Beretta celebrated its 494th anniversary as a firearm manufacturer this month—on Oct. 3 to be precise—which makes Beretta the company with the longest history of continuous operations in the world. The firm’s ability to adapt, survive and thrive through nearly five centuries is an achievement unrivaled by any other and an inspirational one as the Covid-19 pandemic enters a fatiguing 11th month.
“Beretta has been continuously reinventing itself for nearly 500 years, and that is how, generation after generation, we create the market-changing products,” Francesco Valente, general manager and COO of Beretta USA, said. “We are a stable company, focusing on the long-term and we think in terms of decades, not quarters—that is why we can invest so much in research and development and invest in environmental conservation to preserve the future of our planet. From our founding through today, we have kept a relentless commitment to innovation.”
The approach has paid big dividends, including the development of the Beretta 92, which served as the official sidearm of U.S. Armed Forces as the M9 for more than 35 years. The company’s shotguns have claimed medals through five decades of Olympic competition and countless other matches across the globe.
It all began in 1526, when Mastro Bartolomeo Beretta of Gardone Val Trompia, Brescia, Italy, received 296 ducats as payment for 185 arquebus barrels. The purchaser was the Arsenal of Venice. There were Beretta products before then, but this first documented sale is the point from which the company launched its presence in the firearm manufacturing industry.
The company has survived the Spanish flu, a global cholera outbreak in the 1800s—so devastating that half the population of New York City is said to have sought shelter in rural regions—and a pair of world wars. When a rabble-rousing group of North American colonials declared their independence from England, Beretta was celebrating its 250th anniversary.