Carcano Model Identification


Nomenclature

The model nomenclature and identification of the various Carcano rifles and carbines varies wildly and confusingly in both Italian and foreign literature. While it may be preferable, in the long run, to stay with the "official" Italian army nomenclature, it is not always clear itself and often too ambiguous.
  1. Richard Hobbs uses the following approach: Following Italian parlance, he distinguishes (only) two basic models for the Carcano, designated by the years in which the model was introduced: Modello 91 (M91) in 1891 and the Modello 38 (M38) in 1938. The crucial distinction between both models is the intended caliber for which the gun was chambered: 6,5x52 Carcano for the M91 and 7,35x51 Carcano for the M38. As a result, those apparent Model 38 guns which - after 1940 - were again chambered for the older 6,5mm caliber are also called M91/38. The model number is followed by the year in which a significant variant was introduced (hereafter refered to as the sub-model), if applicable. For example, the M91/24 appeared first in 1924, being a conversion of M91 Fucile to Moschetto T.S. specification. The M91/24 is sufficiently different from the preceding M91 Moschetto T.S. to warrant a separate designation.

  2. The model designation should be followed by the phenotype, when not redundant: Fucile, Moschetto Cavalleria (Cav.), Moschetto Truppe Speciali (T.S.) and Fucile Corto. Cases where the phenotype is redundant is the M91/24 Moschetto T.S., M91/28 Moschetto T.S. and M91/41 Fucile.

    This approach is a fairly compact method, but imprecise if the model specifications and naming conventions are not fully understood and internalized.

  3. Alexander Eichener, on the other hand, while recognizing the formal correctness of a mere model distinction, prefers another descriptive approach for clarity and easiness of identification. He maintains that Carcani should best be identified:
  4. While an argument could be brought forth that it be sufficient to use the model number alone to also identify the caliber, this is very obscure even for the specialist, much more so for the non-initiated everyday reader.
    Here is an example: stating "I have a Carcano Moschetto TS Mod. 38 in 7,35 mms for sale" is a lot for clearer than just calling it a " Carcano Model 38" and letting the reader wonder what it might turn out to be in the end (a short rifle ? a cavalry carbine ? a special troops' carbine ?).
An interesting other "Carcano" model, in the wider sense, is the Tipo I, which was produced 1938/39 on foreign contract for use by the Japanese as part of Axis mutual aid pacts, and which is chambered for the 6,5x50 R Japanese. Unlike the other Carcani, which have a 6 round charger-clip magazine, the Tipo I, has a 5 round box magazine (for stripper clips). Stocks and sights also differ from the Italian type in that they closely resemble the Japanese Type 38 Arisaka long rifle from 1905.

Sub-Models

In addition to the basic models, there are sub-models identified by the year when revisions to the basic model were introduced. For example, the M91/24 T.S. is a rework begun in 1924, converting the M91 Fucile to T.S. specification. The M91/28 (special troops' carbine) and M91/41 (long ifle) are sub-models were introduced in 1928 and 1941, respectively. A slight exception to this rule is the - already mentioned - M91/38 which was actually introduced in 1940. The M91/38 derived it nomenclature from it being a M38 chambered in 6,5x52 Carcano, instead of the originally intended 7,35x51 Carcano. M91/38's are often also referred to as "M38 in 6,5x52 Carcano". Incidentally, there is no evidence to support the often-read and repeated rumour that any M38's were converted from 7,35x51 Carcano to 6,5x52 Carcano (by changing the barrel), according to Hobbs. But a number of M 38 guns in 7,35 mms were made using older 6,5 mms barrels and receivers, the markings of which may still be found partially visible e.g. on the barrel base.
Regardless of the formal distinction which we undertook above, it is common to find the sub-models being referred to as models (i.e. M91/28 as M28; M91/41 as M41). Just keep this in mind when interpreting a reference.

