The Mannlicher Carcano M1891/38 carbine is reputed to be the gun that Lee Harvey Oswald used to assassinate John. F. Kennedy on November 22nd 1963 at Dealey Plaza, Dallas in Texas.

It has hence become a very famous gun and is forever ingrained into American history, if not the history of the world.


Even though the Carbine is known as the Mannlicher Carcano all throughout the world, its correct designation is the M1891 Paraviccini Carcano.  It had been termed " Mannlicher " after noted Austrian arms dealer Ferdinand Ritter von Mannlicher designed a modified en bloc  magazine for the carbine.

His name sort of " stuck " with the Carcano.  Similar to how the German MP40 was called a Schmeisser even though Hugo Schmeisser had nothing to do with the design of the gun, he was just the manager of the Erma factory that made it.

The Carcano was actually developed by Salvatore Carcano and his team lead by General Paraviccini at the Turin Army State Arsenal in Italy in 1890.  The Italian Army only ever refered to the gun as an M91, neither calling it a Carcano, Mannlicher, Paraviccini or any other term.

Over four million Carcano rifles were manufactured in various versions until 1945.

The gun is designated as a carbine, meaning 'short rifle' at three foot, four inches long.  Originally issued to the Italian army, it was an ideal, light weight and manoeuvrable "rifle" but also had a few short comings.


The Mannlicher Carcano was a cheaply made, Italian, bolt action carbine. It has a caliber of 6.5x52mm and fired a 160 grain bullet at 2250 feet per second, delivering a respectable 1798 ft/lbs of energy.  The bullet was of the elongated, round nose, full metal jacket type.  The cartridge this carbine fired is seen below in near actual size.

The bullet itself is quite unique, as its quite elongated and not shaped like a usual military bullet at all.  Most military bullets are pointed and boat tailed, the Carcano was different.

Below, on the left is shown the Mannlicher Carcano 6.5mm bullet and on the right a "normal" 7.62mm NATO bullet. The Carcano bullet is indeed very elongated and it could be assumed that it would tumble upon impact with a flesh and bone target.  Whether or not this was the intentional design of the bullet has never been stated.


The Mannlicher Carcano bullet and carbine combination is reasonably accurate but not overly accurate, however it does have ample power, indeed enough power for hunters to use this caliber to kill Deer and Elk at moderate ranges of over 450 meters.  The 6.5mm Mannlicher Carcano bullet actually has an effective range of over 600 meters.

The cartridge itself may be fine, but its the weapon that delivers it that needs to be up to scratch.  This is something that the Mannlicher Carcano may not have lived up to as well as could be expected.

The action of the bolt on this carbine is not very smooth and is prone to stick and even jam whilst being operated.  The bolt and receiver has to be well oiled all of the time for the best operation, but too much oil then attracts sand and dirt particles that can only promote misfires, misloads, jams, wear and other problems.  A true Catch 22  situation that you don't want with any weapon.

It is not and has never been a snipers choice of rifle.  It has a six round clip in that the bullets have to be manually loaded into a small metal magazine that has to be manually ejected after the last bullet has been fired.  This is done by pressing a small button at the front of the inner trigger guard, as seen in the image below.

Overall its an awkward, slow loading, slow firing gun, when compared to other rifles and carbines that are much faster in this operation.  The Mannlicher Carcano were also not known to be very robust or dependable.

It is no wonder that after World War Two, Italy decided to replace all of its Mannlicher Carcano rifles.  They  first adopted the British Lee-Enfield rifle and later adopted the U.S Army .30 caliber  M1 Garand rifle.  The M1 Garand was more powerful and faster firing than the Carcano as it was a semi-automatic (self loading) rifle.

Finland also disbanded their Mannlicher Carcano carbines and approximately 74,000 of them were sold on the civilian market as army surplus. Millions of others were simply scrapped. Below is a good view of the business end of the Mannlicher Carcano, the little rod underneath the barrel is the cleaning rod.

