Beretta has been owned by the same family for some five hundred years. The Beretta company was established in 1526, when gunsmith Maestro Bartolomeo Beretta of Gardone Val Trompia (Brescia, Lombardy, Italy) was paid 296 ducats for 185 arquebus barrels by the Arsenal of Venice. The bills of sale for the order of those barrels are in the firm's archive.
In 1918, the Beretta Model 1918 was the second submachine gun the Italian army fielded. Beretta manufactured rifles and pistols for the Italian military until the 1943 Armistice between Italy and the Allied forces during World War II. With the Wehrmacht's control of northern Italy, the Germans seized Beretta and continued producing arms until the 1945 German surrender in Italy. In that time, the quality of the exterior finish of the weapons diminished and was much inferior to both the pre-war and mid-war weapons, but their operation remained excellent. The last shipment of Type I rifles left Venice for Japan in a U-boat in 1942.
After World War II, Beretta was actively involved in repairing the American M1 Garands given to Italy by the U.S. Beretta modified the M1 into the Beretta BM-59 rifle, which is similar to the M14 battle rifle; armourers consider the BM-59 rifle to be superior to the M14 rifle in some ways, because it is more accurate under certain conditions.
After the war, Beretta continued to develop firearms for the Italian army and police, as well as the civilian market.
In the eighties, Beretta enjoyed a renewal of popularity in North America after its Beretta 92 pistol was selected as the service handgun for the United States Army under the designation of "M9 pistol".
Beretta acquired several domestic competitors (notably Benelli and Franchi) and some foreign companies (notably in Finland) in the late eighties. Today, the company is owned and is run by Ugo Gussalli Beretta and his sons, Franco and Pietro. The traditional father-to-son Beretta dynasty was interrupted when Ugo Gussalli Beretta assumed the firm's control; uncles Carlo and Giuseppe Beretta were childless; Ugo married into the Beretta family and adopted the last name Beretta. His sons are now direct descendents through their Mother's side of the family.
Beretta is known for its broad range of firearms: side-by-side shotguns, over-and-under shotguns, hunting rifles, express rifles, assault rifles, submachine guns, lever and bolt-action rifles, single and double action revolvers and semi-automatic pistols. The parent company, Beretta Holding, also owns Beretta USA, Benelli, Franchi, SAKO, Stoeger, Tikka, Uberti, and the Burris Optics company.
The model Beretta 92FS is the primary side arm of the United States Army, Marine Corps and Air Force, designated the M9 pistol. In 1985, Beretta was chosen after a controversial competition to produce the M9, winning a contract for 500,000 pistols. A condition of the original agreement was domestic fabrication of the M9. The Beretta USA factory, in Accokeek, Maryland, manufactures military, police, and civilian pistols. Beretta announced on May 24 that, despite disagreements with the State of Maryland over recently enacted changes to MD gun control laws, it will not be relocating its Accokeek, MD production facility.