Italy was the first major adopter of the Maxim heavy machine gun and had several hundred by 1914 – but wanted to have a domestic design in production as well. The Italian government and military put a lot of resources into the Perino machine gun, but kept it so secret that it was never properly tested and development was very slow. By the time war broke out, the Perino was clearly not ready for field use – and Maxims (along with other foreign designs) were no longer available for commercial sale as production was being taken up by warring nations. This led Italy to adopt a private design of Bethel Revelli in partnership with the FIAT company.
Adopted as the Modello 1914, Revelli’s machine gun was a delayed blowback system with a wedge under mechanical disadvantage holding the bolt closed long enough to safety cycle. Its most unique element was the 50-round mousetrap type box magazine that used 10 independent stacks of 5 rounds each (a 100-round version was also made). This was a very complex magazine to produce, and much more delicate than the other machine gun feed systems in use at the time. The Revelli is also notable for being the only major machine gun of the period to have a circulating water jacket, operated by a small hand-cranked pump on the condensing tank.
The FIAT-Revelli would see service as both and aircraft and ground gun through World War 1, and was updated in 1935 to an air cooled pattern that would serve through World War 2. These guns are very scarce in the United States today, and I am grateful to the collector who owns this one for providing access to it!