Variants or Types

From these basic nominal "models", several discernible variants existed: the Fucile, Fucile Corto, Moschetto Cavalleria (Cav.) and the Moschetto Truppe Speciali (T.S.).
These are the denominations most helpful for you, and which Alexander Eichener had also called "phenotypes" because they are immediately recognizable at sight.

Fucile (Long rifle):
Two long rifles exist, namely the M91 and the M91/41 (the preceding M 91/40 was a long trial rifle which was never distributed at large). They are distinguished in the following ways:
- Length
- Rear sight blades: M 91 graduated from 600 metres to 2000 metres, M 91/41 from 300 metres to 1000 metres
- Sling bars and swivels: only at the bottom for the M91, whereas the M91/41 also has side bars. A few M 91/41 may have their bottom swivels milled off after production.
- Buttplate: the M91/41 buttplate is slightly flatter and curves around the upper side of the buttstock, so the upper screw enters from above, vertically.

Fucile corto (Short rifle):
They exist in 7,35 mms (Mod. 1938 or 38) and in 6,5 mms (Mod. 91/38). Identical except for caliber and sight zeroing distance (7,35 mms at 300 metres, 6,5 mms at 200 metres). Only the very first M1938 short rifles initially had a different handguard and nosecap and no second barrel band (and these are not "prototypes", as Richard Hobbs incorrectly named them, but regular production). Upon negative reports from the troops, these features were changed, and the old style rifles were almost all retroconverted to the later (common) standard, by exchanging the handguard and nosecap and re-milling the stock's front end to accomodate the new nosecap.
The Short Rifle is often confused with the Moschetto TS. Beware. See the explanation later on this page for a listing of the differences.

Moschetto TS
A short carbine, stocked almost to the muzzle, with a bayonet lug and a handguard. Comes as M91 (in various modifications), M91/24, M91/28, M38, M38 S (in 7.9/7.92/8mm Mauser) and M91/38.

Moschetto per Cavalleria
A half-stocked cavalry carbine, with the unmistakable triangular folding bayonet; it is fixed to a permanent muzzle mounting, but hinges back under the stock, into a slot there. Not infrequently the bayonet is missing. Exists as M91, M38, M 38 S, M91/38. One manufacturer, FNA Brescia, continued its previous M91 pattern throughout the Second World War and never made a M91/38 with fixed sights. Please note that the round barrel base (instead of the old half-octagonal configuration with five facets on the upper side and a round base) was already introduced way before 1938 for the last M91 carbines and is not a sign for a M91/38 model in and by itself.

How to distinguish a Short Rifle and a Moschetto TS:

How to distinguish the manifold Moschetto TS sub-variants:
Have you ever taken a broom and begon to sweep the forest ? *Sigh* The Moschetto TS underwent constant minor modifications and alterations like no other Carcano, and I find it very difficult to gain an overview. Collectors hould keep in mind that these were all undertaken man mano, that is, successively as soon as a gun would have to be repaired and came back to the arsenal. Many different stages and variants thus co-existed at the same time and to speak of "introduction times" would mislead the reader. The changes mainly involve the following parts:

There are other Carcano variants, but these tend to be extremely rare or conversions of other types. For example, there are the Guardie del Re (King's Guard) and Moschettieri del Duce (Mussolini's Guard) variants, both of which are rare, and are distinguished by the coloring (gilded ornamentation and black stock, respectively), and non-standard stock/bayonet treatments.

One conversion is the Tromboni Launchi Bombe (aka Troboncino Launcia Bombe), the Grenade Launcher variants of the M91/28 T.S., M38 T.S. and M38 Cav. The Tromboni Launchi Bombe is permanently attached to the right side of the gun. Guns with the Tromboni removed should have a small notch cut on the top of the chamber end of the barrel and the right side of the stock inletted. 1943 saw the introduction of a German style grenade launcher that fit underneath the barrel of the M91, M91/41 and T.S.'s.