A piece of cloth would be threaded through the hole and oil applied, it was then inserted down the muzzle and pulled up and down to clean the bore. Some versions of the Mannlicher Carcano had a folding " pig sticker " bayonet affixed at the muzzle, replacing the cleaning rod.


A large quantity of these surplus Mannlicher Carcano carbines found their way onto the American market in the early 1950's.  Lee Harvey Oswald was quick to purchase one of these army surplus rifles at a giveaway price.

On March 12th, 1963, using the alias " A. Hidell " Oswald ordered the Mannlicher Carcano, complete with an attached telescopic sight  from an advertisement in the February 1963 issue of the American Rifleman  magazine. He paid $19.95 for the carbine plus shipping and he received it on March 20th, 1963. Below is shown an almost exact copy of Oswalds carbine.

I won't go into all the ins and outs of the Kennedy assassination as there is already a plethora of information on the internet about this.  Suffice to say that Oswald later conveniently posed with his Mannlicher Carcano in a photograph and  48 hours after Kennedy was assassinated, Oswald was  himself assassinated.

A man by the name of Jack Ruby walked out of a crowd of photographers and shot Oswald at point blank range with a Colt Cobra .38 Special revolver. Oswald died shortly afterwards proving that dead men tell no tales and a story ties up nicely when there's no loose ends.


Conspiracy theorists believe that Jack Ruby did not actually shoot Lee Harvey Oswald but instead only fired a blank round at him.  Oswald then acted out the scene, pretending to have been shot.  It was noticed by camera crew and photographers that there was no blood on Oswald or anywhere around the area where he was supposedly shot.

It was thought that Ruby was part of the conspiracy and this charade was a pre-agreed way to remove Oswald from the scene.  He may then have been secreted away to foreign shores with a new identity and a pocket full of cash.

However it is thought that Oswald was double crossed and murdered by C.I.A agents in the ambulance that took him away after the fake shooting.  The intrigue and controversy will continue for evermore!

The F.B.I found Oswalds Mannlicher Carcano in the book depository, it apparently had Oswalds fingerprints all over it and the gun was tallied up to Oswald when the photograph of him posing with the gun were later found.

Oswald had served in the military and was a decent shot but not an expert shot.  Had he known anything about rifles he would not have chosen  an antiquated army surplus carbine to pull off an assassination on a moving target several hundred yards away.  The Italian and Finnish army could not wait to get rid of them, that should be testimony enough.

Below is seen an even shorter version of the Mannlicher Carcano, this is the cavalry version and was carried by men on horseback.

The Mannlicher Carcano was generally reported to be a cheap and nasty gun, it does not have a silky smooth operation like the majority of bolt action rifles and carbines.  The gun does not have anything going for it and had it not been implicated in the Kennedy assassination I doubt I would ever have made a webpage about it.

Some modern day shooters persist that the Mannlicher Carcano is actually quite a good gun and advocate it quite strongly.  Apparently it has quite a following in many rifle clubs across the U.S.A.  As I have never fired this gun, I would not like to comment further, this page is based on pure methodical research.


Based on my research, had I decided to assassinate John. F. Kennedy on that fateful day, then I would have certainly chosen a better gun than the cheap Italian army surplus Mannlicher Carcano.

Indeed I would have " shopped around " until I found the right one. I would probably have settled for the excellent Finnish M43 that is a direct descendant and upgrade of the Russian Mosin-Nagant 7.62mm bolt action rifle.  The excellent, reliable and very accurate M43 is shown below.

With eight times magnification telescopic sights, not the punitive four times magnification that Oswald used...if it was him who actually shot the President of course!  I would have got off one accurate head or upper body shot and then had more time to make my getaway instead of firing three shots as Oswald supposed to have done.

The entire combination would have been more accurate, more powerful and easier to shoot.  As testified by the five hundred or so Russian and Finnish snipers in World War Two who used the M43 to fantastic effect.


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Page created October 5th 2012