Italian Anti-Tank Weapons

Ahell Types and Armour Penetration Capabilities

Italian Autoblindo AB40 armoured car.

Fiat/Spa AB40 Autoblindo armoured car equipped with two 8 mm machine guns. The RAFM model is from the collection of Patrick Storto. Later versions of the vehicle sported 20 mm L.65 Breda (AB41) or 47 mm L.32 Fiat guns (AB43).

The table lists armour penetration values for Italian guns at 0 to 100 meters range and 0 degrees inclination of armour. Dates indicate the year when a particular shell type entered production, not necessarily the year of availability to combat units. New shell types would take several months to reach the troops at the front, some favoured units receiving the new shells more quickly than others. Andrew Mark Reid is the author of Panzergranate, a set of miniature wargame rules using carefully researched gunnery data to simulate armour penetration results.

Weapon Projectile Penetration
8 mm Breda M37 HMG “K” Bullet 13 mm
Carro Veloce L3/33 and L3/35 had twin 8 mm Breda MGs. Apparently, there was even a version of the L3 Tankette with a roof-mounted 45 mm Brixia mortar in addition to the twin MGs. The Brixia was a magazine-fed, breech-loaded, and trigger-fired mortar with a theoretical rate of fire of 25 to 30 rounds per minute.
8 mm Fiat (Revelli) M35 HMG “K” Bullet 13 mm
13.2 mm Breda M31 HMG A.P. 29 mm
Mounted on the Carro Veloce L3/38 Tankette.
14 mm Radom Anti-Tank Rifle (Polish) A.P.
20 mm S.18/100 Solothurn Anti-Tank Rifle A.P. 38 mm
Mounted on a variant of the Carro Veloce L3/35 Tankette.
20 mm L.65 Breda AA/AT-Gun A.P. 36 mm
20 mm L.77 Scotti Anti-tank Gun A.P. 43 mm
37 mm L.33 High Velocity Tank Gun A.P. (Carbon Steel) 42 mm
Main armament of the Fiat 3000 M21 light tank, built in the 1920s. This was the first high velocity gun purposely built to destroy tanks, all other tank and anti-tank weapons were adaptations of naval, field or anti-aircraft guns. It also started the move away from A.P.H.E. to Solid Shot. The performance may seem paltry when compared with larger guns or even 47 mm low velocity guns, but a tank can carry more of the smaller 37 mm rounds, so logistics come into play here. As the average target tank carried only 8 to 14 mm of armour, this gun was the "88 mm" of its day. 20 mm and 25 mm guns also became popular during the 1930s, because Manganese Steel A.P. rounds improved the performance enough to allow weapons this small.
37 mm L.40 Vickers-Terni Tank Gun A.P. 58 mm
Main armament of the Fiat/Ansaldo/Fossati M11/39 medium tank. The Vickers/Terni has a calculated performance of 58 mm at 0 to 100 meters range if modelled on the 37 mm L.45 PaK 35 gun. Modelled on the British 2 pdr (40 mm L.52), penetration would be 60 mm, or 55 mm if the Vickers 3 pdr (47 mm L.41) is used as the basis for the calculation.
37 mm L.45 Anti-tank Gun (PaK 35 copy) A.P. 65 mm
37 mm L.54 Breda Anti-tank Gun A.P. 78 mm
47 mm L.32 Fiat 47/32 M37 Tank Gun A.P. (M.1935) 58 mm
47 mm L.32 Fiat 47/32 M37 Tank Gun E.P. «Effeto Pronto» 112 mm
Main armament of the Fiat M13/40 medium tank. The 47/32 was a self-loading weapon, with a circular magazine tray attached to the turret ring. This gave the Fiat M13/40 the same high rate of fire as that of a vehicle with a three-man turret crew. The Effeto Pronto shell had an unusual size for a hollow-charge, because 75 mm is regarded as the smallest practical size for an effective H.E.A.T. shell. Performance of the 47 mm Effeto Pronto shell would be slightly less than that of the 50 mm Bazooka round.
47 mm L.36 Breda 47/32 M35 Anti-tank Gun A.P. (M.1935) 64 mm
47 mm L.36 Breda 47/32 M35 Anti-tank Gun E.P. «Effeto Pronto» 112 mm
A licensed version of the Austrian Böhler anti-tank gun, manufactured by Breda and supplied to the Italian, Finnish, and Romanian army. An upgraded Modello 39 appeared shortly before the war, and there are pictures showing this weapon with a gun shield. Nevertheless, many of the Breda 47/32 M39 guns seem to have been deployed in combat without the shield. The tank destroyer version of the L6/40 light tank, designated Carro Semovente L40, mounted the Breda 47/32 L.36 in an open-topped hull. L6/40 light tanks were also converted to Porta Munizione L40 which carried 66 rounds of ammunition for the Semovente 90/53.
