Italy’s M14: The BM-59 at the Range

Beretta in Italy developed the BM-59 after World War Two as an improvement on the M1 Garand – lightened, shortened, and given a box magazine, bipod, and selector switch. And the did this in a whole lot less time that the US took to finalize the M14. So how does the BM-59 handle? Well, sorry Springfield…it’s definitely easier to shoot than the M14. Still quite a handful and not really effective or useful in FA from the shoulder, but not as bad as the American take on the concept.


  1. living up to every thing they have said. unreliable and uncontrollable in auto. bipod did look like it helped a bit

    • What in that video leads you to make the “unreliable” assessment? Just curious, because other than a single instance of a case not fully ejecting, I don’t see it.

      You really can’t evaluate the reliability of a weapon without your having ensured that it’s firing the actual issue ammunition. The L85 firing US-standard M855 was even more unreliable than it was with Radway Green 5.56, and the M16 firing Radway Green? Oi.

      I doubt that Ian was able to source legit Italian-loaded 7.62 meant for the BM-59.

      • Ian has a single, likely 50 years old, magazine for that rifle.
        Like for 99% of jammings, it’s probably magazine related.

  2. It seems that a company like Beretta which actually knows how to make firearms does a better job of it than the US Army Ordnance Board. Amazing!

    Of course the whole premise of a full auto 7.62mm rifle is a bit dodgy, as they never really work in practice as effective weapons. The BM59 seems pretty good, given that proviso. However, as this was the Para version, it is possible the pistol grip helped to control it. We now await Gun Jesus trying out a standard BM59. Make it so.

  3. Overall, I think the Italians made a rather better job of modernizing the Garand than the US did with the M14. The actual BM-59 examples that I’ve fired have all been pretty damn good, and my one friend who insisted on firing his for competitions reports that it didn’t need all the jim-jamming that his Springfield M1A rifles needed. They also generally tended to hold zero a lot more consistently; his M1A rifles damn near needed rebedding after every time he did a detail-strip on them.

    That said, I am not by any means an expert on anything even vaguely Garand-like.

    I wish there were a good English-language book that went over the Italian experience with developing the BM-59 rifles. If there is, I haven’t seen it.

      • I speculate that the good Colonel was being sarcastic…?

        The M14 is one of those rifles that has captured the hearts of a lot of people who are much more loyal to the design than is really justified or at all rational.

        If you look at the entire effort that resulted in the M14 and 7.62mm NATO round becoming the standard cartridge and rifle for the US, there’s a whole hell of a lot of unreality that surrounds the whole thing. You can read the reports and articles published in Infantry going right back to the immediate post-WWII era, and they’re all seemingly in favor of something much different than what we eventually wound up with, an actual intermediate cartridge solution like the 7.92X33mm Kurz. Then, there were the guys talking up SCHV, even before the trials that wound up with the 7.62 NATO as the winner. It was only after Vietnam that people began to recognize that the 7.62mm NATO was OK as an MG cartridge, but disastrous as an individual weapon round. Which then resulted in a lot of de-facto backtracking on the whole thing.

        I still say we should have followed the Brits on the whole .280 British thing. I think that would have been a much longer-lived cartridge in the individual weapon, although I’m nearly certain we’d have kept the .30-06 as a support weapon cartridge, probably to our ultimate benefit.

        Ah, well… Water under the bridge.

        I still want that BM-59 book, though.

  4. Italian armed forces military manual only recomended full auto WITH THE BIPOD, and with VERY SHORT burst (four or five shots). Shooting offhand was done only in semiauto mode.

  5. Can we better define “better”? Is it indeed more controllable, does it have less recoil, does the folding stock raise the drop, does it smell of tiramasu instead of BLO?

    • For the end user, an M14 is a 20 rounds M1 Garand.

      The BM59, for the same weight, is a (softer shooter) 20 rounds Garand, and an effective grenade launcher (grenade sights, gas cutoff, winter trigger) and an occasional LMG (muzzle-brake/compensator, bipod).

  6. I used to own a semi-auto version and loved it. Big mistake when I sold it years ago.It shot and handles like dream, handier than a M-14.

    • That’s been what a lot of people have told me, over the years. Something about the M14’s gas system seems to deliver more of a shock to the recoil impulse.

  7. On 30 March, website published an article “Evolution of the BM-59” which I think is worth reading.

  8. I used a M14 as a door gunner in Vietnam for about a month until we got stripped-down M60’s. I loaded 1 tracer/3 ball and fired semi-auto only most of the time. It wasn’t the recoil so much as the 20-rd mags – by the time you were on target, you were dry on full auto. With the M60, we just clipped a 100-rd assualt pack of 4&1 on the side and could do some serious work. The bipods and sights were removed to ease resistance leaning into the slipstrem.

  9. The fully automatic rifle firing 7.62 NATO was not a success as the weapons were difficult to control in FA by most users. Hence very few were issued!!
    I’m a former Marksman/Coach, and I didn’t like the SLR/FAL in full auto myself. While I could control it under ‘range conditions’ I wouldn’t want one on FA in the field.
    Weapons firing 5.56 NATO can be controlled and yet are quite effective in action. The Steyr-AUG is I’m told quite controllable. Women are happy to use them.

    NB our SAS DID have many of their SLRs converted to do FA, but they’re exceptional folks.

    • 7.62mm NATO can be controlled on full-auto out of an individual weapon-class firearm, but it requires either an exceptional firearm or an exceptional shooter. Average Joe with the average 7.62mm NATO weapon? Nope; unworkable.

      The general run of things when it comes to this is what makes me thing the NGSW individual weapon is going to prove out as another failure. I don’t think these guys are really on top of what an individual weapon needs to be doing in this day and age, nor do I think they understand how they’re being used. I’ll wager that what is going on in Ukraine right now is a hell of a lot closer to the reality of things with regards to modern war, and that would seem to indicate that the current suite of weapons is dealing just fine with the increasing use of body armor for the moment.

