Gratuitous Gun Pic: Carcano Model 91TS (6.5x52mm)

While browsing through Collectors recently, I came upon this old girl:

I have often sung the praises of the Mosin-Nagant M44 as a short and handy carbine, but I have to say, the Carcano (often incorrectly called the Mannlicher-Carcano) Model 91TS as pictured would do pretty well in the same role.  I’ve shot quite a few in my time — one even back in South Africa — and what impressed me most is the pure handiness of the carbine.  One of the common complaints about battlefield carbines is their recoil — less mass means more recoil, because Sir Isaac Newton will not be denied — but the M91’s little 6.5x52mm cartridge is an absolute gem, and I have no idea why the Italian Army replaced it with the larger (and not much more effective) 7.35x51mm cartridge in the reworked Model 38.  (Maybe they thought that size mattered.)

Anyway, that long, thin 156gr boolet means excellent sectional density and therefore quite adequate penetration on humans:

…but as with all old cartridges, there’s always that availability problem.  And with the state the ammo industry is in now, it’s even more scarce than usual.  Graf & Sons, normally my go-to guys when it comes to old military ammo, doesn’t have any in stock (surprise, surprise) and even when they do, it runs about $2 per trigger pull — unless you go with the lighter Prvi Partizan variant at a very reasonable $0.83 per round.

Had I known then what I know now (back in the early- to mid-2000s a.k.a. The Happy Times), I’d have snapped up a decent M91 carbine for about $95, which is about what they cost back then compared to over $400 nowadays, and a few hundred rounds of ammo for less than half of what it costs now.

But that hindsight is a bugger, innit?  Here’s the much-longer M91 rifle, just for comparison’s sake:


  1. If I correctly remember Ian’s talks on Italian rifles over at Forgotten Weapons he said that the carbines with the turned down bolts were designed for cavalry, artillery, and engineer troops who would carry the rifles across their backs while doing tasks that required both hands.

    As an early morning old man’s observation it seems that surplus rifles from the perceived “loser” nations have never been popular here in the USA. I don’t mean just the victors in the win loss column but rather those armies which had the reputation of fighting hard and well. Mausers are high quality rifles, but they also killed Commies in car load lots and we see that as a good thing. After 75 years we still haven’t figured out what to think of the Russians, but their Mosins killed Nazis who would have shot at my dad on his tour of France and Germany. Again, a good thing. Arisakas, while clunky and strange to our eyes, were used by the fanatically brave and stubborn Japanese. On the other side of the line Enfields were carried and used with great effectiveness by our British cousins who killed plenty of Germans and Japanese. The M-1 Garands and carbines in our collections brought down the Thousand Year Reich and broke the Japanese Empire. That’s heroic stuff.

    As for the French and particularly the Italians, not so much. Both armies had brave soldiers but were for the most part poorly led and were the victims of propaganda campaigns by their enemies. Even today we look at French and Italian rifles and say “Never fired, only dropped once.”

    We associate “good” armies and “good” soldiers (even the ones who ultimately lose) with good weapons. If we believe that if an army performed poorly, its weapons must be poor. Also, at some point the popularity of a particular weapon such as the Carcano is defined by a circular argument. You can’t get ammunition because very few people shoot them, but nobody shoots them because you can’t get ammunition.

    French and Italian rifles were actually pretty good but more people look at them as jokes rather than serious tools of warfare.

  2. Kim –

    I have an M91, and a cavalry carbine. And I blew up a 91/28 – literally. Nearly cost me my right eye. Case separation, with factory Hornady ammo. Spread the magazine open, split the stock in three places. I swear, thinking back, that the round *sounded* (I’d do italics, but I don’t know how here) wrong, but in the moment I didn’t have time to think about that; the blast hit me in the face like a sledgehammer. Have pictures to prove it. Nasty stuff. Blew the gun up in my face on Sunday afternoon, went to a hearing on Monday morning, and the doctors that afternoon. Judge thought I was nuts. She was probably right.

    Scared me so much I went out and bought two more Carcanos. And I have the ‘sploded rifle hanging on my office wall.

    My M91, for reasons I don’t get, will not extract the Hornady stuff with the correct bullet after firing, but will shoot the Privi loads all day. The Carbine don’t care, it will shoot either. Yes, I still shoot em.
    I’m a fool.

    A local gun shop here had an M38, with the weird folding bayonet – it’s an Italian thing. The same model that killed Kennedy, IIRC. I probably should go buy it, if its still there.

  3. Had a Fin marked Carcano in 7.35- if you think 6.5 ammo is hard to find, try that.
    IIRC, the Italians were trying to switch calibers in the middle of a war, maybe their experience in Ethiopia had something to do with it. Nice little rifle, good trigger, and a fixed rear sight- no adjustment at all, save for using a file to cut it down, or a punch to drift it sideways in the dovetail. Gave it a WW2 vet who said he always wanted one.
    I cut a 7.35 cartridge apart once- 1939 manufacture- clean inside, like new.
    The bullet was a full patch military , but the Italians added special goodness by a dual metal core- the base was lead, and the tip aluminum, probably to enhance terminal tumbling.

    1. On the 7.35 Carcano’s bi-metal core, I wonder if they got the idea from the British .303 MkVII bullet. That one has a core tip of either aluminum or compressed wood, depending on where and when it was made.

  4. The Carcano (pronounced proplerly as “CAR-kah-no”, not “car-KAH-no”) has a poor reputation in America. Not because of any deficiencies in accuracy or reliability, but for the same reason that not many theatrical companies do stage shows of “Our American Cousin” anymore.

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