The Italian Last-Ditch TZ-45 Submachine Gun

The TZ-45 is a late-war (some might say last ditch) Italian submachine gun made in small numbers and notable primarily for being the first SMG to use a grip safety on the magazine well. The grip safety on the TZ-45 is actually quite significant, as it locks the bolt in place when either cocked or forward. This does accomplish the important safety feature of preventing the bolt from bouncing open on impact and firing, but it also means that the bolt cannot be manually cycled without engaging the grip safety. Not surprisingly, most later submachine gun designers using grip safeties would opt to have them not block the bolt being cocked.

Only about 6,000 of these guns were made in Cremona before the end of the war, and they were used mostly in anti-partisan fighting in northern Italy. They were chambered in 9x19mm and used standard Beretta 38 magazines, so they presented minimal logistical challenges to units already equipped with other submachine guns. After the was, the design was adopted with a few changes by the Burmese military as the BA-52.



  1. The correct reloading procedure for a right handed person seems to be: hold the gun with your left hand by the safety / magazine holder and use your right hand to replace the magazine and operate the charging handle (that’s almost exactly the same procedure of the Bergmann MP35 reviewed last week) and you’ll not have loss in combat efficiency at all. Is not like you have much to do with your right hand (that’s rupposed to be your most able one) until the reload procedure is completed, so it’s better to use it to reload the gun.

    • The other benefit from doing it this way is the ease of locating the magazine well without looking — you get the “fist-finds-fist” principle more commonly associated with telescoping-bolt guns like the CZ 23/25 or the Uzi.

      However, the magazine well seems a bit awkward for this approach — it looks too short, and seems like the little finger of your left hand could easily get a nasty pinch between the bottom of the mag well and the magazine’s over-insertion stop. But I’m sure you’d learn how to keep your fingers clear soon enough.

      • Even if the reloading procedure is clearly designed having a right-handed person in mind, it seems to be enough lefties-friendly too. The actions are, specularly, the same, they only have to operate the charging handle from above.

    • I agree, for a right handed person, reloading is not a problem, as the left hand will be depressing the grip safety anyway, allowing the right hand to operate the charging handle.

      Really, the grip safety is so good that they could have simplified the design and done away with the safety catch, and kept the gun full auto only.

      Overall, I think this is a very good design, much better and safer than the Sten.

  2. How many soldiers lashed that safety open with a shoelace? Or acquired a few cm of electrical tape to gum it open? How many noncoms would yell at them for doing so? Still, it’s a good, cheap solution to a serious safety problem with second-generation SMGs, and not that unhandy after a little training.

    • This kind of quick fix thinking is the source of many an exploded steam engine. Any driver who didn’t want the safety valve to open and douse the fire due to low water levels resorted to wiring the valves shut. Guess who was killed by the ruptured boiler when the water got really low…

    • None, I’m pretty sure. Why? Because in a war, you don’t care about such things. All you care is to have enough ammo and reliable gun. Civilian wannabes are quite another kind of a story.

  3. Looks like when gun is ready to fire, bolt handle stay in forward position only because of friction.
    At least this design prevent inexpirienced soldiers from riding bolt forward with hand in case of malfunction (PPS and PPSh manuals mentioned “in case if bolt not moving smooth dont close it by hand – pool it back and release few times”).

    • Infact that’s the only reason of the non reciprocating handle. To prevent the soldier to use it as a forward assist. What the handle does while the weapon is firing, is not that important.

  4. Question for you experts: The post-WWII commercial version of the Marengoni Beretta Moschetto Automatico/ SMG employed a similar grip safety, yes? The A5?

    Also, it is my understanding that the Danish Madsen m/50-55 used such a system, and it was criticized to some extent as implying the user would have to have two good hands, where a rather more traditional and less-safe (but more “combat efficient” per Ian’s phrase) could be used if one hand was wounded or otherwise out of action?

    I do know that Argentina added just such a safety to the PAM-2 9mm version of the M3A1 Grease Gun that was manufactured there.

      • Grazie.

        I am not sure which it was, but one of the postwar Beretta Marengoni SMGs with dual triggers was long retained by the national police in Costa Rica. I’m glad Beretta continues to make pistol-caliber sub-carbines, although in my case it is a Cx4 ‘Storm’ with its science-fiction looks and not the M1918/30 “syringe” I’d greatly prefer.

        My understanding is that a folding-stock version with a folding bayonet, the Model 1? was sold to Egypt, although eventually Egypt went for a domestically produced “Port Saïd” copy of the Swedish Carl Gustaf m/45 kpist and a simplified version with M3 style folding stock, the “Akaba.”

