3032 Tomcat models (available in 32 auto with the same dimensions).
There are also models chambered in 22LR. The 10-round U22 plinking series has models with 4.5 inch barrel (at a total 8.8 inch length and 5.2 inch height) and 6 inch barrel (at a total 10.3 inch length and 5.2 inch height) with aerodynamic design and ergonomics.
About The Author
Jake Smith (@notjakesmith) is a copywriter in his final year of studying public relations and apparel at the University of Idaho.