Italy has produced some fine guns, but they also have a pretty impressive collection of really poorly thought out ones, like the Fiat-Revelli M1914 and the 1915 Villar Perosa. The latter was basically a very simple delayed blowback, open-bolt 9mm Glisenti submachine gun mounted in tandem with a bipod and spade grips. It wasn’t really suited for any combat role – with a very high rate of fire and small magazines, it couldn’t maintain a continuous fire for emplaced ground use. The spade grips and lack of a stock made it difficult to use as a mobile support weapon, and the limited power of the cartridge used made it unsatisfactory as an aircraft gun. Eventually most of them were broken down and the parts made into more conventional shoulder-fired submachine guns by Beretta.
However, before that happened, the British government expressed an interest in the design, probably for aircraft use. A prototype was made for them in .455 Webley caliber, which would have been an improvement (although still not ideal) for use in aircraft. The high rate of fire of the original guns (we don’t know what RoF the Webley model would have achieved) was good for the brief firing opportunities available in aerial combat, and the gun was very compact for easy use by an plane’s observer.
The gun uses top-mounted magazines (not sure of the capacity; probably about 20 rounds), with the magazine catch located in front of the mag. The paddle-shaped levers behind the magazine wells are the charging handles.
The spade grips have two thumb triggers which operate independently, allowing the gunner to fire both barrels simultaneously or either one independently.
The spade grip assembly also houses a single safety lever, which has settings for safe and fire (full automatic only; no option for single shots). The rear sight if fixed in place, with three separate notches for different ranges (given the prototype nature of this gun, we don’t know what specific ranges they are regulated for).
We have a selection of other photos of the the prototype .455 gun, courtesy of the National Firearms Centre in Leeds, where the gun is part of the Pattern Room collection. You can download them all in a high-res archive, or browse through them here: