Itailian Cei-Rigotti Selfloading Rifle

Amerigo Cei-Rigotti was a major in the Italian Bersaglieri (light infantry) in 1900, when his innovative self-loading rifle design was first introduced. Unlike many or the very early semiauto rifle designs, the Cei-Rigotti is a light, handy, and pretty compact rifle:

Ian with a Cei-Rigotti rifle
This design is much handier than most automatic rifles of its vintage – perhaps this is because the designer was an infantryman instead of an engineer? (Photo courtesy UK MoD)

The rifle was select-fire, and chambered for the 6.5×52 Carcano cartridge. It shared the size and style of the Carcano as well as a few small parts, but was built from the ground up and was not a conversion of a  bolt action rifle. It operated via gas pressure on a short-stroke piston under the barrel. This example has a small magazine, but several different sizes were used in various tests, reportedly up to 50 rounds in capacity. The magazines are not detachable, though, and must be reloaded with stripped clips through the receiver. We took the opportunity to strip the gun down, and have a video for you on the inner workings. Enjoy!

Ultimately, the Cei Rigotti was not adopted by any military force despite being tested by several countries over the decade after its introduction. Most folks today say this was due to erratic and unreliable functioning, but we have not seen any test reports from the period substantiating this (and the mechanism seems quite sound to us). We are keeping our eyes open for more info, and you’ll see it here if we can find anything!

15 Comments

  1. pretty cool. was the 6,5 mm round a good semi auto/full auto round? I mean did it cycle good and was it controllable in full auto (50 round mag!)? So, correct me if I am wrong, but it looks like a gas operated schmidt rubin sort of rifle. Too complex for the average soldier?

  2. What kind of clips did they use to load the magazine? Standard Carcano clips were en-bloc, not stripper clips, after all. Also, do you have any more pictures of this rifle?

  3. This post and video just made my day ! I always wanted to see more (any) information about this precious piece of art. Thank you !

  4. Mil grazie! I am re-reading Mark Thompson’s _White War_ about the Italian Front in WWI.

    I had read about the Cei-Rigotti 6.5mm Automatic rifle having a 25-round magazine, even though the pictures showed a shorter magazine. I agree that the top of the receiver and the helical groove in the bolt are strongly reminiscent of the Swiss Schmidt-Rubin M1889 and M1911 rifle action and receiver. Does the reciprocating bolt and bolt handle come that far back during operation? If so, I could see that as being a reason for the design being ultimately rejected. Interesting comparison with the Russian 6.5x50mm Federov and the experimental 8mm Ribeyrole as ancestors of select-fire rifles.

  5. The example being handled by Ian in the photograph (the same shown in the video, I think) is quite handy indeed, as it was made in carbine lenght. I don’t know whether the Cei-Rigotti was also produced in normal rifle lenght.

      • That’s a very interesting detail. As for the (probable) rifle lenght version, I don’t remember seeing any picture of it, anywhere! I am now waiting for a recent Italian book on the Carcano rifle family, but I doubt it will include anything on the Cei-Rigotti.

  6. One interesting historical note: Col. (later Gen.Maj) Fedorov, developer of the Fedorov avtomat, wrote a book on history of small arms. He mentioned many early automatic and semi-automatic rifles, some in details, but Cei-Rigotti got only a passing mention. Maybe it was because C-R was a direct rival to Fedorov’s own weapon in concept and tactical use, preceding it by a good decade.

    • Mr. Popenker: I remember reading somewhere a passing comment on a version of Cei-Rigotti chambered for the Russian 7,62x54R. Do you have any bits of information regarding possible testing of the rifle by the Imperial Russian Army before 1914?
      I understand the rifle was also tested by the Swiss, but I don’t know any further details.

      • Ruby,
        I never read anything like that, but, again, that does not mean anything either 😉

        before the Great War, Russian army tested several foreign self-loading rifles, but Cei-Rigotti? No info, sorry

        • No problem! Thanks anyway. I guess we must wait for someone in Italy to dig additional information; maybe this is already available in some Italian language only source.

  7. Very cool images, And explanation, but as a soundengeneer very annoying to have to listen to other people talking in the back, i always ask politely for people to be quiet during takes, never a problem….

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