TYPE: Double-action/single action semi-automatic revolver
CALIBER: .357 magnum/.38 special, .44 magnum/.44 special, .454 Casull/.45 Long Colt
CAPACITY: 6 rounds
CONSTRUCTION: Blued or nickeled steel, wood grips (nickel only produced through 2002)
BARREL LENGTH: 3", 4", 6" and 8" interchangeable barrels available; .44 magnum and .454 Casull typically had compensators (note: the Mateba Grifone was a carbine variation of the Unica with an 18" barrel)
YEARS OF PRODUCTION: 1998-2004
AMERICAN IMPORTERS: American Western Arms, American Arms International, Pars International
IMPORTATION HISTORY: I've heard there are 1600 in the country, in different calibers, but that seems a little low and I can't verify it. After importation ceased, CDNN Investments in Abilene, TX, sold off remaining quantities, parts and barrels at discount rates.
OTHER NOTES: By far the most famous of Ghisoni's designs. Not completely unique in that the Webley-Fosberry semi-auto revolver was designed in the early 20th century, but it is certainly an unusual gun.Ghisoni's last design sold under the original Ma.Te.Ba name, though he had sold the company to a German by this point. Ma.Te.Ba went under in 2005, and this was their last product. Grips on larger calibers have been known to crack due to recoil stress. A unique variation called the Bianchi Cup was also available in limited numbers. It had an unusual nickel-finished handguard mounted to the barrel and frame. Only 3 were imported. Click here for photos.
MANUAL: Click here to download the manual for the Mateba 6 Unica.
PATENT: Click here to download the patent #4712466 for the Mateba 6 Unica, filed in 1987.
Q: Do you know of a gunsmith who will work on my 6 Unica or Grifone?
A: Mateba Grifone owner and club member Curtis has found a skilled gunsmith willing to work on these exotic guns! Ask for Eric or Waco at US Firearms Co., located in Sunnyvale, CA. Click here to visit their website.
Q: What is needed to shoot the alternate calibers?
A: To shoot the alternate calibers (38 special in the 357, 44 special in the 44 magnum, 45LC in the 454 Casull), you will need to change the recoil spring in the gun. See the videos section below for my instructional video on the Unica's disassembly.
Q: Is it accurate?
A: They are capable of very good accuracy.
Q: My cylinder release is really small. Is it broken?
A: Some guns came from the factory with stunted cylinder release levers. This was to better accomodate speed loaders. Rest assured, your gun is not broken or missing a piece.
Q: I am getting light primer strikes. Is there anything I can do?
A: The screw on the back of the gun adjusts the mainspring tension, which can be increased to provide harder strikes on the primer.
Q: Is that big compensator at the end removeable? Which guns came with that?
A: It is removeable, but you are left with about an inch of threaded barrel sticking out the end of the gun. It's not very attractive. The compensator came mostly on the 44 magnum and 454 Casull models, although 357 barrels were also available with compensators.
Q: Would you recommend the Mateba Unica?
A: If you are a fan of exotic designs, then yes. They seem to be built well and they are certainly unique in many ways. However, I would never recommend it as a person's sole firearm, or as a protection piece. I have yet to experience any reliability issues, but the design is quite unusual and you never know what could happen in an emergency situation. Due to their rarity and expense, I would also discourage putting a lot of rounds through them. If something breaks, there isn't really any way to repair it without knowing a machinist.
Q: Where can I find one, and how much will it cost?
A: Check my Buying a Mateba page for my tips. Prices are on the rise, so expect to pay $2000 or more for a Unica in good condition.
The Mateba 6 Unica is undoubtedly Ghisoni’s most well-known design. In fact, the name “Mateba,” when not followed by another model designation, is usually interpreted to mean the 6 Unica. It was the company’s most popular and successful design, although still not common to find by any means.
The 6 Unica also offers fertile ground to a collector. There are many variations to be had, in caliber, barrel length, and finish. There was also the Grifone variation, which was a carbine with a 13” or 18” barrel and a fixed stock.
The gun came in three calibers: .357 magnum, .44 magnum, and .454 Casull. Each could fire another cartridge with the appropriate spring swap: .38 special, .44 special and .45 Long Colt. Two finishes were available, a rich blue and nickel. I have also seen one for sale that was listed as “black,” so that may be another finish option. The nickel versions seem to be the rarest of all, in my experience. After 2002, only the blued finish was available on the handguns, while nickel remained a factory option on the .357 Grifone carbine.
