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rifle - The Humanitarian Rifle Empty The Humanitarian Rifle

on Sat 25 Jan 2014, 6:32 pm
Almost everyone who has studied the JFK assassination has heard the 6.5mm Carcano referred to as the "Humanitarian Rifle". As often stated, this name was given to it by the Italian troops who carried it but, unbeknownst to most, the reasons it was given this name are not as straightforward as imagined. While the name began with Italian troops, its reputation as an inaccurate rifle grew long after the Carcano was removed from active military service and, surprisingly, was mostly not the fault of the rifles.
This story begins with the introduction, in 1891, of the first Carcano; the M91 long rifle. With its 31" barrel, the M91 was a very accurate rifle, yet the problems that led to the name of "Humanitarian Rifle" began with the M91. You see, the troops were not complaining about the ability of the Carcano to hit a target, they were complaining about the ability of the Carcano to KILL its target.
To understand this problem, let us look at the similar problems experienced by the British Indian Army, and the solution they came up with to solve it.
Prior to the introduction of smaller "modern" cartridges, such as the 6.5 Carcano, rifles had very large bores, used black powder as a propellant, and hurled great chunks of unjacketed lead bullets at lower velocities. They were quite limited in range, hence the desire for faster, smaller bullets, and the wounds caused by these unjacketed bullets were often horrendous. Suffice it to say that one hit from these bullets either killed you or disabled you; few continued the fight. However, unjacketed lead bullets did not do well in the smaller bores at higher velocities. It was found, after only a few shots, the riflings in the rifle barrels were fouled with lead to the point of making the rifle inaccurate. The copper alloy jacket was devised to overcome this problem. It is not clear how the full metal jacket came about but it is believed it was made at the same time to prevent the copper alloy jacket from separating from the lead bullet in the barrel of the rifle; a very real possibility in the minds of the designers but one never actually proven.
Anyways, back to the British Indian Army and their .303 Enfields. With the introduction of the Mk. II cartridge with its roundnosed, full metal jacket projectile, it soon became apparent to British troops that they now had their own "Humanitarian Rifle". These bullets did not expand when they hit enemy soldiers, and cause the great grievous wounds made by the unjacketed bullets these troops were used to shooting from their former large bore weapons. Often, the bullets passed right through an enemy combatant, and caused little damage. As the Indian Army was often outnumbered in skirmishes with indigenous forces, a need was quickly seen for a bullet capable of stopping an enemy combatant with one shot instead of four or five.

[url= special]rifle - The Humanitarian Rifle CII%20special%20bullet[/url]

Left, Mk. II "Special" (dum dum) and right, Mk. V (hollow point)
At the Dum Dum Arsenal in Dum Dum, India, in 1897, a Captain Bertie Clay developed the first dum dum bullet simply by removing 1 mm of the copper alloy jacket from the nose of a Mk. II bullet, exposing the soft lead tip underneath. In effect, Capt. Clay had made the first soft tipped jacketed bullet. They were an instant hit with the troops, as, with the expanding tip, these bullets did far more damage than the FMJ bullets.

The Indian soft point bullet was not adopted by the British Army. While the dum dum bullet was being developed in India, the British Army was working on their own expanding bullet at the Woolwich Arsenal in Britain. This was also a soft tipped bullet but it included a hollow cavity at the nose, in effect making the Mk. IV bullet the first hollow point bullet upon its introduction in 1898. These were even more effective at stopping enemy combatants; so much so that they were shortly after banned at the 1899 Hague Peace Conference as being "inhumane".
Still desiring effective stopping power but wishing to remain within the conventions of the Hague Peace Conference, the British experimented further with bullets and, by 1907, had come up with the Mk. VII cartridge. Its bullet, while being a full metal jacket, incorporated revolutionary features that gave it effective stopping power. This cartridge was used through two world wars and right up until the .303 Enfield was replaced in the late 1950's. First, the Mk. VII bullet had a pointed nose instead of the previous round nose. This caused this bullet to tumble when it contacted bone, instead of punching its way through as a round nosed bullet would. To further encourage the bullet to tumble, inside the full metal jacket the forward half of the bullet was made from light aluminum, while the rear half of the bullet was made from heavy lead. This disproportion in mass between the front and back end of the bullet made it very unstable, causing the bullet to tumble at the slightest provocation inside a wound and cause far more grievous wounds than a simple roundnosed FMJ bullet could.

