Mateba Fan - The internet's only fansite dedicated to the curious firearms of Emilio Ghisoni

TYPE: Single action semi-automatic pistol
CALIBER: .22lr
CAPACITY: 5 rounds in a detachable magazine located forward of the trigger
WEIGHT: 36.3oz / 1028g (with magazine, unloaded)
CONSTRUCTION: Blued steel, contoured competition-style grips (right-hand only)
BARREL LENGTH: 5 in / 127mm
YEAR OF INTRODUCTION: 1977 (maybe 1980)
AMERICAN IMPORTER: American Western Arms
IMPORTATION HISTORY: Supposedly only 10 in the United States
OTHER NOTES: Emilio Ghisoni's first handgun design. Mateba also made a 1911 clone, and bought the rights to a different pocket pistol designed by SITES, but this remained Ghisoni's only original semi-auto design. (I heard that he was working on a prototype semi-auto in the mid-90s, but details are non-existant.) Adjustable rear sight, and trigger is adjustable for weight, pull length, and creep.

Q: Is that strange grip comfortable to hold and to shoot?
It fits my hand pretty well, although it's a bit on the small side. It is quite comfortable to hold and shoot. There is a substantial beaver tail/tang, so there is no chance of getting slide bit despite the low position in the hand.

Q: Is it accurate?
It is pretty accurate, although there are other guns I shoot more accurately.

Q: Where can I find one, and for how much?
Check my Buying a Mateba page for my tips. Because of their rarity, a market value in the US is hard to establish.

The Mateba MT1 was, from what I can tell, Ghisoni’s first production firearm. I’ve seen different dates of production, with one source claiming 1977 and another 1980 as the year of introduction. It’s his only original semi-auto design, a .22lr pistol with a 5-round capacity. I can fit 6 rounds in the magazines, but Mateba’s website as of 2004 listed 5-round mags for sale, so I assume that is their intended capacity.

I’ll be honest. My initial interest with the Mateba MT1 couldn’t be labeled as “love at first sight,” as my reaction to some of Ghisoni’s other designs might be.  I knew it existed only from my routine Gunbroker searches for the keyword “Mateba,” which for months resulted in a single MT1 for sale by the Mateba hoarder Jim “the Coltman” Glidden. This singular example was priced quite high, in my opinion, especially for a long-forgotten .22lr semi-auto with zero parts availability. Plus, I’ve never been a competitive shooter, so its Olympic-styling didn’t do much for me.

I still had to have it. I knew that, despite being overpriced at an arbitrary $1600, I would probably never see one again, and it would forever be a glaring hole in my Ghisoni collection. I was lucky to stumble into my MTR-8; I didn’t trust my luck to strike twice and allow me to get a one of the 10 MT1s in the country at any point in the future. So, I bid and won, for my collection’s sake.

Since receiving it, I’ll admit the looks have grown on me. It has a certain late-70s Lamborghini Countach era Italian flair that is both futuristic and retro, with sharp angles at every turn and a swept-back look. I’ve never had a .22 pistol in this competition style package, so some things have taken some adaptation. The controls were a little unique to me, and a manual wasn’t included (although I’m led to believe that the seller will be sending me one soon). Within a few hours I was reasonably sure I had the gun’s eccentric manual of arms and disassembly procedure figured out.

Mateba MT1 vs Beretta 92 size comparison

Mateba MT1 vs Beretta 92.
The Beretta 92 is the most "common" gun I own that I could use to compare the MT1's size with.

The gun weighs in at a hefty 36.3 ounces. It is pretty long and large, overall, for a .22lr pistol. Given its weight and size, it feels quite substantial in the hand, but with excellent balance. I don’t have my Browning Buckmark to compare anymore, but the MT1 is noticeably longer than the Browning. See the photo at right to get a feel for the size compared to my most “common” reference gun, a Beretta 92.

I was pretty eager to see how the grip would feel. Being my first gun with a grip of this sort, I was nervous that it wouldn’t fit me, or that it would be awkward to shoot using my preferred two-handed method.

When I first picked the gun up, I noticed a sharp edge was found on the right upper side of the grip, right above my right index knuckle. It consistently scraped me and was uncomfortable, so I used some fine sandpaper to smooth the crags a bit.

Apart from that hiccup, the grip fits my hand quite well. It gives me a solid lock-up every time I pick the gun up, and makes it quite pointable and natural feeling. Two-hands feel fine, with the flat left side of the grip feeling more or less like any other pistol once held.

The magazine release is on the left side of the gun. It’s a sort of paddle that protrudes from the magazine well and has a small textured area jutting off the side. When pushed downward, the magazine may be extracted with a bit of effort. I would have liked for this paddle to be a little larger, because it does start to wear on your thumb after releasing the mag several times.

