Book review of

THE MODEL 1891 CARCANO RIFLE
Giovanni Chegia and Alberto Simonelli
with Ralph Riccio

Experts have been defined as authorities who know more and more about less and less, but that sounds like a compliment to me. Luckily, we have experts in the world of vintage firearms who are just that. A couple of them have written a definitive book on service rifles used by Italy’s armed forces over a span of fifty years, including two world wars. The book is dedicated to the authors’ forbearers who fought with these guns. In honor of their families, the authors have obviously have worked hard to make their book as complete and accurate as possible.

Drawing on their arms collections and extensive knowledge, the authors have covered in depth every specification, component and detail variation of service rifles. The sections on proof marks, arsenal and inspection stamps of wood and metal parts will enable an enthusiast to learn everything about a specimen except possibly the state of the weather on the day it left the factory. Equally fascinating is the section on clips and ammunition with several pages of color photographs devoted to cartridge boxes and packets. Considerable space is allotted to sniper rifles and equipment, and there’s even a surprising amount of coverage on toy air rifles that mimic service arms. My favorite section dealt with antiaircraft fire, the theory and training and the exotic rifle sights utilized. Just as a battalion of British Tommies could hose down an out-of-view enemy position with volleys of high-angle fire from their SMLEs, Italian troops evidently saw the merit of hosing down portions of the sky. The practice had possibilities against low-flying, ground-attack aircraft.

I can’t imagine a question on the subject of Carcano rifles esoteric enough to stump the authors. Like any great technical treatise, their book doesn’t stint on technical reporting or accounts of how rifles were developed. The authors also take pains to assign the service rifles their proper place in history. I grew up in a household that favored British SMLEs, so I don’t know much about Carcano rifles. An uncle had a Carcano that I suppose he brought back from Africa following World War Two. All I remember about it was that it was small and handy – probably a carbine of some sort – and well turned out. At the time, ammunition for the gun was not to be had, so I never got to shoot it.

The Carcano book afforded me a worm’s eye view of a service rifle I knew little about and gave me a greater appreciation of it. I also have a great deal of admiration for the authors’ commitment to their effort. How so few could gather so much fascinating information on one rifle in one lifetime is a mystery to me. Happy in my ignorance, I’ll just be thankful guys like this are out there moiling away somewhere on something even as we speak.

Experts who devote so much of time and energy to their subjects are to be commended, but their efforts would never see the light of day were it not for publishers willing to cater to the small audiences for such work. Only specialized firms undertake the production and distribution of such books. Lucky for arms and militaria bibliophiles, we have Schiffer Publications on the case. They have produced an especially handsome and well done book. It is nicely laid out and organized. Packed into its 304 pages are 1,727 color and black-and-white photos. Hardbound with a handsome dust jacket, the book is $59.95 plus shipping and handling. For information on ordering, contact:

 

Schiffer Publishing
4880 Lower Valley Road
Atglen, PA 19310
(610) 593-1777
www.schifferbooks.com