Beretta - founded as far back as 1526 in Brescia, Italy - introduced their first semi-automatic pistol during World War 1 through the Model 1915. While issued to Italian Army troops, the sidearm was not standardized nor formally adopted. Regardless, this design paved the way for generations of Berettas that flooded the growing market for semi-automatic offerings throughout the 1920s and 1930s - producing the Model 1915/19, Model 1922, Model 1931 marks and others in time. Heading into World War 2, the Italian Army standardized on the Beretta Model 1934 and adopted this version in considerable numbers - production spanned from 1934 into 1991 with some 1,080,000 units manufactured.
Internally, the Model 1934 featured a modernized and improved action based on the original Model 1915 of World War 1. The Beretta "look" was already adopted by the time of the Model 1934 though there still proved some similarities with the now-archaic Model 1915 of decades prior. The ribbed, cutaway slide was carried over with new refined lines and a curved spur at the bottom of the short pistol grip ensured a definite hold as did the grip tang above the thumb area. An iron front blade and rear notch allowed for some accuracy to be attained. A key differentiating physical difference in the Model 1934 over the Model 1915 was the addition of an exposed hammer at the rear of the slide. In many respects, the Model 1934 was the definitive Beretta semi-automatic handgun to date.
Overall weight was 23.30 ounces unloaded with an overall length of 6 inches and barrel length of 3.7 inches. The weapon was still chambered for the 9x17mm Short (.380 ACP) cartridge and fired from a 7-round detachable box magazine through a blowback, semi-automatic action. Muzzle velocity was listed at 750 feet per second. Unlike other semi-automatic offerings, the Model 1934's slide stayed open after the last cartridge was fired and closed when the empty magazine was removed (as opposed to staying open until a new magazine were inserted).
In practice, the Model 1934 proved a reliable and robust weapon assuming proper care in maintenance was taken. The type served as the standard handgun of Italian forces heading into World War 2 and also saw issue with Axis allies in Germany (as the "Pistole P671(i)") and Romania. As such, it was pressed into combat service almost immediately when Italy invaded Abyssinia (modern-day Ethiopia) (1935-1936). The weapon was also shipped to Spain where it fought with Nationalist forces against the Republicans in the bloody Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). While a highly serviceable, compact semi-automatic gun, the pistol did suffer from its relatively low-powered .380 ACP cartridge which did not compete well against the German 9x19mm Parabellum or the American .45 ACP cartridges of the period in terms of assured man-stopping capabilities. The weapon was further limited by its short range (also due to the light cartridge) and its seven-shot magazine (though eight if a round were chambered and a full magazine then used).
The related Beretta Model 1935 was nothing more than the Beretta Model 1934 with a lighter slide construction and chambered for the 7.65x17mm Browning SR (.32 ACP) cartridge. Issuance of this type was mainly to Italian Air Force personnel.