Breda Safat 12,7mm ammunition

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Alex T.
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Breda Safat 12,7mm ammunition

Post by Alex T. » Wed Jul 29, 2009 2:46 am

I finally found some! :-)
I went to Beltring War and Peace Show 2009 and among the hundreds of militaria stalls I found some of our Italian ammo.
I will post pictures later, it's interesting (and sad!) to compare it to a normal .50cal and see how obsolete the Italian ammo looked (and performed!) compared to it.
Next task is finding some original Breda 7,7mm ammunition, which are pretty much like the British .303!

Cheers

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Post by Editor » Wed Jul 29, 2009 7:48 am

Alex, you might want to review the ballistics for the SAFATs (which I assume you're referring to ie., ammo for the 0.5 in MG). The SAFATs performed pretty much the same job as the Brownings (muzzle velocity and range) except for the rate of fire (but depending on the type of round used in the Browning waepon) which was a little less - ammo included! Just a note, even though your post focuses on ammo, the SAFAT designs were based on the Browning weapons.
Last edited by Editor on Wed Jul 29, 2009 8:09 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by Alex T. » Wed Jul 29, 2009 8:06 am

I don't have the precise specs here with me at the moment, but I'll have a look.
What I can tell you for sure is that ballistically the Safat ammunition was way inferior to its Ally counterpart. The case was shorter and had less powder, hence giving a lower energy (something around 10k joules, as opposed to the 18k+ joules of the US .50 cal); the bullet shape (in the case of the explosive rounds) was flat headed, with a consequent poor aerodynamic performance (and a very low explosive quantity) and last but not least, the rate of fire through the propeller arc (circa 575rpm) and the weight of the machineguns themselves made it quite a low performing weapon among its counterparts, at least from a distance. It still was deadly up close, and that's how the Italian pilots actually achieved their results.
Weapons tended to jam too, and it was reported in some ANR wrecks recovered in these years that sometimes the ammunition belts (built up by hand by the armourers) had one or more round inverted, causing the weapon to jam: sabotage? extreme distraction? the answer will probably never known.
The 7,7 were pretty much similar to the Brownings, and had all the limitations of a light calibre gun.

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Post by Editor » Wed Jul 29, 2009 8:20 am

Alex, you're buying into too many of the myths. The SAFAT was universally recognized as a reliable weapon. In fact the weapons continued to be used in a secondary role as late as the 1970s. The muzzle velocity of these weapons was comparable to the Brownings and keep in mind the SAFAT design was based on the M2. Also, show me a formal request for a replacement for the weapon? There’s none because the pilots found the weapon to be adequate. In fact you should read allied pilot accounts of what happened to their planes when hit by these weapons. The weapons were supplemneted with 20mm canons only when the US four engine heavy bombers showed-up and still the weapons continued to be used. The rate of fire you're referring to was not a limitation of the gun, the gun had a rate of fire of approx 700 rpm, not that dissimilar to the browning weapon. Also energy can be misleading since the energy of the projectile dissapiated over its trajectory, so point of measure is never given - I'd throw out that stat.
Last edited by Editor on Wed Jul 29, 2009 8:32 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by Alex T. » Wed Jul 29, 2009 8:31 am

Vince, I'll have a look at some ballistic data before getting back on the topic, I'll try and compare what we had vs what they had ;)

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Post by Editor » Wed Jul 29, 2009 7:21 pm

Image

Alex,
Here's a table that compares the MGs used on various allied and axis aircraft. There's allot to talk about in this table, but if you focus on the hitting power expressed at the muzzle in kj, there's nothing to choose from between the Japanese Ho-103 and the Breda-SAFAT. I bet you wouldn't get a whole lot of US pilots claiming the Zero's shooting at them were a piece of cake. But for some reason English historians insist that their pilots believed the SAFATs shooting at them were mere toys. I recall reading a comparison of the SAFAT and the Ho and the writer stating how the Ho-103 was superior because it was 6 kg lighter! But the writer failed to mention that the Ho used a Breda cartridge (something the writer probably didn’t know). Well if your gonna hang your hat on 6 kg, I'd rather be in a Macchi than a Zero. The Zero was a great fighter however the Macchi was a far better machine. Back to the table, the SAFAT had more than twice the hitting power and its kinetic energy made its effective range twice that of 0.303 in weapon. Which would you rather have in combat? All in all, making a reasonable and fair comparison, the SAFAT was a sound weapon.
Last edited by Editor on Wed Jul 29, 2009 10:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by Vincent Biondi » Wed Jul 29, 2009 8:58 pm

