Italy’s Worst Machine Gun: The Breda Modello 30

The Breda Model 30 was the standard Italian light machine gun of World War II, and is a serious contender for “worst machine gun ever”. Yes, given the choice we would prefer to have a Chauchat (which really wasn’t as bad as people today generally think).

The Breda 30 suffered from all manner of problems. To begin with, it was far more complicated than necessary. The amount of machining needed to build one is mind boggling compared to contemporary guns like the ZB26/Bren or BAR. And for all that work, it just didn’t work well in combat conditions.

Mechanically, the Breda used a short recoil action with a rotating bolt The recoil action meant that the barrel moved with each shot, so the sights were mounted on the receiver to keep them fixed. This seems like a good idea, but it meant that the sights would need to be re-zeroed each time the barrel was changed. To compound this, the gun fired from a closed bolt which made it more susceptible to overheating and it was recommended to change barrels every 200 rounds or so. An oiling mechanism was built in to lightly oil each cartridge on feeding. This allowed the gun to extract without ripping rims off the cases, but was a disaster waiting to happen on the battlefield. In places like North Africa, the oil acted as a magnet for sand and dust, leading to quick jamming if the gun were not kept scrupulously clean.

The next huge judgment error on Breda’s part was the magazine. The thought behind it was that magazine feed lips are easily damaged in the field, and they can be protected by building them into the gun receiver rather than in each cheap disposable box magazine (the Johnson LMG and Madsen LMG recognized this issue as well). However, Breda’s solution was to make the 20-round magazine a permanent part of the gun. The magazine was attached to the receiver by a hinge pin, and was reloaded by special 20-round stripper clips. This meant that reloading took significantly longer than changing magazines, and any damage to the one attached magazine would render the gun inoperable. As if anything else were needed, the magazine was made with a big opening on top to allow the gunner to see how many rounds remained – and to let more of that North African sand into the action.

Most of the Breda Model 30s were made in 6.5 Carcano, but a small number were made in 7.35 Carcano when that cartridge was adopted. The rate of fire was about 500 rounds per minute, which was a bit slower than most other machine guns of the day.


    • You can imagine that this had influence from Revelli in some manner… even the Chauchat was way better because you could actually shoot on the move with it. The Breda 30 can’t fire when running as there is no carry handle and it needs constant oil refills and charger reloads. The only redeeming feature is the quick change barrel, since this is a dedicated machine gun as opposed to a heavy assault rifle. From footage I saw years ago, the Breda 30 fires from a closed bolt, which makes overheating a bigger problem. At least the Breda 30 was better than nothing. Remember that Italian logistics were worse than German logistics and that one does not want to get 6.5×52 Carcano in the face… did I mess up?

      • “even the Chauchat was way better”
        Also it was designed some 15 years earlier, so they can’t use knowledge gain from experience in that time.
        Italian designer of machine guns in first half of 20th century seems to have tendency for strange fed systems, like harmonica-type magazine system of FIAT-Revelli M1914:
        or Breda Modello 1937 which put back spent cases into ‘cassette’

        • Does patent infringement mean anything to you? Had the Breda 37 used regular strip feed Breda would get sued by Hotchkiss. I don’t see any indication that the French would ignore a blatant intellectual property theft… or am I wrong?

          • “Does patent infringement mean anything to you? Had the Breda 37 used regular strip feed Breda would get sued by Hotchkiss.”
            And there were others solutions as-well, like normal belt-feed or they might just use box magazine, making 20-round box magazine shouldn’t be great problem.

          • “making 20-round box magazine shouldn’t be great problem.”
            Why on the earth should they have done it? To fire from detachable magazines you have to detach an empty magazine and load a new one every time. With strippr clips you can simply insert one strip after another without stopping fire. You don’t even have to change belts.

          • I suppose you meant “with strips” rather than “strippr clips”. And yes, I agree that strip feed is superior to detachable magazines.

        • I believe the reason for putting cartridges back into the “cassette” of the M.14 or strip of the M.37 was recycling strategic resources. Italy is a resource poor country with very sparse domestic sources of strategic metals such as copper or steel. What little it had was in many cases mined to a large degree already during the Roman era…

          • “I believe the reason for putting cartridges back into the “cassette” of the M.14 or strip of the M.37 was recycling strategic resources.”
            The mistake is in believing that there is to be a “reason” other than the fact that it was a very simple way to make the thing work.

        • IIRC, the original design RfP that resulted in the Mo.37 was for a tank MG, both bow-mount and co-axial. In that kind of installation, and keeping in mind that tanks of the 1930s were very cramped inside by even WW2 standards, the strip-feed and reinsertion system of the Mo.37 actually makes some sense. There probably wouldn’t be room for a belt feed, and ejected cases inside a fighting compartment can be a huge PITA unless there is some sort of collector box or bag.

          In addition to lack of space, another factor against belt feed is that most MGs without strong and reliable primary extraction generally had insufficient “belt lift”, i.e.,energy to pull a heavy belt through the mechanism. The Hotchkiss, while otherwise quite good, was noted for this, which was why most variants had strip feeds throughout its lifespan. A strip feed simply weighs less and needs less “power in the mechanism” to move it through.

