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Ask Ian: Did the Finns Hate the Carcano?

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Asked by Prmetime on Utreon: In WW2, Finland was given approximately 100,000 Carcano M38 rifles in 7.35 Carcano. I have heard it stated that the Finns didn’t like the rifles. Can you comment on the veracity of that statement, and if true, do you know why they weren’t liked?

The Finnish government began negotiating with Italy to purchase available 7.35mm Carcano rifles in January of 1940, and ultimately concluded a deal to get 100,000 of them, complete with slings and bayonets. The rifles did not arrive until the summer of 1940 (after the Winter War had ended), but they rifles were put to use in the Continuation War. They were primarily issued to troops unlikely to need rifle, including the artillery corps and Air Force – although some did get issued to front line infantry. In addition, many were distributed to civilians along Finland’s eastern border to offer some protection against Soviet partisan attacks on villages.

The rifles (generally called “Ternis” in Finland after one of the manufacturers) were indeed strongly disliked. This can be traced to both inconsistent ammunition and the fixed rear sights. Finnish rifle development had focused heavily on improving the sights on their Mosin Nagant rifles to allow very precise shooting, and the M38 Carcano was the polar opposite, with a fixed V-notch rear sight. The ammunition did not always shoot to point of aim, and the sights could not be adjusted for range. These factors together led to an immediate distaste by Finnish troops. The guns were often discarded in favor of captured Russian rifles, which offered more power, more familiarity, and the use of standard Finnish ammunition.

By the end of the Continuation War about 20% of the Carcanos had been lost or destroyed, and the remainder were put into storage. In 1957 they were all traded to InterArms for Sten guns, and were subsequently sold on the American collector market.

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