The Simple, Somewhat Effective Carcano: Italy’s WWI Battle Rifle, at C&Rsenal

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These days, it’s easy to forget that once upon a time at the dawn of the smokeless powder era there was a huge variety of bolt-action repeating rifles being developed to re-arm the military powers of the world. While the Mauser 98 and its progeny eventually took the world by storm, in the early days of repeating bolt actions rifles like the Krag–Jørgensen, Mannlicher, and Belgian Mauser competed on the world stage for contracts.

Italian-Rifle-Carcano-M1891-Full

Four-view of the Model of 1891. Image source: candrsenal.com

 

Italy, though, would go their own way with a home-grown design, commonly called the “Carcano” after Salvatore Carcano who apocryphally was responsible for its design. We at TFB are big fans of the YouTube channel C&Rsenal (and you should be, too!), who just released an extensive video on the first model of this family of rifles, the Model of 1891:

The Carcano has received an interesting reputation on the American surplus market, both for being a “low quality” bolt action and for the infamous assassination of John F. Kennedy by Lee Harvey Oswald who used a later rifle based on the same action. In their original context, though, the Carcanos were reasonably simple, fairly well-engineered guns that served Italy very well for decades, and which introduced the 6.5mm high velocity caliber to the world. Given the choice between a Carcano-action rifle and an M98 Mauser, I would of course choose the latter every time, but as a military arm designed for economical mass production, the Italian rifle has several virtues.



Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He can be reached via email at nathaniel.f@staff.thefirearmblog.com.


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  • BattleshipGrey

    No one can say it doesn’t work, since it displayed it’s effectiveness on national television for the last 53 years.

  • hikerguy

    I like the approach the Italians used for ease of manufacture. Forward thinking on their part.

  • borekfk

    Wish more companies would make the properly sized bullet for these.

    • Kivaari

      Look around for Speer .268 dia. bullets.

  • derfelcadarn

    I have owned several of these “firearms” the quality makes the Mosin look like Swiss watch technology, I was actually afraid to fire one of them. The Pakistani’s hammer out better rifles

  • Kivaari

    Americans always considered everything except the 03s and 98s to be inferior rifles. The error was retention of the heavy round nosed bullets. A shift to pointed bullets and a re-calibrated rear sight would have made it more effective. Fackler’s test in 88-89 showed it was the deepest penetrating bullet in ballistics gelatin, ever tested by the US Army, to that point in time.

  • codfilet

    My Dad was in Italy and England as a B-17 crewman. While he was based in Italy, he picked up a Carcano of some sort, and had it with him for the rest of the war. On the troopship home, it was announced that anyone caught with contraband firearms (no paper from commanding officer) would be returned to Europe. The Carcano went over the side. Of course, no dufflebags were searched .

  • Monty01

    It’s interesting that the US Army Marksmanship Unit’s new .264 USA (6.5 x 47 mm) cartridge is quite similar to the Carcano 6.5 mm cartridge. I’m sure Nathaniel has studied the two in considerable detail, so it would be helpful if he could compare and contrast.

  • smartacus

    i got mine 4 years ago for only a Benjamin 🙂