          BTW, the Breda Mo.37 was one of the more powerful wartime MGs in anybody’s inventory, due to its 8 x 59mm cartridge, with ballistics and pressures similar to the .300 H&H Magnum sporting heavy game round. I believe the only other weapon to ever use this round was the late version of the Fiat/Revelli M1914, aka Mo.35.

          Probably just as well. I’d hate to have been the first one to pull the trigger on something like the Breda Mo.30 in that chambering. There would have been a high-weighted probability of what the British army used to call, with precision, “catastrophic self-disassembly”.



          • The tank version of the Mod. 37 was the Mod. 38, which fed from a box magazine and had a collector bag for empty cases. The Mod. 37 came first and as far as I know it was designed for infantry use after the Fiat Mod. 35 proved unsatisfactory.

        • To put back the spent cases into the strip was not a “strange solution”. It was the simplest way a strip fed MG could work. The same bolt that pushed the round into the chamber, pulled it back into the strip. BTW that way it was not needed a second ejection port, or an enlarged one, for spent cases.

      • You don’t need a carrying handle to fire while moving. The thing has a stock, a pistol grip and a haddguard, and that’s all that’s needed.

        • I double-checked photographs. The “handguard” below the receiver is more likely a tripod attachment point that was inherited from the Breda Mod 5C. And would you like to cradle the barrel shroud after 3 magazines’ worth of ammunition? However, the Breda 30 should have a rifle sling (judging by the butt stock), which could potentially allow one to fire it from the hip. Did I mess up?

          • The barrel shroud (that was the thing I called handguard) is very well vented AND there is the folded bipod too. There is no reason for that part to became too hot to be handled.
            Speaking of photographs, that’s pretty interesting. See the composition of the columns. Gunner, cartridges carrier, cartridges carrier, carrier with two spare barrels, gunner…

          • “Breda 30 should have a rifle sling (judging by the butt stock), which could potentially allow one to fire it from the hip”
            Wait, wait, wait.
            Wasn’t Breda 30 designed like LMG, thus to be fired from bi-pod?
            Or was ability to firing from hip in original technical-tactical requirements?

          • As you can easily tell by the bipod, the shoulder rest, the lateral placed magazine, and the fact that the loading of the magazine and the replacing of the barrel had been expressely made so that the gunner could do them without changing position or moving the gun (something the M60 designers still had to learn), the Breda 30 had been mainly made to be fired in prone position.
            However, none prevented the gunner to use it while standing, or from the hip.

          • @Daweo:

            Firing from bipod was the intent, but one MIGHT think about shooting on the move. And if you’re yanking the gun up to scoot to another position, do you hold the Breda 30 by the pistol grip only and risk shooting a squad-mate in the butt?

  1. Somewhere on the list of ‘worst machine guns ever’ there needs to be a place for the US Army’s M-73/M-219. Perhaps one reason this abortion doesn’t draw much attention is that it was not an infantry weapon, rather an auxiliary weapon on the M-60 tank.

    Its big plus was a quick-change barrel. Minuses included weak feed mechanism, fragile parts, a hybrid gas-assisted short recoil mechanism.

    The fact that this abortion replaced a Browning M-37 (M-1919 adapted for electric firing) in the turrets of American tanks was a particular insult.

      • I used both the M73/219 and the M85 as an M60A1 commander. I had very few issues with the M85, finding it much superior in functionality to the M2HB-TT in the M48A2C’s cupola mount.

        I semi-literate moron could keep an M85 going. The M2 required TLC in the requirements for headspace and timing. My skills with those procedures served me and my company well in Korea before we transitioned to the M60A1’s.

  2. Makes one wonder how in the world contracts for military equipment were given out in Mussolin’s _New Rome_… Wait, don’t answer that…!

    Such good aircraft and spiffy uniforms… I do believe I once read that Italy was more prepared for entry into WWI in 1915 than it was for WWII… And that is really saying something.

    Great exposition as always!

    It would be interesting to compile a list of “one war only” small arms… I’d think both the Breda Modello 30 [OK, so Ethiopia and Spain were ‘prequels’ to WWII, so technically there was more than a single war], and the Chatellerault [again, WWI didn’t really end in 1918 outside of the Western Front… so another set of technicalities…] and a few others might make the list, no?

  3. “rate of fire was about 500 rounds per minute, which was a bit slower than most other machine guns of the day”
    Does this possibly helps to counter small magazine capacity? I am wondering why such low magazine capacity (20) was chosen?

  4. That unidentified part…. It looks like to move that to the back position the cross piece is slid to the left thru the groove in the receiver. Then that block can be shifted to the rear position and locked in place by sliding the cross piece back to the right….I didn’t see what it might interact with, but when I first saw it I thought perhaps it changed rate of fire.

    • I think that H assembly is meant to be free moving among its several pieces. This would allow more dwell time, delaying the turning of the furniture nut and allow chamber pressure to drop slightly more before unlocking. It simply wasn’t strong enough to withstand the stress of being the camming block and became bent and inoperable.

