Bernardelli P018S: A Hipster’s Service Pistol

Bernardelli is (was) an Italian firearms manufacturer in the Val Tromp dating back to the 1600s…but whom few people have ever heard of. They produced 1889 Bodeo revolvers between the World Wars, and after World War Two they had a line of pocket pistols that were never particular popular or respectable in the US.

In 1982, the company released the P018, its effort to create a military and police service pistol. On paper, it was basically completely average for the time. It used a Browning tilting-barrel system, DA/SA firing mechanism, right-handed manual safety and magazine release, steel frame, and double-stack 15-round magazines. It was quite well made, and worked very well. It just never managed to be at the right place and the right time, and was never adopted by any organizations of significance.

A series of pistols followed the original P018, including the P018 Compact, P018S (this example; with a decoder and simple plastic grips), P.ONE regular, P.ONE Compact, and VB Practical (and IPSC competition model). Early models were offered in 7.65mm Parabellum (for maximum hipster points), 9mm Parabellum (for normal people), and 9x21mm (for the Italian civilian market). With the P.ONE, .40 S&W was also added to the offerings. None were bad guns, but none were commercial successful and only a few thousand of all types were made before production ceased in the 1990s.


  1. This pistol really ought to be compared as a contemporary of the Benelli M76. Both Benelli and Bernardelli were “second manufacturers” in the Italian market, so far as service firearms went, and both tried getting into the same market as Beretta was serving with the M1951 and M92. I think Bernardelli did it with a bit more sanity.

    Single example of these pistols that I fired was pretty good; the only weird thing was that multi-function safety/decocker. I think you could get to be very effective with it, but… Sweet babblin’ baby Jesus, would it be a nightmare to train. If you found that people were easily confused by the relatively straightforward M9 version of the Beretta M92…?

    Let’s just say that the guy I borrowed the Bernardelli from was less than proficient with it. I had to show him how it worked, after consulting his manual for the pistol. Hell, it took me a couple of minutes to figure it out, what with the “interesting” way the instructions were written. I’m pretty sure that the guy who wrote the English version of those was consulting that infamous English-Portuguese traveler’s vocabulary “English as She is Spoke”. I just hope that the German and French parts of the manual were better-written…

    I liked shooting the pistol, other than the safety system. Guy who gave me the opportunity was definitely a character; I think he bought the gun as a companion to his Bernardelli shotguns, and because he was a second- or third-generation Italian who took great pride in his Italian heritage. Also, a guy who was a bit of an iconoclast when it came to about anything he owned… I swear to God, if he bought something? They went out of business shortly after. Or, stopped serving the US market; he drove Lancias or Alfa Romeo cars, shot Italian guns exclusively, and just about everything else he owned was some Italian-sourced oddity you couldn’t get parts for. Drove his wife nuts, and she was an authentic Italian girl he’d met and married while stationed in Vicenza. Which is where I think he caught “the bug”, so to speak. Guy went entirely native on us. I’d known him before he was assigned to Vicenza, and again, afterwards. Before, he’d really made no mention of the fact that he was Italian; afterwards? Oi. Even his wife raised her eyebrows…

    • Benelli was the wrong gun at the right time. It entred the market at the same time of other “wondernines” that acquired mithical status (Beretta 92, CZ75, P220), but, despite good ideas, the single stack magazine and complicate disassembly condemned it (SIG corrected the single stack P220 with the P226).
      Bernardelli was the right gun at the wrong time. It had all the right features, but it made everything right, with the “S” model, (and then the P-One, that’s a “S” with front serrations and available in .40S&W) at the start of the plastic gun frenzy.
      Add that they hadn’t the financial power of Beretta or SIG, so no production in the US, no contracts with cool agencies, had to rely on questionable importers…
      Tanfoglio had the same problem, but at least Tanfoglio had a design that everyone wanted, couldn’t obtain from the original manufacturer, and got the tooling for it before anyone else.

      • I got the impression that Bernardelli didn’t really want the export market; the US agent for them expressed some dissatisfaction with the company in Italy when we tried getting some parts for my friend’s pistol. I guess there was a target model whose sights were adjustable, and he wanted me to find out how to get them, sooooo… Yeah, sometimes being the “go-to” guy for guns can be challenging.

        • Also I really like the safety-decocker feature. With that and the firing pin block, with a single, frame-mounted safety lever, you can safely carry in all the possible ways.
          Hammer down on empty chamber.
          Hammer down on loaded chamber, safety off.
          Hammer down on loaded chamber, safety on.
          Cocked and locked.
          Half-cock, safety off.
          Half-cock, safety on.

          • Aaaaand, that’s why the Bernardelli never got adopted as a service pistol for issue to “lowest common-denominator” types.

            Too many options, for them to remember in those moments of exigency when they suddenly encounter the need to shoot someone. Range? No problem; manageable. Actual pistol-in-combat? Oi.

            I liked the one I fired. The safety system struck me as a nightmare to try and train the sort of people I had to deal with, who couldn’t quite work out the whole “M9 paradigm”.

            Glock and the double-action revolver recognize the essential intractability of the problem; most people are not “gun guys”, and when they need to defend themselves, they need the absolute minimum between them and “bullets downrange”. Sad fact of life, yet true.

