The lupara is the ultimate traditional Sicilian close-quarter combat weapon. It’s a break-open, double barrelled, sawn-off shotgun, which was originally used by shepherds and goat herders to kill wolves and bandits – hence the name lupara: lupo means wolf in Italian — but then became to be associated with the Cosa Nostra and Sicilian partisans, who both used it to carry out assassinations.
Despite being cheap and crude, the lupara is a truly awesome close-quarter combat weapon, which is just as deadly today as it was in the late 19th Century. Whilst the lupara might not be as small as a semi-automatic pistol, it’s still easy to carry and conceal on your person — it can be worn under a jacket — and it can be drawn just as fast. But a lupara is far more powerful than any pistol and due to its wide spread of shot, you can shoot more than one person at a time and you don’t have to worry about taking an aimed shot.
Let me tell you, this matters a lot in a close-quarter combat. Combat shotguns, the military equivalent of the lupara, have proved to be more effective in CQB than a pistol. The Franchi SPAS-15 (seen here firing semi-automatic and pump-action) is still issued to the Italian army and the USMC have recently adopted the new lighter and smaller Benelli M4. Both weapons are perfectly legal to own in Italy.
No handgun has the power to knock someone over, and a single shot to the body is highly unlikely to kill instantaneously. So unless you hit with a clean head shot, which is not easy with a pistol in a close-combat situation, they’re unlikely to go down with the first shot. Admittedly a lupara doesn’t have the power to knock someone down either but it does have the power to put a much bigger hole in them, which increases your chance of killing them outright, and with the spread of the shot is wide enough that you can practically guarantee a head shot within a 5m range.
In Europe or America, if you fire a gun at someone, you’re most likely within 5m — probably less — of the person you’re shooting. Despite all the evidence that it doesn’t work at close-quarters, lots of combat pistol shooters still use the Weaver Stance instead of an Isosceles stance, and refuse to practice instinctive point shooting. Sight shooting is okay at distance but it’s no good for close-quarter combat. Just try shooting an attack dog let off the leash at 5m and you’ll realise how unrealistic all that bullshit is. Which is why Sicilian goat herders and shepherds came up with the lupara. As long as it’s facing in the general direction, it’s not going to miss at that range, and the ability to take out more than one person at a time is an obvious advantage.
In fairness, the one disadvantage to the wide spread of shot in close-quarters is the potential of accidentally hitting some poor innocent bystander, which is why my nunnu was never keen on using a lupara when he was carrying out an assassinations, although he used to carry one and used it to carry out kidnappings during WWII.