  5. OMG. Yes, I’d like to fields trip this a foxhole in Libya, with Tommies over the hill, waiting to roll over men their Grant tanks. There are so many parts to that thing.

    Oddly, the barrel removal/reinsertion reminded me of Beretta pistols, with their fixed front post sights on the frame. And I remember reading about these in a few Maclean novels, specifically the quote that a ‘Breda beat its slow tattoo’ as it was fired. Now, hearing the cclic rate, I know why.

    • Actually the thing is field strippable without tools in any parts that needs cleaning. That was not granted at that time (cough… BAR… cough…)

  6. Known in service as the “Bordello” because its slow rate of fire sounded like, “puttana, puttana, puttana.” Actually, I just made that up – but it fits.

    I can only imagine the joys of attempting to repair this mechanical turd at night, in the cold, with mud and grit all around; or when lots of people are shooting back at me. No wonder so many Italian soldiers preferred to lug around the old WW1 Schwarzlose water cooled MGs. It worked.

  7. a machine gun designed for an army that surrenders was probably designed by a committee of communists to provide work for metal shops without endangering the revolutionary aspirations of the communists by giving effective weapons to the army

    socialist, communists, Islamist, tyrants all fear armed free men…

    • You fail history forever! May your house be infested with Sumatran bamboo rats!

      Italian gun development was all over the place (some good ideas and some bad ideas) but one must remember that the Italian army top brass preferred to procure weapons developed and manufactured by Italian firms. Has that ever occurred to you?

    • Wrong place for this kind of comment…I think that some ”history” clips in You Tube and History Channel forums-like are wainting for you with open arms, here you could read some civilized comment, things without oversimplifications, insults to entire nations and actually learn something new ! Too dangerous.

  8. Engraving – Fucile Mitr.Mod.30 – as mentioned in the video, remembers me to the french word Mitrailleuse, an early salvo gun. Used as a – kind of – label for machine guns later. Ital. Mitragliatrice. Still famous as used in the word Mini-Mitrailleuse, the FN Minimi.

  9. A double-column stripper clip. Interesting. They could have put the mag on the other side and used a 20-rd Pedersen clip.

    • The direct ancestor of the Breda 30, the Fiat 1924, had the fixed magazine on the left side, and was loaded inserting the clip from the right.
      The downside was that, to do that, the gunner had to expose himself a little, and that, applying force to the side of the weapon, the weapon itself could move.

  10. This is actually not as horrible gun as it may sound, if it was not for that overcomplicated ‘rivista’ (magazine). Brush the design up, give it normal sheet metal mag and it could maybe even compete with Bren. Oh well, that oiler is a bugger, true – result of cartridge design.

    I must admire Ian’s effort for going thru the pain of dis-assembling whole (damn) thing.

    • While going back thru thought on that H piece and its functional aspects, it occurred to me (and also along with other readers) that it has significant influence on delay in action opening. The H piece angle relative to longitudinal axes, being high as it is (guessing cca 20 deg) created high opposition to breech force. Actually, anything more than friction angle (5-7 deg) would allow to open the breech. Higher the angle, higher the resistance and greater the delay in opening. The penalty is higher stress and wear to this part.

      Since the angle is in fixed setup (although some attempt was made to vary it somehow, as Ian points out in his question), it cannot take care of variation such as state of cleanliness/ contamination of gun and variation of brass properties. This all together was probably attempt to cover for wide scope of variables and lead to implementation of oiler. Interesting system though and I would not be quick to condemn it just because it is different.

    • Just reviewed video on Scotti semi-auto rifle. Guess what (in absence of taking peek)…. the gun requires pre-lubed cartridge to function. So, as it seems the issue is for most part in 6.5 x 52 Carcano. The oiler is a must.

  11. I wonder if the oiler was really as great source of malfunctions as some sources claim. The Breda Modello 37 had a cartridge oiler as well and it didn’t seem to reduce reliability that much.

    My theory is that the mechanical complexity combined with too tight tolerances was the main culprit if and when sand or other crud found its way inside the action. Rather like the Finnish LS-26, I might add.

    • The utility of a cartridge oiler mainly depends on the quality of the brass or whatever used for the case.

      Generally, the more ductile the brass, the less you need the oiler because the cartridge case tends to “spring back” to its pre-fired dimensions, reducing the force needed for primary extraction. Very hard or very soft brass doesn’t do this as well, and neither do cases of mild steel, thus the oiler is more necessary in such situations.

      And before anyone makes any jokes about Italian (or Japanese) guns requiring case oilers, I’d point out that every 20mm aircraft gun and AA gun based on the Oerlikon/Hispano patterns on both sides required pre-lubricated cases, either with a thin coat of non-volatile liquid (the method used by most Axis and Allied forces) or a factory-applied coating of hard wax (the U.S. method). The U.S. method dated to the development of the .276 Pedersen rifle cartridge in the 1920s, as the toggle-locked Pedersen rifle required it.



