Springfield Armory Museum - Collection Record

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Maker/Manufacturer:REVELLI, ABIEL BETEL
Date of Manufacture:1916
Eminent Figure:
Catalog Number:SPAR 1075
Measurements:OL: 61.7CM 24 3/8" BL: 31.2CM 12 3/8" 14.3 lbs. unloaded; 16.3 lbs. loaded.

Object Description:

Manufactured by Officine di Villar Perosa, Villar Perosa, Italy in 1916 - Standard Italian WWI machine gun equipped with two 25-round detachable box magazines. Retarded blowback design. 6-groove rifling; right hand twist. Full-auto fire only. Muzzle velocity 1312 fps. Cyclic rate of fire 1200 rpm (per barrel). Spade grips with wood handles. Equipped with bipod. Weapon weighs approximately 14.3 lbs. (twin barrel). Weapon also known as "Revelli" or "Fiat." Originally introduced as light machine gun; weapon was not suitable for this role. Cartridge: 9mm Glisenti.

Spade handle: OFFICINE/DI/VILLAR/PEROSA/NO. 7192 (in oval).
Bolt: 2 (in circle)/RE.
Various inspectors' marks on sub assemblies.

Weapon listed as overage found on post in Museum area and accessioned into Army collection. Weapon transferred to the Museum on 27 April 1960.

Exhibit label: "Developed in 1914 by Major Revelli of the Italian Army, the Villar Perosa was originally intended for aircraft use. As a light machine gun, the first fully automatic arm designed to fire a pistol cartridge, it could not compete with other models that fired heavier rifle cartridges. The two barrels could be fired either simultaneously, with a cyclic rate of fire of 3000 rounds per minute, or separately. It was not long before the two units were separated and put on stock, making an effective infantry weapon for close fighting, in effect a new breed of weapon, the sub-machine gun."

Notes: "The VILLAR PEROSA (V.P.) was the first known weapon to fire pistol ammunition automatically and is, therefore, rated as 'the first submachine gun.' It is also referred to as the REVELLI, a name derived from its designer, Abiel Betel Revelli. The patent for this weapon was filed in the United States in December, 1915, and the Italian Government during World War I, designated the original model of the VILLAR PEROSA (V.P.) as the Model 1915.
The weapon underwent very minor modification, primarily adaptations of the gun to various mounts. As these models appeared, the designations 'Model 1916' and 'Model 1917' were awarded the latter guns. To add to further confusion, the weapon was also rather liberally referred to in Italian Military literature of the First World War period as the 'FIAT.' This latter designation was, of course, the Revelli-designed V.P. was produced. The VILLAR PEROSA was also manufactured by Officine Di Villar Perosa, located in Villar Perosa, Italy, and the Canadian General Electric Company, Ltd., in Toronto, Canada. The Canadian firm produced the weapon in limited numbers for the Italian Government during the last two years of the war. Literature from that firm called the weapon the 'REVELLI Automatic Machine Gun', and offered it with a variety of mounts, including a rather elaborate tripod mount.
The fact that the V.P. was called an 'Automatic Machine Gun' was one of its great misfortunes, since the weapon was introduced during the early phases of the war to fill the gap as a light machine gun. This type of weapon was in great demand by the Italian Army for the rugged mountain fighting, particularly because the Italian Army had no reliable machine gun. The V.P. was, therefore, thrust into a role which it could not fulfill, since it did not fire rifle ammunition.
Later in the war, after the VILLAR PEROSA had been used in the mountain warfare for some time, and its limitations were better understood, its correct tactical use was developed to a fine art.
It is interesting to note that the V.P. was used to a limited degree during the early part of the war as armored car, aircraft and naval armament. It was dropped from these roles as the war progressed and a better tactical appreciation of the weapon evolved.
With limited knowledge of what the weapon and its corresponding pistol ammunition could be expected to accomplish, the Italians pushed the weapon into service without giving their troops any practical training in its use. The VILLAR PEROSA naturally did not meet original expectations, prThe VILLAR PEROSA, when used by Italian infantry, was usually fitted with a bipod for ground use and with a shield in fixed positions. It was also used on the assault and carried into battle mounted on a flat board which extended in a perpendicular position from the firer. The board was suspended by straps hung around the soldier's neck. The entire arrangement had the same effect in principle as the box carried by a cigarette girl in a nightclub. Apparently the soldier fired the weapon while walking in on the assault. A special badge was worn by Italian troops using the VILLAR PEROSA and was called 'Trofeo de braccio - Pistola Mitragliatrice.'" - Thomas B. Nelson

"Designed by Revelli for the Officina Villar Perosa in 1915, the Mitragliatrice Legerra Villar Perosa M15 was actually two guns in one, twin barrels and actions being mounted side by side, each one with a vertical box magazine, sharing a single trigger. The guns were fitted with paired spade grips, and had no buttstock. They were notable chiefly for their extremely high cyclical rate: said to be 1,200 r.p.m., from each each barrel. However, since the magazines held but 25 rounds each, the rate actually achievable was considerably less. Many different mountings were available, including bipods and tripods, pintle mounts for vehicles and even a bicycle mounting, but the gun was never a success in its original form - as a light support weapon - due to the inadequacies of the ammunition for which it was chambered.
Most examples were later converted, either by OVP or by Beretta, into more conventional sub-machine guns with solid wooded buttstocks, each one original making two new weapons, of course." - Roger Ford

"...the tactical application of the Vilar Perosa was far from being that of a submachine-gun; it was actually intended as a light machine-gun for infantry support. This arose from the fact that the Italian Army had difficulties with their machine-guns, largely owing to the peculiar systems they chose to adopt and the somewhat peculiar small-calibre rifle cartridge they used. Their standard First World War machine-gun was the Revelli, a heavy and not particularly reliable weapon which was far from ideal in the mountain warfare conditions which the Italians encountered on most of their front with the Austrians. The lightweight Vilar Perosa was therefore intended as the mountain troop machine-gun, mounted on bipod or tripod and sometimes even with a heavy steel shield. However, due to the relatively weak pistol round, it was not a conspicuous success in this role, since its range was limited, and it eventually found its niche when slung form the shoulders of a walking soldier by means of a strap and supporting tray. In this way he could hold the spade grips at waist level and fire the guns as he advanced. The rate of fire was astronomical - 3000 rounds a minute when both barrels were firing - and this was unfortunate, since the magazines only held 20 rounds for each barrel and they emptied very quickly. It was normal to fire only one barrel at a time in order to conserve ammunition, and the operator carried some 600 rounds, ready loaded in magazines, but magazine changes at frequent intervals was still quite a performance.
This, then, is the weapon generally considered to be the grandfather of the submachine-gun. But it will be clear from the description that while it may qualify on mechanical grounds, it certainly bears little resemblance to the weapons which came later. - Ian Hogg

Hogg, Ian. THE COMPLETE MACHINE GUN: 1885 TO THE PRESENT. Exeter Books. N.Y., N.Y. 1979.

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