|Mitragliatrice Breda cal. 8 mod. 37|
|Type||Heavy machine gun|
|Place of origin||Kingdom of Italy|
|In service||1937 to 1960s|
|Wars||World War II
Portuguese Colonial War
Current regional conflicts
|Manufacturer||Breda Meccanica Bresciana|
|Variants||Breda mod. 38 (tank mounted)|
|Weight||19.4 + 18.8 kg (43 + 41 lb) (weapon+tripod)|
|Length||1,270 mm (50 in)|
|Rate of fire||450 rds/min theoretical, 200 rds/min practical|
|Muzzle velocity||800 metres per second (2,600 ft/s)|
|Effective firing range||800–1,000 m (870–1,090 yd)|
|Maximum firing range||5,400 m (5,900 yd)|
|Feed system||20 round clip|
The Mitragliatrice Breda calibro 8 modello 37 (commonly known as the Breda mod. 37 or simply Breda 37) was an Italian heavy machine gun produced by Breda and adopted in 1937 by the Royal Italian Army. It was the standard machine gun for the Royal Italian Army during World War II, and continued to be used by the Italian Army after the conflict. The Breda 37 was meant as company/battalion support as compared to the more troublesome Breda 30 meant for squad/platoon support, and proved far more effective in combat, though possessing some of the same problematic features of Breda 30.
Design and operation
The Breda M37 was a gas-operated, air-cooled heavy machine gun. The Breda used a larger cartridge than its rivals, the 8 mm x59RB Breda. Unlike other infantry machine guns, the Breda lacked a camming mechanism for initial extraction of the cartridge case after firing, and this meant that each cartridge had to be oiled via an oiling mechanism before being fed into the chamber. This attracted dust and debris, particularly in desert environments such as found in the Royal Italian Army's World War II campaigns in Libya and the Western Desert.
Another drawback was that the gun was fed by 20-round strips of cartridges. This limited continuous fire, as the gun could only be fired rapidly when a second crew member fed in one ammunition strip after another. The rounds still had to be oiled to stop the cases sticking in the chamber, with all the disadvantages this entailed. Another peculiarity of the design is that the spent cases were reinserted in the strip as each round was fired. The mechanical energy required to perform this function substantially reduced the rate of fire, and the weapon tended to jam whenever a case was reinserted even slightly out of line. It also meant that in the event the metal clips had to be reused, the gunner's assistant had to first remove the empty cases from the strips.
In service, the Breda 37 and 38 proved to be fairly reliable heavy machine guns. Perhaps because the heavy support weapons received more attention from their crews, field reports were generally positive except for jams caused by desert sand and dust, which in the Western Desert affected all infantry machine guns to some extent. The Breda 37's slow rate of fire helped prevent overheating during continuous fire, and its powerful, heavy-bullet cartridge had excellent range and penetration. Still, this machine gun was almost twice as heavy as the German machine guns and heavier than weapons like the M1919. In fact, it was the heaviest World War II 'light' machine gun, and unnecessarily complex to use and deploy. This was another issue for Italians, whose mobility was limited by their weak truck fleet. The tripod added around 20 kg to the complex, putting it at around 40 kilograms.
The weapon remained in first-line service with Italian forces throughout the war, and captured examples were used in combat by British and Commonwealth forces, including units of the SAS.
The M37 was also adopted by the Portuguese armed forces, who placed it into service as the Metralhadora pesada 7,92 mm m/938 Breda heavy machine gun. The Breda saw extensive service in Portugal's African colonies during the early stages of the Portuguese Colonial Wars.
The Breda Modello 38 was intended for vehicle use, and was fed from a top-mounted box magazine. The Modello 38 used a pistol style grip, rather than the twin firing handles of the Modello 37. This was the main vehicle-mounted machine gun used in fighting vehicles by the Royal Italian Army.
Production ended in 1943. It was still used as a standard machine gun after the war, until it was replaced by more modern machine guns.
- Pignato, p. 42–43.
- Abbott, Peter, and Rodrigues, Manuel, Modern African Wars 2: Angola and Mozambique, 1961-1974, Osprey Publishing (1998), p. 18
- Pignato, Nicola (1978). Armi della fanteria italiana nella seconda guerra mondiale (in Italian). Ermanno Albertelli Editore.