rifle - The Humanitarian Rifle Z

Diagram of .303 Mk. VII cartridge, showing aluminum nose inside pointed copper alloy jacket.
While we have been discussing the British .303 Enfield, it should be obvious by now why the Italian troops dubbed the Carcano the "Humanitarian Rifle". The M91 and its 6.5x52 mm cartridge would have had all of the problems of the .303 Mk. II cartridge, and then some. The 6.5 Carcano was a smaller calibre than the .303, yet the bullet was longer. This would have made the Carcano bullet even more stable than the .303 and, thus, more resistant to tumbling in wounds. Unfortunately, the Italian commanders did not address this problem until 1938, thirty years after the British. Even then, their solution was short lived, and by 1940, the Carcano had again become the "Humanitarian Rifle".
More to come.

Last edited by Traveller11 on Mon 27 Jan 2014, 6:58 pm; edited 1 time in total

rifle - The Humanitarian Rifle Empty Re: The Humanitarian Rifle

on Sun 26 Jan 2014, 5:24 pm
Now that we have established the primary reason the 6.5mm Carcano was dubbed the "Humanitarian Rifle", that being the terminal ballistics of the 6.5x52 mm cartridge were insufficient to give the rifle serious stopping or killing power, let us see if we can find other reasons for this nickname.
As I stated in the last post, the M91 6.5mm Carcano long rifle was not an inaccurate weapon; its only fault was that it fired a very long, stable, round nosed, full metal jacket bullet that adhered strictly to the conventions of the Hague Peace Conference. It was designed to cause limited damage in a wound and it did everything its designers intended.

rifle - The Humanitarian Rifle Carcano-Identification-Header-Image

Above, M91 long rifle
As in most armies, the M91 long rifle, with its 31 inch barrel, was issued to the infantry. Other branches of the army, such as cavalry, artillery, scouts and support troops also needed weapons but it was found early on that such a long unwieldy weapon as the M91 did not work well in these applications. Something shorter was needed and the "carbine" rifle was developed. Two carbine models were introduced in the 1890's, the Moschetto da Cavalleria (cavalry carbine) and the Moschetto per Truppe Speciali (special troops or TS for short).

rifle - The Humanitarian Rifle Carcano-M1891-cavalry

Above, cavalry carbine with permanently attached and folded back bayonet

rifle - The Humanitarian Rifle Carcano-M1891-TS

Above, special troops or TS carbine
The 6.5 Carcano M91 long rifle was made with what is known as "progressive" or "gain" twist rifling grooves, as opposed to the far more common "standard" twist rifling grooves. While standard twist rifling has the same rate of twist throughout the length of the barrel (for example 1:7, meaning the riflings make one complete turn in 7 inches of barrel length), the M91 riflings started, at the breech, at a gentle 1:19 twist, and progressively got tighter, achieving a twist rate of 1:8 at the muzzle where the bullet exited. As the Carcano bullet was relatively heavy for its calibre at 162 grains, it was necessary to have the fast 1:8 rifling twist to gyroscopically stabilize the bullet in flight and give it accuracy. Without this fast twist, the bullet is under stabilized and accuracy suffers dramatically.
The cavalry carbine was the first to be introduced in 1893 and was made, quite literally, by sawing the front half of an M91 barrel off, reducing its length from 31 inches to 17 inches. The M91 wooden forestock was cut short, as well, the bolt handle turned down from the M91 straight bolt handle and the rear sight changed. It is not known how much of the progressive twist rifling was sacrificed but it is likely safe to say what remained of the barrel had, at most, a rifling twist of only 1:13. As many modern shooters have discovered, this short sighted and very stupid error on the part of the Italian authorities caused the Moschetto da Cavalleria to be a carbine that "couldn't hit the water from a boat". Early production of the TS carbine, beginning in 1897, also were made from cut down M91 long rifles.
Following WW I, Italy was left with great inventories of M91 long rifles and a stagnating economy. In a move to modernize their army with shorter weapons not as unwieldy as the M91's and to keep production costs down, the M91/24 TS carbine was introduced in 1924, again with a 17 inch barrel. M91 long rifles were cut down again to make the M91/24 TS, and this new version of the TS carbine was to become the main service rifle until the lead up to WW II in 1938. Once again, no thought was given to the disastrous effects removing 14 inches of a 31 inch progressive twist barrel would have on the accuracy of that rifle. OTOH, it was likely the progressive twist rifling that was the inspiration for the M91/24 TS in the first place. As the gentle 1:19 rifling at the breech of the M91 barrel would cause far less barrel wear than the 1:8 rifling at the muzzle, a "worn out" M91 barrel could be made new simply by removing the worn out forward 14 inches of the barrel and making it into a carbine.