    • “……too tight tolerances “. You meant “too tight clearances”, I am pretty sure. This omission is repeated elsewhere. Sorry, I do not want to be nitpick, but I spent good part of time in engineering doing tolerance studies among other things. It’s my second nature.

      You can have damn large clearances with tightly tolerance parts, but not the other way around.

    • It wasn’t.
      Obviously it was a less than optimal solution. But there is a tendency on the net to think “it’s different from what i know. Then it’s junk”.
      It’s not like the gun had not been tested first to adopt it. And it’s not like it had been tested only in clean conditions. Simply the oiler was not found to be such a issue.

  12. It looks like sliding that part on the h bar thing back would let the locking nut travel slightly further to the right, maybe this is an adjustment to compensate for slop in the lock up if the bolt lugs are worn?

  13. A comment on youtube channel :
    “Also, regarding the H block:
    the backward position is the “massimo bloccaggio” (maximum locking) setting and should be set this way when using a new barrel.
    On the forward position,
    is the “minimo bloccaggio” (minimum locking) setting, to be used with a worn barrel”

    • Oh, you understand Italian… great! I probably did not use good word for “magazine”. I thought first “cargador(e)” but then realized that is Spanish.

  14. Interesting stuff. Might I make a request that you, at some point, do a piece on the AA-52 Machine gun from the French Army? For the life of me I cannot find anything useful on Wikipedia. Maybe it’s a truly unremarkable machinegun using common design elements found in other LMG’s across the world, but if so I haven’t been told.

  15. Well there you go! Sights on the frame don’t matter when the barrel rattles like a bad muffler.
    I wonder: did they not carry out troop trials back in the day? Something that might let them know that the new, improved design has a few issues to be resolved?

    • Troop trials matter little when your leaders emphasize heroic spirit over cold logic. There was plenty of “political correction” going on as well. If you criticized Il Duce you would “never be seen again.”

  16. Ian, I love your articles and videos except I HATE the use of superlative adjectives in historical composition and commentaries. This weapon added firepower to the Italian platoon in an era where it was desperately needed and the Germans even used them after the Armistice albeit in a narrow envelope. It was obviously a higher maintenance weapon but there is nothing that I see that didn’t indicate that they received the maintenance the weapons required.

    • True, the Breda 30 was not designed well but it certainly was placed where it was needed most. Getting a 3 shot burst of 6.5×50 Carcano in the face would kill any GI just as dead as a 20 shot rip from the MG42 would.

  17. I think it is worth pointing out that this gun is really ugly and unergonomic. It looks more like a prototype, or something someone has made in a garage, than a final production model.

    Any soldier issued with a Bren or a BAR could see they had a well made and well designed weapon. Any Italian soldier issued with this piece can be excused for thinking that surrender had to be a serious option.

    • Or he would curse the armory for issuing the weapon. Just be grateful that the Fascists were not the brightest bulbs in the box of Southern Europe! If I’m not mistaken, the British found out during the Second Battle of El Alamein that the Italian Army was NOT composed of surrendering cowards. The 132nd Armored Division Ariete comes to mind…

    • Except that contemporaries had pretty different opinions.
      From Tactical and Technical Trends (the magazine of the US Intelligence) No. 7, Sept. 10, 1942 “Use of Captured Italian Weapons” :
      “Breda Light Machine Gun”. The Breda light machine gun is similar to the British Bren gun. It is mechanically superior to the Bren gun under dusty conditions. It requires only one man to service it as compared to several for the Bren gun. It has a slightly higher rate of fire than the British weapon. Its disadvantages are that it has no carrying handle, cannot be fired on fixed lines, and has no tripod mounting.

      All in all it was a less than satisfactory design, but the differencies in effectiveness on the field, in respect to other designs were pretty minimal.

      • With all due respect to the men of US Intelligence, I hereby call bullshit on that claim.

        You will never hear anyone who does not think the Bren was a superb LMG, and you will never read a good review of the Breda 30. There has to be a reason for that. Post war, Britain kept using the 7.62mm Bren until the 1990s, the Breda 30 disappeared without a trace. There’s a reason for that too: one gun was good, the other one wasn’t.

        The idea that the Breda needs only one man to operate it, but the Bren needs several is plain wrong. Either gun can be operated by one man, but they are designed for a gunner and assistant at least. The idea that one man could easily reload the bizarre Breda magazine is especially idiotic. There is a reason no-one else ever used a magazine arrangement like the Breda’s: it sucks.

        Given that the US Army took the BAR and turned it into an inferior LMG, I have to say that I will take their views on the Bren and the Breda with a large pinch of salt.

        • Sorry John. On one hand there is what thought of the weapon those that had to daily fight it and reuse the captured samples. On the other, the armchair impressions of someone that saw a clip.

