James River Armory’s BM59 Rifle — A Handsome Classic


James River Rifle

Decades ago, when Beretta was producing the BM59 semi-auto based on the battle-proven M1 Garand rifle, the result was a modestly handsome specimen that was a reliable shooter chambered for the 7.62x51mm NATO round and capable of good accuracy.

Now James River Armory offers this rifle with a new receiver, and it’s essentially like the original, supplied with a single 20-round detachable box magazine. According to one brief history, the BM59 was “considered the foreign equivalent of the … M14 rifle.” It was issued to the Italian Army and I saw somewhere online it’s still in use by their naval forces.

James River

James River Armory was founded some 16 years ago, initially to provide reproduction Civil War-era firearms for re-enactors and collectors. Based in North Carolina, the company remanufactured Italian-made muskets that gained popularity. From there, the company moved into another more recent era, with firearms from the WWII and Vietnam period. The company began producing the Rockola M1 Carbine and then the M14, and now comes the BM59.

This is an interesting rifle. Hitting the scale at about 9.7 lbs. empty, it has an overall length of 43.11", a new receiver and new American-made barrel cut on a 1:10" twist. There’s an integral bipod and muzzle brake/flash suppressor and a grenade launcher sight. Essentially, it’s a brand new rifle with gas operated piston and rotating bolt, built on an M1 Garand receiver so it’s got a longer bolt stroke.

One thing I observed in some of my research is the rifle operates best with NATO-spec 147-gr. 7.62x51 ammunition; commercial .308 Winchester ammunition is not recommended. This is no slouch as a cartridge, and it has been used in matches all over the landscape.

James River Rife

James River Sight

The 7.62x51 cartridge may be interchangeable with the .308 Winchester, but they are not exactly the same cartridge. The .308 has a higher pressure than the metric, which may explain why the round is not recommended for use in this rifle. The 147-gr. load has a reported muzzle velocity of 2,733 fps with 2,437 ft. lbs. of energy. The bullet can cross a little more than 900 yards in a second, so anything within that distance is toast.

The .30-caliber bullet is very stable, so the cartridge is accurate to several hundred yards. In the BM59, it should easily deliver the goods.
The rifle’s hardwood stock is true to the original design (no checkering), and the sights are adjustable.

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All of this said, the BM59 is not just curio and it is definitely not a relic. With a bit of practice, it’d be a good hole puncher for high-power competition, and there would not be a coyote or other predator within 300–400 yards that would be safe if you’ve got a steady hand or a good rest.

Be careful, of course. Shooting the BM59 could be habit forming.

For more info: James River Armory,
Ph: (910) 300-6462