This week we feature the Maadi Helwan Brigadier. It is a pistol that anyone who deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom has most likely seen. It’s an Egyptian copy of the Beretta M1951 semi automatic pistol, chambered in what could be the worlds most popular handgun caliber 9x19mm. These pistols were made primarily in Egypt and exported to nearly any Arab run country in the middle east. These guns were also manufactured in Iraq but in that country were commonly referred to as the “Tariq”.
When looking at this pistol you have to remember that the pistol that inspired it was originally a well built Beretta design that was made in the early 1950’s and made for the Italian Military and Police Forces. Things have progressed a long way in the last 60 plus years, but you looking at this gun you can see the influences of the Walther P39 pistols and you can most defiantly see where the famous Beretta 92 got some of it’s stylist flair. Small note of interest, the Beretta M1951 / Helwan was featured several Hollywood blockbuster films such as the Dreamworks Pictures and Universal Studios movie Munich, about the Israeli response to the 1972 Munich Olympics Massacre. It was also in the classic Al Pacino film Scarface in 1983, just in case you pissed it we gave you a little sample of it
Specifications of the Helwan / Beretta M1951
Production run: 1949-1980
Length: 8 Inches
Barrel Length: Roughly 5″
Weight: 48 Ounces
Caliber: 9 x19 mm
Capacity: 8 Rounds, single stack
Material: Slide, Barrel and Frame all Steel
Misc Details: Features a cross bolt style safety
My particular Helwan was a steal of a deal on Gunbroker.Com at $139.00 plus shipping. I had always found the little pocket pistol bizarrely fascinating and wanted one so when I found the auction in it’s last hour I figured what was the harm in throwing a bid out there in the hopes of getting a project pistol. When it arrived I was very happy with my purchase at the price I really had nothing to lose, I’ve wasted more than $139 on several other failed projects so if it fell flat it would be no great loss.
Once I finished the ATF form 4473 I went to my work bench to strip the pistol down and degrease it and check its workings. The first thing about any surplus weapon that should be checked of course is the condition of the safety and trigger. I cycled the Helwan several times and tried dry firing it with the safety on and off, the cross bolt safety held nicely and did its job. I removed the grip panels and noticed the first problem with the Helwan, someone had tried to work on the grips and left a nasty burr on one of the panels that was immediately noticeable when holding the pistol.
A few minutes work with a fine file and some 800 grit sandpaper and the burr was gone and it was off to the range. That is when the second problem reared it’s ugly head. I loaded the single stack magazine with the normal testing ammunition of 115 grain UMC full metal jacket and pulled the trigger. The pistol fired exactly as it was designed but jammed immediately. It failed to extract the spent case from the breach. I cleared the weapon and tried it again with the same result, each time I cleared it and the failure to extract and jam reoccured. I decided that I would try to replace the extractor and the spring.
A few clicks on the internet and a quick order and a newly manufactured extractor and extractor spring was on its way. While searching for replacement parts I learned that this is a common condition for most Beretta based pocket pistols from the time. Total cost so far $19.00 for parts and $139.00 for the gun, still not a bad total in the world of gun projects. I had counted on having to do something to it.
When the parts showed up I did a quick YouTube search of how to replace an extractor and within 15 minutes I had the old extractor and spring removed and the new one installed. I used a dummy round to test the new extractor and spring with positive results, but a dummy round is not a live round nor is it an empty cash that is being extracted after shooting a live round. A live fire test was in order.
Once back at the range I repeated the loading sequence with our designated test loads, and squeezed the trigger back, firing the first round. The Helwan with its new replacement parts cycled completely and extracted the spent casing completely with no hesitation. This was repeated slowly for the remaining seven rounds of the magazine. Pleased, I reloaded the magazine and repeated the test in total running six magazines threw the little Egyptian pocket pistol. I experienced zero failures to fire or extract.
The next few weeks I found myself routinely putting a box of rounds threw the Helwan just to see if there were any issues with it cycling or operating at all, to my shock nothing unexpected happened. When I was scouring the internet for affordable and fun projects for the web site I was hoping this would be one that turned out to be a positive experience and I wasn’t disappointed.
The Helwan is an old and odd design that is considered the “Daddy” of the Beretta model 92 a pistol that has served the United States military for more than 25 years. It is not without fault though, the single stack magazines are hard to find and usually over $35.00. There are other components of the Helwan that are hard to find and expensive such as the grips and grip screws. I found that the plastic used on the grips was very hard and the metal on the grip screws was very soft. For this reason I would suggest that anyone who is thinking on purchasing a Helwan take particular care to use the correct size screwdriver on the grip screws, they gaul out easily and deform quickly.
In 2016 finding an affordable and fun project gun to tinker with or restore is becoming increasingly harder to find. The choices are usually odd European pistols that are in hard to find calibers, or rifles like the Mosin Nagant, but every once in a while you stumble across and diamond in the rough like the Helwan. If you are looking for a fun and semi weird pistol to tinker with you should check out the Maadi Helwan Brigadier.
If any of our readers out there have any experiences or war stories about the Helwan or it’s clones from their deployments to Iraq of Afghanistan we would love to hear them, even better if you have any pictures you want to share send them in or attach them in the comments section and we will share them. If you have any suggestions for Weird Gun Wednesday let us know.