Friday, June 7, 2013

Accuracy in Newspapers

Peter Murtagh had an article in the Irish Times today about a firearm belonging to the late Lord Louis Mountbatten being returned to his family, entitled “Mountbatten handgun returned to family by Defence Forces and Garda”. The firearm is pictured (below) and the original text of the article said that it's a “Barretta” .22 caliber.

A late model FN M1906 chambered for .25 ACP is not a “Barretta .22”

Everything about this description is wrong. First of all, the name of the Italian arms manufacturer in question is “Beretta”, with one “r” and an “a” only at the end. Since the original article was published, they've half-corrected the spelling: it now reads “Berretta”.

Secondly, the firearm pictured was manufactured by the Belgian Fabrique Nationale, better known as “FN”, so it's not a Beretta at all (the first clue is that it has an ordinary ejection port and not the open-top slide that you might expect for an older Beretta). It has the oval “intertwined ‘F’ and ‘N’” logotype of FN, not either of the circular logos used by Beretta (older models have a “PB”, for Pietro Beretta, logotype; more modern ones have a “three arrows” emblem). This can be verified by the simple expedient of turning the damn thing over and reading what it says on the other side:


 Finally, it's chambered for .25 ACP and not .22 caliber.

The particular weapon pictured is actually the third iteration of FN's Model 1906: you can tell this from the flange on the front of the trigger, which was added in the third version. The first version, released in 1905, had only the Colt 1911-style grip safety that you can see in the photograph; a thumb safety was added (on the other side) in the second version, and enlarged in the third version when the front of the trigger was also widened. This is by far the most common version, accounting for over a million of the 1.2 million or so made. The basic design was licensed from legendary firearm designer John Browning by FN, amongst many other manufacturers. A dozen or more firearm manufacturers produced “Baby Brownings” like this between 1905 and 1940 or so.

In fairness, Beretta produced a number of superficially similar pocket pistols during the same period, but they are markedly different in many respects, having an open-top slide, much different grip safety and trigger guard, and, most importantly, a completely different company logo!

Now, I'm not a gun nut by any means, but the ported (rather than open-top) slide and misspelling of the supposed manufacturer's name made me investigate a little further. It took me all of 15 minutes on the Internet to find out the above. If I can do it, so can a professional journalist.

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