After World War II, Italy adopted the US-designed M1 Garand rifle in .30-06 (7.62x63mm) and also manufactured it under license. This semi-automatic rifle proved itself well during WWII, but in the late 1950s it was considered outdated and obsolete. The Italian military wanted a new rifle chambered for the NATO-standard 7.62x51mm.
Beretta designed the BM59, which was essentially a rechambered M1 fitted with a removable 20-round magazine, folding bipod and flash suppressor/grenade launcher.
The BM59 was adopted in 1959 and served with Italian, Argentine, Indonesian and Morocco armies. In the early 1980s, semi-automatic versions were imported to the USA and sold to private collectors. It should be noted that earliest BM59s were manufactured from available US manufactured M1 parts, including re-chambered barrels.
In 1990, the BM59 was replaced in Italian service by Beretta AR70/90 assault rifles.
The BM59 has five variants.
- BM59 Mark I had a wooden stock with a semi-pistol grip stock.
- BM59 Mark II had a wooden stock with pistol grip to achieve a better control during the full-auto fire;
- BM59 Mark III, or Ital TA (also known as the Truppe Alpine), was a gun with a pistol grip and a metallic folding buttstock, and was intended for Mountain troops. The BM59 Para was similar to BM59 Ital TA, but was intended for paratroopers. It was equipped with a shorter barrel and flash-hider.
- BM59 Mark IV, had a heavier barrel with a plastic stock, and was used as a light squad automatic weapon.