Going Full-Auto with an Italian .308


Full-auto battle rifles are fun to shoot, but when they are chambered in .30-cal. control becomes a serious concern. How do you run one and keep the rounds on target?

Man shooting rifle with 7.62x51 NATO round at 750 rounds per minute
Shooting 7.62×51 NATO rounds at 750 rounds per minute is no joke. The design and shooter technique help to control it.

The gun we’re using today is an Italian battle rifle derived from the M1 Garand. It might look very familiar to fans of the Springfield Armory M1A and the U.S. military M14. Well before you can address this gun directly, you first have to understand where it came from.

The Backstory

The M1 Garand was the world’s first standard-issue self-loading rifle and it served in the capacity of millions of issued rifles. It was employed heavily throughout World War II, as well as into the Cold War. It proved to be an extremely robust and powerful rifle. However, it did have its tactical limitations in that it could only feed from eight-round en-bloc clips, and it also was a very large and heavy rifle.

Man shooting a BM 59, an Italian version of a modernized M1 Garand
The BM 59 is the Italian version of a modernized M1 Garand that saw use by the Italian Army up until the ’90s.

As a result, the United States began considering how to adapt the best features of the M1 Garand over to a newer design, but also address its limitations in capacity, firepower, size and weight, and more. The result was the development of the M14 rifle, which carried over the best features of the Garand while attempting to address its shortcomings. It also resulted in the development of a shorter cartridge for the rifle, in the 7.62x51mm NATO/.308 round.

Man shooting battle rifle in .308
Italian engineers focused heavily on the development of the “Tri-Compensator” for the muzzle to help control muzzle rise.

With the switch to a new rifle and a new round, the newly formed North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was faced with a need to develop small arms chambered for the 7.62mm round. Italy, as part of NATO, was faced with this problem. However, Italy had large stockpiles of M1 Garand rifles, as well as the ability to produce more. To save costs over developing a totally new rifle, they decided to adapt the M1 Garand to the new round, as well as a detachable magazine and many other modern features.

Italian rifle with bipod
The rifle came with a bipod attached to make it more shootable off a bench or, more likely, in the prone position.

The end result was the BM 59, a modern, select-fire battle rifle designed for the rigors of battlefield use, and one that looked a lot like the M14 — but was still unique and distinctive. While the American’s made attempts to utilize the M14 as a full-auto firearm, its extreme recoil made it very difficult to control. The Italians recognized the same issue in their efforts but developed an extremely effective “Tri-Compensator” that help tame muzzle rise and make sure the rifle was usable as a full-auto firearm.

For an even more in-depth history of this gun, be sure to read “Sibling Rivalry? The Italian BM 59” by Francisco Jardim.

Hands-On

So, did the Italian battle rifle actually achieve its goal of being an affordable alternative to the M14, which actually had the advantage of being controllable in full auto? We had a chance recently to get our hands on a sample of the full-auto BM 59, produced in the 1980s by Geneseo, Illinois’ Springfield Armory here in the United States with original Italian parts.

Man shooting rifle full auto burst
Running full-auto creates a rainbow of spend brass cases out the right side of the rifle.

The rifle is stamped with Beretta markings on the heel of the receiver, and on the side of the receiver with Springfield Armory markings. This rifle is a transferable machine gun, meaning it’s one that civilians can own in the United States. A gun like this is a true collector’s item, with an estimated value in the $14K to $16K range. We were able to borrow this gun from Midwest Tactical, the nation’s largest volume machine gun dealer.

Man carrying an Italian battle rifle
The machine gun we used in our video was a Springfield Armory BM 59. The rare rifle was manufactured by Springfield back several decades ago using Italian parts.

We were able to get it out to the range for this piece to try it out and see how it was to fire, and if it did achieve its goal of controllable full-auto firepower in .308. While the recoil was impressive, we did find that you could manage the gun if you did your part and controlled your bursts. We were able to keep all our shots on the berm, and the gun ran like a champ. It is amazing that a rifle that weighs around 10 lbs and fires .308 can be fired liked this in full-auto and be controllable. If you do your part, the rifle will do its part.

Conclusion

So, there you have it. A hands-on test of an ultra-rare Springfield Armory BM 59 in full auto. We hope you enjoyed watching this as much as did doing this review. To find guns like this for sale, and ones cheaper or more expensive on auction, go visit GunSpot.com.

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Author: Joey Webster

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