This gun is commonly referred to as the "OVP" after its manufacturer, Officine di Villar Perosa. OVP 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 years 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. The Revelli 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 Revelli 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 Revelli 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 9,00 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 Revelli's sights were on the left. The rear sight was a two-stage notch and the front sight a simple post.
Nelson & Lockhaven, in Volume II of
their otherwise excellent "The World's
Submachine Guns and Machine Pistols", mistakenly assert that the
Revelli 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 Revelli.
Actually, it referred to an entirely separate prototype that is described
earlier in this article. In fact, the Revelli had not been developed as
early as 1918, as is often claimed. 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 it was observed by the Small Arms Committee. The SAC, in their 1928 report, refer to it as the "Revelli Automatic Rifle" - presumably named as such because the term "submachine gun" was not in common parlance at that time. Regardless, the Revelli 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 relatively low, and it was never mass-produced. Its issue was generally reserved for officers and NCOs. The Revelli saw action during the invasion of Ethiopia in 1935 and Italy's intervention in the Spanish Civil War in 1936. Despite the adoption of the Beretta Model 38 in 1938, the Revelli remained in limited service during World War II and saw use in the North African campaign. Examples were captured by the British and examined at RSAF Enfield, where they were deemed to be high-quality guns, let down slightly by use of an underpowered cartridge.
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