Bernardelli UB: Hammer and Striker Fired 9mm Blowback

In the years following World War Two, the Bernardelli company in Italy made an attempt to enter the full-power pistol market with a simple blowback 9mm Parabellum design. They basically scaled up their existing .32/.380 pocket pistol designs to the larger cartridge, and actually designed this new pistol to safely fire (at leas tin limited amounts) the 9mm Lungo cartridge, a high velocity 9x19mm loading developed for the Beretta M38 submachine gun.

Only about 85 of these pistols were ever made, as they were a commercial and military failure. Two main versions were made; one hammer fired and one striker fired, with sub-types of each. These were made simultaneously, presumably in hopes of the option provoking more interest than if only one type were available.

 

32 Comments

    • ” Bernardelli company in Italy made an attempt to enter the full-power pistol market with a simple blowback 9mm Parabellum design”
      Many years later they created P-018 automatic pistol: https://modernfirearms.net/en/handguns/handguns-en/italy-semi-automatic-pistols/bernardelli-p-018-eng/ for 9×19 Parabellum (also available in 7,65×21 mm Parabellum) with more common for that cartridge linkless Browning system and 16-round magazine capacity. It looks more promising, but I do not know how many were actually made.

        • Like many of the Bernardelli pistols, the P0.18 seems to be an assembly of ideas taken form other firearms. The barrel-recoil spring assembly seems to be middle way between the Hi Power and the CZ75, while the frame is more similar to the SIG P220, but with a Beretta 92 series trigger Group.

      • Im’ looking forward that episode. The P0.18 is a somewhat favourite of mine, especially the evolution with the decocker function (late build P0.18 and the P.One).

    • “Being 9mm Para they couldn’t be sold on the italian market as well”
      Reading A.B.Zhuk’s book, chapter Automatic Pistols – Italy he shows few automatic pistol of brand Galesi, which looks to fall into pocket pistol category. He mention that virtually all models of Galesi automatic pistols were also available chambered for rim-fire cartridge. Was that caused by Italian market limitations? Were .22 rim-fire automatic pistol easier to obtain permit that center-fire one in 20th century?

      • Actually, they were mainly intended for export to the USA, under the Galef trademark, and later by Garcia (yes, the fishing gear people).

        The idea was that .22 rimfire was back then the single most popular handgun cartridge in the United States, commercially speaking. And most outdoorsmen, even fishermen, had a .22 pistol with them when out in the woods.

        Since the only three gunmakers in the U.S. who made .22 pistols at the time were Colt, Smith & Wesson, and Ruger (who had just introduced their .22 MK 1 automatic, which literally launched them into the firearms business), they believed they could make money by appealing to that market with quality pistols at a lower price.

        Beretta had a similar idea with their .22 rimfires based on the Model 70 (.32/.380) series platform a few years later.

        What undercut all of them was that Ruger could make and sell their MK 1 for less than the imports. It started in the Fifties at under $40 ($37.50 according to the 1956 Stoeger catalog), and through the Sixties was under $50. The imports sold for a bit more at all times. And of course there was Ruger’s “Bearcat” .22 single-action revolver, as well, which cost less than either a S&W .22/32 Kit Gun or the later Colt .22 Peacemaker clone.

        Ruger gave everybody a good lesson in economics with those two.

        cheers

        eon

      • By far the most popular semiauto cartridge in the civilian market in Italy first than the introduction of the 9X21 was the .32 ACP, followed by the .380 ACP and the 7.65 Parabellum.
        The .22 LR is popular for shooting sports (IE biathlon, free pistol…), but handguns intended for self defense in .22 were almost always exported (IE the Beretta 70 in .22LR used by the Israeli security forces).

      • @Denny: 9 Lungo is still 9×19, so no go. By the time 9×21 had been introduced (first half of the ’80s), the UB had already been discontinued. 9 Largo, no problem, but here like anywhere outside Spain, it has never enjoyed much popularity. Generally speaking, before the introduction of the 9×21, 7,65 Para was the most popular full power semi auto handgun caliber (.45 ACP was forbidden too till 1996… never underestimate the conscious stupidity of lawmakers)

        @Daweo: yes, as .22 has always been seen a sport/trainer caliber (still not allowed for hunting).

  1. “high velocity 9x19mm loading developed for the Beretta M38 submachine gun”
    After thinking about that I start wondering if SOSSO automatic pistol:
    https://modernfirearms.net/en/handguns/handguns-en/italy-semi-automatic-pistols/sosso-eng/
    (in final from) was designed for that particular variant of 9×19? If not could it fire it safely? Did Italian industry undertake any other actions to create automatic pistol for 9×19 cartridge as used in Beretta M38 (that would allow to have one cartridge for automatic pistol and sub-machine gun, like most other nations at that time)?

    • IIRC, the Sosso was designed to use either the 9 x 19mm Glisenti (a downloaded Para intended for the Glisenti and Brixia retarded-blowback and Beretta straight-blowback pistols of the WW1 era) or the 9mm Lungo.

      The idea was that its gas-operated system (rotating lock similar to a Steyr with a gas takeoff similar to the later HK P7 series) would “self-adjust” to breech pressure, not opening until it had dropped to a safe level for extraction and ejection.