          Was the Breda 30 among the best LMGs of the war? I don’t think so. But, on one hand, simply much of the pretended “problems” and “iremediable defects” of the gun were hardly considered issues worth of mention back then. The perspective was different.
          On the other hand, there is unfortunately a tendency on the net to sanctify some equipment and damn some other on the basis of often repeated opinions, that became more and more extreme passing from a reviewer to another. So “not so good cause…” becomes “bad”, then “the worse ever issued”, then “I rather would have fought naked that bringing this piece of shit” etc… etc… When, in reality, differencies in real life use between the “exceptional” and the “worst ever” equipments were often marginal at best.
          One of the revealing signs than a gun had been “damned by the net” is the necessity to invent problems. IE see the “it had the front sight on the barrel shroud instead on the barrel”. Exactly like the MG34 and MG42-Rheinmetall MG3. It’s rather surprising none noticed this being such a issue in 75 years of use of the German weapon. Simply having the sight on the barrel doesn’t guarantee anything in terms of accuracy when you swap barrels, since the other is on the receiver anyway.

          As for “not used after the war”, Italy simply didn’t use equipment in 6.5 Carcano any more after the war (except for parades and so on) regardless on how good or bad it was. It’s not like the Germans used the STG44 that much after the war either.

          • The *East Germans* certainly did… And the Stg44 cartridge was certainly studied in Western Europe. The re-armament of the German armed forces–Bundeswehr/Heer in W. Germany and the Nationale Volksarmee in E. Germany had to wait until the 1950s for the most part.

          • Dogwalker:

            Your defence of the Breda 30 does you credit, but I urge you to accept that the US Intelligence report is just wrong. If anyone is showing their ignorance here, it must be the writers of that report.

            I hope you are not agreeing with them, that the Breda is mechanically superior to the Bren under dusty conditions? A gun that has to oil its ammunition?

            Anyone who uses the Bren knows it is a good gun, the Breda is not in the same league. The fact that US Intelligence criticizes the Breda, an LMG, for not having a tripod mounting implies to me that they did not have much of an understanding of what an LMG was for.

        • Sorry John, but again, on one hand there is what thought of the weapon those that had to daily fight it and reuse the captured samples. On the other, the armchair impressions of someone that saw a clip.

          The mere presence of an oiler does not mean that a gun performs worse than another in dusty conditions. That’s another example of “internet fuelled knowledge”. The sensibility of a weapon to dirt is made of MANY things. IE the Breda have loose tolerancies and an heavy bolt with deep grooves. Weapons with loose tolerancies are less sensible to dirt, heavy bolts, thanks to the higher momentum, are less prone to be locked by dirt, and the grooves provide to the dirt somewere to go instead of locking the action. The same tilting movement of the locking collar is self cleaning. It’s no wonder that a weapon with an oiler and all those other features, in the end, performs equally, or even better, than another that has not them, in dusty conditions.
          The tripod for the BREN was issued and commonly used. That’s another example of the contemporaries having different points of view on the use of their weapons than the current day net viewers had been educated to think. Surely the lacking of tripods for the Breda was a minor issue, but that’s the point. The real perceived defects of the Breda, at that time, were limited to minor issues THAT WERE DIFFERENT TO THE “HUGE DEFECTS” WE PRETEND IT HAD.

          • Dog:

            I think you will find that Bren tripods were rarely used. The Bren was an LMG, and the Vickers supplied the heavy firepower. If you can find more than a small handful of photographs of a Bren on a tripod I would be surprised.

            As to the US intelligence report you cite, I rather doubt the writers of that report actually had to fight men armed with Breda 30s, nor use them themselves in combat.

            I did not say the Bred 30 had huge defects, but it is clearly not as good a design as the Bren, and I am genuinely surprised the US Army should have suggested such a thing.

            I did learn from Ian’s video that the Breda was very well made, but the amount of machining it required is itself a defect in terms of manufacturing time. However, it is clear that the barrel change is awkward, the fixed magazine is a stupid idea, the need for an oiler is less than ideal, and firing from a closed bolt is also a bad idea for an LMG.

            I think one would only have to compare the Breda to a Bren, a BAR, a Chatellerault or a DP to see that it is a poor design. The amount of time and materiel used to make a Breda 30 could have been used to make a much better LMG. However, as my grandfather was in the 8th Army in North Africa, I should not complain that the Italians were armed with an inferior LMG!

          • What I find most interesting is why the Mod. 30 has such a poor reputation, whereas the Mod. 37 seems to have fairly good one. Is it simply because of the fixed magazine was considered too different? (To be fair, I do believe a detachable magazine would have been better.) Or was it perhaps because firing from a closed bolt necessitated more frequent barrel changes in order to avoid ammo cook-offs? Perhaps some British soldiers who used captured ones didn’t realize that and had the gun firing on its own (only single shots, but still a startling experience, I’m sure), which may have ruined its reputation among the British.

          • Jhon.

            “You’ll find” where? WWII had been fought some time ago. Tose involved in it tought that the tripod was a good idea.

            The writers of the report had to write reports on whose reliability depended the lives of many thousands of soldiers. They were supposed to inform themself a little better than viewing a clip on the net. Even more so, at that time, it was pretty simple to report the opinions of those that had to DAILY use the captured weapons they were talking about, instead of guessing while looking at a clip.

            What you said was: “Any soldier issued with a Bren or a BAR could see they had a well made and well designed weapon. Any Italian soldier issued with this piece can be excused for thinking that surrender had to be a serious option.” That imply some huge defect of the weapon. The wartime report tells different things.

