It has been a great privilege for me to travel to Brescia, Italy to visit the unique Beretta factory in Gardone Val Trompia. Where the term "factory" is the last thing that comes to mind, with the sight that presents itself already at the entrance – an elegant steel gate that opens onto the Beretta Villa. The entire area is blended with nature and the factory buildings are built into the hilly landscape, integrating perfectly.
Factory tour at Beretta – What is produced in the "sacred halls"
This beautiful building has been owned by the Beretta family for 15 generations, with the factory area extending from an initial 10,000 to the current 110,000 square meters. Today, up to 1,500 guns are manufactured in this factory every day – that's about 45,000 a month. Nearly 800 people are employed at the factory, many of whom were actually hired during the Corona Pandemic. Beretta even created its own program for its employees: Beretta BWE. A program for free health checks, interaction among employees, and sporting events. This is intended to reinforce a sense of belonging and well-being in the workplace and keep the work-life balance healthy.
The first stop on the tour is past a large picture on the wall showing the small salesroom where the Beretta family once sold their guns. Many years later, this museum houses the family's own private gun collection.
At least 1,000 examples from Beretta's production can be found here. In addition to countless rare and antique pieces, one can find in the museum a few of the rare weapon kits consisting of two weapons each, cleaning kits and gunpowder. Complete collections are rarely seen today.
Among the guns that impressed me the most was the 92 FS Diamond pistol from 2010, studded with 1193 diamonds set in the frame, slide and white gold grips totaling 90 carats: it is particularly valuable and worth about 360,000 euros today. Also of interest is the gold-plated PM12 submachine gun made for the guards of a Saudi Arabian sultan.
Especially fascinating is the "70° Cavaliere" set made by Franco and Pietro Beretta to celebrate their father Ugo's first 70 years. It is a fine handmade wooden cabinet that depicts the factory and contains twin examples of the SO10 EELL luxury shotgun in 20-gauge; both of their stocks are made from the same piece od wood. The value of this collection, according to Beretta, is priceless.
The beginnings of Beretta – From a family business to a global corporation
The company was shaped by many personalities: for example, by the legendary Bartolomeo (1498-1565) or Pietro (1791-1853), the first bearer of the family name, who set the company expansion in motion.
Or from his son Giuseppe (1840-1903), who promoted internationalization, to Pietro (1870-1957), who transformed the craft into an industrial enterprise, expanding it and introducing more modern processing methods. Under the wise leadership of his sons Giuseppe (1906-1993) and Carlo (1908-1984), the company achieved worldwide fame and recorded outstanding successes in the military and sports fields.
Throughout the centuries, Beretta has been dedicated to the production of firearms. In terms of corporate structure, the Pietro Beretta S.p.A. arms factory today belongs to Beretta Holding S.p.A., which includes large factories for sporting arms and optical equipment, as well as trading and distribution companies both in Italy and in other countries. The company is currently managed by Ugo Gussalli Beretta together with his sons Pietro and Franco. In March 2022, it was announced that Beretta would acquire RUAG Ammotec, subject to regulatory approvals.
But back to my visit to the factory: as the tour continues, we come up more and more often about Beretta's SO10 line – the quintessential classic. When a customer orders one of the luxury line shotguns, he/she can choose almost the complete design of the shotgun himself/herself. Of course, the production of the shotgun barrels is completely industrialized to ensure a constant standard of quality.
A particularly exciting area is that in which the wood for the stocks of these guns is selected. The most diverse types of wood are available for selection. Displayed and stored in a separate room where humidity and temperature are adjusted. Once the stocks have been shaped, it is on to oiling.
For a particularly high-gloss finish, up to 60 coats of oil are applied. However, only 2x a day, because in between the stock must be processed and polished again. The whole procedure takes about 30 days.
Another interesting part of the tour is the atelier of the gun cases. Here the highly skilled craftsmen design unique gun cases from raw materials such as leather and wood. Colors as well as material can be chosen in full freedom by the customer.
Hardly anything is machine-made in Beretta's luxury line of shotguns. Each gun is manually tested for defects. Furthermore, the customer can also choose the engraving on the shotgun. A handful of artists work on the beautiful engravings, optionally even provided with the pets, the face of the spouses or the initials of the future owners.
There are no limits to creativity here. It can take 12-16 months until the entire gun, including the case, is ready for delivery. For special high-end projects, 800/1,000 working hours are estimated to fulfill even the most unusual wishes.
Unique: a factory tour with the possibility to try out firearms
Not only is a tour of the factory on the agenda, but it is also possible to try out and shoot selected Beretta guns in the Sala Azzura – the company's own shooting hall.
Here you can test everything your heart desires, including the two recently presented new pistols: Beretta 92X Performance Optic Ready and the APX A1, which comes with some technical peculiarities, compared to the previous model. all4shooters.com has already reported about it.
The program at the Beretta factory tour is incredibly exciting and no wish is left unfulfilled. What surprised me the most was how many detailed insights you get as a visitor here. Every step in the production process is described. For example, there is also a laboratory where not only the chemical composition of individual components of the firearms is examined, but also prototypes find their basis.
Another highlight was the espresso with Franco and Carlo Gussalli Beretta in person. This creates a generally familiar and close atmosphere.
With wonderful impressions, the tour finds its end in the beautiful garden overlooking the walls of the factory villa.
My tip: a factory tour is also possible virtually
A personal invitation is required for a tour, but all production steps are also published on Beretta's YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/berettavideos) and LinkedIn channel (https://www.linkedin.com/company/beretta). This makes it easy for anyone interested to get a first impression.
Further information on the Beretta Group and the product range can be found at www.beretta.com.