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This gun is commonly referred to as the "O.V.P." after its manufacturer, Officine di Villar Perosa. O.V.P. was the factory of the Roberto Incerti company, RIV (which itself was a subdivision of FIAT), and was in operation from 1906 to the mid-sixties. The factory was located in the small town of Villar Perosa located in the outskirts of Turin. Abiel Revelli was associated with OVP in its early days and the company originally handled the production of his twin-barreled SMG, which became named after the town. After World War I, RIV branched off from FIAT and thus the Villar Perosa factory became more independent. One of the first products it developed after the war was this SMG.
This was Abiel Revelli's second attempt to adapt the Villar Perosa submachine gun into a single-barreled individual weapon after the failure of his first model, the Fiat of 1916. The O.V.P. was definitely the most refined take on the concept. Whereas the Beretta and Fiat SMGs were essentially just one half of a Villar Perosa encased in stock, the O.V.P. SMG was a more expensive ground-up redesign that mostly used entirely new components. Internally the delayed-blowback operation was the same as from the Villar Perosa, but the cocking mechanism was redesigned from a simple handle and slot to a retracting milled sleeve that enveloped the receiver. The weapon was cocked in a sort of pump-action fashion, with the sleeve being retracted backward over the rear end of the receiver.
Although Col. Revelli had previously developed a rather interesting fire selector mechanism for the earlier Fiat prototype, in developing the O.V.P. SMG he ditched this feature and replaced it with a simpler twin-trigger arrangement. The feed and ejection systems were the same as the Villar Perosa. The magazines were still rather too small at only 25 rounds, considering the fire rate was around 900 rounds per minute. The sights were offset, given the placement of the magazine, but unlike the Beretta gun which had sights mounted on the right side of the gun, the O.V.P.'s sights were on the left. The rear sight was a two-stage notch and the front sight a simple post.
Nelson & Musgrave, in Volume II of their otherwise excellent "The World's Submachine Guns and Machine Pistols", mistakenly assert that the O.V.P. was the first single-barreled adaptation of the Villar Perosa, and was trialed (and perhaps even fielded) during World War I by the Italian Army. This is based on Nelson and Lockhaven's assumption that the "Fiat" submachine gun mentioned in Italian trial records refers to the O.V.P. Actually, it referred to an entirely separate prototype that is described earlier in this article. This misunderstanding has led many sources to claim the O.V.P. was developed in 1918 and some have even gone so far as to claim it was used in World War I. Actually, production of this gun did not begin until after the war had ended. It certainly never saw service during World War I as it was not, in fact, adopted by the Italian Army until 1921.
Col. Revelli attempted to generate international interest in this gun and demonstrated it abroad on several occasions, including in Britain where an improved model was observed by the Small Arms Committee, who expressed little interest in the gun despite having been quite impressed with the Villar Perosa in 1915. It also taken to France and demonstrated there, in tests observed by the American Military Attaché. Regardless, the O.V.P. saw no orders outside of Italy and was not a commercial success. Production probably ended around 1930.
The volumes of these guns ordered by the Italian Army were low, and it was never mass-produced - Italian sources estimate only 500 guns made. It is known that the O.V.P. saw combat use during the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1935 - 1936. It may also have been used by the Italians during the Spanish Civil War, although there is currently no confirmation of this. Italian forces in North Africa continued to use this gun into World War II, and it was not until 1941 that the Italian Army formally adopted a replacement - the Beretta 38A. Despite this, it is likely that the O.V.P. continued to be used in a limited capacity by Italian troops and partisans up until 1945.
A note on nomenclature:
This gun was contemporaneously known as the "Revelli Automatic Rifle" as the term "submachine gun" was not common parlance in Europe. Sources from the 1920s refer to it under that name, and the more common terminology - "O.V.P." - appears to have been an invention by later English-language sources, deriving from the name of the manufacturer.
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