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The Whatziss Answered

Boquisucio sent us this picture and asked us to identify the weapon.  And he stumped most of us, including me. 

All of us except Tom, who figured it out.  I don't feel too bad - there is *nothing* about this weapon in any of my relatively numerous references on machine guns, and there is nothing on the web about it in English (well, until now), and there is only *one* site on the web that mentions this gun - and it's in Italian - Le mitragliatrici italiane della Grande Guerra, or, The Italian Machine Guns of World War One.  And that's all indicative of the relative paucity of material available on the Italian side of WWI, actually.  There is a fair amount in english about the Austro-Hungarians, from the Austro-Hungarian perspective, but the Italian side of the war is badly underserved, at least in english-language publications.

The Perrino machine gun Model 1908 - in an "assault" configuration, probably later in the war.

The Perrino was designed in 1901 by Joseph Perrino, an engineer (Tecnico del Artilleria).  Perrino's design apparently was the first Italian-designed machine gun, and in it's original configuration weighed in at a hefty 27 kg - 60 pounds. It was redesigned in 1910 and brought the weight down to 34 pounds (17 kg), which is more in keeping with other machine guns of its class and era. 

After successful testing the gun was adopted by the House of Savoy (we don't have time to explain Italian political and military organization at this point in their history) and was used along with the Maxim guns in Italian service. 

It was was loaded by metal feed strips of  25 rounds each, using a hopper on the side to hold 5 strips in place at once to achieve continuous fire - as a strip fed through, the loader would simply drop another strip in place on top of the stack.  The gun was a gas-boosted recoil-operated gun like the Vickers and Maxim guns, I have no idea if it used a firing lock or a turning bolt - if it's a lock like the Maxim/Vickers guns, Perrino used the Vicker's approach to the toggle to reduce the size of the receiver.  The nominal rate of fire was 450 rounds per minute.

It was issued in very limited quantities, "while the quality of manufacture was far superior to any other machine gun adopted."  That last bit might be a bit of Italian pride, as the Vickers and Maxim guns used by the Italians were of high quality manufacture as well - and the feed strip system of loading, also used by the French and the Brits, has real problems in service - there's a reason belt-feeding survives to this day... and feed strips do not.

As pictured above, it looks like the Italians were trying to get machine guns into the hands of assault troops, like the Alpini soldier in the picture, just as the Germans did with the MG 08/15. This example doesn't seem to be really workable.  The  MG08/15 wasn't that great a work-around either, though, by the end of the war, it was the most common form of the MG08 - which is a reflection of the conditions of the war, moreso than the virtues of converting a heavy machine gun into a light machine gun....

Having to be able to carry it and fire it meant it had to be fired from the hip (or, in this case, underarm) because it's simply too long and heavy (water-filled jacket around the barrel) for anyone to be able to fire from the shoulder.  Plus, it has to be slung carefully, since the feedstrips are sticking out across the gunner's body - hence the tall sights so that the gunner can have some pretense at aiming.  I'm thinking if this was ever adopted, most gunners just watched the bullet impact and walked the rounds onto the target by eye.  I can't imagine the fumbling this guy would have to do to reload - all while being the target of everybody with a rifle, machinegun and hand grenades on the opposing side...

Update: I think there is another aspect to this, that was nagging at the back of my mind because of the picture - that other aspect of this may well be that this gun has been further modified to fire with belted ammunition - as that's clearly not a feed strip dangling there, and the few rounds you can see on the far side are not aligned as rounds on a feed strip would be.  The belt looks odd, like it might be metal pockets attached to a cloth belt, a compromise made to accomodate the mechanics of the feed strip mechanism while trying to gain the flexibilty of belt-feed.  But that's all conjecture at this point.

The data from the referenced Italian web page comes from this book:  Nevio Mantoan, Weapons and Equipment the Italian Army in the Great War 1915-1918, Gino Rossato Editore, First Edition.  July 1996.  Not available via Amazon or Alibris, sorry.

I see that while I was writing this post, Josh was writing it for me in the comments of the original post.  Heh.

18 Comments

It was was loaded by metal feed strips of 25 rounds each...

Hah! So my Eyetalian MilSpeak isn't that rusty after all!

 
Excellent.  Another example supporting the notion, "Necessity is the mother of all invention."
 
Of course it's in assault configuration--folding (or missing) stock, flash hider/muzzle suppressor, foregrip, pitol grip, high-capacity "clips"....
Oh yeah, it's black.

Evil.  Pure Evil.
 
This was an intriguing puzzle. I wasnt sure there was a solution until one of the guys on a mil forum I frequent pointed to the Perrino at the link in your post. After a 100 years or so its no wonder that the Perrino isnt a household name.:]
 
For Conspicuous Gallantry and Intrepidity in Action, Tom gets a full throated Italian HUZZAHHH!

