The Beretta M951 (aka, 1951) was the first real IDF standard issue handgun (insofar as the IDF uses handguns, which is rarely). You could make the argument that the Webley came before it, but the Webley was used more by the Haganah and other irregular forces prior to the IDF’s formation. Mine is a particularly interesting specimen – read on for more details.
The Israelis used Beretta M951s as their de facto service pistol until they started buying Hi-Powers in the 1960’s (or so it seems). At that point, the two co-existed until the M951s wore out; the Israelis were infamous for putting +P+ Uzi ammo through M951s, which essentially destroyed the locking block.
The Beretta M951 is a single-stack, single-action 9mm pistol. It’s all steel, and has a nice weighty feeling when you hold it. Very comfortable, too! This particular example has some pitting, probably from improper storage; it still shoots great.
This particular pistol is a genuine Italian-made Egyptian contract pistol – not an Egyptian-made Helwan! The Egyptians put in a large order (50k) with Beretta for M951s to equip their army. These Egyptian contract pistols have some unique features – enlarged sights, a heel magazine release, and an Egyptian crest. You can see the crest near the slide serrations. You can see the date of manufacture on the slide – 1955.
It amazes me that the Egyptians thought that this crude clip (barely visible at the back of the magazine) was somehow better than a proper magazine release button. You’d never be able to reload this thing in an emergency. And you’ve really got to love that old school lanyard ring.
What really drew me to this particular example was when I saw the engraving pictured here. Translated: “To Chaim, In memory of our experiences of the war. Oct 73 Kalman Magen.” Many, many of the M951s in Israeli service were captured from the Egyptians in the various wars the Israelis fought with them (Suez Canal Crisis, Six Day War, Yom Kippur War, etc.). Presumably, this was a gift from General Kalman Magen to someone named Chaim, who I assume was a friend/family/subordinate. General Magen was the commander of the 252nd Armored division on the Egyptian front, so there’s historical evidence to support the theory. In any event, it’s a cool link back to a very desperate time in Israeli history. I really have no idea why something like this would be surplused, but I was happy to buy it.
This pistol is a mixed blessing for me. It was a great curio & relics find, but is too historically valuable for me to shoot it. I suppose there are worse problems to have.