The Beretta PM-12S Submachine Gun

For several decades, the Beretta company’s handguns and submachine guns were nearly all designed by the very talented Tulio Marengoni…but nothing can last forever. After World War 2, Beretta engineer Domenico Salza began working on a new SMG design, one which would be more compact and more controllable that the M38 family. At roughly the same time, Beretta changed it naming convention to avoid looking like it was still marketing old guns; the Model 38/49 become the Model 1. Each new design took the next number, until in 1958 the Model 12 was introduced.

The Model 12 (and this improved Model 12S) has both forward and rear pistol grips, and a bolt which wraps around the barrel well forward of the chamber. This movement of the reciprocating mass forward helps reduce the gun’s tendency to climb, and makes the Model 12 a quite capable design. It is still in common use with a variety of military and police forces today – including being a common sight in the hands of security guards in Italy today.


  1. Hi Ian,
    You skipped over the trigger group and if this weapon fired from an open or closed bolt. It is finished very well for a stamped gun. I spent several years in Germany as a small arms repairman so I spent quite a bit of time working on the M-3A1. It was quite crude compared to the Beretta.
    Keep up the good work.

    • Nope, this is wikipedia BS, it has absolutely nothing in common to beretta; its basicly an upgraded (and better made?) Tec-9.

  2. Great explanations of the Swedish recoil-less anti-tank rifle and Berretta SMG! I have long been curious about those two weapons.

    Two general comments:
    First, I would be more comfortable if you cleared the chamber at the start of every demonstration or disassembly.

    Second, contrasting backgrounds (e.g. light colour) would make it easier to see guns. It would also help if you wore light-coloured shirts.

    • Oh, come on… don’t you think guns are cleared before handling? I always assumed so and I don’t need to see that, seen it enough times before…

  3. The PM12 brings fond memories. You have to be a bit wary of the magazine catch as you may lose your mag. Magazine springs are a bit weak and rounds may occasionally jump out of feed lips as bolt moves back. I once heard rattling and found a round in the rear pistol grip. I saw that French use them and also CIA in nam. On the whole a good gun.

  4. Also mag is made of very thin sheet metal. Lips are easily bent. Drop a mag and most likely it’s kaput.

  5. FN Herstal also manufactured the PM12 under licence. FN was a large shareholder (40% if I remember correctly) of Beretta from 1972 up to the late 90’s. The Beretta 84 was also produced under licence by FN as the DA140 (or Browning BDA380) during the same period.
    The UZI was also manufactured under licence by FN. So FN sold 2 SMG of outside design during the same time frame. Strange as it looks but FN produced no own designed SMG before the P90 PDW.

  6. This is a superb design with high degree of finesse. The idea of “liberating” pistol grip from magazine (similar as MP5) is what makes it possible. In comparison, CZ and UZI subguns are clumsy and anti-ergonomical.

    • However, I agree with Ian regarding that fiddly stock. Something like MP5 slide out/in stock with two prongs is much better. But, there are even worse ones.

      • I meant vz.24/26 in which, due to use of 7.62Tok, the magazine was slanted back. This in combination with vertical grip caused it to be extra bulky.

    • Beretta is a better infantry or police SMG because of good ergonomics and stable shooting characteristics. And much of the time they are carried on foot patrols, so tiny size is not critical.

      OTOH magazine in grip SMGs (MCEM 2, Czech 28, Uzi and another dozen clones) are better for tankers because they are so compact.

      • Notice that you listed two layouts:
        – 2 pistols grips magazine between grips (as in Beretta)
        – 1 pistol grip magazine inside (as in Uzi)
        but there exist also 2 pistols grip, magazine in grip, as in Argentinian MEMS M-67, see photo here:
        I am wondering how this layout style compare to Beretta layout or Uzi layout in ergonomics?

      • The magazine-in-grip SMGs are also useful for close-quarter combat since their shorter profiles are easier to handle for such situations as intercepting contraband smugglers in their tunnels.

  7. Also standard issue for the Police National in France (along with license produced Mini 14s) although they have purchased a lot of G36s after recent events. Gendarmerie have MP5s and FAMAS.

  8. “Each new design took the next number, until in 1958 the Model 12 was introduced.”
    Was there something like Model 13, or this (unlucky) number was omitted?
    I was unable to google anything about it but maybe it was prototype only?

