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.
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.
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.
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.