Breda Modello 30 (Breda 30) Light Machine Gun (LMG)
The Breda Modello 30 became the standard light machine gun of the Italian Army heading into World War 2.
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Prior to World War 1 (1914-1918), Breda Meccanica Bresciana (or simply "Breda") was a heavy industry supplier of locomotives. It was during the war that its direction changed when it joined under the FIAT label to help produce FIAT machine guns for the Italian war effort, thusly beginning the company's military ties with the Italian government. After the armistice of November 1918, Breda solidified its own weapons design and production, delving into the Light Machine Gun (LMG) category to supplement the heavy FIAT water-cooled machine guns then in use. This led to the Mitragliatrice Breda Tipo 5C of 1924 which became one of the first light machine gun offerings to emerge in the post-World War 1 world. It was adopted through 2,000 examples by the Italian Army under the designation of "Modello 24" and then was evolved through the models of 1928 and 1929.
In 1930, the design was revised again and emerged from testing as the "Modello 30" - known in its long form as the "Fucile Mitragliatore Breda Modello 30" and, as its name suggests, the weapon was adopted by the Italian Army in 1930 with manufacture peaking at 30,000 units. The Modello 30 sat in the same category as the American M1918 BAR, the Japanese Type 11 and Type 96 systems and the British BREN Light Machine Gun - intended as a portable squad-support weapon.
The Modello 30 was chambered for the 6.5x52mm Mannlicher-Carcano rifle cartridge which held proven man-stopping qualities yet was viewed as "underpowered" compared to her contemporaries such as the British .303 - particularly for a machine gun weapon. The action of the Modello 30 relied on a recoil-based blowback system of operation, an interesting choice considering the high-velocity nature of the weapon. The system was air-cooled - not requiring a water reservoir for the crew to tote - providing for maximum portability though forcing manual changing of an overheated barrel, usually after about 250 rounds of successive firing. Rate-of-fire was approximately 500 rounds per minute with a muzzle velocity of 2,066 feet per second and effective range was within 800 meters with an overall engagement range out to 3,000 meters.
Outwardly, the Modello 30 held a unique and rather clunky appearance that included a cut-down wooden shoulder stock, thin cylindrical receiver and side-mounted magazine - the shape was certainly not refined or streamlined in any way. The magazine was of particular note for it entered the frame (ahead of the trigger and pistol grip) at a 90-degree angle near the center of the gun along the right side. The box was fixed to the frame and set to hinge open for reloading by which "stripper" clips were inserted totaling 20 rounds. While allowing Italian machine gunners the ability to utilize existing stocks of 6.5mm ammunition, use of clips lowered the platform's rate-of-fire and increased reload times. Also, reliance on a permanently-fixed magazine meant that, if the magazine structure incurred any severe physical damage, it could render the entire machine gun useless until the part was replaced. The machine gun's feed system was forced to include an oil reservoir for cartridge lubrication to counter the effects of poor extraction due to the blowback operation. As can be expected, such a coating attracted all manner of debris once in-the-field.
The Modello 30 featured a front and rear iron sight for some ranged accuracy, these fitted on the receiver. Forward structural support was improved by way of a folding metal bipod though its legs were not adjustable - limiting effectiveness to train the gun on targets at long range. Each barrel was machined with cooling fins though overheating was a noted concern, leading to the installation of a knob to allow for handling of hot barrels. The knob was further rolled in insulating tape to protect the operator during the barrel-changing operation. The barrel was capped by a conical flash suppressor. Overall length of the gun was 48.5-inches using 20.5-inch barrels and weight reached 23lbs.
The Modello 30 was used in anger during the Second Italo-Abyssinian War spanning October of 1935 into May of 1936 which saw an Italian invasion of Ethiopia, resulting in an Italian victory. The Modello 30 then went on to see extensive combat action throughout World War 2 and it was during the North African campaign that the machine gun showcased its shortcomings, proving unreliable, inaccurate, cumbersome and prone to stoppages. The cartridge lubrication process invited sand and dust and cartridge extraction continued its problematic ways despite lubrication. Lacking a carrying handle of any sort, the Modello 30 required either use of both hands to collect for transport or placing the weapon upon the shoulder. The clip-loading system had its obvious disadvantages in the heat of battle and the side-mounted, fixed magazine lent itself well to snagging and incurring physical damage as it sat notably apart from the bulk of the weapon. Modello 30s were used by Italian forces during the invasion of Greece to which some examples fell to the enemy.
Despite the many inherent deficiencies, the Modello 30 remained the standard Italian light machine gun through all of World War 2 where Italian soldiers had to make do with what was issued to them. In comparison to its contemporaries, it stood as one of the poorer light machine gun offerings of the war. A revision in 1938 intended to introduce the more powerful 7.35mm cartridge along with a new barrel though all other facets of the original design were retained - including the noted limitations and deficiencies. Few Modello 38s were issued.