I've decided that about the only thing more elusive than information about Emilio's guns is information about the inventor himself. He died just a few years ago on April 24, 2008, finally succumbing to a long struggle with bone cancer. The closest thing to an obituary I found was in the Italian magazine Armi e Tiro. I've translated it here:
After suffering a long illness that finally conquered his body, but never his mind, brilliant and innovative firearm designer Emilio Ghisoni has died. He was born in 1937 and, despite his classical studies, he was always fascinated by mechanics. In the 70s came his first prototypes: a revolver with a break-opne cylinder and barrel and a competition semi-auto pistol (the MT1), produced in small numbers in 1980. But it's with his Mateba revolvers that Ghisoni became known, experimenting wth bold and novel solutions, and also led to interest from investors: the MTR8 in 1983 and the later models, 2006M and 6 Unica. With these last two, Ghisoni reimagined the concept of the revolver, aligning the barrel with the lower chamber in the cylinder iinstead of the top. But while his interest was focused on revolvers, it cannot be forgotten that he came up with a semi-auto protoype in 1995, which had a coaxial feed system in line with the barrel. Active until the end (his compact revolver, the Rhino, debuted in 2006), he had contributed generously to the pages of Tiro e Armi in discovering and developing amateur firearms designers, including Far Cudazzo Antonio. Just days before his death, he was still dedicating his genious to new designs. Goodbye, Emilio. We will miss you.
If you know anything else at all about Emilio, please email me.
Mateba's logo variations.
I have found several different logo variations used by Mateba. I've tried to place them in order of oldest appearance to newest. The colorful one above is the last, I believe.
The Macchine Termo-Balistiche company, or Ma.Te.Ba., was a pasta kneading machine manufacturer based in Pavia, Italy through the 1990s. It was originally run by Emilio Ghisoni's father until his death in the late 50s. When his father died, Emilio dropped out of his university, where he was a student of the classics, and began to lead the company. Eventually, his interest in mechanical engineering and firearms design become a small side-business for Mateba. (I'm not sure if the name "Thermo-ballistic machines" was branded on their pasta machines or not. It may have only been used for the guns, and another name was used for the food machines.)
His first production firearm was the MT1, a competition-style .22lr semi-auto pistol. I've heard conflicting reports on the exact period of manufacture. One source said 1977, but another said 1980.
A few years later, Ghisoni unveiled Mateba's newest and most innovative design: the MTR series. One article mentioned that it was introduced in 1980 and another claimed 1983. The design was initial born out of a bet. After producing his first functional example, Ghisoni decided he had put enough Lira into the gun that he might as well make it a production piece and try selling them.
In 1990, Mateba finally released a new firearm design, the 2006M. I've read that it was officially called the MTR-6+6, and that the 2006M name is a misnomer based on its catalog number. In any event, this was the first Ghisoni revolver with his "trademark" 6 o'clock bore position.
A German investor became interested in the company in the early 90s. He partnered up with Ghisoni and they went into business together. In 1996, design began on Ghisoni's most famous gun, the 6 Unica Autorevolver. Using the German's help, they were able to find broader distribution and get more of them over to the United States. However, sales were still not what they had hoped. Ghisoni eventually sold his stake in the company to Sergio Mottana, who became the owner of Ghisoni's Mateba name and its properties and designs. This German-funded and Italian-led (Sergio's son, Valentino, was the manager during this period) Mateba company eventually folded in 2005 and is no longer in business. I believe it was during this partnership that the company also produced their 1911 clone, as well as a Colt Lightning clone. The 1911 is supposedly of very high quality.
After selling off the Mateba name in the late 90s, Emilio founded a new company called The.Ma (Thermoballistic Machines di Emilio Ghisoni). Still in the business of producing food processing machines, he continued to tinker with firearms designs on the side. The last firearm design to which he contributed, the Rhino, was a small snubnose revolver with his favorite feature, the low-position barrel.
He originally had the idea of making a 7-shot compact revolver. He showed the design to architect and engineer of the FAR (Fast, Accurate, Reilaible) firearm system, Antonio Cudazzo, who made some ergonomic and other stylistic changes to Emilio's design. The novel ergonomics didn't convince Ghisoni on paper, so Cudazzo produced a wax model. It was love at first grip for Ghisoni, and he coveted the model in his refridgerator to keep it from melting. The two began a partnership, with Cudazzo's Far League company doing the financing and sales, and Ghisoni's The.Ma. handling the actual production.
Unfortunately, Ghisoni became ill and died in 2008, leaving Cudazzo alone to manage the Rhino project. He struggled to find a firearms company willing to produce his unique design, until he met Rino Chiappa, CEO of the Chiappa Firearms Company. Rino loved the idea and was eager to take advantage of his company's high-tech machinery to make the gun. After further refinements, the Chiappa Rhino was available for sale starting in 2010.