The Cei-Rigotti rifle, while almost forgotten today, is nevertheless a historically important weapon, as one of the worlds’ first automatic rifles ever offered to arm a major military force. Originally developed between 1895 and 1900 by an italian army officer Ameriogo Cei-Rigotti, the rifle was tested by Italian army in 1900, chambered for then-standard 6.5x50mm Carcano cartridge.
In 1901 a select-fire automatic carbine version of the Cei-Rigotti system was tested in UK, and several years later a semi-automatic version of the rifle was also tested in Imperial Russia. While many militaries were testing semi-automatic rifles before the WW1, very few armies were ready to actually adopt any of those advanced, complicated and expensive designs. As a result, the Cei-Rigotti rifle never proceeded past prototype stage, with only few specimens made in rifle or carbine configurations, semi- or full automatic. Still, this rifle had several important design features which later found its way into much more successful designs such as US M1 Garand rifle, German FG-42 rifle or Russian Kalashnikov. Majority of Cei-Rigotti rifles were made to fire the 6.5mm Carcano ammunition, although few also were chambered for 7.65mm Mauser rifle cartridge.
The Cei-Rigotti rifle was based on a now-common, but then novel gas operated action with long stroke piston. Gas block was located to the right of the barrel, and the gas piston ran parallel to the barrel on its right side, inside a stationary gas tube. Barrel was locked by a simple rotating bolt with two lugs at the front. The gas piston operated the bolt via the projection which entered a spiral cut in the bolt body. Return spring was located inside the hollow rear end of the piston. The rifle was fed from integral box magazine; magazines were offered in a variety of capacities, such as 10, 20 or 50 rounds. Magazines were reloaded using special stripper clips through the top of the open action, with the bolt locked back.