            “barrel change is awkward”? Seriously? It’s probably the single best charateristic of this LMG. The only one when it was really superior to concurrent designs. It was even faster than that of an MG42, and it didn’t require the gunner to move himself, or the weapon, from firing position. In what sense it’s “awkward”?

          • Euroweasel

            All is relative. The Breda 30, that historically was a “there is better around, but usually it get the job done” weapon, became “the worst ever”. The Breda 37, that historically was a very good weapon, became a “it was ok, but those Italians couldn’t resist to make it weird” one.

            It didn’t escape to the “if it’s different, then it has to be a mistake” rule. I’ve read several times of the “complex mechanism to put back the spent cases in the tray” (obviously there was no “complex mechanism”. That was the simplest way a tray-fed rimeless cartridges MG could work) and that it unfortunately “slowed down the fire rate” (the Breda 37 fired at 500rpm simply cause that was considered the ideal ROF for a saturation MG).

            To the bad rep of the Breda 30, like for other pieces of the Italian equipment, contributed mainly the same Italian veterans. That was not cause they were unable to judge the quality of their equipment, but cause it’s natural to perceive as a problem of quality what’s really a problem of quantity.

            See for example the tales about the “cardboard shoes” of the Italian Army in WWII. Historically the M16/38 were very good leather boots. But no boot is ethernal. The difference is if, when they wear down or breaks, the soldier can throw them away and keep another pair, or if there isn’t anoter pair, and he have to keep them together with the laces. At that point, the boots became “made of cardboard.

            Same with the Mg. When there is no oil no spare barrels, no spare firing pins, no time to clean, and the entire damned thing stop to function and there are not other MG to cover the position, it doesn’t matter any more if any design in the world would have stopped working in the same conditions. That thing is junk.

          • Dog:

            Your advocacy of the Breda 30 is touching, as is your belief in US Army reports, but I am happy to believe my own eyes.

            There is no way to defend the fixed magazine on this gun, it is a bad idea.

            Firing from a closed bolt in an LMG is a bad idea.

            Relying on a cartridge oiler shows the gun had poor primary extraction, and is a bad idea.

            As Ian demonstrated, the barrel can be removed, but it is clearly awkward, and involves holding a strange nubbin wrapped in asbestos string instead of a proper carrying handle. Again, a bad idea.

            From what I have read about British troops fighting the Italians, the Beretta 1934 pistol was popular as a souvenir, the Beretta 1938 and 38/42 SMGs were valued, and the Breda 37 MMG had a good reputation. No-one was interested in the Carcano rifle or the Breda 30.

            I don’t know how the US Army came to their positive conclusions about the Breda vs the Bren, all I can say is I disagree with them.

          • It’s not a question of being touching. It’s a question of reading of contemporarie’s opinions without contempt.
            Every WWII LMG incorporated some “bad idea”. None had only brilliant ones.
            The change of the Barrel requires to pull a pin, then grab an heat insulated handle and remove the barrel. It doesn’t need the gunner to change his position or to move the gun, or to use more than on hand (several things the designers of the M60 still had to learn). It’s as simple as it cam be. To complain that the handle is not “a proper carrying handle” is one of the abovementioned “necessity to invent problems”. It’s not like that, if an handle had a tag “proper carrying handle” attached to it, then to swap barrels becames easier.
            The Brits printed a manual in English for the Breda 30 gunners.
            You obviously have all the righ to disagree, but “contemporaries had pretty different opinions”.

          • Dog:

            I think you are placing too much emphasis on this US Army report. Put simply, I think they got it wrong.

            I take it you watched Ian’s video? The barrel change is clearly awkward, the gunner would have to change his position to do it, and the tiny little gripping piece on the barrel is inadequate for the purpose.

            I had read many books in which the shortcomings of the Breda were discussed. Ian’s video leads me to believe that these criticisms are correct. However I will concede that the gun does seem to have been well made. However, in the context of a total war, a gun which needs so much maching time to make is also open to criticism.

            I imagine that US and British sources printed manuals on all sorts of captured enemy weapons. British soldiers may even have used captured Bredas on occasion, but I cannot imagine any soldier who would have preferred a Breda over a Bren.

          • As already said, on one hand there is what thought of the weapon those that had to daily fight it and reuse the captured samples. On the other, the armchair impressions of someone that saw a clip.

            Yeah. I saw Ian’s video. Do you REALLY think that the fact that he chose to change the barrel while sitting on the side of the gun and showing it to a camera, means that it had to be done that way and ONLY that way?
            Really, I find it hardly believable.
            You can check the clip of AZ Guns ( ), from 5:50, to see how it’s supposed to be done while lying behind the weapon. It’s one of the simplest and quickest barrel change EVER made. Mind that the fact that he too chose to change the barrel while looking at the camera and speaking, doesn’t mean it had to be done that way. You can change the barrel in silence and looking at what you are doing too.

