4 Apr 2020
“I offer neither pay, nor quarters, nor food
I offer only hunger, thirst, forced marches, battles, and death.
Who loves his country with his heart, not merely his lips, follow me!”
Giuseppe Garibaldi (1807-1882)
“Father of The Fatherland”
Italian Rifles and Pistols:
Salvatore Carcano headed the Turin Army Arsenal in Italy in 1890. His name became attached to the bolt-action Italian M91 Rifle, and a number of its successors.
The M91 (for the year of 1891) Carcano Rifle, was used by Italian Troops during WWI. The M91 was in the same generation as the Russian Mosin-Nagant and the American Krag-Jorgensen. Unlike the Mosin and the Krag, however, it was chambered for a rimless cartridge, the 6.5×52 Italian (blunt-nosed) round, and used a five-round, en-bloc clip.
Like most infantry rifles of the era, the M91 was long (at least by today’s standards), an obsolete carry-over from the era of multi-ranked volley-fire, where long barrels were necessary to prevent inadvertent fratricide.
Bayonets were also typically long, another obsolete hold-over from the bygone era of cavalry charges.
Delicate rear sights on the M91 were precisely adjustable, all the way out to 2000m, and overly-optimistic manifestation of naive, baseless expectations that warfare in the new smokeless-powder era would involve rifle engagements at distances far in excess of what was common during the black-powder era.
By the beginning of WWII, Western Civilization’s military rifles and bayonets were much shorter, as is evidenced by the British SMLE Enfield, American 1903 Springfield, and the German 98K (the “K” was for “Karabiner,” or in English, “Carbine”)
With the Italians, it was the 21-inch-barreled M38 Carcano, now accepting a six-round en-bloc clip.
The new caliber was 7.35×51 (now with a spitzer bullet), as the old 6.5×52 has proven inadequate in terminal effect during Italy’s North African campaigns in the 1920s-30s (Second Italo‑Ethiopian War).
M38’s rear sight is now robust, permanently zeroed at 200m, and non-adjustable.
As WWII progressed, Italians (like the Japanese) were unable to institute the caliber changeover, and thus reverted back to the 6.5×52. Many M38 rifles manufactured in Italy and chambered for 7.35×51 were sold to Finland!
The Italian Army never had any kind of self-loading rifle during all of WWII.
Both Italian calibers mentioned above are essentially proprietary and thus not commonly-found, nor manufactured, in the USA, so Italian rifles of the last Century, while eminently functional, have scant following here, although many were imported after the War, because they were relatively cheap.
However, it was just such an imported M38 Carcano Rifle, in 6.5×52 Caliber, that was allegedly used by Lee Oswald to assassinate then President Kennedy in Dallas, TX on 22 Nov 1963.
In the years following the end of WWII, Beretta in Italy tooled-up for, and manufactured, over 100k M1 Garands, in 30-06 caliber, for service with Italian Forces. Italian-made M1s were, and are still, highly regarded!
In 1957, Beretta started manufacturing, in Italy, its own version of the American M14 Rifle, called the BM59 in 7.62×51. Sold worldwide. Enjoyed an excellent reputation. Adopted for service in the Italian military in 1959. Many were imported into the USA. Still highly regarded!
BM59’s 20-round magazines go straight in, while M14/M1A magazines rock-in from the front. So, BM59 magazines and M14/M1A magazines are not interchangeable.
American-made M1As (M14s) from Springfield Armory did not come on the market until 1974. “Springfield Armory” of today is a commercial manufacturer, based in IL, with no connection (other than the name) to the original (now closed) National Armory.
The German (Walther) P38 Pistol superceded the Luger in German military service just prior to WWII. Out of production since the War, the P38 was the first trigger-cocking, autoloading pistol ever to see military adoption. It’s drop-lock system, and two-stage safety/decocking lever, eventually re-emerged in the commercial market as Beretta’s M92F Pistol, and was adopted by the US Military (M9) in 1985.
The M9 was, in turn, superceded in 2017 by SIG’s 320 (M17/18).
Rising to power in Italy in 1922, Mussolini was a Nazi-like dictator, until he fell from grace in 1943, expelled and arrested by his own government after a monotonous series of military blunders/reversals.
After then being gratuitously rescued by Adolf Hitler’s famous Waffen-SS and spirited out of the country during the famous Gran Sasso Raid of 12 Sept 43, Mussolini foolishly returned, but only as far as northern Italy and only under German protection.
Naively expecting a grand welcome, instead a year and a half later Mussolini found himself hunted by Communist Partisans, with virtually no friends to protect him.
Hitler declined a second rescue attempt!
While trying to flee to Switzerland, Mussolini was captured by Communists on 27 April 45 and shot to death the next day, along with his mistress, Clara Petacci, and the couple’s entire entourage of hangers-on, numbering fifteen or so.
Their bodies were hung upside-down in Milan, in order that their deaths could never be disputed.
Two days later, Hitler committed suicide in Berlin.
By May of 1945, the War in Europe was over!
“War is to a man what maternity is to a woman.
I don’t believe in perpetual peace”
Benito Mussolini, Italian dictator from 1922 to 1943