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Italian M33s : Pre and postwar differences

Article about: Hi there, i'm interested in learning more about the Italian m33. There are a lot of them out there with neat markings, but presumably a lot of them are post war too. So, wise community, what

  1. #1

    Default Italian M33s : Pre and postwar differences

    Hi there,

    i'm interested in learning more about the Italian m33. There are a lot of them out there with neat markings, but presumably a lot of them are post war too.

    So, wise community, what are things to look for ?

    From reading here, i've learned the pre war ones have a roller buckle chinstrap, and post war had a slider chinstrap more like the french adrian.

    what else is to be watched out for?

  2. #2


    This has been discussed here before, but I rather agree with anyone who says that it isn't as easy as it could be to find specific threads on the World Steel Helmets forum. Anyway, other than doing a search here (definately worth it, although I admit I am too short of time to do it myself at the moment) I can suggest using both of these excellent websites -

    .: World War Helmets - Casque Modèle 933 :.

    ITALIANO 1933

    and here is a little essay done a few years ago by Italian collector Michele Tagliavini, which outlines most of the important points.

    "It sounds like a straightforward question, but with a helmet like the Italian M 33 answers are never univocal, especially if we keep in mind that it has been in service for over 60 years. Despite, a series of details can put us on the right track and give us a pretty precise definition, even though we often have to rely on experience, intuition and good luck rather than on precise documentation.

    The code

    The code, stamped on the inner back rim, identifies the manufacturing plant and the lot number of the helmet, thanks to a one or two-letter code and a number composed of one, two or three digits. Unfortunately the key to this code is still unknown and up until now thare hasn't been any serious research uncovering documents explaining its meaning. It cannot be ruled out that part of the documentation has been destroyed during WW2, but I consider quite probable that informations on later periods are simply buried in some archive. However, it seems certain that the letter "B" refers to the Smalteria e Metallurgia Veneta s.p.a.(SMV), factory in Bassano del Grappa (the first one to produce the M 33), and that each number refers to a lot of 2000 shells.(1)

    The shell

    It has remained unchanged over the years, but different colours help us in identifying the era. In the first period the paint was the typical Regio Esercito grey-green, changed to a darker shade after 1936, until 1945(2). Specialty branch emblems(3) were stencilled in black on the front of the helmet, but one can easily find helmets of the same period without any on. Possibly in 1946-8, after the Italian Republic was born, the new army adopted a khaki-brown-reddish paint for the helmet, soon changed to a more greenish shade, which remained in service from the early 1950's to 1975. Front stencils have basically remained the same: the royal crown was eliminated or substituted by the castle-like "turrita" crown, as can easily be seen in the Navy emblem.Front stencils for the army were abolished in 1969 and one can find helmets re-painted khaki with the branch emblem still visible underneath the new coat of paint. In 1975 the helmet colour changed to olive green. Different shades can be found, especially on older helmets that have been repainted at army barracks.

    The air-vent bolts

    Older models are more rounded, with a small hole and two prongs in the back for attachment to the shell. Probably in 1938 a new flatter model was introduced, with a larger hole, and there can be several variations in the range. Furthermore, the back prongs could be two, four, but also six or eight, opened like a flower. This last characteristic will remain on post-war produced helmets.

    The leather liner

    Up to the end of the war it can be (sometimes stamped and dated) in shades going from dark brown to pale yellow, almost white, while post-war liners are generally yellow. The seam in the back is strengthened by two parallel rows of stitches, perpendicular to it. These two rows can be joined by a third slanted one, forming therefore a Z. Metal grommets can be found at the top of the leather leaves in the eyelets where the leather string goes through. Therefore "Z" stitching and metal grommets are characteristics that we don't find only on post-war helmets, as sometimes it is believed, although it is true that they were standardised on more recent liners.

    The chinstrap

    From 1933 to 1945 the chinstrap was made of grey-green leather, in two pieces with prong buckle and attached to the D rings by two rivets on each side. One can find specimens stamped on one or both sides. Probably well into the 1950's the chinstrap hasn't changed, on the contrary, it is logical to assume that huge wartime surplus has been used and generally one can find greygreen chinstrap re-painted khaki. Between the end of the 1950's and the 1960's a new canvas chinstrap was introduced: in one single piece, sand coloured and riveted on one side, it had a khaki sliding buckle. Beginning from 1975 buckle and chinstrap were coloured olive green.

    The chinstrap attaching metal strips

    Almost unchanged for the whole period, until 1945 we often find them stamped with a number or lettering (AT for example) under a royal crown. The ring to which the chinstrap is riveted is rectangular and painted greygreen. The only difference with post-war rings is that the colour bacame khaki. After the introduction of the new chinstrap, the ring became trapezium-shaped and its colour became olive green after 1975.


    If the periods of use were so neatly defined, identification of the helmet would be quite easy, but it's not. Observation of the details above listed must not be rigid and we must pay careful attention to the "configuration" of the helmet in order to define its history. We must consider overlapping periods and we must not forget that often it took some time to put regulations into practice. Furthermore, modifications to the helmets could be carried out inside army barracks, maybe in a hurry and not properly. We must not forget that material could be recycled and that huge quantities of surplus could be available, therefore a helmet could have different parts produced in different eras. Just to make an example, I have an M 33 whose shell is greygreen on the inside, but olive green on the outside, over a couple of paint layers. The liner is wartime production, but it is coupled by a sand coloured canvas chinstrap riveted to green rectangular D rings. This helmet, like many others, has served in the Italian Armed Forces for at least 40 years."

  3. #3


    Exactly the kind of info i was after, thank you kindly

  4. #4
    MAP is offline


    Greg beat me to it. That site is the best primer I know of. But still it I haven't been able to find a good english language book on these.

    These helmets are a mine field as they were used up until the 80's.
    My greatest fear is that one day I will die and my wife will sell my guns for what I told her I paid for them

    "Don't tell me these are investments if you never intend to sell anything" (Quote: Wife)

  5. #5


    Quote by MAP View Post
    Greg beat me to it. That site is the best primer I know of. But still it I haven't been able to find a good english language book on these.
    Well, that's because there simply isn't one. There are at least three pretty respectable books in Italian, but I would be very surprised if any publisher was prepared to reissue any of them in translation. Much as we would love to have them it would be an instantaneous loss-maker for any publisher unless the price was really startlingly high. Good translation is not cheap even though the actual costs of book-production are in general comparatively low, even for a low-print-run item which a book like this would certainly be.

    Here's one you may not know (in Italian unfortunately!) - Libreria - - It is the online version of a book that was published in a *very* short run for the Italian Ministry of Defence a year or so back. I have not known of a copy available for sale. It seems (my Italian ir really rather poor) pretty good on most Italian helmets up to the composite period, when it really fails.

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