            Who talked about preferring? the terms of the question were: “Any soldier issued with a Bren or a BAR could see they had a well made and well designed weapon. Any Italian soldier issued with this piece can be excused for thinking that surrender had to be a serious option.” vs “contemporaries had pretty different opinions.” and: “Was the Breda 30 among the best LMGs of the war? I don’t think so. But, on one hand, simply much of the pretended “problems” and “iremediable defects” of the gun were hardly considered issues worth of mention back then. The perspective was different.
            On the other hand, there is unfortunately a tendency on the net to sanctify some equipment and damn some other on the basis of often repeated opinions, that became more and more extreme passing from a reviewer to another. So “not so good cause…” becomes “bad”, then “the worse ever issued”, then “I rather would have fought naked that bringing this piece of shit” etc… etc… When, in reality, differencies in real life use between the “exceptional” and the “worst ever” equipments were often marginal at best.”

          • “What I find most interesting is why the Mod. 30 has such a poor reputation, whereas the Mod. 37 seems to have fairly good one. Is it simply because of the fixed magazine was considered too different?”
            This might be possibly due to cartridge – Modello 37 fire powerful and modern 8×59 cartridge, when Modello 30 use cartridge with round-nose bullets, 1890s technology.

          • Dog:

            You are certainly dogged in your defence of the Breda 30.

            You are also, if I may say so, putting too much emphasis on the US Army report. It is one document amongst many on the Breda, and I suggest it is wrong, especially in comparing it favourably to the Bren.

            I have looked at the video clip, and I still think the barrel change is awkward. The hand piece is too small, and the barrel needs to be manoeuvered through the front apperture. The barrel change on a Bren is far quicker and easier.

            The video also clearly shows that reloading the fixed magazine is much slower than changing a simple box magazine. Since the role of the LMG is to provide firepower to the squad, this is a major flaw.

            The Breda was well made out of good materials, but it still fired from a closed bolt, lacked primary extraction, needed an oiler, and was restricted to a fixed 20 round magazine. Additionally, the magazine had an open viewing slot in the top, which would allow dust and sand into its oiled interior. Dust and sand mixed with oil is called grinding paste, not ideal for the interior of your machine gun.

            All in all, I feel I am justified in calling the Breda 30 an inferior LMG, and I am still surprised that the US Army should have compared it to the Bren. However, many mistakes are made in war, and this would not be the biggest.

          • JohnK:

            The cartridge oiler does not oil cartridges in the magazine, it oils them just before they are chambered. Sorry, if that’s not what you meant, but I don’t think the magazine otherwise needs lubrication, either. It is still true that the viewing slot is a potential ingress point for dust and dirt.

          • John

            I don’t even like the Breda. I think that the ZB vz 26, that the Italians tried first to adopt the Breda, would have probably been a better option, and an even better option would have been to wait for Breda to develop his gas system, and adopt a LMG that used it (in practice, a Breda PG with a detachable barrel). But I’m saying that the contemporaries, far from considering it a good excuse for surrender, had a more balanced opinion of the weapon, and what are now considered inexcusable defects that condemned the weapon to be “the worst ever”, were hardly considered nuisances back then. It doesn’t matter if it was better than the Bren or not. It’s an unfortunate tendency of the net to extremize the opinions.

            The Barrel change is almost identical to that of the M240, with the difference that the M240 requires two hands (you have to press the release button while changing the barrel). The MG42 / Rehinmetall MG3, often praised for the easiness to change barrel, requires the gunner to handle a hot barrel, or move the weapon, and to manoeuver it through the front apperture (inexcusable!). The Bren requires to insert the barrel into the receiver and the gas piston at the same time, hardly easier than the “manoeuvering it through the front apperture” of the Breda. But the entire question of the “clearly awkward, the gunner would have to change his position to do it” (obviously he wouldn’t, as amply demonstrated) barrel swap is a demonstration of what’already said. If something is done in a manner that’s slightly different to what you consider “right”, then it’s not “slightly different”. It’s the worst ever. It requires the gunner to change it’s position. It requires to slip the barrel into a front opening (How would someone wants to do that?) and so on.
            It’s the “if it’s different from what I know, then it’s a mistake” attitude.

            To use the 4 spare barrels the Italians deemed to be necessary for the MG after having used it in combat, you have to fire at least 800 rounds in quick succession.
            Hardly a proof that the weapon is not capable to provide automatic fire.

          • Euro:

            Yes, the open magazine would mean that rounds would bring dust and sand into the gun with them, where the oiler would convert it into grinding paste. Not a good feature.


            You clearly like the Breda’s barrel change, fair enough. I don’t think it is that good. A decent handle would have improved it, I would not fancy holding a hot barrel by that nubbin wrapped in asbestos string.

            If we park the barrel change, I hope you would agree that an LMG which needs an oiler to function, and which is restricted to a fixed 20 round magazine is less than optimal? I never said it was the worst LMG in the world, but it clearly has a lot of bad features. The worst is probably the magazine. An LMG which cannot provide enough firepower is an LMG which is failing in its main job.

          • John

            It’s not a question of liking it. It’s recognizing that it functions exactly like modern day general purpose MGs, cause that way had been deemed to be the simplest and more effective, or inventing non existing problems. That it makes some difference if the handle is covered in wood or strings, is an invented problem.