There are also late war official German 8x57 IS conversions, undertaken as an emergency measure for the Volkssturm in both magazine and single-shot configurations (Heinrich Krieghoff branch factory in Tyrol). These are very rare, and must not be confused by the much more commonly offered following variant:
Some Moschetti TS M38 were chambered for the 7,92x57 Mauser (aka 7,9x57 Mauser; 8 x 57 IS; 8mm Mauser). We call them "M38 S" here, because they usually bear a large "S" mark on the receiver, and often also on the bolt handle; their receiver breech end has a half-moon cut to accomodate for the longer 8 x 57 IS cartridges (just as with the Norvegian Kar 98k converted to .30-06, and the Turkish M 1903/38 conversions).
Richard Hobbs thinks, based on an oblique and unclear remark in Italian army supply documents, that these guns were intended for Italian troops operating on the Russian front, and he thus calls this sub-model the Moschetto M38 TS Russi (Russian); but this appears to be a naming after the fact (unless further Italian sources be discovered). Others disagree, based e.g. on the argument that the term "Fucili Russi 8mm" could as well and even more literally refer to two not uncommon RUSSIAN World War I bounty weapons: to the Austrian-captured Mosin-Nagants converted to 8 x 50 R Steyr and to the German-captured Mosin-Nagants converted to 8 x 57 IS. Besides, the Italian armed forces had enormous stocks of original Austrian M1895 rifles and carbines, and also used them in WW II. These critics identify those Moschetti either as post-war conversions done for Egypt, some of which were captured by Israel, or as direct war aid deliveries to Israel.
The most likely conclusion is therefore that at least two, maybe three different Carcano types in 8x57 IS exist; their history still remains somewhat unclear until now.

For those of you who are challenged by the Italian language, the table below is a translation of the model/variant nomenclature:
Carcano Variants
Italian English
Modello Model
Fucile Rifle
Fucile Corto Short Rifle
Moschetto Cavalleria (Cav.) Cavalry Carbine
Moschetto Truppe Speciale (T.S) Special Troop Carbine
Typo I Type I
S S
Tromboni Launchi Bombe Bomb Launching Horn
(Grenade Launcher)

Calibers

As previously mentioned, the Carcano rifle was produced in 4 calibers, and also "typically" found in a 5th caliber: The caliber of a Carcano, actually just the bore diameter, can be found imprinted either on the Mod. 38 and Mod. 91/38 fixed rear sight, or as a later proof mark on the barrel's muzzle end (United Kingdom proof) or breech end (German proof). In the case of 7,35x51 Carcano chambered guns, the left side of the buttstock should also be imprinted with a large-lettered "CAL. 7,35", unless the gun has been re-fitted with a M91/38 stock.

Manufacturers

The Italian government sought to produce their guns entirely within Italy. Various manufacturers had produced Carcani since 1892, most guns having been manufactured in the Terni and Brescia Arsenals, with other manufacturers coming and going over the years depending on demand. Some may one have been final assembly plants of subcontracted parts made elsewhere. The "manufacturer" of each gun imprinted their identifying name or logo on the chamber end of the barrel.

In addition to the manufacturer's identifying logo, the year of production (up until mid-1943) and the serial number should be imprinted on the chamber end of the barrel. The year of production is typically a 2 to 4 digit number indicating the year. For example a gun manufactured in 1918 may have a shortened year such as '918' or "18" imprinted. In addition to the A.D. Christian year, there is from 1929 until 1943, the year of the Fascist Era (which was counted from the March on Rome in autumn 1922) also stamped in Roman numerals on most barrels. Since Fascist year and common era year are not identical (just like secular and liturgical year diverge from each other), this allows to identify whether a gun was produced before or after the anniversary day of the March on Rome in a given year.
Typical serial numbers of Carcani consist of either 1 or 2 letters followed by 4 numbers. Guns produced at Roma in late World War I often have a 'OR-' prefix before their whole serial number. Some guns with a number only also exist.

The Model 91/24 T.S.'s, being shortened long rifles, should bear their original manufacturer markings and an additional small oval rework marking on top of the barrel breech, indicating the reworking arsenal (mostly if not always it's FARE TERNI and the last two digits of the year).

