Skip to content

M38 Carcano: Best Bolt Rifle of World War Two?

Cool Forgotten Weapons merch!

During the 1920s, Italy was concerned about insufficient lethality with their 6.5x52mm cartridge, and began experimenting with larger bore diameters. By the late 1930s they settled on a new 7.35x51mm round, based closely on the existing 6.5mm cartridge case. They also planned to replace the original M91 rifles with a much more compact and more modern short rifle for the infantry. This design was adopted as the M38, and it featured side-mounted sling attachments, a folding bayonet more like a fighting knife than the old sword type, and did away entirely with the long-range adjustable sight, instead opting for a fixed 200m notch.

I submit that this configuration was the ideal one for World War Two, and Italy was the only nation to really adopt a reality-based rifle design. The use of rifles beyond 300m was almost unheard of during the war, and the fixed sight both reduced production overhead and also made the rifles more durable and soldier-proof. It retained the 6-round Mannlicher clip that was fast to load, and both the 7.35mm and 6.5mm cartridges were closer to intermediate cartridges than other contemporaries like the 8×57 and .30-06. The M38 is handy, inexpensive to make, and comfortable to shoot. I think it is a massively under-appreciated rifle.

Thanks to InterOrdnance / Royal Tiger Imports for providing this carbine from their Ethiopian imports for the video!

Forgotten Weapons
6281 N. Oracle #36270
Tucson, AZ 85740

Leave a Reply