Italian Sci-Fi Blaster: The Franchi LF-57

Introduced in 1957, Franchi’s LF-57 submachine gun has a very distinctive sci-fi look to it, but was never able to become a major player in the Cold War arms market. It is in all ways a fully satisfactory design, including a grip safety, bolt lock to prevent accidental discharge, reasonably stable folding stock, and compact size. It has a crossbolt style of selector switch for semi and full automatic modes, and simple fixed notch sights. It uses standard Beretta 38 family magazines, which are of excellent design and are available in 20-, 30-, and 40-round capacity. However, between its pricing and feature set, the Franchi was unable to provide a significant advantage over competitors like the H&K MP5 and Uzi. It did remain in production until the 1980s, sold mostly in small batches to security forces, including many in Africa.

27 Comments

  1. A rare opportunity to see Franchi’s SMG, by company which is known primarily for excellent shotguns. This is not a beauty queen for sure, but is purposeful enough for military use. As for me, I appreciate design tricks and manufacturing technique in which regard I do not see anything wrong with this ‘pistola mitragliatrice’. Thanks to Gun Mephisto for showing it.

    • To me it looks like perfect marriage of function, cheap production and looks, Mpl is cool but something is off visually compared to this.

      However gun like UZI with its topcover has a (big?) benefit of easy cleaning of all internal surfaces as well as removable trigger pack, but it might be Uzi is actually more expensive in production.

  2. It was used by the South African Police, with whom it was very popular, with some 8-9.000 bought in the early 1970’s (serving alongside the very similar in appearance Walther MPL) but they all went off to (some) the Prison Service but most went to the armies/police of the Homelands. It was very prominent in the tv news broadcasts/nespaper photos of the Soweto Uprising from 1975, in the hands of the police.

    The Kenya Police bought another 5,000. And the Saudi Arabian National Guard bought some 2,500.

    Added to others such as Venezuela it did not do too bad. But its spare parts supply was really dismal, with stated that Franchi after they did not get the Italian Army contract (the Berretta M12 got it) just lost interest in it.

    They made a very half hearted attempt to sell in onto the American civil shooters market fitted with a 16in barrel, but it got nowhere with only a few hundred sold

    It came available with a kit that replaced the weapons muzzle port and fitted with another that included a six inch barrel fitment with a adapter for a rifle grenade, the barrel was of a enhanced gauge to cope with the grenade discharge. The only time I ever saw such used was with Greek Navy Combat Divers, firing French pattern AT and AP grenades, and such shown in a episode of the poor man’s James Bond TV series, Dangerman.

    A chap who served in the Italian Navy San Marco Battalion as a platoon then company commander stated that although only a small number were issued to them, it was a very popular weapon, but they had to replace them when the spare parts situation forced them to start using the Berreta M12.

    It frequently gets mistaken for the Walther MPL. There were reports that one of the small French arms companies started to manufacture it (or possibly spare parts)?
    Yours,
    G/

  3. I used to own a converted LF-62, which is the very rare open bolt semi-auto version once sold here in the US. At some point it was converted to full-auto and somehow registered as a transferable HK 3-caliber sear (the serial # was electropenciled onto the receiver; there was no sear in the gun). Later found out that Bill Fleming did the deed, which I guess is one reason among many he went to jail.

  4. Does the telescoping bolt ameliorate the ‘slam’ effect of open-bolt firing? If that much mass is already that far forward, it seems to this non-engineer that it might help.

    • The location of that mass makes no difference to the impact feeling when it hits. I suppose you could think about what difference it would make if a truck carrying a load of long steel rods, for example rebar, strikes an obstacle: The impact force is the same regardless of whether the rebar are carry far forward or to the rea of the truck. It the same mass and the same acceleration, so the same force (F=ma)

      • I drove a truck for better than two decades. While true that F=ma, there is more to it than that. A truck carrying 50,000 lbs of rebar that hits a runaway truck ramp has a better chance of an open casket than a logger does carrying the same weight.

        In the Franchi guns case the recoil spring is pushing the bolt forward when the bolt face strikes the barrel. This results in a torque (torque = force x offset distance}. The torque pitches the front of the bolt down giving it angular momentum and lessening the linear momentum. The Walther MPL increases the offset distance by having the top weight of the bolt be hollow allowing the recoil spring to be higher. Ian has a video showing the MPL gun dipping upon firing. How much difference does it make, 1%, 10% or ?%. I was intrigued when I saw the MPL video several years ago.

        • I do not think there is much tilting since all parts are forced to run parallel. Tilt may happen, if large mass is acting/ stopping forward, ahead of front grip. I guess that’s what you had on mind. But in that sense all SMG are more or less the same – they are just ‘pumps’. I can see you employ your mind in a productive manner which is inspiring.

          • Depending on what clearances exist and how much flex there is in the receiver gives an idea of how much tilt you can get. On short stroke external piston AR platforms there are deleterious effects from carrier tilt which are easily corrected by modifying the rear of the carrier so it lines up better with the buffer tube. There is a lot of give and take with guns.

          • @ Denny:
            I do like your posts.

            The short time of the minimal tilt I’m talking about happens during the open bolt slam that Polyphemus was asking about. When the primer begins igniting, you get a new force. The gas relief bevel of the Franchi (visible through the ejection port) opens the question of whether the designer just thought it prudent to go through the expense adding it or if this gun suffers out of battery ignitions more than other open bolt SMGs.

          • I appreciate your recognition bp.

            In my observation, in this case designer wanted shorter overall package. He achieved that goal (while keep required action mass) by making it wider. However, reliability of case ejection arose as a potential issue. To solve it he created the clearance you mention. All together it comes up as a viable solution.

