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"Use of Captured Italian Weapons" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following intelligence report on Italian infantry weapons is taken from Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 7, Sept. 10, 1942.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department publication Tactical and Technical Trends. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]


In the several North African campaigns the British have captured a large amount of enemy materiel, particularly Italian. Although some of the Italian weapons have not proved satisfactory enough to be used by the British, the following weapons have been utilized, some with interchangeable British ammunition and parts, and others with the Italian ammunition.

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.

Breda 20-mm. Heavy Machine Gun. This is an excellent dual-purpose AA and AT gun, firing several types of high explosive armor-piercing, incendiary, and tracer ammunition. It is particularly good for antiaircraft use, although as a weapon it is rather cumbersome. A great many of these guns have been utilized by the British, and a large number of them have been mounted on British armored cars.

81-mm. Mortar. This mortar fires an 8 1/2-lb. projectile 5,000 yards. The secondary charge is considered superior to that of the British 3" mortar, and the weapon as a whole is also considered superior and a valuable addition to an infantry unit, although the bipod is more complicated and the projectiles are inferior in fragmentation to the British.

The 75/27 Gun (75-mm., 27 calibers in length). This gun fires a 14-lb. shell 9,000 yards, and has a rate of fire of 4 rounds per minute. It is considered a mechanically satisfactory weapon and has been used extensively, although it has the disadvantages of light hitting power and poor fragmentation. (For greater detail see next article.)

100/17 Howitzer (100-mm., 17 calibers in length). This is an accurate and satisfactory howitzer, which fires a 30-lb. shell 9,000 yards at approximately 3 rounds per minute. However, it has a long unwieldy trail that has to be dug in for high elevation.

149/13 Howitzer (149-mm., 13 calibers in length). This howitzer fires a heavy, 80-lb. shell accurately up to a range of 10,000 yds. The rate of fire is 2 to 3 rounds per minute.

105/27 Gun (105-mm., 27 calibers in length). This weapon is considered to be the most valuable battalion artillery piece, although very few of them have been captured. It fires a 35-lb. shell a maximum range of 13,600 yards, at the rate of 6 rounds per minute.

The use of all these field artillery weapons has been limited by a lack of spare parts; the recoil systems, both spring and hydropneumatic, have suffered particularly. The carriages of the 100-mm. and 149-mm. howitzers are old models, and the best performance from these weapons can be expected only when they are mounted on modern carriages. None of these weapons is considered suitable for mobile operations in the desert, but within the limitations noted they should prove satisfactory under static conditions.

75/46 (75-mm., 46 calibers in length) Ansaldo Mobile AA Gun. While this is primarily an antiaircraft gun, successful experiments in engaging ground targets have been carried out. The weapon is mechanically sound, and practically no maintenance has been required. The muzzle velocity is probably 2,500 feet per second, although it may be higher. The gun has a high rate of fire, and with a trained crew it is estimated that 20 rounds per minute can be fired. The silhouette is satisfactory and it is believed that it would be difficult to hit from a tank at 600 to 1,000 yards. The Italians camouflage the gun with light gray and dirty white colors, and from a range of 500 yards it is practically invisible, even on level ground. A speed of 25 miles per hour over good terrain and 10 miles per hour over rough terrain should be obtainable.

37/54 (37-mm., 54 calibers in length) Light Double-Barrel AA Gun. This is a tray-loaded twin antiaircraft gun serviced by a detachment of seven men. The rate of fire is 250 rounds per minute -- 125 rounds per barrel per minute. It is considered to be a very effective light antiaircraft gun, although stoppages are frequent unless all the equipment is kept scrupulously clean and free of sand.

102/35 (102-mm., 35 calibers in length) AA and Coast-Defense Gun. This antiaircraft weapon has a muzzle velocity of approximately 2,476 feet per second, a maximum horizontal range of 14,500 yards, and a maximum vertical range of 31,000 feet. The breech mechanism is semiautomatic.

76/40 (76-mm., 40 calibers in length) Dual-Purpose AA-AT Gun. This is a fixed weapon and is expected to be satisfactory for antiaircraft work, but sufficient tests have not been made to give any details.

20-mm. Solothurn AT Rifle. It is a good serviceable weapon and capable of sustained fire over a long period. For a description of this weapon see this publication, issue No. 5, page 18.


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