      • 13 was a lucky number for the Romans, so not a big surprise that this meaning had been preserved in modern day Italy.

      • Friday the 13th, was the date set by the French monarch (who’s lifestyle was being cramped by debts incurred in colonial wars) for the largest bank in Christendom to be robbed

        He managed to arrest the leadership, but the bankers naval fleet, and the treasures got away.

        Hence Friday 13th, unlucky for some.

        The bankers were the knights Templar. Friday the 13th of October 1307 was the date

        The act of rulers robbing banks, merchants and others under some specious pretext or other, is a usual occurrence through out history.

        • Agreed!
          People wonder why Hitler felt the need to kill so many Jews. Hitler’s “German Economic Miracle” during the 1930s was based on currency manipulation and accumulating massive debts. Since some of those debts were held by Jewish bankers, Hitler’s “Final Solution” included eliminating debt by eliminating large numbers of Jewish bankers, their wives, children, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.

          Enough conspiracy theory.

          Another viewer comment on magazine location ….. and ergonomics. I see magazine location as less important than grip location. Berretta’s two grips fit the hand well and are far enough apart to provide a long grip radius that improves accuracy. The fact that the magazine hangs down between the grips is irrelevant from a shooter’s perspective.
          Similarly, plenty of second generation SMGs (MP 38/40 Schmeizer, M3 Grease Gun, etc.) had/have magazines well forward and shooters are encouraged to grip the magazine well with their support hand …. again producing a long trip radius that improves accuracy.

          OTOH UZIs insert magazines into the pistol grip which “fattens” the grip until smaller soldiers struggle to wrap their hands around it. UZI’s pistol grip is also too “vertical” which bends the wrist at a odd angle (from a pistol-shooter’s perspective). When you exaggerate UZI’s compact configuration, you end up with a MAC-10 that is so short there is no convenient place for the support hand to grip the front of the SMG. The MAC-10’s manufacturer tried hanging a strap off the front end, but MAC-10s really only became controllable (accurate) when equipped with massive silencers that provided a long enough grip radius to make MAC-10s controllable/accurate.

          • “MP 38/40 Schmeizer”
            Should be ERMA, despite some sources dubbing MP 40 “Schmeisser” it was designed by Heinrich Vollmer.

          • @R. Warner
            Seems like at least partially good explanation, but german jews were relatively of small population (compared to general) that mostly fled before ww2; the brunt of “genocide” happened (after they acquired lands in the east, Poland,Ukraine, Russia etc.) to large populations of jews living there, but I’m pretty sure they (from these lands) had nothing to do with some german debts even if they really existed. So, there must have been some other reason(or a combination of many) but surely there were rich jewish industrialists who in some period caught attention of ordinary german, soon turned “national socialist”, especially in the massive empoverishment chaos after ww1.

        • @Keith
          Colonial empires started to emerge after the 1492, but there were always plently of warfare on european continent, that royalty had to spend considerable sums for, since they were using professional knight armies; conscription was “invented” in the, I believe end of 18th century possibly with Napoleon.
          But tragedy with french king was that he was completely bankrupted (again?) also in the times before the French revolution, this time it really had to do with their colonial empire.

  9. I had the opportunity to evaluate the PM12 when I was in the service. I was impressed with the general fit and finish and, more importantly, the outright functionality of the gun. Simple, reliable, user-friendly and very controllable and accurate when fired in short bursts. I do agree with Rob Thule about the magazine — it could have done with some improvements to increase durability. The wire stock never bothered me, although that is perhaps because I was used to typical military small arms of that era and had no expectations for something more ergonomic.

  10. The weighting of the PM12 towards the front not only makes it more controllable with less muzzle rise, but also seems to aid in quicker pointing towards a target.

  11. I have used it several times while training, and I can assure it’s an extremely pleasant weapon to used. Despite its open bolt action, the precision is very remarkable (at least at the standard 50 metres tunnel distance). The weapon is very ergonomic and handling is very comfortable. In the automatic mode, you can feel almost no recoil, and it’s also easy to mantain an acceptable aiming point.
    I find only a flaw in using it: after a long session, the trigger group is prone to get dirty with dust or combustion residues, and sometimes the semiautomatic sear fails to engage the bolt, resulting in a mini-burst of 2 or 3 shots. This usually happened when a single weapon were used, in the same training session, by several cadets one after another, without cleaning it (I mean after 500-600 rounds fired).

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