    • Nope. However, some configurations are more some less suffering from the problem, for example bolt in mp40 and ingram is not the same in acting of tilting the gun around axis point.

  5. Calling it a “sci-fi”looking SMG is actually correct. It showed up in several SF movie productions;

    http://www.imfdb.org/wiki/Franchi_LF-57

    And in at least one TV production, the NBC-TV 1979 version of Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles, starring Rock Hudson;

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Martian_Chronicles_(miniseries)

    https://kyozoufs.blob.core.windows.net/filestoragecs4/Pictures/_14/13301/13300928.jpg

    The production was mostly shot on Malta, so the LF-57 was probably easily available “locally”.

    cheers

    eon

    • In hindsight, many obscure weapons look like they belong in a space opera. The Nambu Type 14 and the Colt Dragoon were used as inspirations for blaster pistols in some of Leiji Matsumoto’s science-fiction works. The Nambu Type 94 also looks like a blaster pistol. We’ve already seen the Mauser C96 as a blaster, same with the Sturmgewehr and the FG-42, along with the Sterling. The Lewis Gun and the MG-34 also qualify. Has anyone made the DP-28, Zb-26, or even Hotchkiss machine guns in “space-age form” yet?

      • A nambu Type 14 pistol is being used in The Mandalorian “TV” series. The protagonist uses a Bergmann1894 inspired blaster pistol. A Steyr 1912 can also be seen. And to take the corner back to itlaina SMGs, a Beretta PM12 based blaster is also in Mando’s arsenal.

        Looking at the IMFDB page I always had thought that the nickel plated guns were Walther MPL and not LF-57. I stand corrected now for the next round of Gun Trivia(tm). 😉

  6. There used to be one of these for sale in a local Mpls area gun store. Not sure if it was a genuine FA piece, or the open bolt SA type, but I remember a short barrel (of course it could be that and still be SA). I’ll have to go into the store and see if they still have it on consignment, it’s been a few years since I saw it.

  7. I’d wager this prototype ERMA MP-60 as a clever design that similarly got no traction, and certainly no contract with the Bundeswehr, which opted for the Israeli/Belgian Uzi 9 mm as the “MP2.”

    https://augfc.tumblr.com/post/125688752295/the-erma-mp60-series-the-mp60-was-designed-in

    The gun used the excellent 36-round Carl Gustaf kpist m/45 magazine, the same über-cheap and economical stamped sheet metal manufacture as the Soviet Sudayev PPS-43 and Finnish “Pelti-Heikki” M/44 or postwar Dux series by Wili Daugs, and internally the bolt ran on a pair of action bars with captive springs like the U.S. M3 Grease gun. Very simple to field strip, like the Sudayev, used one of the best magazines of any 9 mm submachine gun, and the bolt did not need to contact the interior of the receiver. Inherited some of the best qualities of late WWII SMGs: Soviet, Swedish, U.S. but was doomed to languish… The day of the pistol-caliber SMG was mostly over in military use, and if needed there were still ample supplies of WWII-vintage SMGs that were ‘good enough.’

    • “The day of the pistol-caliber SMG was mostly over in military use, and if needed there were still ample supplies of WWII-vintage SMGs that were ‘good enough.’”
      I would say that stamped sub-machine gun are indeed economic, but for large batches. In that time, it seems that if nations were interested in such quantity, they either acquired WWII left-overs or in case of higher aspirations, were looking for way to get production in-country, like was in Argentine and their M3A1 Grease Gun-inspired P.A.M.: http://www.sadefensejournal.com/wp/pistola-ametralladora-p-a-m-the-argentine-grease-gun/
      So finding customer for serious import seems to be harder than production line (see PORT SAID: https://modernfirearms.net/en/submachine-guns/egypt-submachine-guns/port-said-akaba-eng/ ) or small-scale import.

      • What were the actual leftovers ? Mp40 of beaten Germany, with no unissued examples? Sten, plumbers nightmare ? Grease gun, ok, but you need to use .45.
        ppsh41 from the new “enemy”, Ussr ?
        In reality, there was no ideal smg in such surplus. But there were also no world wars like ww2 that needed lot of cheap smgs asap, so in these small ones, stocks from ww2 could sometimes suffice, like in NAM

        • MP40 was used by Norwegian armored crews almost as long as U.S. armored crews used the M3A1. PPSh Shpagin smg: Korea, Vietnam, sub-saharan Africa, Cuba, etc. Sudayev: ditto. Sten for a good long while… In fact, there is evidence the Viet Minh built an additional 30k Stens across the border in China. The Uzi was the first world-wide popular smg with sales from Africa, Latin America, Europe, etc.

          The Second Vietnam War–the “American War”– would become the first war where both sides had so-called “assault rifles” although early on, there were huge numbers of smgs and WWII-vintage weapons still in use.

    • I see a problem with the MP-60. It’s a “first generation” smg, with a long receiver and the handle far from the magazine. “second generation” SMGs, with a good part of the mass of the bolt over, or around, the barrel are meant to shorten the overall lenght of the gun.

      • I agree, once you see something better, you do not want seemingly inferior product, unless you could buy 3 or 4 “mp60” for the price of 1 second gen. smg.

        • 1st gen: Thompson, Suomi, Bergman, ZK-383, etc.
          2nd gen: Sten, PPSh, PPS, MP40, M3A1
          3rd gen: sa 23-26, Uzi, LF-57, Walther MP, M12, etc.
          outlier: MP5, i.e. a closed-bolt, select fire “rifle” in 9×19…

          4th gen? short-barreled assault rifles. Purpose-built PDWs?

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