RIA: Beretta Model 1923

Beretta offered its first semiautomatic pistols during World War One, with the Model 1915 chambered in 9mm Glisenti. This was quickly supplemented by the 1915/17 scaled down to the .32ACP cartridge, which was both handier to carry and less expensive to make. After the end of the war, Beretta looked to deign a more modern replacement pistol for military and security service use.

This would take the form of the Model 1923, which was based on the same patent and the same basic design. It was again chambered for the 9mm Glisenti cartridge – identical dimensionally to the 9x19mm Parabellum, but loaded substantially lighter so as to be more suited to a simple blowback action. The 1923 was the first Beretta design to use an exposed hammer, a feature which would follow into all later Beretta service pistols through the Model 92/96.

The 1923 did not sell well, and only 10,400 were made by 1926, when production ended. These pistols would remain in Beretta’s inventory into the mid 1930s, and the last 3,000 were finally sold to the Italian military just following a contract signed for purchase of 150,000 of the Model 1934 pistols – a deal which has the hallmarks of a cooperative agreement of the government to take these reliable but generally undesirable guns out of Beretta’s hands to help clean up their books.

A small number of 1923 model pistols (actually designated model 1924 by Beretta) were made with locking lugs at the bottom of the grip to fit a detachable combination shoulder stock and holster. This stock was essentially a standard Model 1923 leather holster with a mate lug and folding retractable strut added to connect to the pistol. While all holster/stock combinations were compromises between the need to carry the gun and the need to make it a more stable shooting platform the 1923 type was not a great design, of limited shooting utility (hence its very limited production and sale).

31 Comments

  1. In the M1923, one can discern the beginnings of the now-familiar outlines of a typical modern Beretta service pistol ( such as the M92 ).

    Speaking of the 9mm Glisenti cartridge, it seems almost impossible to find any nowadays in the U.S., except for the occasional rare sale on Gunbroker.com or similar web sites. I guess reloading and/or making your own from modified 9mm x 19 Parabellum cases is the only way to go. It has been said that Fiocchi sometimes manufactures a batch for sale. Is this correct?

    • The only physical difference between 9mm Glisenti and 9mm Parabellum is the shape of the bullet. All 9mm Glisenti loadings had a truncated cone bullet and reportedly the M1910 Glisenti will not chamber a typical 9mm Parabellum round nose FMJ because the overall length is different. Needless to say, I have not personally tried.

      On the other hand, the Beretta pistols will chamber 9mm Parabellum, so you should be okay to fire subsonic 124 grain loadings, which are occasionally available as factory loadings as well. In addition, it would probably be safe to fire very light supersonic 115 grain loadings with a muzzle velocity of less than 1150 fps.

      I haven’t seen Fiocchi made 9mm Glisenti rounds actually available for a long time. I suspect most owners of Glisenti chambered guns either load themselves or use the options I mentioned previously, so there is little market for them. There is no shortage of 9x19mm cases…

      • Thanks for the tip. It might save a great deal of reloading work if proceeded with sensibly and cautiously, although I would still be careful even with the light 115-grain parabellum loads, especially given the age of most guns chambered for the 9mm Glisenti. And, as you said, 9mm x 19 Parabellum is plentiful, to say the very least.

        • According to the 13th Edition of Cartridges of the World, Fiocchi 9mm Glisenti has a 123-gr. FMJ at 1070 F/S for 350 FPE (my calculator says 312).

          The military load (for the earlier Beretta M1915, Brixia, etc.)was a 124-gr FMJ at 1050 for 308 FPE (303 on my calc).

          The book recommends a 116-gr. FMJ and 4.0 gr. of Bullseye for 1070 and 294 (I check that).

          Interestingly, Fioocchi’s Glisenti load seems to duplicate their 9mm Ultra load, and both are in the same range of MV and ME as factory 9 x 20SR (9mm Browning Long) and .38 ACP (not “.38 Super Auto”) loads.

          This puts the Glisenti load in the upper tier of blowback-action 9mm rounds, power-wise. Contrary to myth, it is not a “.380 ACP in a 9 x 19mm case”; its overall performance is closer to the .38 Special loaded with similar bullet weights in standard-pressure (i.e., non +P) loads.

          cheers

          eon

          • Thanks very much, Eon. That’s great information to have and certainly relieves many potential concerns regarding ammunition choice.

          • Your comments got me thinking a little more on this subject. The 9mm Glisenti has probably been sidelined and greatly under-estimated for a variety of reasons — historical, economic and political expediency as well as repetitive opinion being among them. When one looks more closely at the historical record, the Alpini of the First World War really liked the Villar-Perosa chambered in 9mm Glisenti for their particular operational requirements. Given that the cartridge had to function not only in extreme conditions at altitude but also provide sufficient performance against enemy personnel clad in thick, heavy winter clothing, it hardly seems probable that the Alpini would have chosen to work with a round of inadequate power and penetration, or at least not have had something telling to say about the service round they were issued.

