Italian .303

Well… just got ahold of these babies… Italian .303 on Prideaux links…

Headstamp - BPD 39 (Bombrini Parodi Delfino, Rome, Italy 1939) and one SMI 937 (Societ

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The 3-digit date on the SMI cases is a common headstamp style from this factory

These cartridges are better known as 7.7 mm Breda Safat , to tell them from the rounds commonly used in rifles

The blue tipped ones, API-phosphorus, are well known in Spain. They were furnished by Italy during the spanish civil war, for airborne machine guns. In 1959 there were still 50.000 rounds in the Air Force inventory, plus 70.000 of the same kind in 12,7 Breda caliber.

But I had never heard of a thermite bullet with green tip. Green tipped cartridges were shipped to Spain also, but they were AP with steel core, and of course they didn’t have the distinctive API holes in the ogive.

The other types sent to Spain were ball and tracer (red tip).

And by the way, does anybody know the aircraft machine gun belts composition? How were they loaded: how many ball, how many tracer, how many API?

The only 7,7 mm Breda that I know with the green tip was the API Thermite one.

The italian 303 British rounds ( used in rifles) with an AP bullet have no colored tip , and a green annulus around the primer

Do you have a picture of an italian AP bullet with green tip?The color could had been added later for exportation to Spain

The “MB” marked limks are Italian, but I cannot remember who made them. Had they been British, “MB” would have been the Metal Box Co. who made millions of chargers and links.

The WWG" Mark III and III* links are British though and were made by W.W.Greener of Birmingham. The difference between the III and III* is a slight change in the strengthening ribs and I believe the radii of the corners.


To add to what TonyE said above; The List of Change which introduced the III* on 21st of December 1917 stated that:

"The Mark III* link differs from the Mark III in that an .04-inch radius is formed in all corners and bends, and that the link is marked III* in Roman numerals on the plain loop instead of the marking being on the flat portion. Both alterations are introduced to lessen the possibility of fracture and distortion.

An alternative pattern of the above-mentioned Mark III* link has been approved to facilitate manufacture. It differs only in that the corrugations on the joint or centre loop and small or front clip do not entirely encircle them, but finish 1/16th inch clear of each side of the bar of the link."

Mark III links are uncommon and one of yours may be a faintly stamped Mark III*, especially if the marking is on the plain loop.

gravelbelly (edited to correct mark number

Will these Prideaux links work with the .303 Browning? JG

No, they will not. These Prideaux links are made to run in Maxim/Vickers type guns which had that spacer between each cartridge as did the fabric belts for such guns. The Browning uses closely pitched cartridges, in .303" the rims virtually touch each other. The links are not interchangeable at all.


Gravelbelly: Thanks for the Prideaux link information. The Browning began to replace the Vickers about this time (1937 or so), and, in doing a quick google search, I found that the early production Gloster Gladiator was armed with two synchronized Vickers in the fuselage and two underwing (lower wing, that is) fixed non-synchronized Lewis guns. This array was fairly quickly replaced by four .303 Brownings. JG

Forgive me for gatecrashing your speciality Dave, but here are some pictures of British links for the aircraft Vickers guns.

Mark I

Mark II

Early Mark III type, marked “Prideaux Patent”

Mark III and III*

The Mark III and III* are indistinguishable in a small picture from each other.


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[quote=“Pivi”]The only 7,7 mm Breda that I know with the green tip was the API Thermite one.

The italian 303 British rounds ( used in rifles) with an AP bullet have no colored tip , and a green annulus around the primer

Do you have a picture of an italian AP bullet with green tip?The color could had been added later for exportation to Spain[/quote]

I am sorry to report that I don’t have a specimen to photograph. I don’t even have a bullet in my bullet collection.

The data I provided comes from an spanish air force ammunition catalog dated 1948. It says that both SMI and BPD loaded these cartridges:

But, did they really exist? Has anybody ever seen an italian 7,7 Breda AP with CN jacket and green tip?

If Spain used green colored tips to identify AP bullets ( I don’t know) it is possible that the color was added by the italian factories for exportation in Spain

The “MB” in the oval is Breda Meccanica Bresciana (Brescia Plant of Breda).

Italian 7,7 ammo, besides being used a lot in the Spanish Civil War (italian Airforce, and also planes supplied to Franco’s Forces, which continued making 7,7 (.303) at Sevilla (PS) into the 1950s), was also used widely in North Africa by both italian Airforce and Specialised Ground Forces, especially after capturing large quantities of Bren Guns in 1940, in the initial push to Egypt.The Italians continued using captured Brens in NAf until their surrender there in 1942/3.

AFter WW II, the new Republican Army was armed initially with .303 small arms, and so the factories continued making 7,7 ammo as Rifle ammo; old stocks of course were used up in training.

Italy also made use of Lewis Guns in 7,7 as flexible guns in a lot of its Bomber aircraft, in open cockpits. It is unknown whether these Lewis Guns were made by BSA (some initially were) or they were made “under Licence” in the 1930s in Italy. Guns from any Italian Royal Airforce craft are exceedingly rare…most were destroyed during or at war’s end, although some may have survived in the old airforces of Finland and Spain, and maybe even China…they are just not seen in any collections or Museums.

Doc AV
AV ballistics.

Thanks for all the replys… I appreciate all the info…:D

The links look close to my 7.7 Jap Navy link. Did they copy these?


The Japanese, quite independantly of Italy, in the early 1920s, bought in both Vickers and Lewis Guns for Aircraft use, along with quantities of .303 ammo and Metal (Prideaux) Link from British manufacturers.
AS part of the Allied Entenete in W W I, they had much experience in Battle observation in Europe as to the newest Air Force usages of MGs of all types.
The Japanese forcves in WW I participated mostly in Naval Convoy and Protection duties (Esp. from Australia and Sth Africa), and also in subdueing the German garrisons and colonies in the North Pacific and China.

They decided to adopt a Vickers Aircraft aircooled design for Body mounting on Aircraft, and the Navy adopted the Lewis as an Observer gun, and as a MG for Light vessels (AA use mostly). After considering the Vickers and BSA made guns, the Japanese built their own, but NOT exact copies…not many parts will interchange with British made originals (The Lewis Mags will, but little else. And of course the Ammo and Links…

Doc AV
AV Ballistics.