Forgotten Franchis: More Obscure Italian Military Automatics

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While today the Italian company Franchi is not a heavy-hitting military small arms manufacturer, in the mid-1950s the company did produce some very interesting rifles, carbines, and submachine guns for the military market. The most recognizable of these is the LF-57 submachine gun, a simple blowback submachine gun very similar in design and appearance to the contemporary Walther MPL. Like that weapon, the LF-57 used a heavy, overhanging bolt to control cyclic rate of fire down to about 500 rounds per minute. The LF-57 ultimately wasn’t a huge success for Franchi, and only a few nations (including Italy) bought it.

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Although it did make an appearance in Predator 2

 

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And in Total Recall.

 

During this period, however, Franchi produced two other very interesting firearms that did not see appreciable sales. Both were based on the same basic action, which coupled a fixed piston operating rod to a very FAL-like tilting bolt, and which utilized a very unique dual-hammer firing mechanism. In fully automatic, the sear would trip the first hammer, which would rotate about 90 degrees where, at the end of its travel, it would trip the second hammer, which would strike the firing pin. As a result, lock time in fully automatic was doubled, and rate of fire successfully reduced to (again) about 500 rounds per minute.

The first design produced was called the LF-58, chambered for the American .30 Carbine caliber; it was intended for Italian mountain troops:

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Once it became clear that NATO was standardizing on the much more powerful 7.62x51mm caliber, Franchi engineers scaled up the design to that caliber, resulting in the LF-59, a virtual dead-ringer for the FAL:

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Very few examples of either type were ever produced, and neither achieved any sales. Still, they represent a look at what might-have-been for Franchi. Had they succeeded, might we now regard Franchi as one of the heavy-hitting military small arms producers in the world? Who knows!

Virtually all the information on the LF-58 and LF-59 in this article come from two articles, one in Guns Review and one in American Rifleman, written by Ugo Venturoli in 1971. You can find both articles in JPG form at exordinanza.net, or view the Guns Review article in PDF form below:

Guns Review – THE FRANCHI LF 58 CARBINE AND THE FRANCHI LF 59 ASSAULT RIFLE, by Ugo Venturoli

There is an entry for the LF-58 (called the “LF-57” for some reason) and LF-59 in Johnston and Nelson’s comprehensive volume The World’s Assault Rifles, where you can also find the photos above. Forgotten Weapons also has available a Franchi sales brochure for the LF-57 on their website.

Readers can also check out previous articles from TFB on obscure Italian military weapons, such as the shotgun-esque Breda 39Beretta trials rifles, and unknown Italian machine gun designs!



Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He can be reached via email at nathaniel.f@staff.thefirearmblog.com.


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