The Model 1934 is still in high demand by both collectors and pistol shooters through 84 years of service.
Why the Beretta Model 1934 remains popular with collectors:
- The main service pistol of the Italian armed forces in World War II and was also used by some military units in Germany, Romania and Finland.
- Chambered 9mm Corto, what we know as .380 ACP.
- Design evolved from the Model 1915/17, which saw service in World War I.
- Standard blowback design with a single-action trigger.
- The barrel is 3¾ inches, the weight is 23½ ounces and it utilizes a 7-round magazine.
- More than a million Model 1934s were manufactured between 1934 and 1992.
The Model 1934 is one of the best-known Beretta pistols. During World War II, it was the main service pistol of the Italian armed forces and was also used by some military units in Germany, Romania and Finland. After the war, the M1934 continued to serve Italy’s military into the 1960s, and with the Italian police through the 1970s.
The Model 1934 was chambered for the 9mm Corto, which we know as the .380 ACP. Relatively short and compact, especially when compared to the Government Model 1911 .45 Auto, captured 1934s were popular with U.S. GIs as a back-up gun on the battlefield. Many of these pistols were brought to the United States after the war as souvenirs.
A post-war version of the 1934 model was known as the Cougar. Those made for export to the United States have the “Cougar” name on the pistol and most were imported by the now-defunct J.L. Galef Company. Some of the later models were marked P.B. 1966, the “P.B.” for Pietro Beretta.
The Evolution Of The Model 1934
The M1934 design evolved from the Model 1915/17, which saw service in World War I. It was the first of several later Beretta models to feature an open top slide, such as what is still seen on the famous Model 92 and all its variations. The Model 1915 was chambered for the 9mm Glisenti cartridge, also known as the Mo. 910, which was essentially a 9mm Luger Parabellum downloaded to operate safely in the small frame of the 1915. It failed to function reliably enough to suit the Italian military brass, so it was replaced by an improved design known as the Model 17, chambered for the 7.65 (.32 ACP).
It should be remembered that, in those days, “stopping power” was not a concern with most European armies. The handgun was more a symbol of authority than a serious weapon, and John Browning’s very popular little .32 ACP was very popular in military and police circles throughout the Continent.
In 1934, the Italian government, now in the 12th year of Benito Mussolini’s Fascist regime, decided to adopt a handgun that was to be used by all branches of the armed forces. This latest evolution of the 1915 open-top design was chambered for the .380 (9x17mm Corto) and given the Model 1934 designation. A .32 variant was known as the Model 1935 and was preferred by the Italian air force because of its slightly lighter weight.
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The 1934/1935 is a standard blowback design with a single-action trigger. Sights are fixed and the overall length is 6 inches. The barrel is 3¾ inches and the weight is 23½ ounces. Magazine capacity is seven rounds, and the grips are black plastic with steel backing. Most military models have a Parkerized finish, while civilian pistols feature a blue finish. A thumb safety on the left side of the frame, above the trigger, also acts as a slide lock to be used to disassemble the pistol.
Figuring Out Your M1934
Model 1934/35s made during the Fascist Era had several various markings that are of interest to collectors. The Fascist Era began in October of 1922, and pistols made after that date sometimes were marked in Roman Numerals indicating the year of the era. For example, a pistol made in 1939 could be marked XVII or XVIII, depending on the time of year it was manufactured. Standard Arabic numerals might also be stamped on the guns.
Other markings for the different branches of the Italian armed forces include RE (Regio Esercito) for the army, RM (Regia Marina) for the navy and RA (Regina Aeronautica) for the air force. The air force models were also marked with an eagle wearing a Royal Crown. Pistols made for the Italian police forces were marked PS (Publica Sicurezza). Those made for the Romanian military have the caliber marked as 9mm Scurt (for “short”), and for Finland forces, SA (Suomen Armeja) for “Finish Army.”
More than a million Model 1934s were manufactured between 1934 and 1992, and it remains one of the most popular WWII pistols with shooters and collectors worldwide. The size competes well with more modern models for concealed carry, and the grip is a nice fit for most hands, making it more comfortable to shoot than many .380s. The classic Beretta open-top design reduces the weight of the slide, which also results in less felt recoil. All in all, it’s a fine pistol that still has its niche 84 years after its introduction.
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the January 2019 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.