In the throws of defeat, flailing helplessly against the advancing Allied tide and executing their leader, Il Duce, Italy rose from the ashes of World War II needing to rebuild its military from the ground up.
What is the underpinning of a standing army, but its rifle of choice? Instead of turning to domestically designed weapons, the Italian military chose the M1 Garand chambered in .30-06 to arm its infantry. However, as the 1940s became the 1950s, the Italian military wanted a more new rifle, with changeable magazine and modernized caliber that the rest of NATO was adopting.
Instead of running out a rifle from the ground-up, Italian designers chose to tweak and modify the venerable Garand, turning it into the BM-59.
Produced by the legendary Beretta family, the BM-59 was the Italian combat rifle of choice from the late 1950s until the 1990s. Essentially Beretta designers took the Garand and took it apart, ditching the fixed internal magazine and changing the caliber. The Italians essentially did the same thing the United States did with the work-horse M-14 rifle.
Externally, the M-14 and BM-59 look similar, but to a trained eye, you know the Beretta made rifle immediately. The BM-59 had a 20-round magazine filled with 7.62 mm NATO. Unlike the M-14 which briefly flirted with full-auto, the BM-59 fully embraced the select-fire option.
Other differences were the extended flash-suppressor/grenade launcher, paratrooper collapsing stock and addition of a pistol grip.
Overall, while not a deep innovation in military small-arms, the BM-59 ably armed the soldiers of Italy for over three decades.