Miniature Guns for the Fascist Youth: Italian Balilla Carbines

As part of his effort to imbue Italy with a fascist culture, Mussolini formed the ONB, or National Balilla Organization as a replacement for all other youth organizations in Italy in 1926. It was intended for boys aged 6 to 18, and included military training. Older boys practiced shooting and drill with real rifles, but the younger boys were given Balilla carbines – blank-firing scaled-down versions of the Modelo 1891 Carcano carbine, named after an 18th century folk hero who sparked a revolt in Genoa at the age of 10 in 1746. Over 100,000 of these Balilla carbines were made between 1931 and 1943.

The most prolific manufacturer was Fratelli Grazian of Verona, and we have both an early and later type example of Grazian carbines today. They made extensive use of bronze parts, and the early model has a distinctive bulge to the magazine well. Grazian made some 57,000 of these carbines in total.

11 Comments

  1. These rifles like the japanese training machineguns are even more interesting then their.22 cal counterparts. But then there is the .22 cal conversion for Browning machine guns a true flight of fancy

  2. I remember a local Surplus/Gun Dealer had one of these he’d brought back from WWII hanging on his wall in the early 60’s. Could tell which model, he never let anyone handle it. He did let me borrow his .22 No.2 MK IV*SMLE for my Rifle Safety Course. It did boggle the instructors mind a little.

  3. When I was twelve, I would have killed to own one of these. Oh, that was the intention behind them…..

    When I was a Boy Scout, I earned my Marksmanship Merit Badge and was a member of the troop’s rifle team, so I guess I had some sort of spiritual connection to those Italian youngsters back in the Thirties.

    • Soldering is driven by a universal desire, regardless of nationality. So yes, you had spiritual connection there 🙂

      • Ah, yes, the times when every man wanted to do his share and make his country proud. Who wouldn’t want to be the hero, coming to save the day? Oh, wait, I forgot, we’re being taught to wait for the government to magic our problems away.

        • Right… government. You do understand there is this would-be “overlap” people-government. It very rarely works that way. And if it does it is for a very short time.

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