            Was the oiler of the Breda the best feature in the world? No. Was the non swappable and thin barrel of the BAR the best feature in the world? No.
            Was the 20 rounds limitation of the Breda the best feature in the world? No. Was the 20 rounds limitation of the BAR the best feature in the world? No.
            But 20-25 rounds were the norm for LMGs at that time. To design bigger box magazines meant to be in search of problems.

            And is exaclty to avoid much of those problems that they made a fixed magazine for the Breda 30. Maybe it was not the best solution in the world, but it’s designers were not crazy. They know that the reload time was a little longer, but they tought that it was a good exchange to avoid feeding problems due to badly made, or damaged, magazines.

            Mind that the Brits considered to do the same thing, designing a tilting magazine for the BREN. In the end they didn’t adopt it. Also cause it was more awkward to reload than that of the Breda, but the same fact that they considered it means that the problem existed.

            And, again, what, looking at a clip, are considered irremediable defects now, were hardly considered issues back then, when the weapons were used.

            “An LMG which cannot provide enough firepower…”
            To use the 4 spare barrels the Italians deemed to be necessary for the MG after having used it in combat, you have to fire at least 800 rounds in quick succession.
            Hardly a proof that the weapon is not capable to provide automatic fire.
            Try it with a BAR.

          • Dog:

            The BAR, as its name suggests, was not an LMG.

            I am grateful to you for the link to the experimental Bren magazines, which I had not known about. I am pleased that, unilke the Italians, the British did not make the mistake of going for a fixed magazine. It is one of the worst features of the Breda.

            I understand the point you are making about the Breda 30 not being as bad as is often said. Then again, even if that were true, it would still not be a good gun, just a barely adequate one.

          • John

            The BAR was not designed to be an LMG, but, when the US Army equipped it with a bipod, they decided it had to be used as one, regardless the fact it was not really apt for that role. However, it had not been the only WWII LMG without quick exchange barrel, or with a 20 rounds magazine.

            I’m glad however that you agreed with the terms of the question. “barely adequate” is a perfect definition to me.

          • Dog:

            Yes, the US Army managed to turn the BAR into an unsatisfactory LMG, whereas the Breda 30 was a barely adequate one. That seems fair.

  18. I wonder if the six locking lugs and barrel extension influenced Johnson who passed it on to Stoner ?

    By the way the lugs are huge, I’m guessing they would be normal size for a 50 BMG round ?

    It probably took the entire war to machine one of these, maybe the Italians had a cunning plan ?

  19. Waxed cartridges, like the Pedersen used, would eliminate the problems of the cartridge oiler.

    One, or maybe two more spring loaded latches on the magazine would solve most of the rest of the problems.

    This is a good example of a design that looks decent, maybe even great, on paper. But doesn’t work too well in the field.

    As Ian notes, the manufacturing of this design was excellent. Can you imagine how well it would have worked with sub-standard manufacturing?

    • The Guide Fermeture Nut.

      Has two outside arms terminating at the front with lugs, and at the rear with two semicircular recesses. It is traversed by an inclined plane which operates in conjunction with the lugs on fermeture nut.

  20. The right arm carries an adjusting wedge secured in backor forward position by a transverse sliding key. This adjusting wedge controls the amount of rotary locking movement which the fermeture nut is permitted. When it is placed at the rear of the guide fermeture nut, the maximum rotation of the fermeture nut is allowed (correct position for new barrels). When placed in the forward position the rotation of the fermeture nut is minimised due to the earlier engagement of the adjusting wedge (correct position for worn barrels). When the correct position is determined, the adjusting wedge must be securely positioned by its sliding key.

    • Carlos, I missed your excellent explanation of the function of the transverse sliding key, sorry for kickin in an open door with my post. I will pay better attention in future.

  21. Just an idea on the movable part on the H-block: In the video the movable part is in the forward position. Looking at the movable part, its shape and contour compared to the corresponding recesses in the H-block suggests that when moved to the rear position, the movable part will slightly inlet into the H-block. Upon locking, the rotation of the center nut is stopped by the two lugs on the outside of it hitting the inside of the H-block, in effect hitting – the movable part. If the movable part in its rear position is inlet into the H-block, that will allow for the center nut to rotate slightly further. That would mean that on recoil, the center nut needs to rotate as much further back in order for the bolt locking lugs to clear the center nut, delaying unlocking slightly. Maybe a cold/hot environment setting to account for the differences in powder burn rate and pressure due to temperature variation? Compensate high temperature/higher burn rate/pressure by delaying unlocking?

  22. Sorry, late to the party here, but just a note for the record on that US intelligence report. Opinions aside, the Bren requiring ‘several’ men to service it is just plain factually incorrect. They have clearly mistaken the ‘Bren Group’ half of the infantry Section for a crew. It was not. The Bren was issued to a No.1 (gunner) who was assisted by a ‘No.2’ – hardly ‘several’. The remainder of the group were simply riflemen. Every man in the Section bore ammunition for the Bren, not just those in the Bren Group.

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