Last Of The Mannlicher Systems

Duke Takes A Look At Italian M91/41
And Hungarian M95 Rifles And Carbines

Mike “Duke” Venturino
Photos: Yvonne Venturino

Mannlicher. To most American shooters and hunters the word means a rifle with a full-length stock. This is a misconception. Mannlicher is a design of a bolt-action rifle by Ferdinand Ritter von Mannlicher. Herr Mannlicher was born in Mainz, Germany, but apparently lived most of his life in Austria. His early rifle designs were both turn bolt and straight pull and used en-bloc loaders by which the rounds were held in a straight column in a magazine extending beneath the action. However, the later Mannlicher-Schonauer rifle used a rotary magazine.

Such en-bloc loaders are commonly referred to nowadays as “clips.” The most familiar to Americans are the 8-round ones ejected upwards from M1 Garands. The two rifle types discussed here allows them to fall out the bottom of the magazine when the last round is chambered. Furthermore the samples I have are rather unique in that their metric designations of 6.5mm and 8mm do not use the same size bullets as other rounds using those numbers. I will explain shortly.

Upon setting about my quest to have a collection of World War II small arms, I actually did not know what a Hungarian Model ’95 or an Italian Model ’41 were although of course I was aware of cartridges labeled 8x56mmR Hungarian and 6.5x52mm Italian (sometimes called 6.5mm Carcano). Now I own both and handload for them.

Duke working the bolt of his Italian Model 1941 6.5mm Carcano. Note how the
en-bloc loader drops from the magazine as the last round in it is chambered.

The Italian Model 1941 6.5mm Carcano is relatively uncommon. Most
WWII Italian Carcanos found today are the short carbine models.

The Model 1895 rifle (top) was modified after WWI into the short,
handy 95 carbine variation (bottom).

The Carcano

The seller of my Italian ’41 did not know what he was selling and neither did I know exactly what I was buying. We both thought the rifle was the Italian Model 1891 6.5mm. When mine arrived I immediately noticed its barrel seemed short and the rear sight was unique to anything of my experience. A little research showed me I had actually bought an Italian Model 1941. Instead of the Model 1891’s 30.5-inch barrel the ’41 has a 27.25-inch one.

Also its sight is different. Its base is battle-zeroed for 300 meters. Another fixture rotates in front of the fixed sight with settings out to 1,000 meters. Fully rotated the second sight rests in a stock notch and so is out of the way when not needed. It is different in function than any other battle sight and perhaps is a little fragile for field use. Actually my ’41 shows no signs of ever being on a battlefield. It is in pristine condition. There is no provision for windage in the rear sight, but the front is a blade dovetailed to a stud. It can be drifted for windage.

Starting in 1891, the Italians produced a bewildering array of rifles commonly called Carcanos, so named after Salvatore Carcano, who borrowed several features from other designers. On his rifles, the magazine box and en-bloc loaders could be attributed to Herr Mannlicher. Signor Carcano managed to get his rifles’ en-bloc loaders to hold six rounds instead of the five most nations’ bolt actions held then (a battlefield advantage).

In Italian a rifle is called a fucile and a carbine is a moschetto. I believe the most common Carcano carbine seen in this country is the Model ’93 which has 17.7-inch barrel with a folding bayonet. (I spent the summer of 1965 in Verona, Italy, and nearly every day walked past a military headquarters of some sort with guards holding ’93 Carcano carbines.)

As an aside, we’ll mention Fucile di Fanteria. This is Italian for “short rifle.” It was one of those (technically the Model 91/38) used by Lee Harvey Oswald to assassinate President Kennedy in Dallas on November 22, 1963. Technically my Italian Carcano is a “short rifle” Model 91/41.

Like just about every American shooter my age I grew up despising Carcanos. The oft-visited Army Surplus store of my youth there in West Virginia prior to 1968 had a barrel full of junky looking Carcano carbines priced at $6.95. They were so dirty and rusty, even if I’d had the price I wouldn’t have bought one.

This Hungarian ’95s straight-pull action (above) is loaded with a 5-round en-block loader.
Without one, it is a single shot. Italian 6.5mm Carcano en-bloc loaders (below) held 6 rounds.

This is the odd sight unique to the Italian Model 1941. Its basic fixed sight
is zeroed for 300 meters but the rotary portion shown fully forward in its
recess allows elevation to 1,000 meters.

Size Conundrum

Until owning my ’41 Carcano I would have considered them hopelessly inaccurate despite never having shot one. My opinion had been shared by others who had tried handloading for the 6.5x50mm. It’s 6.5mm, meaning bullets of 0.264-inch are correct. Right? Nope! This is wrong, the Italian 6.5x50mm is meant for 0.268-inch bullets, a fact I discovered by actually reading the section on 6.5mm Italian in Hornady’s Handbook of Cartridge Reloading 8th Edition. (Actually their manual says their 160-grain RN bullet is 0.267-inch, but the box of bullets says 0.268 inch. I go with the box.)

