Armi Beretta SpA of Gardone Val Trompia (about 20 km north of Brescia, Italy) has a history in firearms manufacturing reaching back to 1526, when they were established as a maker of barrels. But it was not until 1915 that, responding to the needs of the military during World War I, they produced their first pistol, the model 1915. Beretta has become one of the world's largest pistol makers and the model 1934 (M1934) was their most numerous product in the pre-World War II era.
In the early 1930s, the Italian army was impressed by the Walther PP pistol. Beretta did not want to lose a big military contract to their German competitor and designed the M1934 for the Italian Army which accepted it in 1937. This model was followed by the M1935, which was similar to the M1934 in most respects, except that it fired a .32 ACP (7.65 mm Browning) cartridge.
Pistols made during the Fascist Era are marked with their year of manufacture in two forms: the conventional Julian date in Arabic numerals and the date in the Fascist Era in Roman numerals. The Fascist calendar commenced on 28 October 1922, so a pistol from 1937 May carry either "XV" or "XVI" as its Fascist year.
As a footnote in the weapon's long history, an M1934 was used in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi in New Delhi, India on 30 January 1948. The pistol, serial number 606824, was wielded by Nathuram Godse in the assassination. It was also one of the weapons of choice for famed Australian criminal/author Mark Brandon "Chopper" Read.
The weapon saw extensive use in World War II in the hands of Italian, German, and Romanian forces, and quite a few were captured by Allied forces during the war.
It was designed and purpose-built for the Italian armed forces, but was also sold on the black market. Pistols taken by the armed forces usually exhibit acceptance marks stamped into the frame on the left just above the grip: "RE" (Regio Esercito) for the army, "RM" (Regia Marina) for the navy, or "RA" (Regia Aeronautica), always in the form of an Eagle wearing a Royal Crown for the Royal air force. Police pistols may be marked "PS" (Pubblica Sicurezza).
The Romanian military, at the time an Axis power, also purchased model 1934 (and 1935) pistols. The calibre marking appears as 9 mm Scurt (short in Romanian) rather than 9 mm Corto.
Fitted with the characteristic Beretta open slide, the M1934 has a very reliable feeding and extraction cycle; the elongated slot in the top of the slide acts as the ejection port. It is made with relatively few parts and very simple to maintain. The M1934 is very robust in construction with a service life believed to be over 100 years if properly maintained.
The .380 ACP ammunition is somewhat anemic and the magazine capacity is only 7 rounds. When the empty magazine is removed it no longer holds the slide back. The slide will come forward and close the gun unless it is held open by application of the safety, a separate operation, and this slows down the reloading of the pistol. In most countries (though not in the U.S. or Germany, for example) in this era, the carrying of a pistol was primarily an indicator of rank rather than having a serious defensive purpose.
Type Semi-automatic pistol
Place of origin Italy Kingdom of Italy
In service 1937
Used by Italy
Wars World War II
Number built 1,080,000
Weight 750 g (26.4 oz)
Length 150 mm (5.91 in)
Barrel length 88 mm (3.46 in)
Cartridge .380 ACP (9×17mm Browning Short)
Muzzle velocity 1,000 ft/s (304.8 m/s)
Feed system 7-round detachable box magazine