When you’ve been making guns for just short of 500 years — that’s half a millenium, folks — you learn a thing or two about manufacturing. Touring Beretta’s Gallatin, Tennessee factory northeast of Nashville makes that abundantly clear, even if you’re woefully ignorant about all things mechanical.
One of the benefits of writing about guns is you get to see how a lot of them are made. That ranges from relatively small shops to large industrial operations. Beretta’s Gallatin facility is easily among the most advanced we’ve seen anywhere.
Beretta moved its U.S. manufacturing out of Maryland after the Crab Cake State rushed to enact “assault weapons” and “high capacity” magazine bans back in 2013. We’re told Maryland politicians were warned their post-Sandy Hook anti-gun jihad would provoke a move, but legislators didn’t believe the bill would result in Beretta actually pulling up stakes. They were wrong.
I was lucky enough to be invited to Music City, USA to get a look at Beretta’s latest product, which you’ll be hearing more about soon. After giving the new gun a good going over, we headed to Gallatin to see where all the magic happens.
Beretta expects to turn out about 185,000 firearms in Tennessee in 2022, most of which will be pistols with some shotguns mixed in as well. We were able to freely take photographs inside the plant because Beretta shipped the last M9s — just last week — completing its contract to the U.S. military after supplying those guns since 1985.
But as you can see, that doesn’t mean there isn’t still a very healthy market for Beretta’s venerable large frame 9mm platform.
Here’s a brace of 92X RDO FR Centurions ready for packing and shipment . . .
The Gallatin plant makes a range of handguns including the 92X, M9A4, 92FS, the APX platform guns.
Bobcats and Tomcats are produced there, too, somewhere between 25,000 and 35,000 per year.
While Beretta employs a couple of hundred people at Gallatin, they also have some of the most sophisticated production processes available. That include three 5-axis machining cells. Here’s one of them in action . . .
Doug Linder, Beretta’s VP of Operations and R&D, told us the 5-axis machines are replacing 4-axis machines that have been on the job at Beretta for about 25 years. Each 5-axis cell runs about $1.7 million.
The machine in the video above is taking large pistol frames from what you see on the right, above, to what you see on the left. The new machines make what were 3-load jobs that previously took 45 minutes into 2-load jobs that take 20 minutes. Do the math and you can calculate the improvements in throughput and cost.
Beretta makes about 45,000 shotguns a year at Gallatin, most of which are different flavors of their new(ish), very popular A300 Ultima series semi-auto scatterguns. One of those 5-axis machines takes zero percent receivers like these . . .
And converts them thusly . . .
Not everything is automated. This is deburring being done to APX A1 Carry slides before the next step in the manufacturing process.
Here’s another robot doing slide finishing . . .
That automated unit can do much of what used to be done this way . . .
Here’s the result . . .
Only so many steps in the process can be automated.
Here are APX A1 Carry pistols getting ready for packing . . .
Every single firearm produced in Gallatin is fired in one of the factory’s three ranges.
Beretta also produces hammer-forged AR barrels under contract in Gallatin.
Here are some of those A300 Ultimas that have been recently completed . . .
And these are the first of Beretta’s new Prairie finish A300’s . . .
This is some prototyping of what looks like an APX slide being done . . .
We asked Linder which products are causing him supply chain headaches. His response: all of them.
He said literally everything is a challenge these days. They’ve even had to stop work on some products at certain points when those challenges have gotten bad enough, but they’ve managed to rebalance production and switch to other products to keep the factory and its employees humming.
Again, only some of the products Beretta makes for the US market are made here in Gallatin. Many shotguns and other products are made in Italy. But Linder estimated that 60% to 70% of every firearm with the Beretta name on it is sold in the United States. That’s how big a market we are.
As for that new product we were there to see and shoot, stay tuned. More details to follow shortly.