Below is a table of manufacturers showing the production years for the models and variants.
Years of Manufacture of Carcano
Manufacturer 91 91/24 91/28 38 91/38 38 S 91/41 Tipo I
Fucile Cav. T.S. T.S. T.S. Fucile
Corto
Cav. T.S. Fucile
Corto
Cav. T.S. Cav. T.S. Fucile
Armaguerra Cremona 1942-1944?
Beretta 1936-1941? 1929-1938 1939 1939 1940 1940-1944? 1940-1943 1939
Brescia
(aka F.N.A. Brescia)
1894-1918 1894-1936 1898-1919 1931-1936 1939-1940 1938 1939 1940 1940-1044? 1940-1945 1938,1941 1938,1941 1939
Gardone Val Trompia
(aka Gardone VT)
1935-1937 1929-1934 1938-1939 1939 1939 1940 1940-1945 1939
Pietro Lorenzotti (Brescia) 1930-1931
Metallurgica Bresciana
(aka MBT)
1930
Mida Brescia 1917-1918
Roma 1917-1918
R.E. Terni (aka Terni; FAT) 1892-1936 1928-1937 1928-1930 1938-1940 1938-1939 1940-1941 1941 1941-1945
Torino 1893-1898
Torre Annunziata 1893-1900

Other Markings/Features

Other markings and features you may find on a Carcano are:

Specifications

The primary distinction between the models/sub-models/variants is made by the year of manufacture (indicated on the barrel up to roughly mid-1943), length, and the bayonet mounting. The table below shows the specifications for the models/sub-models/variants:
Specifications for Common Carcano Rifles
Model Caliber (mm) Twist Type Sights (m) Weight Length (cm) Bayonet
Adjustable Battle Fixed Barrel Overall
91 Fucile 6.5x52 Carcano Gain 450-2000 300 8 lb. 7 oz. 78 128.5 Detachable
91 Cav. 6.5x52 Carcano Gain 450-1500 300 6 lb. 14 oz. 45 91.3 Attached/Folding
91 T.S. 6.5x52 Carcano Gain 450-1500 300 6 lb. 8.5 oz. 44.9 92.2 Detachable
91/24 T.S. 6.5x52 Carcano Gain 450-1500 300 6 lb. 8.5 oz. 45.2 92.1 Detachable
91/28 T.S. 6.5x52 Carcano Gain 450-1500 300 6 lb. 13 oz. 45.7 91.5 Detachable
38 Fucile Corto 7.35x51 Carcano Fixed 200 7 lb. 9 oz. 53.5 101.8 Detachable/Folding
38 Cav. 7.35x51 Carcano Fixed 200 6 lb. 9 oz. 44.7 91.5 Attached/Folding
38 T.S. 7.35x51 Carcano Fixed 200 6 lb. 10 oz. 45.1 91.5 Detachable
91/38 Fucile Corto 6.5x52 Carcano Fixed 200 7 lb. 7 oz. 53.8 101.8 Detachable/Folding
91/38 Cav. 6.5x52 Carcano Gain 450-1500 200 200 7 lb. 44.6 91.5 Attached/Folding
91/38 T.S. 6.5x52 Carcano Gain 200 6 lb. 6 oz. 45.9 92.7 Detachable
91/41 Fucile 6.5x52 Carcano Fixed 300-1000 200 8 lb. 8 oz. 69.2 116.8 Detachable
38 S Cav. 8x57 IS Mauser 200 6 lb. 14 oz. 45.6 91.8 Attached/Folding
38 S T.S.  8x57 IS Mauser Fixed 200 6 lb. 10 oz. 45.2 92.1 Detachable
Tipo I 6.5x50 Japanese Fixed 400-2400 300 ? 8 lb. 12 oz. 78.1 128.9(Long)
126.4(Short)
Detachable Arisaka bayonet


Special thanks to Richard J. Hobbs for specifications and manufacture years.