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Italy’s Dangerous History: From Gladiators’ Swords Onward

Fine Craftsmanship

The Wild West(ern Europe): Take in Brescia’s dangerous history with my hunting-, shooting- and firearms-themed tour of Northern Italy.

In This Italy Article You Will Discover:

  • Why Brescia, Italy, is Internationally Significant
  • The History of Arms Manufacture in Italy
  • Why Italians Love to Shoot
  • Where To Find the Top Sights in Northern Italy

“It’s fantastic,” Leonardo Pericciuoli exclaims to me in choppy English dripping with a Northern Italian accent. I nod my head in agreement as the two of us — each barely speaking a word of the other’s native tongue — attempt to chat about the amazing shooting, hunting and firearms heritage of the Brescia region of Italy. For this trip, I was uninterested in a conventional visit of Italy — and when I came across a massive firearms trade show in the city of Brescia, I decided a Hunter S. Thompson-esque tour of Italian guns and gun-makers was in order, subito!

I decided a Hunter S. Thompson-esque tour of Italian guns and gun-makers was in order, subito!


The city of Brescia at Night.

I had arrived in Milan that morning — or was it evening? Jet lag had gotten the better of me, and my internal clock was running backwards. A veteran of trade shows in Western Canada, as well as larger events in Las Vegas, I had made the cross-Atlantic journey to Italy and I was about to visit EXA, the world’s third-largest hunting and shooting trade show, held in the city of Brescia, about 130 km east of Milan, as well as see the sights of northern Italy. It was a lot to cram into six days, but since my jet lag was ensuring I would get no sleep, I figured I could do it.

Held at the Brixia Expo and hosted by Fieria di Brescia and its jovial Chief Manager, Marco Citterio, EXA is a testament to how much Italians love to shoot guns. One might wonder how a city roughly the size of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, could be playing such a huge role on the world shooting stage — one might, of course, if one had not spoken at length with the excited and knowledgeable Leonardo.


Italian gunsmiths pay the same attention to detail as do the top Italian fashion designers.

The Brescia Region, including legendary Gardone Val Trompia, is a hot bed of firearms manufacturing.

For more than 500 years, the region has been anchored by firearm giant Beretta, and since then, about 200 other gun makers have sprung up — from mom and pop shops to other Italian international brands such as Perazzi, Pietta, Franchi and, a little to the south, Benelli.

Beyond the manufacturing in the Brescia region itself, the Beretta Group owns other international brands such as Burris, Sako, Tikka, Stoeger, A. Ubertia, Beretta USA and even the other Italian gun makers previously mentioned. Beretta’s umbrella is so large, they claim a 55 per cent market share in the US alone — 96 per cent of which comes from the sporting sector.


Mama mia! That’s one pricey set of shotguns!

Head spinning from the hundreds of booths at EXA — with firearms ranging from $400,000 (Cdn) set of Perazzi Extra Gold shotguns to familiar brands like Browning — and tens of thousands of happy hunters who descend on this city to gaze and dream, I come to the realization I need to see more of this firearm industry. Thankfully, I’m able to meet with Jarno Antonelli, from Beretta’s marketing department, and arrange a tour of the legendary Beretta plant in nearby Gardone Val Trompia.


This collection, closed to public, has guns dating from the 1500s – priceless antiques.

The current Beretta Factory, a 300-year-old stone castle tucked in the shadows of the Gardone Valley, is one-part high-tech fabricating plant, one-part traditional craftsman shop and one-part museum. The latter aspect is exemplified in the stunning, priceless collection of firearms, with pieces dating to the 15th century. The first two aspects are brought to light by the computerized manufacturing techniques that are combined with the hand assembling and craftsman quality control of every Beretta firearm. To see these shotguns and handguns assembled is to see an artisan at work.

To see these shotguns and handguns assembled is to see an artisan at work.


The author makes like Elmer Fudd inside the Beretta Arms factory.

Back at EXA, the seemingly endless displays of Italian firearms take on a new significance for me.

The metals used in these guns, mined from the valley of their construction, are the same ores that were used in Roman Gladiator’s swords.

To say there is a history of arms manufacturing in the region is an understatement.

But I had to know — what is an Italian hunt all about? First off, there is very little rifle hunting in the country (no doubt due to the dense population). Second, hunts are done in hours, not days. And third, popular game species are wild boar, birds (pigeons are popular) and larger species like mouflon sheep, red deer, fallow deer and the smaller roe deer. And while much of the hunting is done on reserves, there is still of plenty of sport for cacciatores, whether they are residents or not. Though, it’s not quite like a Canadian hunt. Back home, most do it for meat — not sport.


