|Fucile Modello M1891 Carcano Infantry Rifle
|Country of origin
|Kingdom of Italy
|Turin Army Arsenal, Fabrica d'Armi Pietro Beretta, Mida Brescia, R. E. Terni, Roma, Torino, Torre Annunziata
|Griffin & Kryuger
|CN (卡尔卡诺M1891), TW (卡爾卡諾M1891), KR (카르카노 M1891), EN, JP (カルカノ M1891)
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Stats / Data
The Carcano Fucile Modello 1891, often just called the Carcano or the M91, is an magazine-fed bolt-action rifle that served as the standard infantry rifle for the Italian military during both World War I and World War II. It is named after its primary designer, Salvatore Carcano. It is notable for being one of the first military rifles chambered in a 6.5mm cartridge.
In 1861, the newly unified Italian state began to look for a new standard infantry rifle. The Italian military would actually end up using the Swiss-designed Vetterli black powder rifle for a time, first as a single-shot rifle and later updating it to house a four round magazine. It wouldn't be until 1890, when neighboring Austria-Hungary adopted a smokeless powder rifle, that the Italian arsenal system would start working on a new smokeless powder cartridge and a new rifle.
Swiss research into small-bore ammunition caught the eye of military officials in Italy, and they decided that their new rifle would be chambered in this smaller, lighter, faster type of cartridge. The failures of the Italian military's campaigns in Ethiopia were still fresh in the minds of Italian generals, who claimed that ammo shortages were the main cause for their defeats. They believed that a lighter cartridge would allow their soldiers to carry more ammo on them, which would prevent such problems in the future. As a result, the Cartuccia M1891 6.5x52mm cartridge (typically referred to as 6.5 Carcano) would be developed, and adopted shortly thereafter.
The rifle trials would culminate with two competing designs being field tested in 1891. The first design would feature a magazine and feeding system purchased from Steyr-Mannlicher, and the second design sported a bolt, safety, and sight designed by Salvatore Carcano. These two designs would be merged together, and the final product would be approved for service in early 1892. Italy would end up paying Mannlicher around 300,000 Lira (the old Italian currency) for the use of their magazine system. This magazine system did not use stripper clips, and instead utilized a six round en-bloc clip. These en-bloc clips allowed for simple and fast reloading of the rifle. Upon firing the final round, the empty clip would fall out of a hole on the bottom of the magazine.
The M1891 would first see combat use during the First Italo-Ethiopian War of 1895, although not in very large numbers as Italy didn't have the manufacturing capacity to outfit its entire army at that time. This shortage of rifles would be rectified in following decades, and when Italy entered the First World War in 1914, they had produced over 700,000 Carcano rifles. The M1891 served as the primary infantry arm of the Italian troops during the war, and was considered to be reliable and accurate. When the war ended in 1918, close to 3.5 million M1891 Carcano rifles had been produced.
The M1891 would continue to see use up through the Second Italo-Ethiopian War of 1935. By that point, the Italian Army was considering the adoption of a more powerful cartridge, in response to criticisms that the 6.5mm round was too weak. The 6.5mm round also did not feature a Spitzer pattern pointed bullet, which hampered both accuracy and power. As a result, production of the M1891 Carcano was stopped in 1937, and the Italian military would develop a new version of the Carcano to chamber a more powerful 7.35×51mm cartridge. This would result in the creation of the M91/38 Carcano.
The M91/38 was planned to completely phase out the standard M1891 as the standard Italian infantry rifle, however the adoption of the new cartridge did not go as planned and the old 6.5mm round remained in widespread use. The Italian military was unable to completely switch over to the new rifle before the outset of World War 2, so their troops ended up being outfitted with a mixture of M1891 and M81/38 rifles. This caused logistical problems, as the Italians now had to manage two different calibers of ammunition.
After World War II, Italy replaced its Carcano rifles, first with British Lee–Enfields and then with the American M1 Garand rifle. Large quantities of surplus Carcanos were sold as surplus on the commercial market in the United States and Canada beginning in the 1950s. It proved a popular sporting gun, especially in the United States.
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- The carbine version of the Carcano M91, known as the M91/28 TS (Moschetto per Truppe Specialli, or 'Carbine for Special Troops') had a built-in grenade launcher attached on the right side of the carbine. This grenade launcher was affectionately known as the M28 Tromboncino ('little trombone'). The grenade launcher's operation was unique: since the carbine and the grenade launcher shared the same trigger, the operator would remove the bolt from the carbine and insert it into the grenade launcher device. Interestingly, like the Dyakonov grenade launcher found on Mosin rifles, the M28 Tromboncino used live rounds in order to launch the SR.2 38.5mm spigot-type grenade, with the bullet being caught by the cup inside the device. The weapon was used in service during WWII, and was issued for MG support crews and any non-frontline or auxiliary roles. The M28 Tromboncino was decommissioned in 1934 due the heavy weight of the device, which hampered maneuverability.
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