The Italian Army took on the Model 1910 Glisenti in an attempt to field a semi-automatic pistol to replace their aged "Bodeo" series of revolvers. The Bodeo Model 1889 pistol was chambered for the unique 10.4x22R Italian Ordnance cartridge and became the standard issue service revolver of the Italian Army in 1891. The type was produced on a large scale by a variety of manufactures with many seeing combat service in World War 1 and beyond. The Model 1910 attempted to take the reins of the Bodeo series as the standardized Italian Army service pistol.
The differences in revolvers and semi-automatic pistols were large - revolvers generally being more reliable and easier to maintain though heavier in base weight. Semi-automatic firearms, on the other hand, were relatively lighter though mechanically complex, requiting much in the way of maintenance for proper function. Many turn-of-the-century warriors held a preferred their trusty revolvers as opposed to the new-fangled semi-automatic breeds beginning to take hold. As such, it was often rough going for any modern self-loading design attempting to move into territory where there stalwart soldiers were concerned.
The Italian Model 1910 design was attributed to Italian Army Captain Betel Abiel Revelli whose last name would head several recognized Italian combat firearms. With the official patent for a new semi-automatic pistol design in hand, Revelli arranged a partnership with Societa Siderugica Glisenti in 1902 to begin manufacturing the new gun in quantity with the intent of replacing the aged Bodeo revolvers. Glisenti facilities modified its lines in 1906 in the lead up to production of the pistol but the concern abruptly abandoned the firearms business altogether, selling its control to Metallurgica Bresciana gia Tempini ("MBT"). As such, the Revelli product now found a new owner.
MBT pushed forward in bringing the pistol - the Glisenti Model 1906 (7.65x22mm) - to market through the Italian Army with production beginning in 1908. After a period of evaluation, the 7.65x22mm cartridge was found lacking in its stopping power when compared to its contemporaries elsewhere in Europe - namely the German 9x19 Parabellum pistol round. This forced MBT to re-engineer the Model 1906 into a revised form chambered for a similar 9mm cartridge. Dimensionally, the Italian 9x19mm Glisenti was the same as the German Parabellum round though a lower charged was provided so as not to exceed the structural strength of the Model 1906's internal workings. Consequently, if a full-power 9x19mm Parabellum cartridge had been utilized, it had the capability to "explode" the receiver outright as it was formed of two parallel sides joined by a knurled knob ahead of the trigger group. The new gun emerged as the "Model 1910" and it was this version that was officially excepted into Italian Army service as a standardized officer's pistol under the formal designation of "Pistola Automatica, Modello 1910, (Glisenti)".
Outwardly, the Model 1910 mimicked an appearance popularized by the German Luger P08 semi-automatic pistol. Actually any resemblance to the successful German pistol was superficial as the Model 1910 was a wholly Italian undertaking. The receiver was largely boxy and housed the internal working components. The rounded barrel protruded at the front and was capped by a forward iron sight. The trigger group was integrated into the receiver and featured a curved trigger assembly encapsulated by a rounded trigger ring. The pistol grip sported a heavily checkered design and was slightly angled rearwards for a sound ergonomic hold. The weapon operated from a short-recoil principle with a locked breech - the barrel and bolt recoiling together when firing. There was no traditional cocking lever or handle, the action managed by a long trigger pull instead. The weapon was fed from a seven-round detachable box magazine inserted into the base of the grip.
In service, the Model 1910 suffered along two key design fronts. The first was in the structurally weak receiver which tended to loosen over repeat firings. The second major drawback remained the weak 9x19mm Glisenti round with its lower muzzle velocity of 1,050 feet per second (compared to the German 9x19mm Parabellum's 1,300 feet per second rating). While firing a larger cartridge, it did not have the inherent stopping power of the German 9x19mm.
In 1912, MBT attempted to improve upon the original Model 1910 design by offering the "Model 1912" - otherwise known as the "Brixia" (as the MBT concern was also known as "Brixia of Brescia"). The frame was reinforced while the grip-mounted safety was dropped. After a period of evaluation with Italian authorities, the design proved no better than the Model 1910 it attempted to replace. With the arrival of World War 1 in 1914, this "Brixia" endeavor fell to history.
Despite its limitations, the Model 1910 went on to see combat service with Italian Army forces in World War 1. It was entirely not well-received as many still preferred their trusty revolvers or moved to a competing Beretta design. As such, the Model 1910 never did replace the Bodeo revolver series outright and both types were utilized throughout the war concurrently.
Serial production of Model 1910s ended in the early 1920s though their circulation was still apparent as officers were still handed the weapon into 1935. By this time, however, many had devolved from officer's pistols to second-line personnel in the Italian Army. Furthermore, the influx of very capable and favorable Beretta sidearms further doomed the Glisenti series which could never match its competitor pound-for-pound. Despite their general disuse, the Model 1910 managed an existence prior to and throughout World War 2, their final notable actions recorded in 1945. In 1934, the Beretta Model 1934 was officially named the standard Italian Army semi-automatic pistol.
Never a stellar design and hampered by weak engineering as well as a weak cartridge, the Model 1910 was never destined for any level of fame other than what history revealed. The older Bodeo revolver actually outlasted the Model 1910 Glisenti in production.
Model 1906 - Original Glisenti design chambered for the 7.65x22mm cartridge.
Model 1910 - Revised Model 1906 chambered for 9x19mm Glisenti cartridge.
Model 1912 "Brixia" - Attempted improved Model 1910; sans grip safety; strengthened receiver.
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