Once Tom posted his answer, I immediately went to that page, and all its associated links.  As language is no barrier, I REALY am enjoying it.

Thanks Tom.

 
Love stuff like this, makes the Armourer's efforts a pure joy.  'bout the only thing I'd guessed was the brass strip in the photo.  No joy tho' using that to ID this thing.

So, a nice Nabiolo or Chianti anyone?
 
Only with liver and fava beans.
 

An Italian machine gun,

Never fired and only been dropped once!
 
Toejam - you do the Italian soldier of WWI a grave disservice here.  In the Battles of the Isonzo and the fighting in the mountains, the Italian soldier proved himself the match in bravery and tenacity of his foes.  He, like the much-maligned French soldier, may have suffered from inadequate officer and political leadership, but the individual  Italian soldier, when properly trained and led, can hold his head high when marching past his Roman forbears.

Many of his officers, especially in WWII, less so. 

Even in WWII, the Brits *hated* running up against Italian artillery units - the Eyetie Redlegs stood to their guns and would duke it out with anyone in a direct fire battle and died hard.
 
RIP, Fabrizio Quattrocchi - "I'll show you how an Italian dies!"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fabrizio_Quattrocchi
 
I agree with John's comments regarding the overall efficacy of the Italian soldier.  During WWI, the various battles waged in the mountains against the Austrians were quite bloody and fierce.  I believe the negative view of Italian soldiers comes more from WWII, due in part to British propaganda.  This seems odd when you realize that it was the British themselves who witnessed at El Alamein what John mentions...the Italians would not leave their guns until overrun.  Also, the Italians drew praise from the Germans for their support on the Eastern Front.
 
Yes, and IIRC, the casualties due to cold and exposure alone in the mountain campaigns was considerable as conditions were deplorable due to the state of inclement wx uniform technology--yet the troops persevered with apparently relatively high morale.
 
I think you give the French too much credit by using tarring the Italians with the same brush.
 
The same thing I said (with different locations) apply to French troops.  It was the grandfathers of the poilus of WWI who manned the Grande Armee of Napoleon.

The failure wasn't at the level of the soldier.

It was his officers and their political masters.

Poor troops = bad officers and/or crappy politicians.

If you think otherwise, I'll aver you don't have a clue on the subject.

As I've said often - wars are won at the small unit level.  They can be lost at any level.
 
I'm speaking up here as someone who, not so long ago, also got corrected by John of Argghhh! when I made a snarky comment regarding French lack of spine in military matters on an armor related Whatziss.

John's correct.

The soldiers fought well. Much of the problems came from old military doctrine that didn't keep pace with modern weaponry, as well as senior officers that were well past their prime and deeply entrenched in their mindset into the mold of their fathers' and/or great grandfathers' war(s).

Specific to the Italians of WW2, insanely stupid political ideology and officers selected more for party loyalty than military/command ability added to the issue.
The best soldiers in the history of mankind wouldn't have done much better under such consistently incompetent leadership.

The Southern Front in Europe during WW1 was extremely bloody. The terrain in which it was fought was as much a threat to life as the fighting itself. There were units that broke and mutinied there, just as there were on the Western Front. The amazing thing is that there were so few to do such on both fronts.


Mr. Argghhh!

Thank you for these whatziss things. I'm one of those that get sucked in to trying to figure them out and learn much by the searching for answers.
 

Dear John of Argghhh!

I guess I should have typed in the sarcasm disclaimer.

I was only kidding. I'm sorry for any offense caused.

I've spent some time in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. The Italian solders, partisans and plain old citizens fought suffered and died against the Nazis. I stayed in the village of Villa Minozzo for some time and was told by some old citizens, with tears in their eyes, how the Germans hung people from the trees on the main street.
 
I also met some present day Italian troops in Bologna. They were as tough as nails.
 
Avanti Savoia!!!!
 
Toejam - I know that text on a screen causes comms issues - body language matters.  S'truth, if it had been banter about the cracker barrel, we'd all have laughed, and I'd have tossed off my comment, and it wouldn't have sounded quite so serious.

The reason I said what I said on the blog wasn't aimed so much at you, but at the lurkers and visitors and googlers.

The post will be up on the web for years, possibly.  And italians will google in here. 

And they'll know that we have some greater understanding around here of their roles and sacrifices, wins and losses, than your simple comment, left unanswered, would indicate.  Many times, the discussions in comment threads are really aimed at the lurkers, or tweaked for those who show up months later, when the comments are closed to keep spam down.

I was just being polite to guests yet unmet.

You'd be surprised how many of them (with their own stereotypes about us) are touched that we have the faintest clue.

Don't let me in /pedantic mode scare you away!