Mostly thanks (probably) to the Kennedy Assassination, the Carcano rifle is one of the most famous of all time.
Let alone the fact that Carcano rifles were carried by the Kingdom of Italy’s troops (and later Fascist Italy’s soldiers) through two World Wars and various other conflicts around the world.
Famous and influential though it may be, the Carcano rifle, as an entity, is also plagued by persistent myths that it is prone to blowing up when fired.
Although there is hardly a shred of credible evidence to that end.
There is, however, quite a bit of evidence that these are reliable, practical rifles, once you actually take a good look.
And, of course, provided you get one in good condition. A Carcano M91 may be well over 100 years old.
So, What’s So Impressive About Carcano Rifles?
Reliability and ease of feeding are two things you’ll appreciate about the Carcano M91.
It feeds from a Mannlicher clip. You might have a hard time finding an original, but functional reproductions are usually pretty easy to come by for just a few dollars.
They can load from either the top or bottom as long as the clip is facing the right way. When the last round is chambered, the clip drops free - but even if it doesn’t, you can just force it out the bottom by jamming a loaded clip in the top of the open action.
Love the 6.5 Creedmoor? Then you’ll love the 6.5x52mm Carcano cartridge. When everyone else in Europe was shooting beastly behemoth cartridges, the Italians were shooting a cartridge with ballistic performance that’s eerily similar to everyone’s favorite flat-shooting-but-hard-hitting 6.5 Creedmoor.
Also, these cartridges are rimless - so you won’t experience issues with rimlock jams. Not that that’s a big deal but it is worth mentioning.
The M91 carbine also features a somewhat-futuristic (given the time) bent bolt, in contrast to the straight bolts that were prevalent on military-issue rifles at the time. This gives you more clearance when running the bolt under mounted optics - and it’s more ergonomic, too.
There is one thing to be said here that isn’t so positive: the Carcano’s accuracy and sights leave a bit to be desired if you plan to compete with one of these. Also, the sights are not ideal for hunting, and jacketed rounds are even worse.
Most ammo you’ll be able to find for it (if you can find any) will be jacketed, which is not suitable for most sporting applications. If you plan to sporterize one, get soft-point bullets and load your own cartridges.
Then, if you take it to a gunsmith and have them drill and tap the receiver so you can mount a scope, you might have a nice sporterized rifle at a fair price.
Which brings up the final point. Beyond reliability, serviceability, and the fact that it utilizes a versatile, capable cartridge, surplus Carcano rifles are usually surprisingly cheap.
Which brings us to the final point.
Where Can You Get a Good Price on a Carcano Rifle?
One of the great virtues of most Carcano rifles is that you can often find them at fairly competitive, if not downright cheap, prices. A great place to start looking is SARCO, Inc.
They currently have some M91 Cavalry Rifles at an absolute steal - less than $200. Admittedly, these rifles have seen much better days, but they’re in fair to good condition and if you’re committed you may be able to bring them back to life. Plus, they come with free stripper clips, and SARCO, Inc. also carries parts and accessories for them.
Overall, that’s a cheap project to take on with a priceless rifle at the end of it. Visit their website or their showroom in Easton, Pennsylvania for more information.