Firearm History

Beretta: A History of the World’s Oldest Firearm Company

Beretta 92fs on Box

The Val Trompia valley district in Italy, including the city of Gardone, runs through the Columbine Mountains, which is a source of high-grade iron ore.

During the Middle Ages, it was the center of ironworking and, at the beginning of the Renaissance Era, it was known for its high-quality gun making.

Maestro Bartolomeo Beretta was a master gun-barrel maker living in Gardone.

In 1526, Bartolomeo was paid by the Arsenal of Venice to make 185 arquebus barrels, making the Beretta company the oldest manufacturing company in the world.

It is written that the bill of sale from 1526 is still in the company’s archives. Bartolomeo Beretta’s son, Jacomo and his grandson, Giovannino, both became master gun-barrel makers.

This passed-on trade has continued for over 500 years. The family has continuously controlled the company for the company’s entire history!

Ugo Gussalli Beretta and his two sons, Pietro and Franco still maintain leadership today.

Old Beretta Compact Pistol

Beretta Goes to the Next Level

The family business continued to grow, and by 1698 they were the second-largest gun barrel producer in Gardone.

They continued to produce gun barrels during Napoleon’s invasion in 1797 and well into Austrian rule.

Pietro Antonio Beretta was now working for the company, and in 1815 he began traveling throughout Italy in order to sell more gun barrels.

In 1832, he named the family company, Fabbrica d’Armi Pietro Beretta.

After Pietro’s death in 1850, his son, Giuseppe took over and encouraged the company to start making complete guns. By 1860, Fabbrica d’Armi Pietro Beretta was making 300 firearms a year.

Guiseppe was succeeded by his eldest son, another Pietro, in 1903. That Pietro led the company for 54 years until he died in 1957.

With Pietro in charge, the company grew substantially, even employing its own source of power — a hydroelectric plant. By 1880, the production grew to 8,000 firearms a year.


Drawing on their past experience with supplying firearms to the military, the company had contracts with the Italian Royal Army during WWI and WWII.

In 1915, Beretta produced the Model 1915, the company’s first pistol. By the end of WWII, they were making 4,000 Model 1915s a month.

Worn Beretta 92fs Brigadier Pistol

Beretta Ventures to the U.S.

In 1975, Beretta introduced the Model 92 in 9mm. The Model 92 is the most widely used self-loading pistol in law enforcement and the military in the world today.

They entered the U.S. market in 1977. The move proved very fruitful for the company.

In April of 1985, the Beretta Model 92 beat out the Colt 1911 .45 to become the U.S. Armed Forces chosen handgun.

The company has continued to grow its line of fine sporting firearms and has added a high-end clothing line.

In 1995, they opened their first gallery in New York. Today there are Beretta galleries in Dallas, Buenos Aires, Paris, Milan and London.

Their website reports that the company produces about 1,500 pieces a day with 90% of those pieces being sporting firearms.

The company also owns Benelli, Franchi, Sako, Stoeger, Tikka, Uberti, Burris Optics and a 20% interest in Browning.

Have you shot any Beretta firearms? What did you think? Let us know in the comments section below!

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in April of 2010. It has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and clarity.

About the Author:

Alex Cole

Alex is a relatively young firearms enthusiast who’s been shooting consistently for around seven years. Though he is fairly new to the industry, he loves consuming all information related to guns and is constantly trying to enhance his knowledge, understanding and use of firearms. Not a day goes by where he doesn’t do something firearms-related.

Alex tries to visit the range at least a couple of times a month to maintain and improve his shooting skills. He also enjoys disassembling and reassembling firearms to see how they work and to keep them properly cleaned and maintained. He installs most of the upgrades to his firearms himself, taking it as a chance to learn.

Additionally, he is very into buying, selling and trading guns to test different firearms and learn more about them. He is not only interested in modern handguns and rifles, he appreciates the classics for both historical value and real-world use.
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (33)

  1. Mr WAYNE C AMMER…. You say you have a “Made in ITALY 9mm” I bet it says “Made in ITALY 9mm Short” or “Made in ITALY .9 Short” or “Made in ITALY 9mm Corto” The 80 Series will not fit a 9mm x19mm round, they were made for the 22LR, .32 ACP or the .380 ACP, which is also called the .380, .380 Auto, 9mm Short, 9mm Corto if you’re Italian or if you’re German, the 9mm Kurtz.

    The 80 Series of Pistols were introduced in 1976 and was known as the 80-Series At some point in the 80’s The Series was then called the Cheetah.

    From Beretta’s own Website –


  2. After reading the post by Mr. Wayne C. Ammer, I was curious about the Model 84BB, so I googled it. On a website I found, they were showing, for sale, a Beretta Model 84BB, made in 1990. They include a number of photos. Mr Ammer mentioned that he had never seen a Model 84BB in 380. Well, they very definitely make one. The pistol in the ad is stamped clearly on the left side of the frame, MOD 84BB CAL.9 Short. In another photo, 380 Auto is stamped on the open barrel.