            On that basis, as well as other ballistic and operational evidence, the 9mm Glisenti may, after all, be the unfortunate victim of a long-perpetrated myth in the historical record.

          • Time for Ian to break out a 1910 Gilsenti and do some comparative tests in ballistic gel. Like the 1915 Chauchat, repetitive conclusory comments inspired by secondary information may have created a myth. Time for a showdown, Ian, the 9mm Gilsenti vs all other handgun cartridges of the era.

          • This is the ballistic chart of the 9mm Luger (American Eagle FMJ, 124gr) ( http://gundata.org/blog/post/9mm-ballistics-chart/ )

            These are the charateristics of a batch of 84 millions Glisenti rounds made by USCCo for the Itlian Army during WWI.
            http://i1098.photobucket.com/albums/g377/r3dj3st3r/9mmGMaxim.jpg

            Note that, with a bullet of the same weight, the 9mm Para, between 30 and 40 yards, have the exact speed that a 9mm Glisenti have at the muzzle.
            So the terminal effects of a 9mm Glisenti are those of a 9mm para “+30yards”, What a 9mm para does at 100 yards, a 9mm Glisenti does at 70 yards, and so on.
            Given that a 9mm Para is still lethal at far longer distances than those it could be really aimed at (IE a 9mm para FMJ could still pass completely through a human body at 400 yards), it could be said that the terminal effects at practical shooting distances are not sensibly different.

          • Good information, Dogwalker — thanks! All the more reason, as Hoodoo has suggested, for an outright comparison among service cartridges of the era. A little “myth-busting” might be in order here, and it would give advocates of the 9mm Glisenti a fair hearing in the face of the general consensus that seems to have prevailed over time.

  2. Though model 1915 being a modification of both Mauser 10/14 and Little Tom pistol, this pistol might be considered as reminiscent of sole Little Tom with a simplified trigger action, barrel retaining safety latch, opposite direction magazine insertion and a positive disconnector co-working with slide. The pistol works in “Push feed” loading and includes only cleverly shaped basic parts for proper functioning, and therefore, being of a quite robust and reliable. IMHO.

    • I agree about the relative simplicity of the design — very basic yet quite functional. What I could see of the trigger mechanism appeared to be amazingly simple too.

      • For sure. Many movable parts work as double purposed like; Recoil spring/ Safety latch spring, Extractor/ Firing pin retainer, Safety latch/ Dismount Lever/ Barrel retainer, Main spring/ Sear spring/Sear actuator spring, Trigger bar/ Disconnector… Five cleverly shaped parts for over one dozen of functioning… At least… This model is the base of traditional open top, “Hammer fired” Berattas.

    • Of course, at the time, the Italian Army’s choice was either an automatic in 9mm Glisenti, one in .32 ACP or .380 ACP (Beretta M1934 & 35), or the old Bodeo-type revolver in 10.4mm IIRC.

      Given that choice, I think I’d stick with a 9mm Glisenti.

      cheers

      eon

      • The smokeless (ballistite) M.90 military load (10.4mm Italian Ordnance) for the Bodeo M.1889 revolver launched a 174 grain bullet at 835 fps for 270 ft·lb, so it was a reasonably potent as well essentially in the same class as .455 Webley. The Bodeo was also not a bad revolver at all. Although it didn’t have a rapid extraction feature, it did have an Abadie type loading gate and a rebounding hammer. The Italians kept making them all he way to 1945 even if the main sidearms after WW1 were semi-auto pistols!

    • Simple, solid, not overly heavy, all steel construction, fires a reasonably powerful round.
      To me, with a higher capacity magazine and a more ergonomic mag release, this would be a good service pistol even today.

      • Okay, you got me. I suppose it’s deadly as the Type 94 Nambu (running gag of the Beretta’s and the Nambu’s assumed weakness got people killed when they decided to play “fighting spirit shall overcome bullets” on the receiving end of the gun) and probably cheaper, though it would likely blow up if it discharged 9×19 Parabellum. In any case, I would still prefer to get a Colt 1908 Pocket Hammerless as an officer sidearm which won’t sprain my wrist upon firing… Or am I wrong?

        • If I had to choose any other blowback pistol of the era over the Beretta, I think I would go for the FN (Browning) M1922 in .380 ACP. What’s so great about the M1908?

          • Perhaps nothing, but the Browning 1903 Hammerless family was already sold globally to civilians and state-affiliated organizations so there’s bound to be plenty of places where I could just get the pistol fixed if something went wrong. In fact, the FN Model 1910 was also available to civilians as well as police and military personal. The Model 1922 was almost exclusively army and police issue, so if you weren’t a cop or an army officer, fat chance you could get a Model 1922 unless you paid extra up front! Did I mess up?

