MANUFACTURER(S): FIAT-Revelli - Italy
OPERATORS: Kingdom of Italy
ACTION: Delayed Blowback; Full-Automatic Only
CALIBER(S)*: 6.5x52mm Mannlicher-Carcano
SIGHTS: Rear Flip-Up Type
Detailing the development and operational history of the FIAT-Revelli Modello 1914 Medium Machine Gun (MMG).
Entry last updated on 6/2/2017.
Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com.
The FIAT-Revelli Modello 1914 (Machine Gun, System Revelli, Model 14) was the first large-scale indigenously-designed and developed Italian machine gun. However, the system was a bizarre mix of design decisions that ultimately made for an unreliable weapon system during World War 1 (1914-1918). Regardless, the Italians - like many armies of the time - found themselves desperate for small arms of any kind to take to war and procured the FIAT-Revelli Model 1914 in number, utilizing these as frontline weapons against their enemies in Austria-Hungary and Germany. The Model 1914 was updated in the 1930s to become the FIAT-Revelli Modello 1935 and saw action in World War 2 (1939-1945) making the Model 1914 one of those "special" weapons to have seen combat action in two world wars. The last operational Model 1914/Model 1935 guns were given up for good in 1945.
Despite its official 1914 designation, the Modello 1914 was actually tested for possible service with the Italian Army in 1908 but did not move onto adoption of the system until pressed by its commitment in World War 1. The gun was a wholly Revelli design with the FIAT name attached simply as its manufacturer.
Outwardly, the Model 1914 followed the form and function utilized by two more famous machine guns of the period - the German Maxim and the British Vickers, both water-cooled machine gun systems though differing significantly internally. The main internal components were housed in a rectangular receiver (the gun body) and it was here that the all-important mechanical action was contained. A flip-up sighting device was fitted at the rear of the receiver just ahead of the operator to allow for accurized ranged fire. The gunner operated the weapon through two spade-type grips at the rear, applying special care to clear his fingers/hands of the exposed moving bolt ahead of the grips. The barrel was fitted ahead of the receiver in the usual way though - as in the Maxim and Vickers - heavily shrouded by a water cooling jacket intended to counter the effects of heat upon the barrel (lest the barrel fracture). As one might expect, this required a constant water supply to be instituted and this was made possible through a canister carried into battle by the crew. Two hoses (one ingoing, one outgoing) were connected to the underside section of the jacket at the rear where the barrel met the receiver. If properly cooled, the Model 1914 could supply long-lasting repeat fire support at fairly long ranges. At the muzzle, there was a conical flash suppressor which gave the Model 1914 a very unique World War 1-era appearance. The Model 1914's firepower was centered around the small and relatively weak (though serviceable) 6.5x52mm Mannlicher-Carcano (M95) rifle cartridge.
The Model 1914 was not just the machine gun component - it included the machine gun itself, the requisite cooling system, heavy-duty tripod and ammunition supply which is why multiple crew were assigned to a single machine gun section. The tripod was a reinforced steel assembly intended to take the bulk of the weight of the weapon and assist in its recoil when fired. For prolonged use, this proved adequate though, if fluidity were required of quick maneuvers during an offensive, the Model 1914 (and its kind elsewhere in the world) proved a tactical liability which is why light machine classes ultimately emerged. The tripod allowed for unfettered side-to-side traversal of the machine gun as well as limited elevation for arced firing or engaging targets on high.
Machine guns of World War 1 were used in three distinct fashions - "direct fire" against open targets/target areas, "indirect fire" where bullets were arced into enemy positions, and fixed defense where gunnery teams awaited an enemy that may or may not arrive and these would likely be faced with direct fire. In a defensive arrangement, several machine guns could be configured into predetermined "kill zones" with the intent that the enemy be flushed in a particular direction toward awaiting allied infantry for the final death knell.
The Model 1914 fired full-automatic mode only and this through a delayed (retarded) blowback system. As each cartridge passed into the chamber, it was oiled to keep itself lubricated during the action and prevent stoppages and possible ruptures. The oil was supplied through an integrated reservoir along the top of the receiver that required long-term management by the crew. The Model 1914 was given an exposed bolt design which saw the bolt appear at the immediate rear of the receiver during the firing cycle. This, in turn, required implementation of a buffer ahead of the spade grips to protect the operator and bolt from one another. The bolt operated directly in front of the operator's hands managing the spade grips and, most likely, his face would be trained in on the sighting device just ahead - exposing both fingers and face to potential injury. Unlike the belt-fed systems deployed by the Maxim and Vickers, the Model 1914 was fed through an ammunition "cage" of sheet metal fitted along the side of the receiver. The cage sported ten compartments each containing a five-round "clip" (the standard Italian Army Mannlicher-Carcano rifle "stripper" clip). In total, the weapon could be fed through a 50-round supply (10x5) in what was recognized as a "strip-feed box". A pawl-and-arm system managed the ready cartridges towards the awaiting feed mechanism at the receiver with each successive shot.
The Model 1914 measured a running length of 46.5 inches with a barrel of 25.75 inches. With its 50-round box ammunition supply, the machine gun operated through a 400 round-per-minute rate-of-fire. The complete system weighed 37lbs making it one of the more "lighter" of the machine guns of the World War 1 period. Muzzle velocity was a useful 2,100 feet per second.
Both the exposed action and exposed cartridges as well as the need to oil each cartridge proved unnecessarily complex for a machine gun expected to handle the abuses of modern warfare. The exposed bolt allowed all manner of debris to enter the critical receiver action and the oiled cartridges equally attracted unwanted dust and debris. The choice of the 6.5mm rifle cartridge proved logistically sound and the bullet gave good service for a time though ultimately proving weaker to the 7mm cartridges utilized elsewhere (the Japanese Imperial Army found itself in a similar situation going into World War 2). However, a machine gun employing stripper clips made for painfully slow and cumbersome reloading of the system - especially when sustained fire was in order. As with other "water cooled" machine guns, the Model 1914 also needed a constant supply of cool water, again, particularly if sustained fire was the call of the day. It was these sorts of qualities that led the Model 1914 to be recognized more for its complexity in design and regular stoppages than for its usefulness and lethality. The decision to use the exposed "cage" cartridge box was a peculiar one to say the least as belt-fed systems were already in use at the time, only adding to the weapon's vulnerability under the heat of battle and general unreliability. Furthermore, since these cages were generated from basic sheet metal sections, they did not stand well to the abuses of combat and required constant replacement from suppliers - a terrible logistical commitment for the Italian Army.