TYPE: Double-action/single action sporting/competition revolver handgun (MTR-x) or revolver carbine (MTRC-x)
CALIBER: .38 special (MTR-8/MTRC-8), .357 magnum (MTR-8M/MTRC-8M), .32 S&W (MTR-12/MTRC-14), .22lr (MTR-14/MTRC-20) [NOTE: I have never seen any evidence that these other calibers were produced. They may have just been prototypes or concepts.)
CAPACITY: 8 (.38/.357), 12 (.32 S&W), 14 (.22lr) or 12 (.38/.357), 14 (.32 S&W), 20 (.22lr) in some carbine models
WEIGHT: 43oz / 1250g (MTR-8)
CONSTRUCTION: Blued steel, contoured wood grips
BARREL LENGTH: 75mm (MTR-8)
YEAR OF INTRODUCTION: 1980 (maybe 1983)
AMERICAN IMPORTER: American Western Arms
IMPORTATION HISTORY: Only 10 in the United States, all handguns and in .38 special. A coulpe of carbines may also have been imported by individuals in 2012.
MANUAL: Download the MTR-8 manual
OTHER NOTES: Supposedly designed based on a bet. Ghisoni later claimed, "I've already put enough money into this 'bet' that I might as well run with it!" The MTR-X is his second design, and first revolver, after the semi-auto MT1 .22lr pistol several years earlier. The model was supposedly chambered in four calibers: .38 special, .357 magnum, .32 S&W, and .22lr. Capacities and model names varied depending on the caliber and whether the gun was a handgun or carbine. A European dealer told me that only 500 MTR-8s were ever made.
Mateba MTR-8 Accuracy.
The target pictured above was shot 24 times (3 cylinders) from around 17 yards, two hands, unsupported, mostly single action with some double action, and using American Eagle ammo.
Q: How accurate could that be? The barrel is so short, but the gun is so big!
A: The barrel is short, being only about 3" long. However, the rear sight is at the back of the gun, and the sight radius is almost 11 inches. Because of that, accuracy is quite good. The gun is designed for target and competition use, and for that it performs very well. See the photo at right.
Q: Does all the weird design really reduce muzzle flip?
A: It does, although in my opinion the Chiappa Rhino (Emilio Ghisoni's last design) is better at reducing muzzle flip and felt recoil.
Q: You mention in your review that it won't fire without the loading clip. Why is that?
A: The physical reason is that without the loading clip, the firing pin won't strike the primers on the cartridges. I believe it was designed to be used with these clips as Ghisoni's approach to creating the ultimate competition gun. The clip is almost like a magazine in a semi-auto: you just plug it in and go.
Q: Where can I find one, and for how much?
A: Check my Buying a Mateba page for my tips. Because of their rarity, a market value in the US is hard to establish.
MTR-8 vs Colt Python vs Beretta 92 size comparison.
The Beretta 92 is the most "common" gun I own that I could use to compare the MTR-8's size with. The Python is typical target revolver size and should also help get a feel for the MTR-8's physical size.
The Mateba MTR-8 has been something of a unicorn to me for the past couple of years. I don’t know where I first heard about it, but if I had to guess I’d say it was on some internet “Ugliest Guns” thread. It never fails to make that list, and with good reason. It’s an unusual looking revolver, and revolvers tend to cater to a more conservative set of the already conservative leaning gun crowd.
Those looks that only an eccentric Italian could love do have a purpose, surprisingly enough. As with all Matebas, the history is a bit sketchy on this model. I believe it was conceived in 1980 as part of a bet with a friend. Later, Emilio was to have said, “Well, I’ve spent enough already, I might as well make it a production gun.” A couple of sources put the gun’s introduction in 1983. Whenever it was introduced, its intended market was competitive International Shooting Union shooters. They needed a gun that was quick and would win matches. Author Ian Hogg says there were some rumors that Franchi would pick up the design, but I can't verify this claim.
The low bore axis and forward weight distribution are intended to produce faster follow-up shots on target during competition, with much less felt recoil. The gun can be fired in single action or double action, though I’d imagine competitions were all shot in double action. The cylinder in the MTR-8 holds 8 rounds of 38 special. Other variations to the model include the MTR-8M, -12 and -14, which shot 8 rounds of 357 magnum, 12 rounds of 32 S&W, and 14 rounds of .22lr, respectively.
The potential for high-capacity cylinders was another reason Ghisoni designed the MTR like he did. By placing the cylinder ahead of the grip, he could make it as large as he wished. This also freed up the grip design, since a typical revolver keeps its lockwork partially in the grip area.
None of these alternate chamberings made it to the United States, and all MTR revolvers remain exceptionally rare world-wide. Supposedly only 10 were ever imported to the US, which is why the gun always felt so mythical to me. Photos were few and far between, and actual substantive details even scarcer. My acquisition of this gun is actually the catalyst for creating this site. I wanted others who are interested in these unicorns to have a place to find first-hand information.
