As I’ve mentioned in multiple previous articles, Beretta is not only the world’s oldest gun manufacturer, its the world’s oldest industrial firm of any kind, dating back to the year 1526 when it began manufacturing arquebus barrels.
In other words, as much as certain Beretta-haters out there may love to deride the company’s products, Fabbrica d’Armi Pietro Beretta (“Pietro Beretta Weapon Factory”) – headquartered in Gardone Val Trompia, Italy, with the Beretta USA subsidiary divided between Gallatin, Tennessee and Accokeek, Maryland – is obviously a company that knows what it’s doing. With that in mind, let’s take a look at Beretta’s Top 5 Firearms.
Beretta 92F/M9 9mm Pistol
Okay, message to my regular readers: stop me if you’ve heard/read this one before: this was the double-action semiauto pistol that, starting with the 1984 trials, filled some big shoes as the replacement for its time-honored and battle-proven M1911 .45 caliber single-action autopistol that served for 73 years as the standard-issue sidearm of the U.S. Armed Forces.
The M9 would serve faithfully in that role for 33 years before being officially replaced in 2017 by the SIG Sauer P320/M17 9mm, but by that point, the 92F’s reputation for accuracy, reliability, and user-friendliness was firmly established, but amongst a myriad of domestic law enforcement agencies – including LAPD, L.A. Sheriff’s Department, and NYPD Emergency Services – as well as countless private citizen gun owners (including Yours Truly, who has considered the gun to be a sentimental favorite since 1989 and now owns three of ‘em).
Beretta M1951 Brigadier 9mm Pistol
Before there was the 92F/M9, there was the M1951 Brigadier, produced from 1951 until 1980. Like its descendant, the Brigadier featured an open-top slide – which reduces the likelihood of stovepipe jams – and a falling locking block system, but unlike the 92F, was a single-action autopistol with an M1911-like sliding trigger.
Unique among handguns, it had a push-button cross-bolt safety catch – more akin to what you see on a shotgun, i.e. “smooth on the right, ready to fight” – at the rear of the grip. The M1951 also had a relatively modest 8-round magazine compared with the “Wonder Nine” capacity of the M92F.
The pistol was soon adopted by not only the Italian Army but also the armies of Israel and Egypt; ergo, in one of those ironic twists of warfare, Israeli and Egyptian troops ended up wielding Brigadier pistols upon each other in conflicts such as the Six-Day War and the Yom Kippur War.
In action-adventure fiction, it was used for a time by protagonist Mack Bolan in Don Pendleton’s bestselling The Executioner novel series.
Eventually, the Egyptians started producing their own version of the pistol under license, known as the Helwan Brigadier.
Some years ago I had the chance to fire a rental Helwan at the Los Angeles Gun Club in Downtown L.A. and found it to be quite pleasant to shoot.
Beretta M12 9mm Submachine Gun
Beretta name brand recognition notwithstanding, the open-bolt Beretta M12 hasn’t attained the success level of the Heckler & Koch (HK) MP5 and Uzi 9mm SMGs. That isn’t to say the M12 hasn’t had its fair share of success.
This SMG first went into production in 1959 and remains in production today, used by the military and police forces of roughly two different nations, including Italy’s elite Nucleo Operativo Centrale di Sicurezza (NOCS; “Central Security Task Group) and Gruppo di Intervento Speciale (GIS; Special Intervention Group).
The weapon has a 550-round-per-minute rate of fire and employs detachable box magazines with a capacity for either 20, 32, or 40 rounds.
Beretta AR70/90 5.56x45mm Assault Rifle
Utilizing the same caliber round as the M16/M4 series, the Beretta AR70/90 was designed in 1985 and adopted by the Italian armed forces in 1990 as a standard-issue infantry weapon, replacing the earlier AR70/223; as noted by the Military-Today website, “Unlike the previous AR70/223, the AR70/90 proved to be reliable.”
Besides Italy, the rifle has been issued in a dozen other nations, including Albania, Burkina Faso, and Honduras.
Beretta A400 12-Gauge Shotgun
Beretta has produced many fine shotgun models, so it was somewhat difficult to narrow things down for the purpose of this article. Still, I settled on the A400 due to the fact that it is so versatile and comes in multiple variants, such as the Xplor Unico, the Xcel, and Xtreme 5 Max. Of the Xcel version, in particular, The Clay Bird website reports:
“Famously dubbed ‘the Blue Gun,’ the Beretta A400 Xcel is a popular choice among staunch clay sporting shooters who prefer semi-automatic shotguns. This masterpiece is easy to maintain and can serve you for a long time before it needs cleaning … Generally, in the world of semi-auto shotguns, no piece is malfunction-free. However, the A400 Xcel is darned close to perfection because it rarely fails to fire … Moreover, its recoil is as soft as it can get, thanks to the perfect combination of a gas-operated feature and the voluntary ‘Kick-Off’ recoil reducer.”
Christian D. Orr has 33 years of shooting experience, starting at the tender age of 14. His marksmanship accomplishments include: the Air Force Small Arms Ribbon w/one device (for M16A2 rifle and M9 pistol); Pistol Expert Ratings from U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) Criminal Investigator Training Program (CITP); multiple medals and trophies via the Glock Sport Shooting Foundation (GSSF) and the Nevada Police & Fires Games (NPAF). Chris has been an NRA Certified Basic Pistol Instructor since 2011. In his spare time, he enjoys (besides shooting, obviously) dining out, cigars, Irish and British pubs, travel, USC Trojans college football, and Washington DC professional sports.