South Africa’s Berettas: The Vektor Z88 and SP1

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In the 1980s, the South African military and police were using substantial numbers of different handguns, and began looking for a way to consolidate to simply maintenance and logistics. Studying the different guns they had, they decided to pursue a copy of the Beretta Model 92. No foreign manufacturer was willing to undertake production for them because of the international sanctions then in force against South Africa, so instead Musgrave and Lyttelton Engineering opted to reverse engineer the gun and produce them domestically. A batch of 20 Berettas were used in a remarkable program which successfully recreated a full technical data package for the pistol, and production was begun by Vektor under the designation Z88. Aside from changes to markings and grip panels, the Z88 was a faithful and parts-interchangeable copy of the M92.

Beretta was not happy about this, of course, but attempts to bring a lawsuit against Vektor were equally stalled by the sanctions, which prevented South Africans form traveling internationally. Eventually, a settlement was negotiated to allow Vektor to produce the Z88 for use within South Africa (but not for export). Shortly thereafter the sanctions were lifted, and Vektor decided to modify the gun enough to give it a new name and offer it for export (and domestic) sale.

This new pistol was the SP1, and it changed the profile of the Beretta, replaced the distinctive open slide with a fully enclosed (and simpler to machine) slide, and replaced the slide mounted decocker with a frame mounted manual safety. These were produced and marketed in several variations (compact, service, target, and competition) in 9mm and also as the SP2 in .40 S&W. Production of both ceased in 1998, when Vektor shut down all small arms production.

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