rifle - The Humanitarian Rifle Carcano-M1891-24

Above, M91/24 carbine. This carbine bears the closest resemblance to the carbine in the Klein's ad, although it would appear an artist has retouched something in the area of the bayonet mount and the muzzle on the rifle in the ad.

rifle - The Humanitarian Rifle Carcano-M1891-28

Above, M91/28 carbine
The only relief to this carbine madness was the introduction in 1928 of the M91/28 TS carbine. It was an all new rifle and not a cut down version of a long rifle. Its introduction ended the manufacture of M91/24's. Perhaps their stocks of worn out M91's were running out, or perhaps someone came to their senses and realized what inadequate weapons were being supplied to Italian troops. Regardless, many of the M91/24's were made and saw great service in WW II and likely contributed to the poor performance of the Italians in North Africa.
So, we have now seen another reason the Italian troops dubbed the 6.5 Carcano the "Humanitarian Rifle". Careful note should also be made of the Italians' propensity for recycling worn out or overstocked M91 long rifles, with no regard for the detrimental effects on rifle accuracy of removing the tightest part of the progressive twist rifling. This will be discussed again in the next installment of the "Humanitarian Rifle", in which I will discuss the real reasons the 7.35x51 mm M38 Carcano was discontinued.

rifle - The Humanitarian Rifle Empty Re: The Humanitarian Rifle

on Wed 29 Jan 2014, 4:57 am
Our story has brought us up to the period immediately preceding the Second World War and the introduction, to the Italian army, of a whole new concept in weaponry; namely, the Fucile Corto or "short rifle", made famous as the alleged assassination weapon of JFK on 22/11/63. We will be concentrating mainly on these short rifles in this installment and, for that reason, there is one fact related to short rifles I would like you to keep in the forefront of your mind as you read this. The M91/38 6.5mm Carcano short rifle (Oswald's alleged rifle) began production in 1940 AND ended in 1940, with a handful being made in Terni in early 1941. It was replaced in 1941 with the all new M91/41 long rifle. This gives the M91/38 short rifle the distinction of being the shortest lived Italian military rifle model of the 20th Century and, for all I am aware of, the shortest lived military rifle model of ANY country in the 20th Century! What would make Italy, definitely not winning WW II, do something as drastic as abandon their main battle rifle and replace it with such a different design? Was there something that wrong with it that it was discarded so quickly, or were there deeper underlying reasons to kick it to the curb?
Anyways, after decades of listening to soldiers' complaints about the Carcano, Italian authorities became aware of two overwhelming desires; namely, a more compact short rifle that still maintained the long rifle's accuracy and a cartridge for that rifle that contained a bullet capable of doing far more damage in a wound than the 6.5x52 mm cartridge. Once again, they looked at their large inventories of M91 long rifles and came up with a brilliant idea.
The solution to all of their problems was an all new cartridge, the 7.35x51 mm, to be fired in an all new rifle, the 7.35mm M38 Carcano. In reality, the brass cartridge was a 6.5x52 mm cartridge with the neck opened up to accept the larger diameter bullet. The same was true of the 7.35mm short rifle; everything, including bolt, receiver and magazine was identical to every 6.5mm Carcano ever made.
Now, about recycling those 6.5mm M91 long rifles. The bore of a 6.5mm Carcano rifle barrel measures, of course, 6.5 mm. The widest internal diameter is the bottom of the rifling grooves and, from bottom of one groove to bottom of the opposite groove, these measure 6.8 mm in diameter. In a rather brilliant move, the Carcano makers removed the barrels from worn out M91 long rifles, cut them back in length from 31 inches to 21 inches, and re-bored the inside of the rifle barrel to a new bore diameter of 7.35 mm. By doing so, all traces of the 6.5 mm progressive twist rifling was removed, essentially creating a new barrel. According to records, new rifling grooves were then cut into the 7.35 mm bore. I have never been able to determine the depth these grooves were cut to but I would imagine these would have been as deep as the 6.5mm Carcano grooves. It is known that the progressive twist rifling was abandoned, in the interests of economy, and riflings with a standard rate of twist (1:10) were cut into the 7.35 mm barrels.