        Perhaps you have seen the Brazilian film “O Qué é isso, companheiro?”/ _Four Days in September_ with Alan Arkin as the U.S. Ambassador abducted during the military dictatorship by a leftist terrorist/urban guerrilla cell, MR-8 Ourtubro? There is a scene where militants arrive from São Paulo and unpack some SMGs. I cannot tell if it is the TZ-45 reviewed by Ian here, or if it is one or another folding-stock Italian SMG from the postwar era used in Brazil.

  5. A minor historical correction; the beginning of the video shows the flag of the kingdom of Italy, and Ian refers to the gun as being used by the Italian army.

    The flag is incorrect, and the statement about the Italian army is at best misleading.

    On July 26 1943, in the aftermath of the allied landings in Sicily, king Victor Emmanuel III removed Mussolini from office. The new government under Marshall Pietro Badoglio and general Giuseppe Castellano negotiated an armistice with the allies, and ordered Il Duce’s arrest. Italy had effectively fired it’s dictator.

    Enraged Hitler ordered the Wehrmacht to effectively invade Italy, free Mussolini from captivity, and intern the Itallian army. After Mussolini was freed in a daring raid by elite fallschirmjäger units he brought to meet Hitler to discuss the future of Italy. Il Duce, by now a sickly broken man , apparently wanted nothing more than to retire to a comfortable exile, was told in no uncertain terms that he was to cooperate with the new German power in Italy and lead a collaborationist regime, or face the consequences. Mussolini acquiesced and and with German backing formed the Repubblica Sociale Italiana(RSI), also known as republic of Salò for it’s northern Italian capital from whence he nominally ruled a rump state for the last year and a half of world war II.

    It was the armed forces of the RSI, and not the legal army of the kingdom of Italy (who were by then fighting on the side of the allies) that used the TZ-45.

    • Good remark; I was going to mention something in sense that there was not “last ditch weapon” in WWII for Italians. No such a thing. They, in their best tradition weaseled out from sticky situation and quick-fried armistice with US and GB, stabbing thus Germany in the back.

      Long term elites enforcer and war criminal Badoglio took the helm of provisional government in middle of 1943.
      He avoided to be trialed in Nurnberg by offering his “anti-communist fighting skills” to British which proved to be lame argument altogether (Rome’s mayor was long time member of Italian communist party).

      After the war, Italy had and still has propensity toward “socialism with human face’ and as matter of fact, I have seen recently their passport with fife-pointed star on front of it. Reality check? Yes, for sure. Sometimes political interjection does not hurt.

      • Well, Italy was a sovereign nation. Mussolini’s removal as the prime minister was done in accordance to the constitution. They had every right to make a separate piece with the Allies. The Germans then decided not to respect Italian sovereignty in any way and quickly proceeded to occupy strategic locations controlled by the new Italian goverment, including Rome herself, and then set up the puppet state called RSI.

        • Honesty, still going on with this anti italianism?
          Have you ever heard about the fact the Italy was going through a civil war in between 1943-1945 (with its legacy going up to nowdays, and which peaked with the red/black terrorism of the 70’s/80’s)?
          Or that the communist italian party was along with the french one the one who recieved the greatest support from the KGB, in the west, to snitch the country out of NATO?
          Not to mention that every nation in the balkans switched sides as soon as USSR was nearby, or that french troops fought against the western allies between 1940-1945?
          Keep it relevant to firearms, and please leave politics aside.

          On a more focused note, the requirement of a “safety on the magazine” marched on the Beretta PM12, albeit in a different form.

      • So Germany stabbed Japan in the back when they surrended on maj 7 1945? Austria stabbed Germany in the back when they surrended on 3 nov 1918? Finland on 19 sept 1944? What a pile of bullshit. A country that decide to end a war cause it’s no more in condition to fight, does not ask the permission of the allies that want to keep on fighting, cause their answer would be obvious.

        “I have seen recently their passport with fife-pointed star on front of it. Reality check? Yes, for sure. Sometimes political interjection does not hurt.”
        So US is an super-communist country, cause they have 50 five pointed stars in their banner (and Texas is their most communist State)? And the EU a little less communist, cause they have only twelve?
        The five pointed star is a known symbol for a state, and the star is the oldest known symbol for Italy (since ancient Greece. It was Venus, the star of the evening, as Italy is west of Greece). It had been widely used in Roman times, middle age, renaissance, and by the kingdom of Italy in the 19th century.
        The actual emblem of Italy had been designed by Paolo Paschetto, an artist (son of a Waldensian Evangelical minister and theologist) mostly known for his stained glass church windows.
        Knowing something of what you are talking about would not hurt either.

  6. The gun was adopted by the Burmese army in 1952: hence the nomenclature BA 52. It was far superior to the different types of war surplus Stens which were available, due to the safety mechanism. However some soldiers overrode the safety by use of very heavy rubber bands. The standard magazine was 25 rounds but some 40 round magazines did exist. The gun was not very accurate but gave reasonably good service in close combat jungle warfare. The gun was used until at least the early Eighties by front line troops.

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