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Miniature Guns for the Fascist Youth: Italian Balilla Carbines

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As part of his effort to imbue Italy with a fascist culture, Mussolini formed the ONB, or National Balilla Organization as a replacement for all other youth organizations in Italy in 1926. It was intended for boys aged 6 to 18, and included military training. Older boys practiced shooting and drill with real rifles, but the younger boys were given Balilla carbines – blank-firing scaled-down versions of the Modelo 1891 Carcano carbine, named after an 18th century folk hero who sparked a revolt in Genoa at the age of 10 in 1746. Over 100,000 of these Balilla carbines were made between 1931 and 1943.

The most prolific manufacturer was Fratelli Grazian of Verona, and we have both an early and later type example of Grazian carbines today. They made extensive use of bronze parts, and the early model has a distinctive bulge to the magazine well. Grazian made some 57,000 of these carbines in total.

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