Special Firearms Feature: The Beretta Private Reserve

Take a rare step inside a 500-year-old collection from the world’s oldest gunmaker: Beretta.

Family owned for five centuries, Beretta Arms Manufacturing Company is the world’s third-oldest corporation. Based in Gardona Val Trompia, in the Brescia region of Italy, the company is so ancient records of its early days are spotty— although most agree it was founded in roughly 1490. The first shipping order for Beretta, or Fabbrica d’Armi Peitro Beretta S.p.A., is dated 1526 — when Bartolomeo Beretta was in charge of the company. From then, 14 more generations of the Beretta family have run the operations of this, the largest manufacturer of firearms in Italy and one of the largest in the world. The current factory, where 1,500 firearms are made every day, is about 300 years old.

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It is said the rich mineral deposits in Gardona Val Trompia, which gave birth to the firearms industry in the region, were discovered by the Romans thousands of years ago. Imagine: it could be that the same metals used to make Roman Gladiators’ swords and spears now make our modern Italian firearms.

Today, Beretta employs about 2,600 people and grossed €420 million in 2006 (about $672 million Cdn.). Furthermore, 500 years of heritage and 15 generations of family ownership has resulted in what could be the most impressive collection of firearms in the world.

Officially closed to the public, the Beretta family maintains a priceless collection of hundreds of firearms collected over the past five centuries. Starting with artisan pieces from the 15th century and leading up to infamous firearms like the Mannlicher-Carcano Model 91 (the model used by the man who killed J.F.K) and incredibly rare items such as a gold-plated automatic gun once used to guard the King of Saudi Arabia, it is an impressive sight and one few people will ever see.

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