The Beretta Model 1923 pistol was a service pistol used by the Italian Army from 1923 until 1945. The M1923 was designed to consolidate the improvements of the 1915/19 model and to use the 9mm Glisenti round. However, due to the vast amount of handguns available after the end of World War I only 3000 samples, of about 10400 produced, were purchased by the Italian Army.
History As a follow up to manufacturing Model 1922 Beretta decided to produce another weapon, maintaining many of the proven good characteristics of earlier models and providing it with significant improvements. Above all it had to be chambered far the 9 mm Model 1910 (Glisenti) cartridge, that is to say able to load Army ordinance cartridge. The decision to put Model 1923 into production was most probably based on Beretta`s intention to make a strong effort to enter the military market which had been barely penetrated with Potent 1915 pistols. In actual fact Model 1923 was not to have the success hoped for because we know that only around 10,000 pistols were produced. To us this seems to had had two fundamental reasons:
1) The Army, which had just fought a victorious war that, however, had badly affected the economy, did not have sufficient funds available to modernize its weapons even if it concerned a relatively small expenditure such as for acquiring ordnance pistols; it is however possible that a need was somehow felt because its equipment consisted of too large a variety of models and caliber, ranging from semiautomatics cal. 7.65 mm produced in Spain, to Italian Ordinance 10.4 mm revolvers, to Brixia and Glisenti cal. 9 mm semiautomatics. Latter were the officially adopted ones;
2) the mistake to maintain 9 mm Glisenti cartridge and to build Model 23 around it.
Mechanically Mechanically this weapon possessed all the features of simplicity and reliability that would characterize the much more fortunate Model 1934. But, regrettably, the adopted cal. made, the weapon become over sized. This happened because the 9 mm Model 1910 was in a way, in the field of ammunitioning, a product of the habitual Italian art of compromise.
The cartridge was not actually powerful enough to require a locked breech. Nor was it so weak to allow for a significant mechanical simplification. The result was e large size pistol, but not giving a proportionate ballistic performance.
Besides, the cartridge had the same measurements as the 9 mm Parabellum and therefore was a source of dangerous misunderstandings on the port of less experienced users. Although Pietro Beretta had affirmed in his letter dated 7 September 1935, to FARE in Terni, that Model 23 pistols could function with all «normal 9 mm» cartridges, we could see that cracks in hammers, as they had occurred in a number of these weapons, are attributable to the 9 mm Parabellum with consequent risks to the person that had fired.
On the other hand the Beretta Model 1923 provided a useful study object far successive other models. Regarding the dimensions and the form of some details, it was practically identical to future Model 1931.
Although the slide still showed the working «Beretta Pistol Patent 1915 19 19», indicating its origin, Model 1923 concerned a major change from the Potent 1915 pistol. However, Marengoni`s conceptions philosophy remained unchanged. The first and foremost innovation was the external hammer. This solution presented doubtless advantages such as, for instance, the possibility to repeat firing in case of misfire.
Another improvement was added by adopting a positive disconnection, controlled by movements of the slide. The fact was that the old style slip off disconnector had the great defect of allowing the hammer to fall even when the breech-block was not completely closed. This could cause insufficient percussion with consequent jamming of the weapon. Or, especially when using cartridges more powerful than 7.65 mm Browning, like 9mm Glisenti, it could provoke on explosion of the cartridge case, or at least its deformation.
Because of the (relative) power of the cartridge, Model 1923 pistol was provided with a recoil shock absorbing system, consisting of a fibre disc in the same position and with the some function as the larger buffer spring of the Potent 1915 col. 9 mm.
Grips could be either of wood, with the Beretta monogram in metal placed on the lower part, or of pressed steel. In a way similar to that of Model 1922.
One of the features of Model 1923 consisted of the possibility to use a shoulder stock holster. The shoulder-stock holster was attached on horizontal millings at the base of the butt where it was not covered by the lower end of the grips. It was actually a holster made of leather. Along its spine a small metal bar was riveted that could fold.
Of the 10,000 Model 1923 pistols mode in series, an unknown number was mode with the attachment for the shoulder stock holster. These latter received random numbers allocated to that series. This would confirm our opinion that this version had somehow been fitted into normal production at intervals dictated by demand.
