Italian F.N.A.B. Submachine Gun
By Jean Huon

The primary submachine guns used by Italy during World War II were made by Beretta and are well known by small arms shooters and collectors. These include the Beretta 1938 A, Beretta 1938/42, Beretta 1938/43 and the Beretta 1938/44. But there are some other models much less known, such as the F.N.A.B.

Produced in 1943 and 1944 by Fabbrica Nazionale d’ Armi de Brescia (F.N.A.B), it was used by both Italian and German troops at the end of the war and was also used by Italian partisans. Later, this gun was found in Tunisia and Algeria. The production of this model was approximately 7,000 guns. Few of them can be seen in European museums and are even scarcer in America.


The F.N.A.B is a very interesting model and probably one of the best of the classic submachine guns. The main characteristics are a folding stock, folding magazine, and delayed opening bolt. This last characteristic largely contributes to reducing the weight of the weapon and to limit its recoil. When an F.N.A.B. is first taken up in the hand, it is surprising by its lightness and balance with an excellent distribution of weight.

The main part of the weapon is made of a frame, the receiver, its cover and the barrel jacket. The cover is locked with a screw plug that also retains the recoil spring. The frame has a hardened bolt rest at the front.

The pistol grip consists of two wooden grips locked by a screw. The trigger mechanism is located in the frame and consists of the trigger, two trigger bars and the sear; associated with two levers located on the left side. The front lever is the safety. The down position (F) permits shooting while the upper position (S) locks the trigger. The rear lever is the selector. The down position (colpo) is for single shot and the upper position (raffica) is for full auto.

The folding stock is made of a tube installed on a rotary part on the right side face of the frame that allows the stock to be folded forward along the right side of the gun. It has a folding butt plate with two holes for weight reduction.

The rear ring for attaching the sling is located at the rear of the frame on the left side. The front sling ring is just under the front sight on the same side.

An uncommon feature is the magazine housing can be folded forward and it is possible to carry a loaded weapon with good security. The F.N.A.B. uses the 20 or 40-shot Beretta magazines.

The flat sided receiver has a curved cover. The ejection port is located on the top. It has also a barrel jacket made of a perforated tube, fixed on the receiver by four screws. The front of the barrel jacket has a combination muzzle-brake-compensator designed like the Russian PPSh41. The barrel is 9mm calibre and has six right grooves.

The bolt is made up of several parts. The bolt body with the cocking lever is assembled with the bolt head by a U shaped part. The bolt head contains the firing pin, spring and firing lever, and there are two amplifying levers, one on each side. The small recoil spring has no guide. The spring moves under the bolt and a plug of the bolt body pushes it. A leather buffer is located at the rear inside of the frame.

The rear sight is a fixed V notch milled at the top of the frame cover. The front sight is at the top of the barrel jacket and can be moved for adjustment to the right or left.

On some F.N.A.B.s used by the Germans, the original marks were milled and replaced by: MASCHINE-PISTOLE P.M. 43 over Cal. 9mm. In the same way, the reference marks of the selector were also deleted by milling.


The gunner introduces a loaded magazine into the magazine housing. The rear selector switch is in the upper position (full auto) and the forward safety lever is in the down position (fire).

The cocking lever is pulled to the rear and the recoil spring permits the bolt to return to the forward position chambering a cartridge. The bolt is locked by the amplifying levers and when the trigger is pulled, the firing lever permits the firing pin to ignite the primer.


The recoil force of the fired cartridge pushes the case to the rear out of the chamber pushing the bolt head. The bolt begins to recoil, but its travel is delayed because the amplifying lever works as a lock. After they move unlocking the bolt, the bolt can move to the rear and compresses the recoil spring. The empty case is extracted and ejected. The recoil is absorbed by the buffer. The compressed recoil spring now pushes the bolt forward and the firing process can be repeated. The left trigger bar pushes the sear for a new shot. When the selector is in the single shot position the left trigger bar moves up and the right trigger bar pushes the sear at each trigger pull of the shooter.

Disassembly and Assembly

Remove the magazine and clear the weapon. Unscrew the nut located at the rear of the frame and extract the recoil spring. Lift up and remove the frame cover. Retract the bolt to the rear and extract it from the frame. Remove the plug under the nut hole. Push the trigger frame down, allowing access to the trigger mechanism. To remove the bolt, push the U shaped part down and separate the bolt head and bolt body. Reassembly is carried out in the reverse order and does not present any particular difficulty.

Italian F.N.A.B.

Caliber: ..... 9mm
Ammunition: ..... 9mm Luger
Overall length: ..... 0.790 m (31.1 inches)
Length with stock folded: ..... 0.526 m (20.7 inches)
Barrel length: ..... 0.200 m (7.8 inches)
Weight of weapon without magazine: ..... 3.250 kg (7.17 pounds)
Capacity of magazine: ..... 20 or 40 rounds
Cyclic rate of fire: ..... 400 rpm
Manufacturer: ..... Fabbrica Nazionale, d’ Armi de Brescia

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V11N11 (August 2008)
and was posted online on August 24, 2012


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