          • I thought you meant military use, since the 9mm Glisenti Berettas were always primarily military pistols. That said, I believe the FN M1922 was eventually available for civilians as well, although the initial deliveries were for military use (the Yugoslavian Army, to be spesific).

        • I can see several drawbacks in the Type 94 design, that the Beretta doesn’t have.
          There is no way the pistol will “blow up” firing a 9mm Para, but why you have to fire a round the pistol is not designed to shoot in first place? Obviously, if the weapon is selected to be a service sidearm, there wouldn’t be shortage of avaliable ammunitions for it. Surely there wasn’t shortage of Glisenti cartridges in Italy from the ’20s to the ’40s.
          About the Colt, I’d still go with the Beretta. The M1923 fires a more powerful round than the 9mm short (the 9mm Glisenti is in the same ballpark of the 9mm Makarov, a widely used service round), and it’s a little easier to field strip than the Colt design. However, the fact that it would have been, all in all, a good service weapon, does not means that other designs couldn’t.

          • 9mm Glisenti was in fact a good deal more powerful than classic 9mm Makarov military loading. Both had a muzzle velocity of about 1040 fps (±10 fps), but the former had a much heavier bullet (123 grain vs. 94 grain, respectively). More powerful loadings for the Makarov do exist, such as the Russian PMM and the Czech military loads for the vz. 82, but they are not safe to fire from a standard Makarov pistol.

            The closest historical match for the 9mm Glisenti was the 9mm Browning Long, which fired a 110 grain bullet at 1100 fps.

      • Contextually, that sounds like almost the exact basic philosophical formula in modern terms for the 9mm x 18 Makarov pistol ( which I dearly love ).

  3. 1936 was a marked step up in Italian military commitments. They were fighting open war in Ethiopia and were starting to get involved directly in the Spanish Civil War. In short, things were heating up fast and the 23 Berettas were probably bird in hand ready for immediate delivery.

  4. On Beretta’s ability to pressure the Italian government – in taking the available 1923s off their hands and beyond – has anyone else heard the rumor that the reason the Model 92 was selected to become the successor to the 1911 was because the Italians told the US that picking the Beretta over Glock or SIG would really help the US hang on to bases in Sicily and on the mainland? Or is that just grumbling from people like me that think the M9 is a brick with a slide?

    • “On Beretta’s ability to pressure the Italian government…”
      The Beretta Model 1931 lost to the Scotti mod. X, and the Model 1937 to the Armaguerra 1939 (not exactly two huge manufacturers).
      On those rumors about who “had pressured the government” when something had been chosen, there is always the tendency to forget what the same firm had not been able to impose.

    • Not to say that Beretta had not succeded to impose this model too. in the ’20s the Army decided they didn’t need new handguns, and in the ’30s, they decided to change the service round.

    • There was some of that, but the main reason was that Beretta undercut the rest on price. As usual, the lowest bidder got the contract.

      After slides began breaking due to excessive use of +P+ “9mm Uzi Carbine” ammo by SpecOps units, Beretta had to re-engineer the M92 to prevent slide departure after such a break, hence the M92FS aka M9A1. So in the end the Beretta pistols cost about the same as the SIG and Glock pistols would have as contract items.

      SiG and Glock rather wryly pointed out that their pistols were designed to handle “hot” SMG 9mm loads to begin with.

      BTW, the standard U.S. MILSPEC 9 x 19mm load today is a 124-gr. FMJ at 1300 F/S for 465 FPE. Which puts it in the same class as the mid-range loads of the .357 Magnum revolver round, and approximates the performance of the standard 130-gr. factory load of the .38 Super Auto of the 1930s. Which would be considered at least a “+P” if not “+P+” load today. The MILSPEC 9mm is probably more of a “+P OMG”.

      I think you can see why the Glock and SiG 9mm autos are now supplanting the Berettas in U.S. service.

      By comparison, the modern-day U.S. MILSPEC .45 ACP load is the old 230-gr. FMJ at 855 for a claimed 405 FPE, the energy of the old .45 Long Colt “cavalry” load with the 255-grain bullet at 845.

      Funny thing; my calculator keeps saying 373 FPE for that 230-grainer. It also says you need to get the 230 up to 890 F/S to make the 405, which would pretty definitely put that .45 ACP load well into “+P” territory just like the MILSPEC 9 x 19mm.

      The U.S. Army first considered changing to 9 x 19mm in 1946-47. I still think that was the right call.

      I didn’t think so when I was in my teens and twenties. But I’ve learned a few things since then.

      (At age 58, I’d darned well better have!)

      cheers

      eon

      • The US M9A1 is not the same as Beretta 92FS. The former is a more recent “tactical” variant with rails and whatnot chosen by the USMC as their new service pistol. All US M9 pistols have had the 92FS improvements (enlarged hammer pin) since the beginning of 1990s.

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