The Villar Perosa machine gun is an extremely weird design.
Throughout the history of firearms, people have constantly been tinkering and trying to improve designs. During times of war, almost every country comes out with their own innovations. During World War I, the Italians developed the fascinating Villar Perosa light machine gun.
This blowback-operated firearm is usually considered the first submachine gun ever built because it was chambered for 9mm Glisenti, which is just like your standard 9mm, only with a slightly reduced amount of powder.
Featuring side by side barrels and using a feed system utilizing twin 25-round magazines, this SMG is a strange looking firearm, but it has an extremely high rate of fire and looks like it would be fun to shoot.
The gun's designer was Bethel Abiel Revelli. He was an engineer and major in the Italian Army. This firearm is also sometimes known as the Fiat Model 1915.
If you think this firearm looks extremely strange, remember that it was originally meant for airplanes. Once you know that, the bare bones construction makes a lot more sense because there were obvious weight concerns with firearms on the world's first airplanes and the resulting dogfights. In the end though, the 9mm Glisenti proved to be a little underpowered for aerial combat. It makes us wonder why they even considered that calibre in the first place.
The guns did not go to waste for Italy though. The Italian Army gave them to ground troops, which made a lot more sense. Although it does look a little unwieldy on that flimsy-looking bipod. It does have an excellent firing rate of up to 3,000 rounds per minute. Although with box magazines that small, we imagine the soldiers had to get skilled at reloading. Some of Italy's soldiers found the guns impractical and some were given to Beretta, who in turn converted the guns into what became known as the Beretta M1918. Another firearm, the OVP, was developed from the Villar Perosa.
They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and many of these guns were seized during the war by the opposing side. Both the Germans and the Austria-Hungary forces either copied or improved upon the design. One of the more notable copies was the Sturmpistole M.18, which their armies introduced in 1918. The Villar Perosa may be one of firearms history's oddities, but the legacy of being the first true submachine gun is one that is hard to beat.
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