We received an excellent gallery of photos from a reader named Roberto, showing an interesting rifle that he could not identify. After some searching, we have decided that we have no idea what it is either. Any ideas?

Mystery Gun - Model 58

The markings are minimal – one side of the receiver is marked “CAL 7.62” and “MOD 58”, and the selector lever is marked safe/semi/full in Italian.

Model 58 Mystery rifle markings

The gun is clearly a prototype, and it may not be complete. The design appears to have a gas piston mounted under the barrel, but no gas port or gas block on the barrel is evident (also, the rear sight block is not pinned in place). The bolt has a single locking lug that engages with a recess in the top of the receiver.

Does this look familiar to anyone? We would love to have more information on it…

15 Comments

  1. Single folding locking lug, check.

    BAR-style forked operating rod, check.

    But what operates the rod? I keep looking for a gas block. I’m guessing the “band” in the middle of the forearm is actually a gas block.

    The drop-out FCG is very slick. Also, though the upper appears to be milled, it looks like it could be done as a stamping, possibly with welded stock tangs, at a considerable saving in cost.

  2. It looks a lot like a Browning A5 semi auto shotgun modded to a mag fed. In profile anyways: the humpback reciever, the stock and pistolgrip …

  3. It appears to me that it would unlock due to recoil, look at the slide in the bolt. More than likely when it’s forward the locking lug is in lock position and maybe upon firing the slide in the bolt kicks back folding the lug down and allowing the gun to cycle….

    Or I could be full of it lol

  4. I believe it may be a magazine fed version of a Browng auto 5 pattern shotgun. Notice there is no visible gas tube and the barrel band only hold the forestock. This implies the recoil operation of the auto 5. But the A5’s well know “hump” is downsized quite a bit. And the magazine is only wide enought to hold 28 or MAYBE 20 gauge shells. Thankyou for the great puzzle!

  5. The magazine appears to be an early Beretta BM59 mag, which did not have the three stiffening ribs pressed into each side. This plus the stamping would indicate 7.62x51mm NATO caliber.

    The receiver looks suspiciously like, not a Browning, but a Franchi automatic shotgun. I’m wondering if this isn’t a Franchi prototype for a NATO caliber battle rifle for the Italian Army. The time frame would probably be about the same as the Franchi LF57 9x19mm SMG, which was supposedly their last attempt to build military arms prior to the SPAS shotgun series.

    This might be a one-off toolroom example of a 7.62 infantry rifle that failed to attract the Italian, or any other army’s interest.

    cheers

    eon

  6. Try measuring the chamber to confirm what length of 7.62 mm ammo it will load. At first glance the magazine looks like it will accept 7.62 x 51 NATO ammo.
    However, if it can chamber communist 7.62 x 38 or 7.62 x 54 ammo, then maybe it was built in Rumania. The Rumanian language is a dialect of old Italian/Roman.

  7. This rifle is very similar to several rifles produced by most of the major Italian rifle manufacturers during the competitive trials to replace/upgrade the US M14 rifle in the late 1950s. This competition was ultimately won by the BM59; but unknown to most the BM59 was not wholly designed by Beretta, but was more a merging of designs from Beretta and Franchi with some M14 and BAR components thrown in for flavor. Some folks say the BM59 was a terrible design but I have fired a number of them and find they are quite good pieces. This rifle looks to me like the Franchi testbed rifle for that trial.

  8. Could it be a variation on the Benelli shotgun inertia system?
    The Benelli compresses a spring during recoil and that spring rebounds driving the action.
    What if the action of this rifle depended on recoil in a similar manner?
    The entire rifle recoils together for a short distance then encounters the operator or some other ‘stop’.
    The receiver halts right away, but other parts keep on moving.
    How fast? Divide muzzle velocity by the ratio of the weapon weight:bullet weight.
    Around 15-30 fps is typical.
    The operating rod has enough momentum to run the action. I guess.

  9. Hi!
    Taking a closer look, this is a very light rifle!
    Probably kicks like a mule…which feeds right into my previous post about this being inertia driven.
    Recoil is likely fierce. The muzzle brake is likely an attempt to mitigate the worst of it.
    The only really heavy part is the bolt.

  10. Without having any external information, I agree with those who pointed towards Italian shotgun makers as the designers of this. Obviously there is the shape and style of the receiver. The tilting locking lug on the top of the bolt is quite different from the locking lug on an Auto-5, but VERY similar to several other pump and semi-auto shotgun designs. The general way the operating rod comes below the bolt and bridges across from side to side also strongly reminds me of pump shotgun designs I have seen. It seems one can see the gas piston in one of the photos, but they may have been intentionally keeping the gas cylinder under wraps at the time the photos were taken. Or is there a way to tell if these were originally digital photos? They seem modern… maybe those of the gas cylinder were misplaced or the photographer just overlooked that whole area.

  11. MOST definitely a Franchi prototype, look at this http://www.imfdb.org/images/6/68/Franchimodpa3.jpg and compare to the ejector bolt visible in the close up https://www.forgottenweapons.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/dsc_9565.jpg

    THIS SHOULD BE A VERY VERY VALUABLE GUN… only a couple were ever made in this configuration then Franchi started to go in limited production as a “normal” assault rifle look, this is still one of the very earliest I suppose.

    Needs a museum or a serious collector to appreciate.

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