Revelli-Beretta Mod.1918


The Revelli-Beretta, otherwise referred to as the Beretta M1918 or MAB 18, is one of the first proper submachine guns as we now understand the term, although in its day the terminology was not in place and it was referred to as an automatic rifle. Development of this gun began in 1916, when the Italian Test Commission observed a demonstration of a the Fiat-Revelli prototype submachine gun, which was essentially a Villar Perosa receiver encased in a wooden rifle stock. The High Command became interested in this concept and commissioned three firms - Fiat, Ansaldo, and Beretta - to convert the Villar Perosa into an infantry carbine. Beretta placed Tullio Marengoni, a young engineer of some considerable talent, in charge of developing their entry. Marengoni's approach was simple but effective; he took the receiver of a Villar Perosa, placed it inside of a Vetterli rifle stock, and fitted the folding bayonet from a Carcano carbine onto the muzzle. The gun ejected straight downward, through a chute placed directly underneath the magazine feed. The sights were offset to the right side.

Trials took place in 1917 and the guns tested were the Beretta SMG by Marengoni, the Ansaldo SMG designed by Enrico Crocetti, and the Fiat SMG by Abiel Revelli. The Beretta gun won out but since it was derived from the Villar Perosa, Revelli was given a shared credit and the gun was officially adopted as the Moschetto Automatico Revelli-Beretta (Revelli-Beretta automatic rifle) in early 1918. It was issued primarily to Arditi units, assault troops who carried out trench raids. The Revelli-Beretta was actually issued before the Germans began fielding the MP18.I, technically making it the first "practical" submachine gun to ever see military service. However, it was never produced in large quantities, and as such it was went largely unnoticed. It is likely that the Revelli-Beretta saw its most use during the battle of Vittorio Veneto in October 1918.

After the war, the Italian Army held further SMG trials and decided to adopt Revelli-OVP submachine gun alongside the Beretta. In 1930, Marengoni adapted the Revelli-Beretta SMG into a self-loading carbine. To do this, the receiver was completely replaced with a new one that cocked via a retracting ring protruding from the rear cap. The magazine feed was re-located to the underside and the gun fed magazines the conventional way. Spent rounds were ejected straight upward. The Vetterli furniture and Carcano bayonet were retained. This new gun was known as the Beretta 1918-30 and was produced for the Italian and Argentinian police. Many surplus Revelli-Beretta SMGs were converted into 18-30 carbines.

At some point in the early 1930s, Beretta also began producing a limited line of Mod.18s and 18-30s that were built from entirely new components, presumably because they were running out of old surplus parts to use. The design was basically the same but the Vetterli stock and Villar Perosa receiver were replaced. The new Mod.18 featured twin triggers for selective fire. The Carcano bayonet was dropped on this model. Ultimately not many were produced due to a lack of sales. Production of the Mod.18 was soon superseded by other designs by Marengoni, which led to the development of the very successful Beretta Mod.38 submachine gun.

As late as World War II, small quantities of Beretta Mod.18s were still in limited service and saw use in North Africa. Gerald Howson in his book Arms For Spain also suggests it saw use during the Spanish Civil War in 1936, and it doubtless saw some use in Ethiopia during the Italian invasion in 1935. After 1945, it was retracted from service entirely.

Beretta M1918
The standard Revelli-Beretta submachine gun, produced in 1918 and used during WWI

Beretta 18-30
The Beretta 18-30 self-loading carbine, built from converted Revelli-Beretta SMGs

Beretta Mod.18
The "Bigrillo" Mod.18, produced after World War I

Beretta 18-30 Argentina
Argentinian police demonstrating the Beretta 18-30 carbine through a firing port of a police car

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