The M1951 Beretta pistol is the most recognizable ancestor of the Beretta 92, whose importance to the world of firearms can hardly be understated. One variant was the Helwan 9mm pistol, which was a clone of the M1951 that was made in Maadi Factory 54 located just south of Cairo, Egypt. While I haven’t found any really comprehensive accounting of the Maadi factory’s history with gunmaking, it is well known that the Maadi factory also produced AK-47 variants (and perhaps other guns) for many years.
There is also evidence that there were two variants of the M1951 derived pistol made at Maadi; a “domestic” gun with Arabic writing on the slide, and an “export” model that didn’t have this. I held out to find a “domestic” model, with the understanding that the quality of the domestic guns may have been somewhat better than the export guns. This domestic example was imported by Navy Arms, who thankfully (at the time of this gun’s import) marked it much more subtly than some of the other importers.
I suspect that non-import marked Helwan’s have leaked into the country over the years … but like the Tariq (an Iraqi made M1951 knockoff), these fetch a pretty penny from collectors of Middle Eastern firearms.
I paid less than $200 to get this gun in my hands, but that was partially because the original plastic grips had warped (probably from heat) and prevented the magazine release from working properly. I’m not normally a fan of ordering new reproduction grips (and these shiny black grips look a bit meh), but a set of new Turkish M1951 grips from eBay made the gun useable for the obligatory field test.
My first impression of the Helwan was that it looks very much like its lineal descendant, the Beretta 92. At first the only really noticeable difference is the single stack grip and magazine, the lack of a decocking lever on the slide, and (like the original 92’s) the magazine release button located near the base of the grip. Field stripping the Helwan is simpler than the 92, since there’s no pushbutton lock for the takedown lever (which looks much more like the takedown lever on a Beretta 70).
My second impression of the Helwan is, not surprisingly, that it lacks the manufacturing quality of the Italian-made Beretta. Many of the surfaces appear to have only been rough filed before a hastily blue job. That said, the fit of the slide to the receiver is surprisingly good, and the action breaks crisply and cleanly. I suspect that all of the gun’s springs are original, so the hefty 7 pound trigger weight suggested that the Egyptians really wanted you to make sure that you actually intended to pull the trigger.
I also note that the slide, the frame and the barrel are all serial numbered (in Arabic numerals), which suggests that these parts are fitted to one another and should not be casually interchanged.
All of this said, the Helwan performed respectably at the range. I only put 50 rounds down the pipe, but my groupings were about as good as they were with an Italian 92, despite being about an inch high and an inch to the right at 25 yards. Magazine insertion was a bit more finicky than I’m used to and the sights aren’t quite as crisp, but these are nit-picks. The slide didn’t quite return to battery twice in 50 rounds, but that’s almost certainly the result of the weakened 50 year old recoil spring.
Tempting as it is to put a fresh spring kit in it, I don’t know how good the Egyptian steel is and I’d rather not push the limits of this probable Six-Day War survivor.