***** It is important to note that records do not show the rate of twist of the rifling (1:10) changing when production of the short rifle changed from 7.35mm to 6.5mm. While 1:10 might have been barely adequate for the 130 grain 7.35 mm bullet, the 162 grain 6.5 mm bullet, especially in a short barrel, would have required a rifling rate of at least 1:8 (1:7 preferably) to stabilize the bullet in flight. As you will recall, the much longer M91 barrel had a rate of twist, at the muzzle, of 1:8. ****** 
Other cost saving features were incorporated into the 7.35mm, such as a plain fixed rear sight zeroed at 300 metres, instead of the more expensive adjustable rear sights found on other Carcanos. For my money, I would have just kept the M91 adjustable rear sight on the salvaged barrel, but that's just me.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and the 7.35mm bullet was a shameless copy of the British .303 Mk. VII cartridge's bullet. Instead of the round nose seen on the 6.5 mm bullet, the 7.35 mm bullet was pointed. And, like the Mk. VII, the 7.35 mm bullet had a light aluminum forward section inside the bullet jacket nose and a soft lead rear section. As I well explained earlier, these two features created a bullet that would tumble in a wound, instead of passing straight through as the 6.5 mm bullet did, and create massive injuries. This alone seemed to spell the end of the "Humanitarian Rifle" era.
Although larger in diameter, the 7.35 mm bullet was lighter than the 6.5 mm bullet, with the 7.35 mm bullet weighing only 130 grains, as opposed to the 162 grain 6.5 mm bullet. This was due to the spire point and the aluminum nose weighing less than a lead nose. The overall effect was greater muzzle velocity and a higher ballistic co-efficient than the 6.5 mm bullet.
This is something else that should be discussed while we are on the topic of shortening long barrels. When you cut a rifle barrel short, performance and muzzle velocity are ALWAYS sacrificed, simply because both the propellants in the cartridge and the rifling grooves now have less time and space to act on the bullet before it leaves the rifle barrel. Cutting a rifle barrel back from 31 inches to 17 inches, as they did with the carbines, and still shooting a heavy 162 grain bullet would give you poor performance from that carbine, even if the problem of the progressive twist rifling had been addressed. And this is also why the Carcano carbines produced such remarkable muzzle flashes; most of the gunpowder was burning outside of the barrel, instead of inside of the barrel where it could act on the bullet.
Anyways, the 7.35mm M38 Carcano seemed like a pretty good idea, and they were produced in great quantity from 1938-1939. It should be noted here that, while the Italians had great stores of 6.5x52mm ammo left over from their African campaigns (fitted with corrosive primers and getting older by the day), the M91 long rifle, plus all of its carbine derivatives, was now considered obsolete; and to be slowly replaced by new 7.35mm short rifles, plus new 7.35mm carbines. A bit of a risky plan just before a major war but, caution and careful planning were not two of Mussolini's strong traits.
Production of the 7.35mm ceased in 1939. All 7.35mm rifles were recalled and, contrary to popular belief, they were not refitted with 6.5mm barrels. The majority of these rifles found their way into the hands of Finnish troops, who used them in their war with Russia.
In 1940, production of the 6.5mm M91/38 short rifle began. It was identical in every way to the 7.35mm M38 short rifle, except now the fixed rear sight was zeroed at 200 metres instead of 300 metres, as on the M38. This change in the rear sight is no small thing as I believe the makers of this rifle were well aware of the drop in performance the M91/38 would suffer.
The official reason for discontinuing the 7.35mm, and one touted by WC supporters, is that the Italians were unable to stockpile sufficient quantities of 7.35x51 mm cartridges prior to the start of WW II. This seems to be universally accepted but, if we look closely, does it really make that much sense? A rifle cartridge is a simple thing to make; far easier than a rifle and much much easier than a rifle barrel. In fact, the rifle barrel is the most complicated component of a rifle to make.
