Carcano Modello 1891 infantry rifle
|Place of origin||Kingdom of Italy|
|In service||1891-1981 (Italy)|
|Used by||See Users|
|No. built||2,063,750-3,000,000 of all variants|
|Variants||Long rifle, short rifle, cavalry carbine, special troops' carbine|
|Specifications (Fucile mod. 91)|
|Mass||Mod. 91: 3.8 kg (8 lb 6 oz)|
Moschetto: 3.16 kg (7.0 lb)
Moschetto TS: 2.9 kg (6.4 lb)
Mod. 91/41: 3.72 kg (8.2 lb)
Mod. 91/38: 3.4 kg (7.5 lb)
|Length||Mod. 91: 1,285 mm (50.6 in)|
Moschetto: 915 mm (36.0 in)
Mod. 91/41: 1,175 mm (46.3 in)
Mod. 91/38: 1,018 mm (40.1 in)
|Barrel length||Mod. 91: 780 mm (30.7 in)|
Moschetto: 450 mm (18 in)
Mod. 91/41: 692 mm (27.2 in)
Mod. 91/38: 530 mm (21 in)
|Muzzle velocity||700 m/s (2,300 ft/s)|
|Effective firing range||1,000 m (1,100 yd)|
|Feed system||6 round integral magazine, loaded with an en-bloc clip|
Carcano is the frequently used name for a series of Italian bolt-action, magazine-fed, repeating military rifles and carbines. Introduced in 1891, this rifle was chambered for the rimless 6.5×52mm Carcano round (Cartuccia Modello 1895). It was developed by the chief technician Salvatore Carcano at the Turin Army Arsenal in 1890, and was originally called the Modello (model) 91 or simply M91. Successively replacing the previous Vetterli-Vitali rifles and carbines in 10.35×47mmR, it was produced from 1892 to 1945. The M91 was used in both rifle (fucile) and shorter-barreled carbine (moschetto) form by most Italian troops during World War I and by Italian and some German forces during World War II. The rifle was also used during the Winter War by Finland, and again by regular and irregular forces in Syria, Libya, Tunisia and Algeria during various postwar conflicts in those countries.
The Type I Carcano rifle was produced by Italy for the Japanese Empire prior to World War II. After the invasion of China, all Arisaka production was required for use of the Imperial Army, so the Imperial Navy contracted with Italy for this weapon in 1937. The Type I is based on the Type 38 rifle and uses a Carcano action, but retains the Arisaka/Mauser type 5-round box magazine. The Type I was used primarily by Japanese Imperial Naval Forces and was chambered for the Japanese 6.5×50mm Arisaka cartridge. Approximately 60,000 Type I rifles were produced by Italian arsenals for Japan.
A Carcano M38 was used by Lee Harvey Oswald to assassinate United States President John F. Kennedy on November 22nd, 1963 in Dallas, TX.
Although this rifle is often called "Mannlicher-Carcano", especially in American parlance, neither that designation nor the name "Mauser-Parravicino" is correct. Its official designation in Italian is simply Modello 1891, or M91 ("il novantuno"). The magazine system uses en bloc charger clips which were originally developed and patented by Ferdinand Mannlicher, but the actual shape and design of the Carcano clip is derived from the German Model 1888 Commission Rifle.
Until 1938, all M91 rifles and carbines were chambered for the rimless 6.5×52mm Modello 1895 cartridge, using a round-nose metal case bullet of 160 grains weight at approximately 2,000-2,400 ft/s muzzle velocity, depending upon barrel length. At least one small arms authority noted inconsistencies in powder types in arsenal-loaded 6.5×52mm military ammunition, often with different powder types and ammunition lots intermixed within a single clip of ammunition. The practice of intermixing powder types and ammunition lots in clipped rifle ammunition was generally avoided by arsenals of other nations, as it frequently resulted in varying bullet velocities and excessive bullet dispersion on the target.
After reports of inadequate performance at both short and long ranges during the campaigns in Italian North Africa (1924-1934), and the Second Italo-Abyssinian War (1934), the Italian army introduced a new short rifle in 1938, the Modello 1938, together with a new cartridge in 7.35×51mm caliber. In addition to the slightly larger caliber, Italian ordnance designers introduced a spitzer-type bullet for the new cartridge, with the tip filled with aluminum to produce an unstable (tumbling) projectile upon impact in soft tissue (a design most likely copied from the .303 British Mk VII bullet).
However, the Italian government was unable to successfully mass-produce the new arms in adequate quantities before the onset of war, and in 1940, all rifle and ammunition production reverted to 6.5 mm, but no 7.35 mm Mod. 38 rifles nor carbines were ever re-barreled to the old 6.5×52mm caliber. Some Italian troops serving on the Russian front were armed with 7.35 mm Mod. 1938 rifles, but exchanged them in 1942 for 6.5×52 mm arms.