The slide release is a lever found on the right side of the gun. It is hard to reach with the shooting hand’s index finger, and hard to press once you do reach it. The gun does have a last round hold open, so pulling the slide back is probably the preferred method of chambered a round. (There is some criticism related to that, though. Read on for more.)

Mateba MT1 magazines

Mateba MT1 magazines.
A rare sight in a Mateba collection: magazines. I've managed to fit 6 rounds in them, but I believe they are supposed to be 5-rounders. The one on the left's button appears to have broken off.

The Mateba MT1 is a single action-only gun with a hammer-driven firing pin. The hammer spur is pretty small and narrow, and the grip interferes with right-handed cocking somewhat, but it’s not hard to reach and cock the gun with the left hand.

There is a safety button on the left side of the rear end of the slide. By pushing inwards and rotating the button, the transfer bar, visible and in the middle of the slide, between the hammer and firing pin, can be rotated into place or out of the way. Basically, the safety prevents the hammer from actually striking the firing pin by moving it out of reach. This safety is a little bit difficult to engage due to its small size and location directly beneath the rear sight, which impinges access.

Disassembly is pretty easy. The rear sight exerts downward pressure via an internal spring. By raising the rear sight with your hand, you can push the topstrap forward. The front section of the topstrap clears a bolt, and the entire topstrap/rear sight piece comes off. From there, with the hammer cocked, the firing pin mechanism can be removed.

Disassembly can be carried one step further, if the user wishes. Underneath the barrel, just past the frame, is a round nut. It has three holes spread across its edge on the circumference. When fully tightened, one hole is exposed, directly in the middle of a rectangular cut-out where the nut is exposed. By insert a small hex key, I could rotate this nut 1/6 of a turn, which exposed the 2nd hole in the nut. I withdrew the key, put it in the newly exposed hole, and turned 1/3 of a turn till the next hole was unveiled. After the same procedure, the first hole appeared again at the far left edge of the access port. It was a slow-going process, but eventually I was able to unscrew the nut completely and the barrel shroud came off. Check the photos section for a picture of the gun in this disassembled state.

Mateba MT1 sight picture

Mateba MT1 sight picture.
The front sight is pretty broad. I believe that is typical with target guns like this.

My first time out to the range, I only had Remington subsonic and CCI Mini-Mag ammo on hand. Both of them refused to cycle properly. Every round led to a failure-to-feed. I was pretty worried about that at first, and also quite frustrated, thinking that the gun had some inherent or fundamental problem and it was just going to be an expensive paperweight.

The next time I went out, I brought some CCI Stingers and Federal Lightnings, and, to my relief, they ran through the MT1 beautifully with no jams.

The sight picture was good. However, the stock setting was shooting about 5” low at 15 yards. The Leatherman I had with me on my first session didn’t have a flathead bit small enough to adjust the sight, so I had to do it at home. When I went back the second time, it was still low, but not as much.

Grouping was pretty good, though. I'll upload a photo of the target from my second range trip, but the groups I was getting were probably about 1.5 or 2 inches at 15 yards. I'm sure the gun is more capable than that, and I was getting used to it. I look forward to improving my skills with the MT1.

The trigger is highly adjustable, and after my first range trip, I decreased the take-up considerably. The gun now has a very crisp trigger, which may be a bit heavy. It is still quite nice to shoot. The 5-round magazine capacity is a little annoying at the range, though, because of the frequent reloads. That may be a competition-related feature, I'm not sure.

I do have several criticisms with the Mateba MT1.

First off, the design as a whole strikes me as being a bit crude and rudimentary. This gun was apparently Emilio Ghisoni’s first production firearm, and it does seem a bit more primitive than his other works. The topstrap, for example, is a couple millimeters wider than the top of the barrel shroud, and overhangs on the sides a bit for some reason. It just looks like the part dimensions don't match up precisely.

Every angle of the MT1 is sharp and harsh. When I was first trying to figure out the best tactic to rack the slide, I knicked my knuckles several times on the different protusions, like the slide release and the saftey and rear sights.

The mag release is a bit tough on the thumb as well. It requires significant pressure to release a magazine, and its small size and sharp angles (the gun is nothing BUT sharp angles) get painful after a while.

As I mentioned, the 5-round mag gets a bit tedious after a while. There is a thumb button on the side of the magazine, as found on most 22lr mags, but because of the low capacity, you are reloading it twice and much and it puts twice the wear on your thumb.

Overall, I would say that I have warmed to the Mateba MT1. Despite a few minor misgivings, the gun feels great in the hand and is a lot of fun to shoot.

Cibles no. 99 - This article is in French, but I'm currently working on a translation.

Mateba MT1 Cibles article - page 1 Mateba MT1 Cibles article - page 2

Shooting the Mateba MT1:

My review of the Mateba MT1 - short version:

My review of the Mateba MT1 - long version:

I haven't found a single informational link about this gun. If you know of any, please let me know.