47 mm L.44 Tank Gun da 47/40 A.P. 78 mm
47 mm L.44 Tank Gun da 47/40 E.P. «Effeto Pronto» 112 mm
Main armament of the Fiat/Ansaldo/Fossati M15/42 medium tank. There is a possibility that this gun is actually the Czech 47 mm L.43 anti-tank gun which was captured by the Wehrmacht, and which saw service as late as the 1944 Normandy campaign. Only three were used in Normandy, but, if the Germans had enough of these guns in inventory, many more may have been passed on to the Italian army in previous years. If the Italian 47/40 is indeed the Czech 47 mm L.43, its performance would be 86 mm at 0-100 metres.
47 mm L.52 Tank Gun da 47/48 A.P. 93 mm
47 mm L.52 Tank Gun da 47/48 E.P. «Effeto Pronto» 112 mm
65 mm L.17.7 Arsenal Turin 65/17 Mountain Gun A.P. 37 mm
65 mm L.17.7 Arsenal Turin 65/17 Mountain Gun E.P. «Effeto Pronto» 120 mm
Main armament of the Fiat 2000 heavy tank of World War One, and still in service as an infantry support weapon in World War Two. The gun was probably based on the 65 mm M.06 Schneider mountain gun.
75 mm L.25 Semovente da 75/18 S.P. Gun A.P. 59 mm
75 mm L.25 Semovente da 75/18 S.P. Gun E.P. «Effeto Pronto» 120 mm
Main armament of the Carro Semovente M40 and M42 da 75/18, a self-propelled howitzer based on the M13/40 medium tank. Period photos show these vehicles with a variety of improvised protection consisting of spare track sections, and sandbags applied to supplement the flimsy armour of the M13/40. The gun is either the same as or very similar to the French 75 mm L.25 Schneider-Canet M.98/00 de Cavalerie.
75 mm L.30 Field Gun da 75/27 A.P. 71 mm
Main armament of the Autocanonne 75/27, a portee version of the field gun mounted on the Italian SPA-35 truck. There also existed a Semovente da 75/27. The gun is supposed to be a copy of the German 75 mm L.30 Krupp M.1906 field gun, which in turn may have been inspired by the French M.1897 Puteaux field gun.
75 mm L.36.3 Puteaux M.1897 Field Gun A.P. 90 mm
75 mm L.36.3 Puteaux M.1897 Field Gun E.P. «Effeto Pronto» 120 mm
Italian 75 mm field guns would normally employ the effeto pronto shell against static targets like pillboxes and bunkers. With a few exceptions, like the British 25 pdr, field guns were not equipped with telescopic sights which would have facilitated targeting a moving vehicle. The typical field artillery anti-tank firing procedure involved sighting through the barrel, ready to load and fire a quick shot as soon as the target appeared.
75 mm L.36.6 Semovente da 75/32 A.P. 86 mm
The 75 mm L.36.6 Ansaldo field gun was converted to an anti-tank gun, and it was mounted on the inofficial 75/32 variant of the Semovente M41 75/18. The gun is either a copy of the French 75 mm L.36.6 Schneider M.1914 field gun or it may be a Schneider export in Italian inventory.
75 mm L.38 Breda 75/34 Tank Gun A.P. 90 mm
75 mm L.38 Breda 75/34 Tank Gun E.P. «Effeto Pronto» 120 mm
Main armament of the Carro Armato Pesante Fiat/Ansaldo P40 heavy tank, and the Semovente 75/34 mounted on M42 and M43 hulls.
75 mm L.50? Breda 75/46 M.34 Anti-Tank Gun A.P. 115 mm
75 mm L.50? Breda 75/46 M.34 Anti-Tank Gun E.P. «Effeto Pronto» 120 mm
Main armament of the Semovente M43 da 75/46, a German variant combining confiscated Italian guns and vehicles. The confirmed range test performance of the A.P. round fired by the Breda 75/46 is surprisingly low compared to the German 75 mm L.48 PaK 39 or the Romanian 75 mm Resita copy of the same weapon, both of which penetrate 144 mm of homogeneous armour. A probable explanation is that the Breda 75/46 entered service too late in the war to have dedicated ammunition production set up for it. Shorter 75/34 cartridges may have been used in the interim period, and their smaller explosive charge would explain the lack of performance. The 75/46 M.34 appears to have been based on an obsolete anti-aircraft gun of WW1 vintage, possibly the French 75 mm Puteaux anti-aircraft gun.