Hello Alex,
Just a note to add to Vince's comments; in the book Courage Alone, by Chris Dunning, the author states.....the SAFAT machine guns were generally efficient and reliable, using a mix of solid, incendiary and tracer bullets. The 12.7 mm gun outranged the machine guns of their opponents with a close punch as good as the US 0.5".....
So as Vince has stated, the SAFAT was a sound weapon!
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Post by Alex T. » Thu Jul 30, 2009 4:46 am

Ok, I still haven't managed to check my stuff at home, but just having a look at the chart u posted I think I can explain myself better:

Let's proceed in order:

1) the 0.5in is superior both in weight and shape to the Breda bullet. A heavier bullet means better penetration factor, especially if we consider the higher amount of powder cased in the 0.5in case.

2)The muzzle velocity, although being an average one for the Breda (different bullets have different muzzle speeds, because of their aerodynamics and weight), is far superior. Please note how the Ho-103 performance with the same bullet is quite superior too.

3)Rounds per minute are referred to a non syncronyzed machine gun, and still they're inferior to the US one. It's interesting to note how the same ammunition performed sensibly better on the Ho-103 machinegun, which not only was lighter, but delivered a sensibly higher rate of fire (900rpm is a lot, compensating the low bullet weight with the capacity to deliver more bullets on the same spot, this because of the higher rate of fire). Syncronyzed machineguns (especially the 7,7mm) teneded to jam because of extreme conditions (sand mainly). Things would have been way worse if it wasnt for the oustanding job made by armourers.

4)Hitting power of the 0.5in is gonna be considerably superior to the Italian counterpart because of the aforementioned bullet weight and characteristics.

5)Another consideration is the kind of bullets: the Americans used only AP, API and/or APT ammo, all with the same shape and pretty much the same weight, whereas the Italian ammo also included the HE rounds, which were of doubtful performance because of the relatively small amount of explosive charge; both the British and Americans discarded the use of HE because the performance was considered not adequate(The Germans overcame the “size issue” with a brilliant solution, the MG131, a big 13mm round whose HE rounds were REALLY effective.)

In view of all these data, let’s do some simple math:
An ideal 1 second burst from a US M2 machinegun would deliver circa 14 rounds, which means circa 0,73kg worth of metal at a total 283.22Kjoules.

An ideal 1 second burst from a Breda Safat machinegun would deliver circa 12 rounds (119,16Kj) for a non synced one and 9(89,37Kj) for a synced one, which means circa 0,4kg for the former and 0,32kg for the latter.

As you can see the performance is quite different.

Now bear in mind that you’ll have to multiply at least by 6 times for the US M2 (if not 8 for the P-47!), so a P-40, P-51 or any other “6pack” plane would deliver 4.38kg of metal for an outstanding 1132.88Kjoules in a second; an average RA plane will have 2 Breda Safat and will deliver 0,8kg (238,32Kj) or, even worse, 0,64kg (178.74Kj) in the same time. Basically u needed to hit yr target with a 10 secs long burst with a Breda Safat to obtain the same results the M2 would achieve in 1 second!

In the end we can say that the performance of the American M2 was far superior to any of its counterparts (the only one getting close to it was the Russian 12,7mm).
So I'd hate to say that the Breda were crap(even if it's hard not to, compared to the M2!), but what we can say for sure is that they needed a lot more skills to be used proficiently.

