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Beretta Model 12

Submachine Gun (SMG) / Machine Pistol [ 1959 ]

Introduction of the Beretta Model 12 officially signaled the end for the World War 2-era Model 1938 submachine gun line.

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 05/03/2019 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site.

A stalwart of the Italian military inventory became the Beretta Model 1938 series submachine gun which was an interwar form of the World War 1-era Model of 1918. The Model 1938 itself was progressively evolved throughout World War 2 and a final variant was offered as late as 1949 before the Army adopted an all-new, modern submachine gun in the Model 12 during 1959. The type proved a drastic departure from the former design in its use of an all-metal frame with a more advanced overall appearance compared to the rifle-stocked Model 1938 and its offspring.

The new submachine gun was still chambered the 9x19mm Parabellum pistol cartridge and fired from a blowback system of operation. It was well-received by local and foreign forces and went on to see combat service during the Vietnam War (1955-1975), during "The Troubles" concerning Northern Ireland (1968-1998) (by way of Libya), the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan (2001-Ongoing), and - more recently - in the 2011 Libyan Civil War. The Model 12 continues in service with the Italians today (2014) and has been purchased by the governments of Bahrain, Brazil (locally-produced by Taurus), Gabon, Guatemala, Guyana, Indonesia (locally-produced by Pindad), Libya, Malta, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela.

With a new weapons designer (Domenico Salva, having succeeded Tullio Marengoni), Beretta looked to offer a more modern product that could compete with other emerging forms in the lucrative military/police submachine gun market. The result was the compact Model 12 which utilized a short tubular receiver with underslung trigger group, pistol grip, and magazine. The barrel protruded ahead of the frame only slightly and a foregrip was added ahead of the magazine well for a firm two-hand hold. The primary version was a collapsible metal-stocked model which was followed by a (heavier) fixed wooden-stock variant. In either case the barrel measured 7.9 inches long (recessed into the bolt head as a space-saving measure) and the weapon (overall) was just over 7 inches tall - easy to conceal and carry by security forces. Rate-of-fire reached 550 rounds-per-minute with an effective range out to 500 feet. Muzzle velocity was 1,245 feet per second. Sighting was through an iron arrangement that included a two-position rear aperture and a shrouded front post. Construction was of steel stampings and metal pressings with welding where appropriate in an attempt to keep production costs in check.

Chambered for the readily-available 9mm pistol cartridge, the weapon fed from a 20- or 40-round detachable box magazine allowing for some tactical flexibility to be had by the operator. Original versions offered a push-pin-actuated single-shot or burst fire mode.

In 1978, the Model 12S emerged as an improved version that featured an all-new, three-position fire selector switch (safety, single-shot, and burst fire) and manual safety (in addition to the grip safety). The sights were revised and internal workings reinforced. A change to the 9x19mm NATO standard cartridge was also made with a 32-round box magazine introduced. An anti-corrosion finish was applied externally and field-stripping simplified through a tool-less approach. All other functions remained faithful to the original Model 12. The subsequent Model PM12-S2 instituted a third safety feature and has since overtaken the original Model 12 and Model 12S versions.©MilitaryFactory.com
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Pietro Beretta SpA; Armi Beretta SpA - Italy / Taurus - Brazil / Pindad - Indonesia
Bahrain; Brazil; Gabon; Guatemala; Guyana; Indonesia; Iran; Iraq; Italy; Libya; Malta; Nigeria; Saudi Arabia; Venezuela
Operators National flag of Bahrain National flag of Brazil National flag of Gabon National flag of Indonesia National flag of Iraq National flag of Iran National flag of Italy National flag of Libya National flag of Nigeria National flag of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia National flag of Venezuela
Service Year
National Origin

418 mm
(16.46 inches)
Overall Length
200 mm
(7.87 inches)
Barrel Length
6.61 lb
(3.00 kg)
Empty Weight
Blowback; Select Fire
Gas pressure from the rearward movement of the ignited cartridge case provides the needed bolt movement, ejecting the spent case and stripping a fresh case from the magazine.
9x19mm Parabellum; 9x19mm NATO
May not represent an exhuastive list; Calibers may be model-specific dependent; Always consult official manufacturer sources.
20-, 32-, or 40-round detachable box magazine.
Iron Front and Rear.

Material presented above is for historical and entertainment value and should not be construed as usable for hardware restoration, maintenance, or general operation - always consult official manufacturer sources for such information.

655 feet
(200 meters | 218 yards)
Max Effective Range
1,245 ft/sec
(379 m/sec)
Muzzle Velocity

Model 12 - Base Series Designation; original production form of 1959.
Model 12S - Improved variant; revised fire selector; revised sights; chambered for the 9x19mm NATO cartridge; 32-round box magazine; improved safety features; improved field-stripping.
Model PM12-S2 - Improved safety features

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Image of the Beretta Model 12
Image from the United States Department of Defense imagery database.
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Image of the Beretta Model 12
Image from the United States Department of Defense imagery database.
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Image of the Beretta Model 12
Image from the United States Department of Defense imagery database.

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