88 mm L.59 A.P. 206 mm
88 mm L.59 A.P.C.R. 260 mm
A modification of the 90 mm L.58 which fired available German 88 mm ammunition. If the modification was done after the Italian armistice of September 1943, these guns were probably used by Italian units which remained loyal to the Germans.
90 mm L.58 Semovente da 90/53 A.P. 206 mm
The 90 mm L.58 was mounted on the Italian Carro Semovente M41 da 90/53 tank destroyer. The vehicle used only the lower hull of the M13/40 tank. The driver sat in a well at the front of the vehicle, he was exposed. The gun crew rode on the vehicle, and stood behind the unshielded gun when in action. The vehicle carried only six rounds of ammunition, and it was accompanied into battle by a Porta Munizione L40 which transported another 66 rounds. Semovente 90/53 tank destroyers were used in action during the Invasion of Sicily in 1943, and they were either captured intact or knocked out in the course of the campaign. It would be very simple to convert an ESCI M13/40 to this vehicle using the Airfix 88 mm FlaK gun. Pictures of the Semovente 90/53 can be found in "The Encyclopaedia of Military Vehicles" published in 1980. This new information means that the Italian 88 mm L.71 did not exist, and that pictures with this reference actually show 90 mm L.58 FlaK guns. The two weapons are almost identical, and the 90 mm L.58 was sometimes refered to as the Italian 88.
100 mm L.22 Field Gun 100/17 A.P. 75 mm
The 100/17 is probably a copy of the 100 mm L.22 Skoda field gun.
102 mm L.39 Autocanonne 102/35 A.P. 157 mm
Mounted on the Milmart (Naval Blackshirt) Autocanonne 102/35, and used with great success at the battle of Bir el Gobi by the Giovanni Fascisti (Young Fascists) Regiment.
102 mm L.44 Semovente da 102/40 A.P. 178 mm
Mounted on the Semovente Tipo-102, a six-wheeled armoured Tank Destroyer. The vehicle may have been based on the Dovunque truck, it had a well sloped front and an open fighting compartment. A variant of the same vehicle mounted the 90/53 gun, but it is not certain that either of them were used in combat.
105 mm L.28 Semovente da 105/25 A.P. 76 mm
105 mm L.28 Semovente da 105/25 E.P. «Effeto Pronto» 121 mm
Main armament of the Semovente M43 105/25. The weapon may be a licensed version of the German 105 mm L.28 howitzer mounted in StuH 42 assault howitzer.
120 mm L.48 Semovente da 120/44 A.P. 228 mm
Main armament of the Semovente 120/44 which may not have progressed beyond the prototype stage. The vehicle was similar to the Semovente M41 90/53.
149 mm L.44 Semovente da 149/40 A.P. 259 mm
Main armament of the Carro Semovente Fiat/Ansaldo da 149/40. The weapon may be a licensed Czech gun.

There is a noticeable difference between official Italian designations like that of the Breda 47/32 and the actual 47 mm L.36 measurements of the same weapon. Apparently, the Italian army used a system of barrel measurement which accounted only for the rifled section of the barrel, ignoring the smoothbore section against which the cartridge rested, but which did contribute to the overall velocity of the shell. Why this measuring system was used, is not immediately apparent. The French army measured its artillery in this way in WW1, but adopted the standard European measurement later. The Italian calibre length designations conveniently disguise the origins of several of the weapons listed above, and this may have been intented. Upon closer inspection, we have been able to match several Italian guns to the weapons of other nations they were based on.

Many Italian guns and vehicles were captured by Allied forces in North Africa, and they were used by a number of Commonwealth formations. Equipment captured at Tobruk in 1940 was transferred to the Greek army, but it did not perform well when the Wehrmacht invaded the Balkans.

Andy Reid

Italian Miniatures of World War Two