The city of Brescia hosts some of Northern Italy’s oldest ruins.

And as I toured the 2,500-year-old ruins on the shores of nearby Lago d’Garda, with less than 20 hours before my plane departed for home, I sighed, truly relaxing for the first time. A little work, a little play and a lot of reasons to come back.


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About the author: David Webb is a Vancouver, BC-based travel writer, photographer and magazine editor.

40 comments… add one
  • Zane Boldt Jan 28, 2018 Link

    I have a 12 gauge over and under made in Brescia with 28 in barrell in excellent condition with double triggers I think it was made in the 1930’s or before serial # 1155. Does anyone have any information or know the value . It has engraved case hardened reliever with a compressed hardened steel barrell.any questions please call Zane at 928-846-1140 Thank you

  • Terry Sep 25, 2016 Link

    I have a 530 trap, great gun, but they break the links, hard to find. I got a link from the skb website that has a semi auto parts list I got one it is a little short but with a little work it fits after modifications, I’ll find out soon if it works. You can call me to talk about it @ 559_901 8258

  • Terry Sep 25, 2016 Link

    I need a action link for a model 500 or 530. Any help phone # for franchi Italy would be great. Thanks

  • Gary Mar 29, 2016 Link

    I have a 12 guage Beretta double barrel hammer shotgun and need the right trigger which is broken, also the left hammer will not stay cocked and need the part to fix that. Can any one help me find the parts I need? Thankyou, Gary: babfab@telus.net

  • Mike Meixsell Mar 24, 2016 Link

    I have a Brescia arms o/u 12 ga. 3in. The forend of which was lost by movers. Is it possible to get a replacement? The info on the gun is as follows.

    Canne Cromate
    Brescia . mat.16784
    Spesco Corp.

  • David Webb Dec 29, 2015 Link


  • Mike Dioguardi Dec 27, 2015 Link

    And how was your choppy Italian mixed with a Canadian accent?

    So Canadians want to demand of Americans what we need in changed gun laws? (MUST Change)
    I am sure that your gun laws and other Liberal Ideas are the very reason why Canada has grown so little since the early explorers discovered North America and more or less put it far behind the United States as the place where they wished to live.

  • Tom Anderson Nov 26, 2014 Link

    I am trying to find out information on a black power flint cap pistol. It has Hopkins- Allen Arms Corp N.I. USA Black powder only made in Italy Serial # 2*** stamped on the barrel. Also has Proof mark of PM with a star over that and a box with either an AO or AD inside it . Any help would be great. Thanks

  • Cee Nov 14, 2014 Link

    We have a rifle that has Navy Arms Co. on the barrel . And on the chamber it says Navy Arms Co. AND Ditta Davide Pedersoli Gardone V.T. Brecia Italy. Anyone know anything about this rifle?

  • Cee Nov 14, 2014 Link

    We have a rifle that has Navy Arms Co. on the barrel . And on the chamber it says Navy Arms Co. AND Ditta Davide Pedersoli Gardone V.T. Brecia Italy. Anyone know anythign about this rifle?

  • Greg Nikirk Sep 24, 2014 Link

    We have received a FNA Brescia, WWII Italian carbine, 1934 -XII, a crown with R. E. with it, S. N. A 2898.
    Would like to have any information you have, or a source I might find .
    Thank you
    Greg Nikirk

  • victor Jun 10, 2014 Link

    i have a mm6 flobert doubleshot derringer on the side it says made for D. tonolini Brescia Italy trying to find the date of manufacture

  • Luis Medina May 26, 2014 Link

    God Bless you.

  • Kathy Wolfe Mar 26, 2014 Link

    I have a Brescia 1903 make E7012. 6.5 cal. Please respond if anybody know’s about this kind of Rifle.

  • Ed Mar 7, 2014 Link

    I’m trying to find some replacement grips for a Model 1889 Bodeo revolver. Any suggestions where I can find them? If there are no sources in the US, do you have any English speaking contacts in Italy?


  • Kathy Wolfe Feb 23, 2014 Link

    I have an old rifle says Brescia on it, also Made in Italy. Also has E7012 on it an has 1903 on it. Has po on it has a sml. picture on something I can’t make out to good an also a I think sg on it. I think it is bolt action.

