The oldest firearms manufacturer in the world that is still regularly producing weapons today, Beretta produces everything from world class shotguns to semi-automatic duty pistols to submachine guns to assault rifles. They are widely considered to be among the finest gun manufacturers in the world, to the point that the name ‘Beretta’ carries with it a very high amount of standing and respect.
You may know that Beretta is the oldest firearms maker in the world, but what you may not know is that Beretta has literally been producing firearms ever since the 1500s. What’s more, is that they have remained owned by the same family ever since with fifteen generations of family ownership. They have also supplied firearms used in every single war fought in Europe since their founding. These facts alone make Beretta far more interesting as a manufacturer than your average firearms manufacturer.
In this article, we’ll dive into the history of Beretta, and we’ll also discuss several of their most popular models of firearms as well.
History of Beretta
Besides being one of the oldest firearms manufacturers in the world, Beretta is one of the oldest industrial companies as well. Their logo has also remained the same throughout their history, consisting of a circle with three arrows firing through the circle. These three arrows represent three shots fired at an unseen enemy.
Beretta was first founded in 1526. A craftsman named Bartolomeo Beretta was given the task of supplying new arquebus gun barrels to the Venetian military. When the order was completed, it was the first official transaction in Beretta’s history and served as the launch for the company.
Beretta continued to make gun barrels by the thousands, and while they initially only sold to the militaries and arsenals of Italian states it was only a matter of years before they were globally famous as their reputation spread. As a result, Beretta began exporting firearms to numerous different countries all over the world, including most of the European nations.
The flintlock rifle was first invented in the 1600s, and represented a major turning point in firearms history. Beretta then began producing muskets for both sporting and military usage, and continued to produce single shot small arms to militaries for several hundred years.
It wasn’t until the early 1900s that Beretta began producing some of the firearms that they are the most well-known for today.
For the rest of this article, we’ll discuss some of the most famous firearms in Beretta’s history.
The Beretta M1918 is notable for being one of the first true submachine guns in history. It also has a largely unconventional design, most notably with the overhead magazine that utilizes gravity to help a spent round become replaced. The M1918 was the first submachine gun used by the Italian armed forces, and it saw service at the end of World War I. Some historians even argue that the M1918 was the first submachine gun to formally see combat.
The Beretta M1934 in .380 ACP served as the standard issue pistol for the Italian armed forces during World War II. It was adopted in 1934 and was an evolution over the Beretta pistols that they had issued to the Italian army during World War I. The M1934 carried 7 rounds in the magazine and was a single action design, meaning that the action had to be cocked in order for the weapon to be fired. The M1934 continued to see service for decades after World War II, and was only phased out of service with the Italian military by 1991, which says a lot about the quality of the design.
In the 1950s, the M1934 evolved into the Beretta 70 series, which were available in .22 LR, .32 ACP, and the .380 ACP. The Beretta 70 ceased production in 1985, largely due to the fact that sales were slumping in the face of the rising popularity of the Beretta Cheetah.
The Beretta Cheetah series has been in continuous production since the 1970s, and bears more than a striking resemblance to the 92 series of pistols. In fact, a standard Beretta Cheetah pistol looks like a shrunk down Beretta 92 with the safety moved from the slide to the frame.
The most popular variant of the Beretta Cheetah is the Model 84, which is notable for being one of the very few double stacked .380 ACP pistols on the market (it carries 13 rounds in the magazine). The Cheetah series discontinued regular production in 2013, but Beretta continues to make them in very limited numbers over in Europe and sends small numbers over to the United States each year.
The Beretta 92 series is easily Beretta’s most recognizable and successful pistol of the 20th Century. The 92 borrowed heavily from the design of the Walther P38, utilizes a fixed barrel with locking lugs to help aid in accuracy. The look of the 92 was very distinctive and among the most recognizable in firearms history. The first 92 was later developed into the 92S, which moved the safety from the frame to the slide.
The 92S was developed into the 92SB, which the magazine release from the butt of the gun over to the traditional location behind the trigger guard. The 92SB then developed into the 92FS, which had a more durable Bruniton finish (earlier 92s had a blued finish), a squared off trigger guard, and a curve at the bottom of the frame to help make the firearm more ergonomic.
The military adopted the 92FS as their standard pistol from 1985 to 2017 (under the designation of M9), when it began to be phased out by the SIG Sauer P320 (under the designation M17 and M18). Today here are countless variations of the 92 available. In addition to the standard 92FS, the 92A1, M9A1, and M9A3 variations are also available from Beretta.
The .40 caliber version of the 92 is the 96. Standard magazine capacity of the 92 is 15, 17, or 18 rounds depending on the magazine. Standard capacity of the 96 is 11 or 13 rounds depending on the magazine. A Brazilian clone of the Beretta 92, the Taurus PT92, is also in regular production but kept the frame mounted safety of the original Beretta 92.
Beretta Cougar and Px4 Storm
The Beretta Cougar was a pistol developed and released by Beretta in the mid-1990s as a more compact offering to the 92 series. The Cougar is notable for its rotating barrel design, which is very unique in the firearms market and helps to reduce felt recoil and muzzle flip.
In 2004, Beretta released an updated version of the Cougar in the form of the Beretta Px4 Storm. The Px4 is a polymer framed pistol with a very futuristic look. The Cougar is no longer in production as a result of the success of the Px4, which has been adopted by numerous law enforcement units all over the world.
Beretta also intended for the Px4 to eventually succeed the 92 series, but this has not happened as the 92 has remained Beretta’s most successful handgun design of all time. Today, both the 92 and the Px4 are in regular production.
The Beretta ARX160 is a modular assault rifle that Beretta released in 2008. Originally developed for the Italian arm, the ARX160 was the replacement to the older Beretta AR70 rifles, which had previously been serving the Italian military.
The ARX160 accepts the same STANAG magazines as the AR-15, and has the ability to eject shells out of either side of the rifle as it is truly an ambidextrous weapon. The ARX160 has been accepted as the standard issue service rifle by numerous other militaries and law enforcement units all over the globe as well.
Beretta Cx4 Carbine
The Beretta Cx4, not to be confused with the Px4, is a pistol caliber carbine. It comes in two primary models: one that accepts 92 or 96 magazines in 9mm or .40 respectively, and one that accepts Px4 magazines in 9mm, .40 S&W, or .45 ACP. The military version of the Cx4 is called the Mx4, and it feature a shorter barrel and select fire capabilities.
The Cx4 was specifically designed to be used in conjunction with Beretta pistols, so the user would only need one type of magazine to use with either firearm.
Beretta Tx4 Storm
The Beretta Tx4 Storm is not to be confused with the Px4 handgun or the Cx4 Carbine. The Tx4 is Beretta’s primary tactical shotgun offering. It comes with an 18 inch barrel with a 5 shot magazine capacity, and an ambidextrous trigger. It also features an oversized charging handle for ease of operation.
Released in 2017, the Beretta APX represents Beretta’s first foray into the striker fired gun world to compete with other popular modern day offerings such as the Glock or the Smith & Wesson M&P. The APX is a modular pistol much like the SIG Sauer P320, meaning that the fire control group can be quickly transferred between frames. This allows you to quickly convert between frame sizes and even between calibers. Full size, compact, and subcompact versions of the APX are currently available.
Beretta is a gun company known not only for their quality but also for their innovation. Firearms such as the M1918, 92FS, Px4, and their shotguns have had a lasting impact on firearms design. As the oldest firearms manufacturer at five hundred years and still regularly producing guns today, Beretta is likely to continue their legacy as they continue making new firearms for the next five hundred years to come.