Approximately 94,500 7.35mm Modello 1938 rifles were shipped to Finland, where they were known as Terni carbines (from the Terni stamp with the royal crown, the logo or seal of the Regia fabbrica d'armi di Terni arsenal where they were manufactured). They were primarily used by security and line-of-communications troops during the Winter War of 1939-1940, though some frontline troops were issued the weapon. According to reports, the Finns disliked the rifle. With its non-standard 7.35 mm caliber, it was problematic to keep frontline troops supplied with good quality, or any ammunition at all, and its non-adjustable rear sight (fixed for 200 m) made it ill-suited for use in precision shooting at the varied ranges encountered by Finnish soldiers during the conflict. Despite this, it's worth noticing that the Finns themselves modified the fixed optics on the rifle to operate from a range of 200 m to only 150 m. Whenever possible, Finnish soldiers discarded the weapon in favor of rifles acquired on the battlefield, including standard models of captured Soviet-made Mosin-Nagant rifles. The latter had the advantage of using commonly available 7.62×54mmR ammunition. By the outbreak of the Continuation War, the remaining Mod. 1938 7.35 mm rifles were issued to the Finnish Navy, as well as anti-aircraft, coastal defense, and other second-line (home front) troops.
In 1941, the Italian military returned to a long-barrelled infantry rifle once again (slightly shorter than the original M91), the Carcano M91/41. True sniper versions never existed, but in World War I a few rifles were fitted with telescopic lenses and issued for service use (World War II scoped rifles were strictly prototypes).
Several lots of Moschetti M91/38 TS (special troops' carbines) were chambered for the German 8×57mm Mauser sS heavy ball round. This modification entered service in 1943, just before the Italian capitulation. Two small batches of Moschetti M91/38 TS carbines shows barrels marked 1938 and 1941, but they were not used at these times with any Italian forces, and their peculiar serial numbering suggests that these might just be rebored unused surplus barrels that were converted with other ones after 1945. Many 7.92 mm Carcano carbines were apparently exported to Egypt after World War II, where they served as drill and training carbines. Several also bear Israeli armed forces markings. The occasionally used model moniker "Model 1943 (M43)" for these converted 7.92mm rifles is wrong, as they were never so designated by the Italian military.
German forces captured large quantities of Carcanos after Italy's capitulation in September 1943. It was the most commonly issued rifle to the German Volkssturm ("People's Militia") units in late 1944 and 1945.
After World War II, Italy replaced its Carcano rifles first with British Lee-Enfields and then with the US .30 caliber (7.62 mm) M1 Garand semi-automatic rifle, which the Italians labeled the 'Model 1952 (M52). Finland sold all of its approximately 74,000 remaining 7.35 mm M91/38 Carcano rifles on the surplus market. As a consequence, large quantities of surplus Carcanos were sold in the United States and Canada beginning in the 1950s. In Italy, the Polizia di Stato and the Carabinieri retained the Moschetto 38 TS, retiring it from service in 1981. Captured 6.5mm Carcano rifles were used by Greek forces post-war, with ammunition supplied by U.S. Western Cartridge Co. Some were also converted to 6.5×54mm Mannlicher-Schönauer, one of the standard cartridges of the Greek military at the time.
During the Libyan Civil War in 2011, many rebels went into battle with their personally-owned weapons, including old bolt-action rifles and shotguns. Of these, Carcano-style rifles and carbines have been the most frequently observed style of bolt-action rifle. They were predominantly used by rebels in the Nafusa Mountains. These old weapons saw combat once again due to the rebels' limited access to modern firearms. Additionally, some Libyan rebels preferred to use their familiar hunting weapons over the more modern, yet unfamiliar, assault rifles available. According to Al-Fitouri Muftah, a member of the rebel military council overseeing the western mountain front, as many as 1 in 10 rebels in the region were armed with World War II-era weapons.
All variants used the same Carcano bolt action, fed by an en-bloc clip; the rifles and carbines had different barrel lengths and differences in stocks and sights depending on barrel length. As noted in the introduction, the word moschetto means literally "musket" but was used generally by Italian arms makers as a descriptor of Italian 20th century rifles, often shorter-barrelled rifles in the carbine style meant for other than regular infantry uses. Regular length infantry rifles are named as fucile models.
In March 1963, Lee Harvey Oswald purchased a "6.5 [mm] Italian carbine", later improperly called a Mannlicher-Carcano (although it uses a Mannlicher-style en bloc clip system), through mail order, for $19.95 ($155 in 2015 dollars). The advertisement only specified a "6.5 Italian Carbine" and actually shows a Carcano model M91 TS, which was the 36-inch (91 cm) Carcano carbine model sold through the ad when it was originally placed. However, from a time 11 months before Oswald placed his order, the Chicago sporting goods store from which he purchased it had been shipping the slightly longer 40.2-inch (102 cm) Model 91/38 under the same ad, and this is the weapon Oswald received.
Official reports have concluded that Oswald used this weapon to assassinate U.S. President John F. Kennedy on 22 November 1963. The rifle, made in the Terni arsenal in 1940 and bearing the serial number C2766, was equipped for an extra $7 with a new 4x18 Japanese telescopic sight, on a sheet metal side mount. It was later scrutinized by local police, the FBI, the U. S. Army and two federal commissions. Shooting tests, conducted by those groups and others using the original rifle or similar models, addressed questions about the speed and accuracy with which the Carcano could be fired. Following lawsuits over its ownership, the rifle ended up in storage at the National Archives. The assassination was one of the factors leading to passage of the Gun Control Act of 1968, which banned mail order sales of firearms.