It seems however that the number of pistols produced with the attachment increased during the latter port of production. It is probable, since the stock holster was named Model 1924, that those made during the first year had not been so equipped.
Model 1923 was never to have on adjustable rear sight, probably on account of its little usefulness, especially as it was a pistol of which the ballistic performance certainly bore no comparison with that of a Mauser 1896.
Sales 3,007 exemplars of Model 1923 were sold to the Italian Royal Army. The first seven (as per contract drown up on 7 October 1933) were required for evolution purposes on the part of FARE in Terni. The remaining 3,000 (as per contract no. 5043, drawn up on 29 April 1936) probably emptied the Beretta warehouse in Brescia of a model that had little success. These pistols show the proof mark RE (Reqio Esercito)
It is really very difficult to understand how the Italian Royal Army could have decided on this purchase only two months before a contract was signed for 150,000 pistols of Model 1934. This model was much more modern and functional, and above all manufactured with an eye to the use of a different type of ammunition.
One of the possible, though not very plausible, explanations could be that the Army still possessed many Model 1910 pistols with matching ammunition that had to be removed from service. Another possibility is that they had been earmarked for use by colonial troops since some of Model 1923 pistols had in fact already been sold to the Colonial Office in 1926.
It is to be hoped that the acquisition had not been decided on by taking as gospel truth Beretta`s affirmation that It could shoot with 9 mm Parabellum. This, as photos demonstrate, was rather dangerous if the unlucky and little experienced user had been provided with 9 mm Model 1938 (9M38) cartridges, the very powerful Italian ordinance cartridges having substituted the 9 mm Glisenti Model 1910 ones. In this manner the Italian Royal Army found itself with four different kinds of ammunition for small arms: 10,35 mm Italian Ordinance - for Revolver Model 89 was still produced by Bernardelli in the 30s - 7.65 mm BrownIng for Models 1917, 1922, 1931 and 1935, 9 mm Short for Model 1934 and 9mm Model 1910 for Glisenti, Brixia and Model 1923 pistols.
If furthermore the purchase of Patent 1919 col. 6.35 mm pistols is taken into consideration, even if this weapon had not been officially adopted, one can only admire without reservation the way in which officers and non-commissioned officers, in Italian fashion, found a way out of this maze.
The Fascisit Forestal Militia bought 250 pistols of Model 1923 in 1935. Of these, 100 were equipped with shoulder stock holster Model 1924. In this case, too, there is the mark of relevant unit.
It also seems that 4,000 pistols of Model 1923 were sold to Bulgaria in 1926. Another 600 found their way to Argentina to supply to Police of Buenos Aires Province. However, we do not have definite information on these two lots except a photograph of an exemplar shipped to Argentina. They do not appear to hove been given a separate series numbering.
Beretta registers furthermore show that, in 1931, 25 pistols were sold lo the Turkish Navy which, contrary to the Italian Royal Army, did not place any follow up orders.
Between 1928 and 1932 about a dozen Model 1923 pistols were bought by the Duke of the Abruzzi and by His Majesty`s Royal Household. These had probably been engraved and gilded pistols, o number of which somehow escaped destruction. Large numbers were sold on the commercial market, particularly through the armories of Ravizza in Milan, Marte in Bologna and Angelini in Trieste. Some were used for target shooting practice in Ferrara, Trieste and Rome. The last serial number found in the registers was 310400.
Used by - Italy - Bulgaria (military bought 4000 in 1926) - Argentina (police bought 600) - Turkey (Limited trial very low numbers)
Wars - World War II
Beretta Model 1923
Weapontype: Semi-automatic pistol
Manufacturer: Fabbrica D`Armi Pietro Beretta S.p.A. Via Pietro Beretta, 18, 25063 Gardone Val Trompia, Brescia, Italy, Tel +39.030.8341.1, Fax +39.030.8341399
Operation: blowback, Single Action
Cartridge: 9mm Glisenti
Weight: 800 grams (1.8 lb)
Length: 177 millimetres (7.0 in)
Barrel: 87 millimetres (3.4 in)
Rifling: 6 grooves, rh pitch 240 mm
Magazine Capacity: 8 rounds
Feed system: Detachable box magazine
In service dates: 1923–1945
In Production: 1923-26?
Sights: Front sight: blade. integral with slide, Rear sight: V shape, integral with slide