            Having been “the guy” trying to train otherwise fairly intelligent military staff officers how to shoot a damn pistol? I’m a Glock fan, just on the simplicity of the entire system. Anything with a manual safety? Fuhgeddaboudit. There should be two options: One, pistol in holster? Safe. Pistol in hand? Ready to fire, dangerous.

            That is all the average person with economical training can manage under the stress of adrenaline. At least, in my opinion.

          • Not sure. about it. As said, to me, the Bernardelli had not been selected because it was late to the party. In 1982 the P018 had heel mag release, a simple 1911 style safety (in the end the P018S, has a 1911 safety + a decocker) and I’m not sure it already had a firing pin block. It didn’t participate to the XM9 program, and had been beaten by the Beretta 92 in the competition for the Italian Armed Forces (that were replacing the M1934). it soon acquired a thumb mag release (and the firing pin block, if it hadn’t from the start), but all the “interesting” features came later. With the P018S, in the late ’80s. At that point, all steel guns started to be frowned upon.
            Among those that selected the P018/S there had been Jerusalem’s Police, and I dare to say they expected to use it. However for the Armed Forces, they preferred an “indigenous” (really made assembling Tanfoglio parts in Israel at first) design, the .941 Jericho. As said, Tanfoglio had the advantage of a design that anyone wanted, and the tooling to make it.

          • @Dogwalker,

            I remember the timeline differently, and I can’t find anything to document it at all. If you’re right, then I have to defer to you. I can’t find anything one way or another with what resources I have to hand…

            I do seem to remember the gun magazines of the era touting the /S version as early as the M9 trials, and I vaguely remember that there was something to the effect of the /S having been worked up for them, and not making it either because they couldn’t get it ready soon enough, or it got disqualified.

            As with all that sort of thing, it’s lost in the mists of time. I wish I’d kept all those magazines, just for reference, but who knew I’d be racking my brain in the 2020s for the things I remember reading in passing?

          • @ Kirk
            If there’s more about this timeline, I would be very interested in knowing it but, as far as I know, Bernardelli didn’t have anything to do with the XM9 program (while Tanfoglio entered in the XM11, with little luck).

      • And not only their pistols. Bernardelli manufactured a mighty interesting inertia/mechanical-disadvantage-locked semiauto shotgun from 1949 well into the ’60s and I was convinced it’s name was simply “Bernardelli Semiautomatico”. Only recently I discovered it’s name is “Victor”.

  2. Bernardelli were pretty well known in the UK for their shotguns, but I must admit I did not know they had gone out of business.

    This seems like a good pistol, and it is a shame it got nowhere commercially. But that will happen when gun controls mean you have a very small domestic market.

    I think that 7.65mm Parabellum, AKA .30 Luger, qualified as a “civilian” calibre in Italy, but I stand to be corrected.

    • .30 Luger was a civilian calibre in Italy, and the most used for breechlock guns (due to the obvious dimensional similarities with 9mm Luger) until the introduction of 9X21

  3. In Europe, Bernadelli is known for its Model 60 PPK-style pistol, and also for Shotguns and combination hunting rifles.
    The M60 is quite a common pistol, which can often be found in the used market.

  4. I guess Italy got out of the war quick enough not to have its arms factories bombed flat like Germany and Japan

    • Arms factories were located in the north, that had been in the war until the end. They had been bombed (IE from Aug. 11 1943 to Jun. 13 1944, Terni, city, arsenal and stelworks, had been bombed 57 times, more than once every three days). However, while it was relatively easy to hit big comglomerates like Breda or Ansaldo, small arms production in Val Trompia was much more diffused. There were too many small workshops to hit.

  5. “Bernardelli” at end of 1940… Produced a semi auto shotgun designed by “Belleri Badassare” which using different type of “Lever / Incined ramp delay” mechanism with fluted chamber for ease of extraction…

    The bolt of gun… At instant of firing… Tries to climb up on a receiver ramp at back against to the inertial resistance of the carrier through its reversely inclined ramps at both side and wastes the lots of gained momentum throughly by means… Slowing the opening of chamber’s back…

    At the following… The US patent of that interesting action…

  6. Looks like a solid, reliable sidearm that could have made a bigger splash had it been introduced a few years earlier. I would love to put a few rounds through one at the range and see how it stacks up against its next-door neighbor, the Beretta 92.
    A real “Forgotten Weapon.”
    Thanks Ian

  7. i have a,bernardelli jm 40 cal i have seen the 9mm version they are the same dimension can i switch from 40 to 9mm and where do i get a 9mm barrel

  8. I need a little help, I have a friend who purchased some handguns in an auction, 1 just happens to be the Bernardelli P018S. The only thing wrong with it is it is missing the front sight. I went to the Bernardelli website and they just had some other companies taking care of parts and warranty. I emailed them and have not heard anything back and that was about 2 weeks ago. I was wondering if anyone knew of where I could get a front sight or if there was anything out there that would fit in the front sight spot.
    Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    • I also have the P018 and guess what my only issue is? The front site came off at some point and have never been able to find a replacement. Seems to be a common issue antidotally speaking. It was part of the reason I came here in fact.

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