Before I got mine, I had only seen about 10 pictures total of them on the internet. It was hard to get much of a feel for just how big or small the gun would end up being. I was somewhat surprised at its daintiness. It may be just a factor of being “larger than life” in my head, but, besides the thickness of the 8-round cylinder, the gun is quite thin and not all that large, with a total length of just over 11". I’ve taken a photo of it next to my most “common” reference gun, a Beretta 92, and a 1959 Colt Python that is basically standard target revolver size.
The MTR-8 weighs about the same as the Python, too, so it wasn’t as heavy as I thought it would be, weighing about 43oz.
This is the only photo I've ever seen of the MTR carbine in 22lr.
I wasn’t sure what to expect as far as the ergonomics and function of the Mateba MTR-8. The target-style grip is certainly interesting looking, and the package overall looks exceptionally front heavy.
The grip feels pretty good in my hand, I would say. The palm swell may feel a bit too pronounced, but the gun settles low and the wood has good texture.
The front-biased weight distribution is immediately apparent. This is especially so once the gun is loaded with 8 rounds. There is really no weight to balance things out behind the cylinder. As I mentioned, though, this was intentional and a way of keeping the front of the gun down during rapid fire.
Cocking the hammer feels good and is easy to do. The hammer is actually concealed within the gun, but the lever on both sides above the grip cocks it for you. It is well within reach and has a positive feel to it.
The cylinder latch is similar to the style found on Dan Wesson revolvers. It is found just ahead of the cylinder. By pushing the button in a downward direction, the cylinder can open, down and on the right side of the gun.
Overall, the ergonomics are certainly unique and not without their learning curve. However, after getting used to it, I don’t think they are a significant shortcoming to the MTR-8.
The gun shoots pretty well. The recoil reduction measures (low barrel, weight up forward) do their job well. However, I think the Chiappa's Rhino design eliminates felt recoil even better. There is still a bit of rise when shooting .38 specials, which isn't really present when shooting the Rhino.
MTR-8 sight picture.
The sights aren't very adjustable, and are somewhat slow to acquire. They are precise once you find them, though. (Note: To not obscure the view too much, I didn't choke up on the gun like I normally would. You can get your hand pretty high up there.)
The trigger pull is surprisingly good. It’s not super short in double action, but the feel is smooth and light, with no mystery to the break point. Single action is very crisp and quite light, although not quite up to the standard of a tuned S&W or Colt.
The trigger is tunable, with adjustments being made via wrenches inserted into holes in the side of the gun. I haevn't attempted to make any adjustments on mine, because I find the trigger to be good as-is and I'm afraid of overturning something or otherwise breaking it.
An interesting component to firing this gun is the loading procedure. Included with it is a clamshell style disc that resembles a speedloader in some ways. This device is required to fire the gun. I imagine its purpose is to speed the reloading process during a competition. The actual loading of the disc itself is quite awkward and cumbersome, involving fiddling with the centrally located latch and taking some concentration to open. Loading the cartridges in the clip is slow, followed by yet another finicky few seconds of closing the latching mechanism. Once loaded, the clip is very fast to insert.
The sights are somewhat slow to acquire, in my opinion, but I believe they are precise once you get them lined up. They are not exceptionally adjustable, though. The front sight can be rotated around its axis, moving it left to right in sort of an arc, but the rear sight is fixed. A tool kit is needed to adjust the front sight.
The gun is very accurate and a pleasure at the range. Remember, too, that the short barrel will not affect accuracy because the sight radius is still long.
The primary shortcoming of this gun, given its intended use and accepting certain design elements accordingly, is the loading procedure. It is slow, awkward and cumbersome. As described above, once the clips are filled with cartridges, loading the gun itself is a breeze. However, reloading an empty clip is a little bit tedious and annoying. I’d like to find extra clips, but the MTR-8 is already rarer than hen’s teeth and the clips will be even more so.
Apart from that, the gun does have an unusual weight distribution, but it is designed to help with rapid fire competitions, so I don’t mark that against it too strongly.
MTR-8 loading clip.
One of the MTR-8's more unusual features, a clamshell style loading clip. Without it, the gun won't fire.
As a fan of weird guns, and a fan of Ghisoni’s designs, this has long been my Holy Grail. I’m quite proud to finally own one, and I think it was worth the wait (and expense).
Check back soon for more videos, including a clip of me firing the Mateba MTR-8.
Shooting the Mateba MTR-8:
My review of the Mateba MTR-8 - short version
My initial review of the gun, part one:
Rusty Woods Gunsmithing - I'm not sure how qualified he is, but I know for a fact he has done some work on Mateba MTR-8s. He may be able to make repairs if needed.
Hiraku Hiroshi's MTR-8 Page - One of the only other Mateba MTR-8 pages I've found. In Japanese, but I've provided a link to the Google Translated version. Yoshi is not located in Japan, but California.
Henk Bouwman's MTR-8 - A few photos and some information about the optional tool kit and sight adjustment procedure.