******* If the plan had been to make new 7.35mm short rifle barrels (21 inches long) by cutting down worn out M91 long rifle barrels (31 inches and progressive twist rifling) and re-boring them and cutting standard twist rifling in them, and they had never planned, in 1938, to make another 6.5mm rifle of any kind again, where did they find new barrels for the 6.5mm M91/38 short rifles they began making in 1940? ************
The stockpiles of 6.5x52mm cartridges could have been recycled as 7.35x51mm cartridges. It would have been as simple as pulling the 6.5 mm bullet, trimming the case back 1 mm to 51 mm, expanding the case neck to accommodate a larger bullet and reseating the new 7.35 mm bullet in the case. I could easily do all of this with common handloading tools, if I had the correct 7.35 mm resizing dies. I'm not sure if the same gunpowder was used in both cartridges but this could have been changed, as well. The point is, I don't believe the Italians were any better at stockpiling new 6.5mm short rifle barrels, especially for a rifle and calibre they never planned to produce, than they were at stockpiling 7.35mm rifle cartridges. The story makes no logical sense.
What does make sense is that they still had great stocks of M91 long rifles and 6.5x52 mm ammo. Now, think of how things looked to many Italians in 1939. Despite the blusterings of Mussolini, many Italians were becoming aware that the two greatest mistakes made by Italy in the 20th Century were 1) allowing Mussolini to assume control and 2) allowing Mussolini to enter into an alliance with Nazi Germany. The writing was on the wall, and many planners could see a hurting of immense proportions headed Italy's way.
Despite this, of course, it would still be necessary to produce Carcano short rifles but, the ability to procure steel to make new 6.5 short barrels (with standard twist rifling) might be interrupted. Who knew how bad things could get? Also, the inventories of 6.5 mm cartridges were insurance against a munitions factory being unable to produce 7.35 mm cartridges.
While I am sure the small arms factories made every effort to make new 21 inch 6.5 mm short rifle barrels, it cannot be denied that in 1939-1940, Italy was far from prepared for war. Mussolini had signed the "Pact of Steel" with Hitler, in which it was stipulated that neither country was to make war without the other before 1943. Hitler jumped the gun slightly on this, with his invasion of Poland in 1939. Though he knew his country needed a few more years to prepare for war, Mussolini blustered indecisively for many months before declaring war on the Allies in June, 1940; midway through the single production year of the M91/38 Carcano short rifle.
As Italy's iron ore and steel production was only a fraction of other nations such as Britain and Germany, and steel would be needed for many other war items beside rifle barrels, and Italy's fragile import network was also painfully obvious (1/4 of their ocean freighters were impounded as soon as Italy declared war), it would have become obvious to the arms makers that they may not be able to procure sufficient amounts of steel to make rifle barrels.
What to do? Same thing they had done for years. Plan for making new short rifle barrels, but be prepared to cut M91 long rifle barrels from 31 inches to 21 inches to make short rifle barrels, should steel be unavailable. It would be necessary to turn the outer surface of the barrels on a lathe to achieve the short barrel diameter, but this would be a straightforward process. Other than changing the rear and fore sights and the stock and turning the straight M91 bolt handle down, the rest of the rifle is the same between the two models.
This may all seem farfetched but, it is not uncommon on shooting forums to have the owner of an M91/38 short rifle complaining about the inaccuracy of his rifle, only to discover his barrel has progressive twist rifling, or should I say, the "leftovers" of an M91's progressive twist rifling.
It is also interesting to note that all carbine versions of the M91/38 short rifle are listed as having progressive twist rifling. Were these new rifle barrels, 17 inches long, with a compressed version of progressive twist rifling, or were they simply, once again, cut down M91 long rifles?
Next, we have what is perhaps Italy's strangest move of all concerning the 6.5mm Carcano. The M91/38 short rifle, of Dealey Plaza fame and the most incredible rifle in history (according to WC supporters), began production in early 1940 and ENDED production in early 1941, being replaced by an all new design of long rifle; the M91/41 long rifle.
What made Italy drop the M91/38 short rifle after only ONE year of production?
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