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.

NOTE:

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 MP38 and MP40 was called a Schmeisser even though Hugo Schmeisser had nothing to do with the design of the actual weapon itself. He did hold several patents over the guns working parts but 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 referred 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 2,250 feet per second, delivering a respectable 1,798 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 it is indeed quite elongated and not shaped like a usual military bullet at all.  Most military bullets are pointed and boat tailed, the Carcano bullet was different.

Below, on the left is shown the Mannlicher Carcano 6.5mm bullet and on the right a standard 7.62mm N.A.T.O 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 400 meters.  The 6.5mm Mannlicher Carcano bullet actually has an effective range of 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 en bloc   clip in that the bullets have to be manually loaded into a small metal skeleton magazine as shown below. This clip was then pushed down into the carbines receiver.

Image from the dailydan.com

The en bloc  clip had to be manually ejected after the last bullet had been fired.  This was 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 was also not known to be very robust or dependable, it was just a very cheap Italian rifle.

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 superlative U.S Army .30 caliber  M1 Garand rifle.  The M1 Garand was more powerful and infinitely faster firing than the Carcano as it was a semi-automatic (self loading) rifle.

Below a rifleman lines up the Carcano, aiming down the guns natural open sights.

Finland also disbanded their Mannlicher Carcano carbines and approximately 74,000 of them were sold on the civilian market as cheap 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.

ENTER LEE HARVEY OSWALD

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 $1.50 shipping and he received it on March 20th, 1963.

Research suggests that in 1963 the actual carbine was retailed for only $12.88, whilst the addition of a 4x telescopic sight put the price up by an extra $7.07  totalling $19.95.  Below is shown an almost exact copy of the rifle that Oswald ordered.

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 conveniently 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. At point blank range almost any caliber of handgun is powerful enough to kill with one shot and the .38 Special is no exception.

The dependable and easily concealed Colt Cobra .38 Special is shown below.

Oswald died shortly afterwards proving that dead men tell no tales, indeed a story ties up very nicely when there are no loose ends.


NOTE:

DEEP CONSPIRACY

Deep conspiracy theorists believe that Jack Ruby did not actually shoot Lee Harvey Oswald dead but instead only fired a blank round at him.  Oswald then apparently acted out the scene, pretending to have been shot.  We can all have a good laugh at this utter nonsense except for one small detail...it was noticed by the camera crews and photographers at the scene of the "shooting" 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 Oswald's Mannlicher Carcano in the book depository, it apparently had Oswald's fingerprints all over it. Also, the gun was later tallied up to Oswald when the photograph of him posing with the gun were later conveniently discovered...shown below.

This photo has recently been discovered to have been altered. They did not have Photoshop in those days but they still did a good job of it.  Oswald's head has apparently been "photoshopped"  onto another persons body. If we take a second look at it, it does look like his face has the wrong lighting and shading about it, as if it was from another photo.

The classic setup..."Heres me holding the gun that I am going to shoot Kennedy with!"  Too good to be true isnt it!..indeed the classic set up. Oswald was just a patsy as he said himself.

Oswald had served in the military and was an half decent shot but not an expert shot or anywhere near it. There are three grades of riflemanship at the Marines sniper school and they are: 1. Marksman,  2. Sharpshooter and 3. Expert.  Apparently Oswald did not even meet the first grade, failing to hit the target in the required kill zones.

Also, had Oswald known anything about rifles he would not have chosen  an antiquated, cheap 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.

Today the Mannlicher Carcano is seen as a fun gun plinker by enthusiasts and not a serious hunting gun or anything close to it. The kind of gun you take down the range to shoot up a few baked bean cans with.  People will also shoot this gun simply because of its notoriety.

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. because of its notoriety.  As I have never fired this gun, I would not like to comment further, this page is based on pure methodical research.

VINCE AS ASSASSIN...

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 and unreliable Italian army surplus Mannlicher Carcano.

The 4 x 20 magnification on Oswald's carbine scope is sufficient but not really adequate to zero in on a moving target...unless you're a qualified expert and Oswald wasn't an expert. A more powerful scope with a wider field of view would have been a real snipers choice.

However, Russian snipers used the 4 x 20 magnification scope quite a lot in World War Two, and to great affect, but they were elite snipers, the crème de la crème. Below is a close up of the 4x20 telescopic sight as allegedly used by Oswald.

The scope bracket was merely screwed down into the carbines receiver and the scope was held in place by two clamp brackets with screws.  This is sufficient but is a cheap and shoddy way of attaching telescopic sights to a rifle.

The whole carbine/scope combination sucks, 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 four times magnification that Oswald allegedly 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 was supposed to have done.

Image by Vic Thomas of www.mosinnagant.net

The entire M43 combination would have been more accurate, more powerful and easier to shoot.  As testified by the 500 or so Russian and Finnish snipers in World War Two who used the M43 to fantastic effect. If the M43 was not available they settled for the standard Mosin-Nagant instead.

The Mosin-Nagant is today revered as a classic sniper rifle and is praised quite highly.  Now why didn't Oswald buy one of these instead?

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Page created October 5th 2012.     Updated June 9th 2014