Here’s an example of the difference. I bought a box of Prvi Partisan 6.5x52mm factory loads. They carried 0.264-inch bullets and wouldn’t stay on a wagon wheel from my ’41. Using the Hornady 0.268-inch bullets, my rifle will shoot about 3.00 inches at 100 yards and stay on my PT-Torso target (18×24 inches wide and tall) at 300 yards.

This is sort of a slam at Prvi Partisan’s factory load but I’ll redeem them by saying their 6.5x50mm brass is excellent. I bought enough of it and the Hornady 6.5 Carcano bullets to last my lifetime. For those interested I’ll say this: Hornady’s special lot of factory ammo sold by Graf & Sons chronographed at 2,065 fps. My handload with Hornady 160-grain RN over 31.0 grains of IMR4064 clocked 2,056 fps.

Now let’s get to the Hungarian Model 1895 carbine 8x56mmR. Here’s a fact: Hungarian ’95 carbines did not start out as carbines nor were they originally chambered for 8x56mmR. They were manufactured as rifles in the Austrian 8x50mmR caliber. At the time of their development much of central and southern Europe was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It was a hodgepodge of differing nationalities. After World War I, the empire was broken up into several countries with Austria being one and Hungary another.

The Hungarian 8x56mmR uses an odd-size 0.329-inch bullet.

Graf & Sons had Hornady produce factory ammunition for both 6.5mm
Carcano and Hungarian 8x56mmR with the correctly sized bullets.

The proper ones for the 6.5mm Carcano are 0.268 inch. An Italian 6.5mm
Carcano military round (left) compared with one of Duke’s handloads using
the new Hornady 160-grain roundnose bullet. Most 6.5mm bullets are 0.264 inch.

The basic design was as a straight pull, bolt action with 5-round magazine. In the 1930’s Hungary undertook to modernize their Model 1895 rifles by shortening the barrels from 30 to 19.5 inches. Then they developed a new cartridge known to us today as 8x56mmR. It was merely the old Austrian round lengthened to make it more powerful. And brothers, it is! When I purchased my Hungarian ’95 carbine it came with nigh on a full case of military ammunition. These came packed in 10-round boxes, 5 rounds per en-bloc loader. Furthermore it was all of 1938 German manufacture right down to swastikas stamped on each box. Every round was in pristine condition, so I chronographed some of it in my carbine. From its 19-inch barrel it was doing over 2,400 fps. Recoil was stiff with the carbine’s forearm bouncing about 4 inches off the sandbags with every pull of the trigger.

An FMJ bullet was pulled from one round. It weighed 208 grains and (get this) it measured 0.329-inch in diameter. Most experienced handloaders know American 8mm Mauser bullets are 0.323 inch in diameter. So what gives? In Europe the round we consider 8mm Mauser is actually labeled 7.9mm or 7.92mm. The Hungarian cartridge is a true 8mm. By the way the R at the end of the cartridge designation stands for “Rimmed.” Incidentally when these carbines were rechambered from 8x50mmR to 8x56mmR they were given a prominent S or H stamp over the chamber.

Anyway back to the carbine. Hungary was an ally of Germany in World War II and supplied many troops for secondary purposes such as guarding railroads, supply depots, etc. Likely some German troops engaged in the same duties used these carbines also.

Handloading for a cartridge as odd as the Hungarian 8x56mmR has been made simple by the aforementioned Prvi Partisan. From Buffalo Arms I was able to purchase the proper factory new brass and 208-grain 0.0329-inch FMJ bullets. Also available were factory loads made expressly for Graf & Sons by Hornady. They were a mite weaker than the German military loads. My chronograph said they were going 2,270 fps. I duplicated the velocity with 49 grains of Varget with the 208-grain FMJ bullets.

Sights on Hungarian ’95s are an open rear ladder type optimistically graduated out to 2,400 meters. Front sight is a simple blade dovetailed into a stud. It can be moved laterally for windage zeroing.

So far I have not indulged in buying bullet molds for either one of these oddball cartridges, but I think both would be delightful with cast bullets. Especially if the Hungarian carbine’s recoil was tamed down with bullets going about 1,600 to 1,800 fps. A careful bullet caster and handloader could likely duplicate the Italian rifle’s military ballistics with home-cast bullets.

Maybe someday I’ll find out.

Despite a reputation for poor accuracy Duke found his Italian Model 1941 6.5mm Carcano
to give adequate groups (above) at 100 yards. Even with its heavy recoil, Duke shot
groups (below) like this with his Hungarian 8x56mmR at 100 yards.

These German Volksturm troops are shown with a hodge-podge of weapons. The man in
the foreground appears to be armed with an Italian Model 38 6.5mm Carcano.

This German Volksturm is being issued weapons for the last ditch defense of the 3rd Reich.
This man is holding a Hungarian Model 1895 in full-length rifle configuration.

Buffalo Arms Co.
660 Vermeer Court
Ponderay, ID 83852
(208) 263-6953

P.O. Box 1848
Grand Island, NE 68802
(308) 382-1390

Graf & Sons
4050 S. Clar
Mexico, MO 65265
(573) 581-2266

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