The Vincenzo Bernardelli company from Gardone Val Trompia, Italy, can certainly be counted among the great brands of the Italian firearms industry. Unfortunately, as happens to many companies, in the last years of the 20th century Bernardelli had to face closures, changes of hands, relocations and difficult situations that first reduced its production, then led to a temporary halt in 2017. Today the company is still on standby and little is known about its plans for the future..
Vincenzo Bernardelli, his history and the first handguns
Vincenzo Bernardelli began his career as a gunsmith at Franzini, at that time one of the main hunting guns factories in Gardone Val Trompia and in a short time he specialized in the manufacture of barrels. It was 1865 and the young Vincenzo decided that it was time to start his own business so he opened his own workshop. He was so lucky that in 1875 the company was able to manufacture complete guns. A careful management, added to the excellent quality of the firearms, resulted in a slow but steady expansion. In 1908 the company moved to its new headquarters, a series of buildings on the main street of Gardone, where the company remained until 1997.
Bernardelli's first experience with handguns came in the 1930s with the manufacturing of the Italian model 1889 issue revolver. Being not a creation of theirs but produced on commission, this first foray into the field of handguns did not have a great effect. In 1945 it was something very different when, with the right timing, Bernardelli brought to the market its first semi-automatic pistol in .25 ACP/6.35 mm caliber. Immediately after the war there were many bulky and large caliber military guns around, times were still turbulent, and small pistols that could be carried in the trouser pockets were in great demand.
From this first model, without great modifications and getting through the 7.65 and .380 calibers, we arrive at 1959 with the model 60, that in its 5.9”/150-mm barrel version began to spread Bernardelli's name on shooting ranges.
The Bernardelli Model 69 pistol
In 1969 finally came the first model designed and built specifically for target shooting. In those years on the ranges they shot a lot with .22 Long Rifle pistols that were also usually also rented to shooters. Having a standard .22 caliber pistol in the catalog meant being able to enter a large and attractive market.
Even if the Bernardelli 69 does not have particular mechanical innovations compared to its contemporary pistols, it shows an extremely fine workmanship, while on the aesthetic side the modern design of the counterweight that incorporates the barrel and supports the sights gives it a certain elegance.
Barrel and slide are machined from forged stock; the counterweight, the barrel and all other components are steel, only the trigger is alloy, the magazine floor is plastic and the grips are wood.
The Bernardelli 69 uses a blowback acton, i.e. the recoil spring wrapped around the barrel and the hammer spring, added to the inertia of the 185-g slide, keep the barrel and slide together for the necessary time. On the left side of the frame, which weighs almost half a kilo, at the back under the hammer, is the safety lever.
The barrel, produced by broaching, is 5.9”/150mm long and has six right-hand grooves with a 1:10 twist rate. It is inserted in a sleeve machined in the frame and firmly fixed by a cotter pin. The firing pin is inertial, i.e. when falling down the hammer hits the rear end of the firing pin which in turn first hits the primes and then is pushed back into its seat by a spring.
The counterweight is blocked around the barrel. Sight radius is 7”/179 mm long, the interchangeable front sight is locked in place by a screw, while the windage and elevation adjustable rear sight has a square notch matching the front sight.
The magazine is very well done, even if the follower button is not particularly comfortable. The floor is plastic with a comfortable extension that, in addition to offering a spot for your little finger, also makes extraction easier.
The generously sized grip is made from finely checkered walnut wood with a comfortable thumb rest.
The pistol features three safeties, one is a manual safety that locks the trigger, the second is automatic and is activated when the magazine is not inserted, and finally there's the hammer half cock.
Bernardelli 69, the eternal second
The gun worked perfectly and flawlessly with all types of ammo, as required for a good quality training pistol such as the Bernardelli model 69.
On the shooting range it clashed directly with the Beretta 76, a gun very similar in design, which became its eternal rival. The Bernardelli eventually was relegated down to second as for diffusion and popularity, even if there are many 50 year-old people who fired their first shot with a Bernardelli 69. Certainly the Beretta brand was more prestigious and well-known, but in our opinion the finish and construction quality of the Bernardelli 69 were higher than the 76.
Bernardelli 69 specs
|Manufacturer:||Vincenzo Bernardelli SpA Gardone Val Trompia, Italia|
|Caliber:||.22 Long Rifle|
|Sights:||Adjustable rear sight and interchangeable front sight|
|Barrel Length:||5.9”/150 mm|
|Overall Length:||9”/228 mm|
|Weight:||37.74 oz/1070 grammi|