Some Good And Beautiful Some Good And Ugly

All Are Memorable Milsurps.

After you’ve handled and studied scores of military surplus arms, there are a few that will leave an indelible impression. Here are several milsurps that have struck me as being just enough different to make them memorable.

Not much trouble with this one! Those poor, little, Italian Carcanos have really taken a beating ever since the 1963 Oswald/Kennedy assassination. Yes, Oswald’s mail order Carcano was cheap. Klein’s Sporting Goods in Chicago was selling them in the 1960s for $19.95 delivered, complete with a mounted 4X Japanese scope. In the public mind, that was two strikes against the Carcano. It only cost $19.95, and it was used to kill our president. It doesn’t get much worse than that for a milsurp. On top of that, add in the problems the Italian Army experienced in WWII as a reputable fighting force, and the Carcano gets kicked to the bottom of the pile.
Well, as the song goes, “It ain’t necessarily so.”

Actually, the Carcano is a fine battle rifle. It’s simple, handy and well made by firms like Beretta. The action is impressive. It’s a split bridge Mannlicher design that is nicely machined from a special grade of high-quality Czech steel. It features a large 1.3″ front receiver ring. The bolt is very modern with a recess for the case head. The extractor is massive and mortised into the side of the bolt body. The bolt lugs are solid with no ejector slots slicing through them, and the action is adequately vented for gas leaks. Hey, this is an action that both the Italians and Germans chambered in 8×57. The minimum European proof load for the 8×57 is 73,500 psi. Enough said.

Accuracy? Until a few years ago, the only ammunition available for the 6.5×52 Carcano round was loaded by Norma. It featured a .264″ diameter bullet. Ah, but the Carcano requires a .268″ diameter bullet. Until Graf & Sons, Inc. and Hornady got together and produced not only a 160-grain roundnose bullet with a diameter of .268″ but factory loaded ammunition, Carcano accuracy was not impressive.  With .268″ bullets, Carcanos with their rather coarse open sights will average 2-1/2″ to 3″ at 100 yards. Scorned but undaunted. That’s the Carcano.

I call the Danish, Model 47 Madsen Lightweight Military Rifle “elusive” because before the days of internet auction sites, I had only seen two: one in a Phoenix pawn shop and 30-years later, one at a Phoenix gun show. It may have been the very same rifle.

Well known for their light machine gun and submachine gun, Madsen developed the Model 47 in the early 1950s for sale to third-world countries with limited defense budgets. Simple and cheap to produce, it’s an intriguing battle rifle with a rear-locking, split receiver, a 5-shot or 10-shot magazine, a forward mounted aperture rear sight and a stock and muzzlebrake designed to minimize recoil, which they do.

In a post-WWII world awash in semi-automatics, the Madsen was not a commercial success. The only significant contract received by the company was for 5,000 rifles in .30-06 for the Colombian Navy. Some of those Colombian-marked Madsens reached our shores so keep your eye out for this elusive and unusual milsurp. (See the April 2012 Surplus Locker for a complete review.)
By Holt Bodinson

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One thought on “Some Good And Beautiful Some Good And Ugly

  1. Toubo Smith

    I’d say Carcanos are one of my favorite milsurps, I have at least seven of them, and am currently restoring a Model 1941. And I agree that the Carcanos were a pretty decent battle rifle – in 1891 – but by WWII were very much out of date – I believe even Mussolini himself didn’t have much affection for the Carcano.

    One major omission in your brief article – the six-round en bloc clip, Mannlicher type of packet loading – it is almost impossible to operate a Carcano without the clips – to single-load you almost have to slip the case head into/under the extractor – with the bolt removed from the action. Yes, clips are available, going for absurd prices on eBay, and Numrich has them or had them for $5.15 a piece – and the clips are reuseable for many firings -but with the exception of our Garand M-1, and a couple true Mannlicher milsurps – the Carcano is one of few milsurps that requires proprietary clips to function.

    Secondly, the Carcano safety – besides being a bit cumbersome to engage and disengage – engage the safety – pull the trigger – and push forward on the cocking piece – with a cartridge chambered, I believe the firing pin will then be resting against the primer – all it would take is an impact on the cocking piece to strike the primer – one of the more unsafe safeties on milsurps.

    Yes, the design of the Carcano action eliminates the bolt lug cut for the ejector – but one of the main sources of action roughness is the ejector against the bottom of the bolt – hold the trigger back, and try to retract the bolt – the ejector applies a lot of upward pressure to the bolt – OK, holding the trigger back and operating the bolt isn’t normal operation, but overall the Mauser type of ejector causes much less drag on the bolt.

    And lastly, it is difficult to find a Carcano with a bright and shiny bore – I know – I’ve looked at many Carcanos over the past few years at gun shows, some have more than enough rifling to spin many bullets – yes, .268″ bullets – but it’s rare to find a Carcano with a bore even close to one in your average Swiss K31, for example. I have one Carcano post-WWII export carbine, dated 1896, which is almost a complete smooth-bore, completely shot out, although the exterior of the metal has been reblued – I think it would take more than .268″ bullets to get a decent group out of that carbine.

    And the Madsen – I suppose one might have a better chance of finding a Madsen than winning the MegaMillion Lottery, but they are very uncommon – and the one currently available at GunsAmerica is priced at a steep $699.00 – considering that you can get a CMP Garand for that same price, what’s the point? That’s a lot of money for a milsurp.

    I enjoyed your article, and I know you can’t cover everything in one magazine issue – I look forward to the Surplus Locker column every month. But how about a look at what milsurp is currently available? What can be found for sale in Shotgun News – what Samco and Century and J&G Sales are offering – what might be found a your average local gun show – and you’re not going to find many Madsens for sure, not too many Carcanos – not many Spanish Mausers of any sort these days – Mosins – Turkish Mausers – Swiss K31’s – the Yugoslavian Mauser 24/47’s and Model 48’s – the more common, still being imported models.

    Keep up the good work – enjoy that Carcano. Toubo


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