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:

Italian Cei Rigotti select-fire 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 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 quick-detachable, though, and must be reloaded with stripper clips through the receiver. Removing the magazine requires removing the trigger guard assembly first (see video below).

Italian Cei Rigotti select-fire rifle with extended magazine
This Cei Rigotti is in the British Pattern Room collection, with an extended fixed magazine. (photo courtesy NFC, Leeds, UK)

Another unusual feature of the Cei Rigotti is that its trigger extends down through a slot in the trigger guard. The purpose of this is not clear – is does not appear to be related to the select-fire nature of the rifle, as there is a selector switch on the left rear of the receiver to change for single shots to automatic fire. This leaves a “winter trigger” idea as the most likely answer.

Cei Rigotti trigger and trigger guard
The Cei Rigotti trigger extends down through the trigger guard – possible for winter use with gloves? (photo courtesy UK MoD)

What little literature was have found on the Cei Rigotti always describes it as being chambered for 6.5mm Carcano, but this is not the case. The one Cei Rigotti we are aware of in the US is actually chambered for 7.65×53, which was one of Mauser’s major caliber offerings at the time the Cei Rigotti was being conceived. The Pattern Room collection in the UK has Cei Rigotti serial number 7, and theirs is also chambered for the 7.65×53 cartridge (we really appreciate them checking on it and letting us know). It is unknown at this point whether all of the handful of prototypes built were in this chambering, or if they were made in several different calibers (possibly including 6.5 Carcano) for testing in different nations.

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). The test conducted by the British, for instance, appears to have been run with ammunition that was shipped with the rifle and damaged in transit.


We had the opportunity to disassemble and examine this Cei Rigotti:

Another Cei Rigotti is privately owned in the US, and this video was produced discussing it:



This Cei Rigotti (the same one as our video above) is in a museum collection in England, and is missing its internal bolt parts, unfortunately. We have not been able to confirm its caliber yet.


  1. From what I can tell the rifle looks sound and by all rights should work. However as you guys said it very well could have been the ammo that killed it. Could it be possible to make a working replica to see if it could work with undamaged ammo.

  2. I’m interested at block-system. Is it posssible that Cei Rigotti block it’s very similiar at Maclean, Lewis and FG42 adopted systems?

  3. As for the trigger/trigger guard, it appears – depending on how far back the sear breaks – it could be used as a “set-trigger” of sorts, stopping rearward motion where the trigger guard flares out just prior to firing. Due to the time period it was produced I would assess it had a pretty long/heavy trigger pull and they were trying to squeeze some extra accuracy out of it.

  4. Concerning the 7.65 Mauser – I read (Hogg, “Infantry Weapons of the Second World War”) that the Italians also introduced the 7.35 (I think) cartridge during the War. Could that be the case of it?
    Regards, Andrzej

  5. If it wasn’t for Battlefield 1, a lot of folks would’ve probably never heard of this guy.

  6. What is the capacity of the stripper clips? Did it use the carcano style 6 round ones, or is it like Battlefield 1, with 5 round ones that look like Mannlicher clips?

  7. Is there a mechanism to manually hold the bolt back for loading? Ive seen a picture with the action locked open, but i assume that its the follower automatically doing it.

  8. What happened to the Resent Cei Regotti video you did from the Beretta facility?

    That video was very good it seems most of those Beretta videos are absent.

  9. British Patent of 1904, # 6118 issued to JJ Royden (Rigotti, A. Cei-) on March 12,has drawings of the action and a description of the parts.

  10. The July/August 2019 edition of The Cartridge Researcher has on page 5, item 648-11 pictures of a Cei Rigotti cartridge with an unusual spiral bullet. It looks like the sharp end of a twist drill. The author mentions the Rigotti self loading rifle saying that it was developed in the 1890’s and improved in 1903.

  11. I’ve heard this was used in field tests in Libya during the Italo-Turkish war, can anyone confirm if this is true or not ?

  12. Moro Ian

    Creetings from Tampere on Finland.
    No intrest on Italian carbage but here is The thing !!. I’ve Been very Keen on your episodes on Finnish mosins.
    I’m able to provide much more information on these rifles If there is any intrest for to do so ?
    I’m selflearned militaryhistorian on Finnish army armament on our wartime.
    Records and statistics of our history are open for anyone. Well almost …
    As in curiosity, I own couple of M39.
    Mid war -42 and latest serialproduction -68. Magnicent rifles, still shooting them when ” ment to Be ” D166 bullet cartridges are availeble, reasonable price.
    Best wishes from Finland

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