  3. I personally own a 9mm Model 84BB, excellent home defense piece having a 13 shot mag and 1 in the pipe gives me an advantage. I also have 2 mags so if needed that’s like a half a box of 50 I think it’s not in the criminals best interest to break in to my home. At least not if they want to get out alive. There’s always the controversy over whether or not it’s a .380 auto or an actual 9mm. Well I’m happy to say it’s stamped directly on the side of the barrel, “Made in ITALY 9mm”. In fact I’ve never seen a Beretta model 84 that was a .380 auto. I’ve seen “Cheetahs” that were .380 Auto. A lot of people confuse the 2 guns and try to say they’re the same, well I’m also happy to tell you this too. They’re not! Close but not quite.
    In any case this is one of the most affordable and finest semi automatic pistols ever made, like a shorter version of the Model 92FS. Which was carried by many military personnel for years, and out performed I’m sorry to say the “1911 COLT 45” side arm which I’m a big fan of. Sorry guys Beretta was , lighter, faster firing, more rounds, felt better in the hand, easier maintenance, and last but not least was more accurate. The only complaint I have with the 84 is, the recoil spring is too heavy at 14lbs. making it hard for my wife to use. If you like me have arthritis in your hands it can be difficult to rack the slide and even though an 11lb. is available it’s not recommended for use as damage will occur to the rear slide stop causing the slide to hang or jam after 5000 or so rounds. Best I can recommend is; Since its’ easily changed, when you go to the practice range swap out the 11 for the 14, fire as many rounds as you wish. On the last mag or so, switch to the 11 fire a few rnds to get the feel, pack it up and go home and clean your gun. If you haven’t switched out the recoil spring as of yet now’s a good time. If (God forbid) you’ll need to rack the gun quickly, you’ll be abled too and it shouldn’t jam because the rear slide stop hasn’t been damaged. You haven’t fired 5000 rnds w/o a 14lb recoil spring. Right spring No Damage, Light Spring Easy to Rack. You choose it’s pretty easy.
    One of the biggest bone head blunders of all time concerning the Beretta Firearms Co. is when Gov. Martin O’Maley of Maryland forced the longtime manufacturing plant out of Maryland, claiming they were flooding the streets with illegal firearms. And oh yeah, forgot, They’re a bad image for the state of Maryland. What a crock! They were a large employer and produced some of the finest pistols and firearms ever made, Not only for the public consumer, but for thousands of military personnel, Police Officers as well as Government Officials! That’s right Gov’t Officials!
    What a loss that was to the state of Maryland.
    So Gentleman, in closing, If you can find one and there’s a lot of them available, get one. You won’t go wrong. Get it before it’s too late!
    Sincerely, Doc Wayne

  4. I am happy to own and use several Beretta firearms. My first purchase was a Silver Snipe,12 gauge O/U which I purchased in 1962. Since then, I now have a Model 92FS, two model 686 Silver Pigeon I in 12 & 20 ga., a model 950-B in 25 cal., and a Beretta Trap Special(single barrel).

    All have performed flawlessly for many years and live up to the high standards that have existed since the inception of the Beretta Firearms Company.

  5. My first pistol I acquired was a 92FS. It took a few thousand rounds to break in, but once it was there, it was my favorite weapon for the range and for every day carry. Of all my weapons lost in a structure fire, the loss of this piece hit the hardest.

  6. I own and carry aWilson Combat 92 compact carry and it is by far one of the best firearms I own. Together the two companies made one of the finest shooting pistols I have ever owned. Truly, the Beretta quality allowed Wilson to have a solid canvas on which to improve upon. Soft shooting, high quality, reliable are the words that come to mind each day I get her out on the range or carry it. Can’t ever go wrong with a Beretta by your side.

  7. Great article! I’m a relatively new shooter. Started about 5 years ago with a .22 pistol. After about a year, I moved up to 9mm, with the purchase of a Beretta 92-A1. Absolutely love this gun. Shoots very well, moderate recoil, eats anything I’ve put through it so far. I have only fired about 3000 rounds, but have never had a malfunction. It’s easy to take down and clean. In June of this year, I was able to purchase a Beretta M1A1-22, which is almost identical to the 92A1. It allows me to continue to train using my stock of .22LR, in this time of short, and excessively high priced ammo. This .22 is a really slick shooter, much better that my other .22’s. My Sig Sauer 1911-22, was nothing but hang up after hang up; at least 1FTF in every 2 mags. Got rid of it quick. My most recent purchase was a Beretta PX4Storm in .40S&W. Haven’t been able to shoot it much; no ammo available, but when I did shoot it, I was really pleased. Love the rotating barrel design, and to me, it seems to mitigate recoil, compared to other .40S&W pistols I’ve fired. Don’t think you can go wrong with a Beretta weapon.

  8. Thank you for this history lesson. Unfortunately, there are two small inaccuracies. First of all, Beretta is the oldest CONTINUALLY OPERATING firearms manufacturer. There were other companies, which were manufacturing firearms prior to Beretta, but they are no longer in business.
    As the original article was published in 2010, it was likely true then, but I believe that there are now more Glocks in Law Enforcement use worldwide.

  9. I have the Beretta 82 in .32 APC and my pride and joy my Beretta 92FS in 9 mm, 15 round with decocker. Love them both.

  10. “Beat out” the 1911? Well… Sort of. My friend ran the gun range at “a very large U.S. Military Academy” at the time. They brought him a Model 92 and said “This is the new handgun. Approve it.” The Italians were going to buy some missiles from us and in return we were going to buy Model 92’s from them. So, “beat out?”

  11. The Baretta 418 was the gun of choice for James Bond in the early Fleming novels, until he was forced to carry a Walther PPK.

  12. I’m trying to find out how old my Beretta s/s shotgun is. I think it might be a Silverhawk-XVI-C41951.
    Any help would be appreciated.

  13. It is still the world’s best kept secret that Italy has produced and continues to produce the world’s most genius’s per square mile of territory than any other country in the world. I am so happy to go to my Italian studies class where every day I learn about another dozen miracles of engineering, design, cultural and agricultural achievements that Italy continues to produce.

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