Salvatore Carcano Biography

Dear Sirs,
It was astonishing and unbelievable to read on Carcano's Home Page you built up such a number of details about the work of my ancestor Salvatore Carcano (in fact he was the Grand Father of my father). While I understand that yourself and most of your readers are mainly interested in technical issues related to the rifle itself, let me send you herewith attached my humble contribution, i.e. a translation of his biography, based on our family's documents and written in 1945 by an officier who had the chance to work with him at Turin Royal Arsenal before the end of the century.

If nothing else this biography portraits a man of impressive practical experience oddly coupled with some of the most idealistic sentiments like the faith to his own country.

I am in possession of a couple of pictures of Salvatore Carcano and, if I find it, few other documents that may perhaps be useful to your work. If this is the case please do contact me.

Best of all.
Lorenzo Carcano and his son Carlo Salvatore Carcano

Life of Lt. Col. Salvatore Carcano

Free translation from an article written in 1945 by Carlo Montu', an Artillery officer in charge of the "Arsenale di costruzione" of the Turin Royal "Fabbrica d'Armi" and based on documents provided by Salvatore Carcano's family.

Salvatore Carcano was born in Varese (a town located in the industrialized North of Italy, a few miles from the Swiss border), on October 11th, 1827. In 1837, because of the death of his father, he had to leave school for work.

In April 1848 he was among the first volunteers to join the "Lombard Artillery" as "gunner soldier" and was then promoted corporal after his brave conduct during the glorious "Cinque Giornate di Milano" (a successful, popular rising lasting 5 days that ended with the expulsion of Austrians from the city of Milano). At the end of the first campaign for the national independency, he moved to Piedmont, and in January 1849, by Cabinet Decree, he was enlisted for three years as "Cadet Gunsmith" in the Royal Sardinian Artillery. In May, because of his drive and his ingenuity, he became "Artist", then Corporal and, in 1851, Sergeant of the "Workman Regiment". In 1852, when his three years military service ended, he was immediately recruited as "Master of Finishing and Leveling of Barrels" of 3rd Category at the "Royal Factory of Arms" in Turin. After few months of the same year he became Master of 2nd and then 1st Category and in charge of special precision works.

About this time he was given the task of studying a special device to drive the release of the rifle's gun-locks, a duty that he carried out with real genius and especially with passion. This may certainly be considered the beginning of the studies and the achievements that made the name of Salvatore Carcano well known and admired in the field of the small arms.

Encouraged by his superiors in his studies and proposals, the machinery of the Turin workshop was completely renewed with new and more efficient one and some of the new machines intended for the manufacturing of precision barrels, sights and bayonets were built by himself. His first achievements in the development of small breech-loading rifles should be located around these years.

In 1854 the Prime Minister of the Savoia Kingdom, Camillo Cavour, who had personally taken responsibility of the armaments for the troops being sent to Crimea, wanted to meet Salvatore Carcano and gave instructions for him to head the necessary works to prepare as soon as possible the needed 50.000 rifles. Salvatore Carcano's products were displayed at a National Exhibition held in Turin in 1858 where he was solemnly awarded with a medal and given a diploma by Major Giovanni Solari, then Director of the Arms Factory.

In 1862, after being promoted "Controllore di Prima Classe", he was sent in Switzerland as Inspector for testing of small arms. In 1863 he was in Paris and then in several others European cities to test and purchase machinery for the production of steel barrels.

In 1867 he was given the permission to patent a breech-loading rifle of his original development for which he was given a moderate sum of money. His proposals and achievements were adopted in Italy as well as in several other countries. From July 1868 throughout the end of 1878 he became "Technical Chief of 1st Class".

In 1876 he patented a new sight system for rifles and carbines and in 1891 the Italian Government adopted his small calibre rifle "as a weapon superior to any model available in any other country". This rifle would later carry his name.

In the last period of his activity he attended to the development of electrically lighted sights. He retired in 1896, when he was promoted Officer, and he then died in Turin in 1903.