Object Title

Carcano Modello 1891 rifle

Carcano Modello 1891 rifle


Contrary to popular belief, Ferdinand Ritter von Mannlicher, the designer of the Austro-Hungarian infantry rifle, had no part in the development of the Carcano. This rifle was developed by the team at the Torino Arms Factory, Italy, led by Lieutenant Colonel Salvatore Carcano under government commission led by Colonel G. Paraviccini. Indeed it is also referred to as the Paraviccini-Carcano. The rifle uses a modified Mannlicher type magazine with en-bloc clip. The similarities between the Carcano and the Mannlicher end there. The Mannlicher design meant that through opening the base of the magazine, the empty clip could be ejected. Like the later Mannlicher rifles, the empty clip could also be ejected through the open receiver, when the bolt was open by pressing the clip catch inside the trigger guard. The clip differs also from the original Mannlicher design, whereby it has no dedicated bottom or top, and can be loaded either side down.

This bolt action rifle when used with the correct ammunition it was very accurate, due to its gain-twist rifling. At the breech of the rifle the rate of twist began at 1:19.25 inches, meaning the round would turn once every 19.25 inches. By the time the round reaches the muzzle end the rate of twist increases to 1:8.25 inches, resulting in a more accurate shot than its contemporaries. Manufacturing this rifling was extremely costly and eventually was abandoned in the 1930s.

The Carcano chambered a 6.5x52mm Modello 1895 round. It used a round nosed metal jacketed bullet. However, it was noted that inconsistencies in the powder types meant a varied result in bullet velocity.

Use and effect

Used by the Italian Army during the War, the Carcano Modello 1891 had two carbine versions. The Moschetto da Cavalleria Modello 1891, was issued to the cavalry. This had a folding integral bayonet and a shorter 450 mm (17.7 in) barrel.  Also the Moschetto per Truppe Speciali Modello 1891, which was issued to special troops. This included machine gun, mortar and motorcycle crews. This also had the shorter barrel but a standard bayonet fixing. Both models with the considerably shorter barrels did not benefit from the gain-twist system.

Special attachments available for the Carcano included a wire-cutting guide, which could be attached to the muzzle and bayonet via a clip. This acted as a guide for cutting a strand of wire by firing a round. Also a clip-on foresight was available to help men 'aim off' when shooting at aircraft.

Although the Carcano had no sniper variant, due to its accuracy it was used successfully in that role. Often telescopic sights would be fitted to the rifle. The successor of the Modello 1891, the Carcano Modello 1938, continued to be used throughout the Second World War until it was replaced by the American M1 Garrand. Many now obsolete Carcanos were sold off to the U.S.A as military surplus. Most notoriously, the Carcano Modello 1938 was used with 4x magnification telescopic sights in 1963 by Lee Harvey Oswald, to assassinate President J.F. Kennedy.


Action / Operating system Bolt-action
Barrel length 78 cm (29.1 in)
Calibre / Bore 6.5x52mm Carcano
Capacity (rounds) 6
Country of manufacture Italy
Date entered service 1891
Effective range 600 m (656 yd)
Feed En-bloc clip
Manufacturer Reale Fabbrica d' Armi di Torino
Muzzle velocity 755 m/s (2477 fps)
Overall length 1.3 m (51 in)
Primary operator Italy
Weight 3.8 kg (8 lb 6 oz)


Jonathan Ferguson