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Post by Editor » Thu Jul 30, 2009 7:28 am

Alex T. wrote:So I'd hate to say that the Breda were crap(even if it's hard not to, compared to the M2!), but what we can say for sure is that they needed a lot more skills to be used proficiently.
This is where you go wrong, the Breda-SAFAT was not "crap" as you say. There were no formal requests by pilots or the RA to replace the SAFAT until the appearance of the US four engine heavy bombers. As the table shows, the SAFAT compared reasonably well to other MGs of the period including the German MGs. There are others who dispute the effectiveness or lack of, of the HE rounds including pilot reports that I could post if you like. You shouldn't rely on Wikipedia as a sole source of info Alex. I think you're focusing way-too heavily on showing-up weaknesses of the gun as opposed to making a fair and thorough comparison to other guns of the period. In your own post regarding Costantino Petrosellini, the SAFATs on Petrosellini's C.200 were effective enough to down a B-17. If that isn't enough for you I don't know what is.

Regarding comparisons to the M2, the difference in hitting power is a primarily a function of the weight of the projectile, all else appears to be more or less equal. I think if you want to make a fair comparison, you should focus on the Ho-103 instead.

Where there was a clear superiority in weaponry, the RA gladly made use of available weapons such as the German 20mm MG 151s as opposed to using the Breda 20mm canons or the use of the DB 601 or DB 605 instead of Italian made engines. But no such evidence exists that RA pilots believed the Breda-SAFAT was deficient.
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Post by Alex T. » Thu Jul 30, 2009 8:17 am

Vince, I appreciate your fervour, and once again I didn't call them crap, all I did was looking at facts, not pilot reports (which can be fallacious) or Wikipedia, and my comments are based on my studies on the real ammunition that I have together with the data that you provided.

I also had the luck to see a Breda Safat and an M2 for real: I got the chance to study them deeply, and again there are many things that could have been done in a better way. The fact that we didn't use them after the war, and that the M2 is still rocking around, should say it all on which one is the best anyway.

As for the B.17 being shot down: it really is remarkable, but it's a rare if not unique case I believe. When talking about shooting down a plane there are many factors that need to be taken into account; anyway, once singled out of a formation it would have been an easier target to knock down, since all you need to do was hose the cockpit area with your weapons, and that can be done effectively with any machinegun.

Once again Vince, I'm not saying the Breda was crap, I am saying that it performed poorly compared to what the Germans and the Allies had available for the same caliber, besides the number of guns was not sufficient to give a strong punch. Up close they would have been effective as any other heavy machine gun, but from a distance you couldn't achieve the effective and deflected shots which were typical of the US .50cal
Imagine having to approach a plane that is shooting back at you with a more effective weapon and you have to get well within its firing range to place some effective shots..

Or as a friend of mine says: imagine having to fight against a guy with a whip and all you have is your trousers belt.. You'll be able to hit him, but you'll have to get really close, and the pain he'll cause you will be much more than what you can cause him :D

That is the reason why (no, not the belt/whip thing!) the Germans developed the Mk.108: they needed to deliver a tremendous punch in the smallest time available and without taking too much care for accuracy. We had to aim for the cockpits, the Germans hosed the B-17s and B-24s with explosive bullets the size of a fist, literally tearing the planes down!!
Last edited by Alex T. on Thu Jul 30, 2009 12:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Editor » Thu Jul 30, 2009 9:30 am

Alex T. wrote: I am saying that it performed poorly compared to what the Germans and the Allies had available for the same caliber, besides the number of guns was not sufficient to give a strong punch. Up close they would have been effective as any other heavy machine gun, but from a distance you couldn't achieve the effective and deflected shots which were typical of the US .50cal
Alex what you're saying doesn’t make sense, then the same logic applies to the British 0.303 in ? Ballistics show that the SAFAT was no different in performance than its contemporaries and taken together with pilot reports (that tell a very real and different story), the SAFAT was a sound weapon. Show me a single RA request for an alternate weapon or a report that supports what you’re saying ? You don't have this evidence because it never existed. And this is the main problem with the histories of that period written immediately after WWII, and why allot if its being updated e.g,. Dunning, Ian W. Walker, Sadkovich etc.
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Post by Vincent Biondi » Thu Jul 30, 2009 10:08 am

Hello Alex,
Again to add what Vince has just pointed out, the same logic applies to the British 0.303.
In fact Gloster Gladiators had four 0.303 guns and had to get to within 300 yards for them to be effective in a dog fight.
The Fiat CR42, on the other hand, had two 12.7 guns and could start firing at its opponent at 700 yards!
The combat record for the CR42, speaks for itself.
However, Alex I do think that if the average Italian aircraft had been equipped with four 12.7 guns, we wouldn't be having this discussion.
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Post by Editor » Thu Jul 30, 2009 11:58 am

