About a month ago I spent some time in Italy, and noticed a few things that I thought would be interesting. The biggest thing that stood out to me (on the matter of firearms, I should say) was that while civilian gun ownership is far lower than it is here in the US, one actually sees armed military on a regular basis in a way that seems strange and alien to an American. We expect to see police officers with sidearms, but not rifle-armed military patrols on the street – which is a regular part of your day in a city like Rome or Milan. Scattered throughout the city (mostly in areas with lots or tourist traffic) you will see pairs of soldiers in full kit, typically with a Land Rover; “Operation Safe Streets” (Operazione Strade Secure) painted on its doors.
These guys are in camo fatigues, with armor vests, a couple spare mags, a pistol in a low flap holster, and a rifle. The rifle may be a Beretta ARX-160 or an older AR70/90. By the way, they don’t want you to take photos, so I had to be a bit sneaky to get these…
The other long arm that you can expect to see around the cities of Italy is the Beretta Model 12S submachine gun, typically in the hands of the Carabinieri at important buildings (I wasn’t able to get a photo of one of those; sorry). The basic breakdown is that the local city police carry pistols (looked like Beretta 92s and Beretta PX4s), the Carabinieri (more or less national police) carry those plus Models 12s, and the Esercito Italiano (Army) carry handguns and rifles. There are also the Finance Police (customs and such), but I only saw their cars and not any actual patrols.
While in Rome, I spent a full day walking the city visiting as many gun-related shops as I could find, and what I found was a division of shops into two basic types: gun stores and police/military supply stores. The gun shops were quite good, with a pretty wide variety of guns including sporting shotguns, hunting rifles, black rifles, modern handguns, revolvers, and older surplus-type rifles. The military supply shops basically sold patches and 5-11 Tactical clothing, plus things like modern MOLLE backpacks and tactical gloves. No vintage or surplus gear – in fact I was unable to find anything like that at all.
The specific shops I visited were:
- Articoli Civili E Militari Bellettati (Via Giovanni Amendola, 91/93)– This was the best of the military supply shops that I found. They had a good selection of police type gear (boots, gloves, batons, etc) as well as tons of patches. Nothing vintage or antique, and no firearms. The staff spoke minimal English. I was able to make my one militaria purchase here; an Alpini hat. I wanted to get something that would be a good addition to upcoming Carcano videos, and that was the best option. It’s a modern one, but the style hasn’t really changed in a very long time.
- Militalia Store Roma (Via Leone IV, 117)- The closest things they had to interesting was some modern (and expensive) camo fatigues. Otherwise just commercial tactical boots, gloves, and – of course – lots of patches.
- Fomisa (I can’t find their web site, if they have one – the address is Via XX Settembre 117) – Nothing here but a bunch of patches. Stopped in, took a quick glance around, and left.
Okay, now for the better stuff – the actual gun shops…
- First up, Beretta. At least, if you scour Google Maps for gun shops in Rome, it will give you a result for Beretta. I tracked it down, only to find that it’s a local administrative office and not any sort of retail operation. So don’t bother with that one.
- Armeria Frinchillucci (Via Barberini, 31)- This was the biggest shop I found, with two large rooms and a better selection than plenty of US gun shops. In addition to handguns and long guns, they also had a wide array of slings, holsters, ammo, magazines, etc. The staff was friendly and helpful, and spoke reasonably good English. A couple specific items I noticed included a Fed Ord M1A for 1200 Euro, and a couple Browning High Powers (rebarreled to .30 Luger) for about 300.
- Armeria Zaccherini (Via Fabio Massimo, 59)- This shop was substantially smaller, but literally piled high with all sorts of stuff. The long gun racks included a surprising number of surplus type rifles, including a Garand, a couple Mausers, a Carcano, and an Arisaka. It would be a pretty decent small shop by American standards. The staff spoke a bit of English; enough to communicate. They were a bit standoffish (which I completely understand as a foreign visitor to a gun shop) until the 12-year-old boy shopping there at the time with his father recognized me and proceeded to tell the clerks all sorts of things about my work, with lots of videos on his phone as supporitng evidence. Thanks, Vittorio! 🙂
- Picciati Armi Antiche (no web site here; address is Via di Priscilla, 39) – This shop was recommended to me as a place to see antiques, as opposed to modern-production guns – and I was told the owner is a lady who is extremely knowledgable. Unfortunately, when I arrived they were closed for the day to do inventory and my complete lack of Italian language skills precluded me from persuading my way in. Looking at the inventory through the windows, it appears to be all pre-cartridge guns.