      Theoretical Level VI armor aside, which I think will pose a challenge for even NGSW weapon, I remain of the opinion that it’s a huge waste of money and effort. I’ll lay you long odds that NGSW doesn’t make it to full fielding, and if it does? It’ll be abandoned in the face of pointlessness and cost.

      • According to an article on the BM59 in the 2021 Tactical Gun Digest, it was designed and built to use a reduced-charge 7.62 x 51 load similar to the Spanish one for their CETME. The JGSDF did something similar with their Type 64 7.62 x 51 rifle.

        What you end up with is a 7.62 x 51 with the ballistics of the 7.62 x 39. Also the lower operating pressures and etc. of same.

        If Ian used 7.62 NATO loaded to the original specifications, things might have worked better.

        Also, a “down-loaded” 7.62 x 51 round might have made something out of the M14.

        Although I’m sure the Ordnance Gods would have taken a dull knife to the cojones of anybody who suggested it on grounds of heresy.

        clear ether


        • Never heard about this “reduced charge” story, and I kinda exclude it.
          Never heard about the Italian army having a reduced charge 7.62 NATO in its inventory at all, with the exception of the “corta gittata” (short range) plastic tipped training ammo adopted in 1975.,62-nato.html
          It kinda defies the purpose of 7.62 NATO.
          No box of 7.62 NATO ammos used by the Italian Army (except for training) specifies it to be a reduced charge, or to be made for BM59. All of them specifies “ordinary cartridge”,62-nato.html
          Before the BM59, Beretta already converted the M1 to fire standard 7.62 NATO rounds (and those had been sold by Beretta and Breda to other users, like Denmark).
          The BM59 is a modification of those rifles.
          And obviously 7.62 NATO were used for other weapons, as the MG42/59.

        • If only they had gone with one of the CETME German engineer’s proposal to scale down the lightweight 8mm superbullets they’d already developed for 7.62 NATO. Then you’d retain the full-power ballistics with the 7.62×39 recoil.

          • Sorry, but if that were true, we would have had a combination of “full-power ballistics” with “7.62×39 recoil” decades ago. Sadly, Dr. Voss’ CETME design is a superbullet only on paper, but not when really fired from a real world barrel.

        • Never heard of an Italian low power 7.62×51 for the BM-59 either. The several editors of “Jane’s Infantry Weapons” over the years as well as “Small Arms of te World”, as far as I recall, ever mentioned something to that effect.

          Spain and Japan were not NATO members, Italy was and is.

          As kirk already wrote, aimed burst fire form 7.62×51 NATO rifle is simply nonsense. We (Bundeswehr 1970s) were trained to use bursts only at ranges below 20 m in the very last phase of an assault, either attackig or defending.

        • Eon, I can’t find anything with that title.

          My guess would be, given the usual lack of accuracy from such publications, that they simply got it wrong and conflated either the CETME or the Howa reduced-load 7.62mm loadings with the Beretta.

          I know of nothing with regards to these weapons about a reduced-load cartridge ever being either investigated or issued by the Italians. I could stand to be corrected, but I don’t think your source is at all authoritative.

          The US gun press is full of such idiocies, and the source of a lot of the “Mattel M16” BS. Granted, there were a few good sources writing for it, like Peter Kokalis, but… By and large? You can’t trust a damn thing that’s printed by sources like Guns and Ammo. Small Arms Review? Generally accurate, but they’re a specialist magazine that has a low tolerance for inaccuracy. The mainstream gun rags are usually just that… Sensationalistic, inaccurate, and full of bias. You have to evaluate everything you read there; there are some gems, but it’s mostly dross.

          • Somehow your analysis fits the conclusion I came to when I last read stuff from American Rifleman. Half of what they print amounts to MAGA propaganda, one third of it is corporate advertisement and competitor-bashing, and the rest is boring statistics concocted from selectively copy-and-pasted obituaries. I hope I’m wrong.

        • I’ve got to say that I concur with the criticisms of most of the gun rags and broad scope books; guns of the world, Jane’s infantry weapons and such likes

          Even more so for books like Cartridges of the world (although Skinner was tightening up the editorial standard in the last copy of cotw that I bought).

          • The problem is that all too few of the people writing for this extremely undemanding audience are at all rigorous or careful in their research and writing.

            Hell, even Othias over at C&Rsenal has found an incredible amount of bad documentation and citation in what were supposedly reputable sources. He’s done sterling work, and he’s most assuredly not one of the anointed types that everyone usually thinks of when talking about “legitimate researchers”.

            I know for a fact that there’s stuff that’s not made its way into the mainstream about the MG34/42 family of machineguns and their overall use in combat. I’ve seen the original source documentation, which is probably in a landfill or storage unit somewhere in Illinois, sad to say. The research simply hasn’t been done; the interpretation and understanding that should flow from that research is as yet undone, as well. Were we to have access to all of that stuff I saw, I suspect there’d be a much different mentality about the whole of German machinegunnery during the post-WWI era and into the years after WWII.

            But, again… Documentation and research hasn’t been done.

          • It happens in multiple “popular” fields, especially in encyclopedic publications (“all the aircrafts of WWII”, “all the tanks of WWII”, “small arms of WWII”…) , especially published in the first decades afther the war.
            Authors had to fill the articles, but original documents were scarcely available and in a foreign language, so earsay and guessings became statements. Later the same amenities became “truth” because the authors of later publications used the formers as a source, again and again.

  10. “…little bit warmed up…”
    When firing a 7.62×51 battle rifle in full auto, there’s a fine line between “warmed up” and “fully tenderized”

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