      Incidentally, the British Sten SMGs were designed around high-pressure 9 x 19mm because large amounts of the Lungo type were captured from Italian forces in North Africa in 1940. By comparison, the 1940 S&W light rifle tested by the BPC at the same time did not react well to the higher pressures, as it had been designed around U.S. commercial 9 x 19mm, intended mainly to function in ex-German WW1 P.08 Parabellum pistols. (The Luger pretty much requires a 124-gr. bullet at 1,050 F/S MV to function correctly, period.)

      cheers

      eon

  2. Great review and good looking pistols.

    So what conclusion to make out of it? Yes, 9mm Para blowback can be done. One particular detail I like are those bumpers under barrel block/ frame. Worth of noting, Ian was smart enough not to fight heavy recoil spring on camera.

    Did market want it? No; old name or not.

    • At that time there was only a limited market for 9mm para pistols in Europe. Or you got a public contract (Police forces, Army…) or the model was doomed, regardless of the quality. Even in the US the 9mm parabellum was not so popular in the ’50s.
      The Bernardelli P.One instead was an example of a gun that the marked “didn’t want” regardless of the quality. Today probably it would be appreciated exactly for the same charateristics (all forged steel construction, 1911 style safety) that none wanted in the early ’90s.

  3. I have a Bernardelli .22 short auto with the same keystone piece at the rear of the slide. I agree, they’re well made little pistols, and fun to shoot. Effective range of .22 short if across the living room, but so what. Extremely concealable.

  4. The slide doesn’t look that heavy. The recoil spring looks to be compressed to around 2/3 when the gun is in battery, surely enough to keep the slide closed during rough handling.

    • In the sheet, the weight of the pistol is listed at 920g with magazine, and the magazine is 80g, so the pistol is quite light for an all-steel 9mm para handgun.
      Probably the buffer springs (what the Colt prototype didn’t have) were very effective in preserving the integrity of the slide and frame.

    • H&K had a reputation for poor customer service in USA, deservedly or not. A common thing to say was along the lines of “We’re H&K, we hate you and you suck”. Zenith makes H&K licensed guns, perhaps others as well.

    • “I understand information it contain, though I do not why ZENITH FIREARMS use it? To distinguish itself from competition?”

      Yes. The unofficial HK slogan originates from Larry Correia’s article: [https://monsterhunternation.com/2007/10/09/hk-because-you-suck-and-we-hate-you/].

  5. Striker models, including mini .22s, have very effective yet sophisticated drop safeties preventing accidental disharge when got impact. All very well made but, hammer models not same level of design and workmanship.

    All 7.65 and 9mm short caliber striker models also have hard fiber bumpers.

  6. That keystone part acting as a rail and holding the striker is an element which is found on the jimenez/lorcin/raven/phoenix arms Saturday night special handguns. Quite a clever element to alleviate the need of machined rails.

  7. So the Italians were issuing 9X19 Glisenti, ultra weak to avoid damaging the fragile service pistol, AND a zipped up 9X19 ‘Lungo’ for machine pistols? How many accidents or failures did they manage to generate?

    • I know they used older pattern automatic pistol chambered for 9×19 Glisenti cartridge and I do not know if that caused any failures, but I must note that then-current default automatic pistol of Regio Esercito was Modello 1934: https://modernfirearms.net/en/handguns/handguns-en/italy-semi-automatic-pistols/beretta-1934-eng/
      chambered for distinct from 9×19 cartridge namely 9×17 Kurz [.380 Auto]
      Regia Aeronautica used Modello 1935 – similar weapon but chambered for 7,65 mm Browning [.32 Auto] cartridge.

    • 9X19 Glisenti simply was the round the pistol was created for. The power of the round was comparable with that of many service round adopted in the same period, or later.

      • Agreed
        A lot of pre wwii 9x19mm pistol loads were fairly mild, and American commercial loads have tended to reflect this; they’d barely cycle a Luger.

        Then there are the hot submachine guns loads in the same case.

        Back in the 1980s, when semi auto carbines were popular in Britain, we’d often have stocks of hot surplus loads.

        I’ve seen a Finnish Lahti L35 that the bolt had come out of the back of (Finnish lahtis have always had premium prices)

        And a Walther P38 with a cracked slide side rail.

        There were also tales of a Luger that went full auto and self destructed on hot surplus loads. I’m starting to suspect that that tale was apocryphal.

        While there is little excuse for using SMG loads in privately owned pistols (if you can afford a nice pistol, you can also afford decent commercial ammunition or appropriate hand loads to feed it with!)

        In a wartime conditions, when supplies are at a premium, the two loadings in the same case are an accident waiting to happen.

        Again, back in the 1980s, the one pistol that was reckoned to be able to survive a constant diet of SMG loads (mkiiz etc) was the Browning Hi Power.

        I’m guessing that something like a CZ75 probably would as well, and a Sig P210…
        But if you can afford a nice pistol, you can afford decent ammunition to feed it on!

        • The Benelli B76 had been one of the first pistols that was publicly advertised to be capable to regularly shoot hot load 9mm.
          For the 9mm M38 and the Glisenti, it has to be said that as already noted, the weapon had always been quite rare and, altough not retired, still was no more the Italian Army’s service pistol. a Glisenti 1910 firing a M38 round by mistake during WWII is an event that could very well have never been occurred. BTW it was really easy to differentiate the two loads, since, regardless of the manufacturer, Glisenti bullets had always been truncated-cone, and the M38 bullets had always been ogival.

  8. Away from Italy, that was not always the case.

    Pre war(s) Finnish pistol loads were mild, and Lahti developed the L35 pistol to work with those.

    Loads intended for the Suomi SMG had a longer duration at high pressure (rather than a higher peak pressure), but that still resulted in premature cracking of L35 slides adjacent to the accelerator.

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