  • keith Nov 6, 2013 Link

    hi all i am looking for someone who could help me I own a 12g o/u franchi alcione shotgun it is very well engraved i would like to find its year of make thanks

  • vincent pugliese Jul 7, 2013 Link

    I have a over and under .12ga shotgun that I bought back in the 1970’s. It is like new I have no box that it came in. On the barrel it has Universal Firearms, Florida, USA and Brescia Italy. The serial number is 22303, doest it have a model?. I love the look of this firearm. Any info on this firearm would help.
    Thank You
    Vincent Pugliese

  • mike Jun 18, 2013 Link

    Is it possible to buy Beretta firearms in Italy and have them shipped to the United States? I will be travling to Italy in September and was curious.

  • Faisal Jun 3, 2013 Link

    Hi Sir/ Mam
    I have a hammer-less double barrel side by side with 28 inch barrels non ejector shotgun with straight butt stock and on the barrels “F.N.A. Brescia Made in italy” is writter. On receivers 1949 and company’s original gun number is 7747 in written. Inherited from my uncle in Pakistan. I need to know since i searched the web but could not find the history of this 12g gun….. Please help me out. If you want, i can send pictures of gun as well . . .. . Regards

  • sandy May 28, 2013 Link


  • Nikki May 17, 2013 Link

    Hello everyone…
    I am interested in touring the Beretta factory. Does anyone know if this is podsible?

  • Alec LaSalla Apr 25, 2013 Link

    I have acquired an automatic pistol . it seems to have been made in 1958. On the left hand side of the slide it is engraved ” Armi-Salesi-Brescia-Brevetto-Cal.22 “. On the white ivory butt covers there is a silver round shield of leaves with AG in the center. I am trying to find out if it is an arm made by Beretta or Swiss arms AG. I would like to be able to dis-assemble it for cleaning and inspection, so I require access to a manual. Can you help identify this pistol.

  • Kevin Mitchell Apr 8, 2013 Link

    Dear Sir or Madam I am in Australia and have an Italian over and under 12g shotgun made in Brescia.I am trying to trace its history, age, etc. Serial number 1205. Model Super_Victa Special.. I am unsure how to spell the manufacturer name. It looks like ….Fabbrica mazicnace arms >brescia Made in Italy. Could you please tell me any information about this shotgun it will be greatly appreciated. Thankyou so much Kevin Mitchell

  • Paula Nov 13, 2012 Link

    I bought a rifle for my husband and any help with it would be so greatly appreciated! It is stamped with 1918 Brescia, Made in Italy. and BF6898 which I assume is the serial number. It also has Rocca stamped into the bolt. If anyone can tell me what size bullets this gun takes or the possible value of it, I would so greatly appreciate it. I will gladly send photos if needed. Thank you again for any help in advance.


  • David Webb Dec 21, 2011 Link

    I notice a few people asking me questions about firearms value – for answers to these types of questions, I recommend visiting http://www.westernsportsman.com and checking out the firearms Q&A. Good luck!

  • jeff stork Dec 19, 2011 Link

    I have a rifle,U4252,1918 HBESCIA, Brescia.

    This is all the info I could get off it. Wondering what it is worth
    or where I could go to find out more about it.

  • jim tolly Nov 9, 2011 Link

    I came a cross a firearm that is a blackpowder with the name f.llipietta.on it it has a marking of a star on it in 3 places. also has pn stamped in it in a couple place . It is a very nice gun. I am trying to find more info on it

  • john baroudi Aug 25, 2011 Link

    hi looking for anyone that can help!!!
    have a double barreled shotgun which i inherited from my grandfather in perfect condition. He brought it back with him from the U.S. in late 1930’s.
    On the side of the barrel is written (Pelli Cesar Brescia)
    if anyone has any history about that, Please help


  • Travel insurance Jun 22, 2011 Link

    That first photo of Brescia you posted somehow reminded me of Santorini, but the only difference is that the area is not surrounded by water. The ruins are very lovely, and the fact that hunting was popular in that area made me so excited to visit!

  • David Webb Sep 7, 2010 Link

    It’s actually unlikely that you can get a public tour of the Beretta factory – but I would still go to Gardone Val Trompia and check out the town, the self-guided tours, the Beretta shop and so on.

  • Laura Mitchell Sep 6, 2010 Link

    I will be in Italy May 18th-May 29th. I would like to know if it is possible to tour a part of the Beretta Company? Can you assist?

    Thank you!

    Laura Mitchell

  • David Webb Apr 4, 2010 Link

    Brescia is actually a very pleasant town with a lot to see and do, plus it’s a great jumping off point to visit Lago d’Garda, Verona and Sirmione. (Oh, keep posted to Across and Abroad.com for articles on those destinations as well.)

  • Al p. Apr 4, 2010 Link

    Lonely planet says Brescia is scruffy and you should pass it by.

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