Designed in 1996, Ghisoni was able to distribute the 6 Unica in much greater quantities than previous Matebas due to help from a German investor. Despite increased production and distribution efforts, the 6 Unica was still not very successful. The price was high, and people weren’t willing to pay it for a novelty. The price eventually came down to around $600 when CDNN Investments started liquidating them. Hoarder/extortionist Jim “the Coltman” Glidden bought many of these at the bargain rate and then withheld them from the market, selling them slowly starting at about $1800 over the course of a few years.
6 Unica 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 6 Unica's physical size.
The 6 Unica could never be described as “diminutive.” They tend to be somewhat heavy, though not ridiculously so. Much of the extra weight comes from the extra mechanics involved with its semi-auto action. The dimensions are variable, of course, depending on the barrel length installed. There were several barrel options for all calibers: 2”, 3”, 4”, 6”, and 8” in the larger two calibers. The .44 magnum and .454 Casull versions also typically had compensators.
View the photo at right to get an idea of the scale of a .44 magnum model compared to my most “common” gun, a Beretta 92, and a Colt Python, which is about the average size for a target revolver.
6 Unica scope mount.
A rarely seen Mateba-branded scope mount to be used with the 6 Unicas and Grifones equipped for optics.
The wood grip feels good in my hand. It has a nice large tang at the top of the backstrap to prevent slide bite.
While holding the gun, one of the things that strikes me instantly is how tall it is. This is to be expected, given that it’s a revolver (already tall, in general) and that it incorporates a semi-auto slide between your hand and the revolver components. I don’t want to say it feels ponderous, because it does point and handle well, but it does feel like there’s a large, tall brick resting atop your grip.
The cylinder release is a lever on both side of the frame, behind the cylinder, the swings downward. The cylinder flips out to the left side of the gun. Some of these levers are shortened, which was a factory option to allow for easier use of speedloaders. A curious aspect of the Unica’s design is that there is no top-strap. There is simply a chasm between the rear of the frame and the section in front of the cylinder. Despite shooting large-bore calibers like the .44 Remington Magnum and .454 Casull, the gun can get away with it because of the low barrel position.
The sight picture is pretty good. The front sights are adjustable, which I believe is due to the interchangeability of the barrels. That way, you can keep the rear sight at one setting and have each barrel’s front sight set to its best alignment.
6 Unica sight picture.
Notice how tall the gun is.
I think the autorevolver is pretty fun to shoot. It is very accurate for me; even in the 4” configuration, I have no trouble hitting an 8” steel plate at 50 yards.
The trigger in double action is not very good. It’s heavy and doesn’t have a smooth feel. This isn’t an issue for the most part, though, since the gun’s semi-auto action means the last 5 shots will be in single action.
Single action is very good, although I'd never say it's up to the standards of a finely tuned traditional revolver. It’s not very heavy, and has only a very slight creep before breaking.
There are several criticisms which can be directed at the Mateba 6 Unica. In my opinion, though, the autorevolver’s whole raison d’etre is to exist as an interesting feat of engineering and a novelty unlike any other handgun.
The gun’s shortcomings include its complicated and potentially finicky mechanism. There are a lot of moving parts, any one of which could bind up or cease function, rendering the gun inoperable. They also contribute to a gun that’s heavy for its size.
As mentioned, the double action trigger is quite poor, although it becomes a non-issue after the first round is fired and the gun is placed into single action mode for all subsequent shots.
The Mateba 6 Unica “Autorevolver” is a fascinating piece of firearms design and engineering that, while undeniably impractical and possibly unnecessary, is still appealing to me on many levels. They are not easy to find, but are still by far Ghisoni’s most accessible Mateba. Because they are no longer in production, they will only become more scarce and more expensive, so I encourage you to buy one as soon as you’re able to take good care of it.
Shooting the Mateba 6 Unica in 357 - different barrel lengths
My review of the Mateba 6 Unica - short version
My review of the gun on Youtube:
A look at the 6 Unica's semi-auto action:
Duelin' Matebas - Nickel vs Blue finish
Shooting the Mateba 6 Unica - nickel finish
Shooting the Mateba 6 Unica in 44 Magnum:
Finally, a great video of someone shooting a Grifone in 357 magnum!
Slow motion video of the 6 Unica firing:
Links coming soon.