From The Backpages Of Gun History: The Mateba Autorevolver

Mateba AutoRevolver

courtesy wikipedia.org

A little while ago, I brought up the topic of magnum semi-autos. They’re cool, but they’re a boutique item since they are expensive, can be temperamental and are wildly expensive compared to magnum revolvers that you can pick up for not a whole lot.

The commenters – who were surprisingly restrained this time out – brought up a little-known gun that’s actually BOTH: the Mateba Autorevolver. This curious Italian gun is exactly what it sounds like, a semi-automatic revolver that has features of both systems.

Wait…a semi-automatic revolver? How does that work?

It was made in .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum and even .454 Casull, so it’s a serious bit of kit.

Actually, there have been a couple of these; there’s the Mateba and the Webley-Fosbery Automatic Revolver. The former shares a bit with the latter, but differs in some significant ways.

Webley-Fosbery revolver

courtesy rockislandauction.com

The Webley-Fosbery discarded traditional lockwork for a sliding assembly with zig-zag grooves machined into the surface of the cylinder. You cocked it by pulling on the cylinder/action assembly, much like a magazine-fed semi-auto. Recoil rotates the cylinder and cocks the pistol again before the next shot.

It was large (it’s made on a Webley frame, about the size of a Smith & Wesson N-frame) unwieldy and complicated, so it didn’t sell well. It could be had with either a six-shot cylinder in .455 Webley or – ahead of its time – eight rounds of .38 ACP.

For those unaware, .38 ACP was basically a hot semi-rimmed .38 caliber round, about equal to .38 Special +P, devised by John Browning. It didn’t sell terribly well so Colt goosed the powder charge and gave it a new name in the late 1920s: .38 Super.

Anyhow, back to the Mateba. The Mateba was devised in the 1980s by Emilio Ghisoni, an otherwise brilliant engineer. He was also a keen target shooter and sought to correct the problem of recoil as well as the heavy DA trigger in revolvers. You have to shoot DA to shoot fast, after all, which hampers accuracy for some shooters.

The function is similar to, but also differs from that of the Webley-Fosbery. The hammer is mostly enclosed in the frame, with an upper assembly on the pistol that functions like the hammer block on a hammer-fired gun. The recoil force causes the upper slide assembly to cock the hammer and return, like a piston, while the recoil force rotates the cylinder.

The first shot is double-action, but all subsequent shots are single-action. In essence, the Mateba Autorevolver functions just like the DA/SA semi-autos many of us are used to such as SIG SAUER, H&K, CZ, Beretta and so on and so forth.

The Autorevolver, however, never sold in huge numbers. It was complicated to manufacture and expensive. They are quite beautiful, high-end pistols made to exacting standards. Used examples often cost $3,000 or more.

It was produced on a limited basis until a few years before Ghisoni’s death in 2008, but enough interest remained for the company to resume operations this year. You can buy one, but expect to spend.

That said, there are a couple of other interesting design appointments of the Mateba. First, Ghisoni designed a slab-sided cylinder, allowing the pistol to cut down on mass and width without compromising function.

Ghisoni also observed that felt recoil is influenced by torque on the wrist, which is influenced by bore axis height. The greater the distance between the barrel and the top of the hand, the more torque is exerted on the wrist, which is why H&K, SIG and a lot of the poly striker pistols “snap” a little more than CZs, 1911s and others. What he did to combat this was move the barrel from the top of the cylinder to the bottom. Thus, recoil is projected closer to straight back into the wrist.

Chiappa Rhino

courtesy hinterlandoutfitters.com

Some of you might anticipate where this is going, and you are spot on. Yes, this was the genesis of the Chiappa Rhino. The Rhino was Ghisoni’s last gun design before his death, which Chiappa hired him for along with Antonio Cudazzo.

So, that’s the Mateba Autorevolver. You can argue it’s a solution in search of a problem, but it’s hard to deny its singular design.

comments

  1. avatar Jon Renguul says:

    I’ve wanted one these since seeing Ghost In The Shell.

    1. avatar barnbwt says:

      Togusa’s 9mm was an M2006, which is basically what the Rhino derived from (a ‘typical’ DA/SA)

      1. avatar Steve says:

        Technically it was a fictional 2007M in the movie… but your point remains – DA/SA, not semi-automatic. I’ve held both a 2006M and an Unica 6 and while I haven’t shot either, I can tell you that the Unica 6 is definitely a match revolver more than anything else – the intricate nature of the guts shown in the patent makes this more of a mechanical watch than it is a ‘normal’ revolver. The 2006M on the other hand at least felt like it could take a beating.

        In the later Stand Alone Complex series anime, he uses a fictional 2008M which combines the look of the 2006M with the semi-automatic part of the Unica 6 (they even animated the sliding cylinder/barrel assembly).

        In either case, I think they’re both gorgeous revolvers but not worth the price of, say, a Korth, which was the smoothest firing revolver I’ve ever fired… ever.

        1. avatar DrewN says:

          How many watch guys do you know that only have one? I’m not even a watch guy but I have an Omega, a Tag, a Gevril, and a bunch of G-Shocks. Most guys in the market for this can get both,with a Manhurin thrown in.

        2. avatar Moltar says:

          Damnit Steve!!! Now I gotta go back and rewatch the series looking for that!!!!

        3. avatar TrappedInCommiefornia says:

          Add me to the list of those who will now have to go back and watch the series. I never even bothered to pay attention to the guns, probably because I know so little about them.

  2. avatar Broke_It says:

    Gimmie. Gimmie gimmie gimme!

  3. avatar tmm says:

    Ian at Forgotten Weapons did a pair of videos on the Webley, including a shooting video

    Captain Fraser’s Webley-Fosbery: WWI in Microcosm
    https://www.full30.com/video/338b7a58788f196eb763be63e33ecf10

    Shooting the Webley-Fosbery – Including Safety PSA
    https://www.full30.com/video/6be5cef44474e53446bc2482a3b44f00

  4. avatar paul says:

    Chamber for a 6.5 Creedmore and it would be perfect!

  5. avatar 16V says:

    That didn’t hurt much, did it? Good job.

  6. avatar Kahlil says:

    I have a Rhino 200DS but would love a longer one, like a 4-5″ barrel. The 6 Unica is on my wish list, they are back to being manufactured but close to $2500-3000 new.

    1. avatar 16V says:

      Sure, it’s a bit more than an average Glock. So what? (If you have it to spend, ‘natch)

      I would offer that you can easily spend $2-5K on a snorefest rote ‘custom’ 1911 that (relatively speaking) every body and their cousin has. Whoopdee-effen-do.

      Or, you could have the coolest BBQ gun. EVAH. Not to mention they actually shoot well.

  7. avatar little horn says:

    they are really finicky. a guy i worked with had one passed down to him. if you don’t hold it properly it will crack the hilt, which aren’t cheap either. they are a beast though. never heard of it until he told me about it. funky design. he said the kick wasn’t what you would think, a lot softer.

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