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Villar Perosa

 Villar-Perosa M1915 twin-barrel submachine gun on the one-man portable
Villar-Perosa M1915 twin-barrel submachine gun on the one-man portable “tray” mount, used by mountain troops. Photo from Austrian army museum, Vienna.

 Villar-Perosa M1915 twin-barrel submachine gun less mount. One (right) magazine is removed. Photo from Russian museum of Artillery, St.Petersburg.
Villar-Perosa M1915 twin-barrel submachine gun minus mount. One (right) magazine is removed. Photo from Russian museum of Artillery, St.Petersburg.

Villar-Perosa M1915 twin-barrel submachine gun in action, on light tripod and with armored shield (in light machine gun role). WW1 era photo.
Villar-Perosa M1915 twin-barrel submachine gun in action, on light tripod and with armored shield (in light machine gun role). WW1 era photo.

Villar-Perosa M1915 twin-barrel submachine gun, fitted with wooden stock for off-hand use.
Villar-Perosa M1915 twin-barrel submachine gun, fitted with wooden stock for off-hand use.

Villar-Perosa OVP M1918 submachine gun (automatic carbine). Single-barreled hand-held submachine gun produced from 1/2 of the original Villar-Perosa M1915 weapon.
Villar-Perosa OVP M1918 submachine gun (automatic carbine). Single-barreled hand-held submachine gun  produced from 1/2 of the original Villar-Perosa M1915 weapon.

 

Characteristics

 

Villar-Perosa M1915 Villar-Perosa M1918
Caliber 9x19mm Glisenti 9x19mm Glisenti
Weight, empty 6.5 kg (less mount) 3.6 kg
Length (stock closed/open) mm 902 mm
Barrel length 279 mm 279 mm
Rate of fire 2 x 1200 – 1500 rounds per minute 900 rounds per minute
Magazine capacity 2 x 25 rounds 25 rounds

 

The Villar Perosa submachine gun is one of the most unusual weapons to emerge from World War 1. The name of the weapon comes from the company that manufactured these guns, the ‘Officine Villar Perosa’ (OVP in short).

This gun was originally designed in 1914 by the famous Italian small arms designer Bethel Abiel Revelli as an aircraft weapon. In this role it found no success, as it was designed to fire only low-powered 9mm Glisenti ammunition. The Glisenti 9mm caliber was even weaker than the dimensionally similar 9×19 Luger ammunition.

So because of this, in 1915 the Villar-Perosa was converted for ground applications. That happened also with the introduction of a variety of mountings, which were light tripods or carrying trays. These were carried on shoulder straps or put on the ground for a more stable position and for less exposure from enemy fire.

The first submachine gun in the world..

Later on, a wooden rifle-type stock was designed for the Villar-Perosa, to allow it to be fired more or less comfortably from the shoulder.  This simple action created the first  submachine gun in the world.

The Villar Perosa M1915 weapon was assembled from two guns of exactly the same design and appearance, held together by the plate at the front of the receiver and by the twin spade grip assembly at the rear. Each gun has its own trigger, operated by a separate thumb button between the spade grips. The guns themselves used delayed blowback action.

The delay of the initial opening of the bolt was achieved by the rotation of the bolt through the bolt handle that slid against the inclined part of the cocking handle slot. The bolt rotation, in combination with a separate firing pin, provided a safety measure against premature ignition of the cartridge. The firing pin was able to go forward and strike the primer only when bolt was in battery and completely rotated.

After the war, some of the original Villar-Perosa weapons were disassembled into two halves. They were then put into rifle type stocks, also with the addition of rifle-type triggers.

Such conversions were known as the Villar Perosa OVP M1918 (when produced by Villar Perosa). A slightly improved version of the same design was also produced by the Beretta company. It was known as the Beretta M1918.

Technical Description:

These guns fired from an open bolt, in full automatic mode only. Due to the lightweight bolt and powerful springs, the rate of fire was excessively high for ground applications, being between 1200 and 1500 rounds per each gun (rising up to 3000 rounds per minute when both guns were fired at once).

The feed was from detachable box magazines, holding just 25 rounds each, so one magazine would last just one second of continuous fire. Magazines were inserted into each gun vertically from the top, ejection was from underneath. Sights were located between the guns, with the rear sight being built into the spade grip assembly and the front sight into the front plate that held both guns together.

The OVP M1918 submachine gun was made from a single half of the original M1914 twin weapon, with added shoulder stock and a new dual trigger setup. the dual trigger allowed for single shots (rear trigger) and full automatic fire (front trigger). Cocking of the bolt was achieved by pulling back the knurled sliding sleeve, located around the receiver.

The ammunition feed arrangement was similar to the original twin weapon, with a top-mounted box magazine. The rate of fire was somewhat lower, making this gun somewhat more controllable and more useful in ground combat. A new set of sights was installed, with line of sight necessarily moved to the left to clear the magazine.