Alex,
Here are the figures for the MG.131 that equipped variants of the Bf.109:

Gun: MG 131
Ammo: Panzerbrandgranaten AP/HE
Caliber: 0.51 in (13 mm)
Projectile: 0.0380 kg
Muzzle Vel.: 710 m/s
Hitting power: 9.58 kj

So add these figures to the list above and what you get is that German, Japanese and Italian aircraft were all similarly armed. In fact the Breda-SAFAT had a little more "punch" than the MG.131. And when you take into account the 7.7mm wing guns of the C.202, the Macchi was no different than comparable variants of the Bf.109 and Zero. These figures certainly contradict what you posted. And don't be surprised, the Italians consistently designed and built world class guns all through WWII such as the Ansaldo 90/53 AT/AA, 210 mm FG, Breda MGs all speak to this point. The only short coming of the Italian Military complex of WWII was that too few were produced, and this because of a lack of raw materials. I think this case is closed.
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Post by Alex T. » Thu Jul 30, 2009 12:26 pm

Webmaster wrote:Alex what you're saying doesn’t make sense, then the same logic applies to the British 0.303 in ?
Absolutely!! During the Battle of Britain the Spits and Hurricanes armed with 8 .303in brownings were not effective until they converged their weapons instead of using the "Downing Spread" technique, which proved totally wrong, since many He111s flew back home with hundreds of holes on the fuselage, but that's pretty much the only damage they received. Same problem was in the Mediterranean against our S.79: the early Marks of Spits and Hurricanes had an hard time trying to shoot down our planes because of the weak caliber. When they realised that converging the fire of their machineguns in one precise point at a precise distance made the punch of their fire way more effective, things started to change quick.

Another thing to mention is that the Breda 7,7 was a licensed version of the Browning, and the Brit ammo could actually be used on the Italian bredas!
Ballistics show that the SAFAT was no different in performance than its contemporaries and taken together with pilot reports (that tell a very real and different story), the SAFAT was a sound weapon.
Oh come on mate, you've seen the calculation I've done, don't you really see that ballistically the 12,7mm was inferior to the .50in?!
This has nothing to do with the gun itself though, the Breda-SAFAT 12,7mm was a sound gun.
Show me a single RA request for an alternate weapon or a report that supports what you’re saying ? You don't have this evidence because it never existed. And this is the main problem with the histories of that period written immediately after WWII, and why allot if its being updated e.g,. Dunning, Ian W. Walker, Sadkovich etc.
I talked to more than one pilot who expressed his skepticism regarding the 7,7mm Bredas because of their inferior performance compared to the 12,7mm, but nobody really complained back then about the 12,7mm because there wasn't anything better! The remarks expressed by the pilots I talked to were maturated after the war, when they got hold of Allied equipment and realised how inferior their armament was. This is a fact that most of the pilot expressed after the war.

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Post by Alex T. » Thu Jul 30, 2009 12:34 pm

Vincent Biondi wrote:Hello Alex,
Again to add what Vince has just pointed out, the same logic applies to the British 0.303.
Hi Vince, yes, it does. But then again bear in mind that a Hurricane or a Spit had 8 MGs on the wings, which if used on a converged setting developed a respectable firepower.
In fact Gloster Gladiators had four 0.303 guns and had to get to within 300 yards for them to be effective in a dog fight.
The Fiat CR42, on the other hand, had two 12.7 guns and could start firing at its opponent at 700 yards!
The combat record for the CR42, speaks for itself.
Yes, as you easily can guess, the weapon that performs better is the one that is probably going to be successful.
However, Alex I do think that if the average Italian aircraft had been equipped with four 12.7 guns, we wouldn't be having this discussion.
Vincent.
That's an interesting point, but bear in mind that adding a heavier weapon on the wings would have caused a higher wingload, and consequently a lower performance. An aeroplane is like a short blanket: if u want to cover a corner you will have to uncover another one.

The ideal solution would have probably been to add 2 7,7 per wing and keep the two 12,7 on the top cowling.

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