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The 6.5×52mm Carcano, also known as the 6.5×52mm Parravicini–Carcano or 6.5×52mm Mannlicher–Carcano, is an Italian military 6.5 mm (.268 cal, actually 0.2675 inches) rimless bottle-necked rifle cartridge, developed from 1889 to 1891 and used in the Carcano 1891 rifle and many of its successors. A common synonym in American gun literature is "6.5mm Italian." In American parlance, "Carcano" is frequently added to better distinguish it from the rimmed hunting cartridge 6.5×52mmR (U.S. version: .25-35 Winchester). Ballistically, its performance is very similar to that of the 6.5×54mm Mannlicher–Schönauer.


A 6.5×52mm Carcano cartridge loaded with a modern hunting bullet
The cartridge is acceptable, with proper bullet, for medium-size big game such as North American whitetail deer within 250 yards.[2] However, the standard Italian service round used an unstable round-nosed bullet with a propensity to tumble, whether hitting soft tissue/ballistic gel or harder material such as bone.
The much maligned cartridge suffered a PR nightmare since it was used in the JFK assassination by Lee Harvey Oswald. Dubbed the humanitarian by members of the Warren Commission, due to perceived deficits in quality and performance, it has never enjoyed more than a cult following by collectors and historians. Rather, it has been found that the cartridge is indeed accurate [4] and the rifles were well constructed. Cartridge developers and experimental handloaders such as P.O. Ackley found the rifle was able to handle excess pressure, with even Ackley's abuse "unable to break the action."[5] A testament to the quality of the rifle and the cartridge.
The currently available factory ammunition may lack accuracy due to the use of a 6.7mm (.264 in) bullet instead of the 6.8mm (.267 in) as originally loaded.[5] While manufacturers do sell equipment to size the neck of the cartridge case to .267, as of 2022, only one .267 option is available for handloaders. Prvi Partizan, of Serbia, manufactures a 139 gr. FMJ bullet both as a component and factory produced ammunition. Hornaday produced a 160 gr. FMJ bullet until recently, but has since discontinued production.
The standard military cartridge and the currently available Prvi Partizan can be duplicated using modern smokeless powders branded by Hodgdon such as H 4831, H4064, and IMR 4895.Data includes options for .264 and .267 sized projectiles. Appropriate sized bullets (.267-.268 in.) would have to be hand cast using bullet moulds. None of the major manufacturers currently (as of 2022) list the appropriate sized projectile in their catalogs. Rare and expensive legacy moulds could be available on the second-hand market.


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