The Lupara

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.

11 thoughts on “The Lupara

  1. Wow, you’re allowed to own a pump action shot gun in Italy. I think they’re illegal here. I don’t think the Lupara would be legal here either.

    • In Italy, as long as the barrel is over 30cm, it’s counted as a hunting firearm, as I can own as many as I like. I can lupara on the streets. If I want to take the barrel lower, which I don’t, I could and know one would know. A lupara is one of the weapons that I’ve carried and used, so is a semi automatic. They’re both good defence weapons, but usually a semi automatic is easier to carry. But if you’re a bodyguard carry a lupara, and they’re good for hunting and home defence.

  2. Lupare are the traditional weapons of sicilian vendettas,its extreme handiness in close combat makes it reliable,the great Salvatore Giuilliano carried one,I recently sawed of an old shotgun to make one,its reliability is very good.

  3. My friend Max is all interested in getting himself a sawed off double barrel, as we call them here in the States. I know our use in America dates back to the early 1800’s, when black powder shotguns were cut down by farmers and sheep/cattle ranchers here for wolves and other predators.

    In the 1920’s, Ithaca made some sort of sawed off double barrel particularly for the automobile traveler and the name now escapes me, but my grandpa bought one through the Sears catalog. Sadly, he sold it before I came along.

    Great post, and I’ll have to dealve more into the international history of the lumpara. I don’t really care who invented it first, tho’ that’d be nice to know. I know many generations of folks my age who were not particularly knowledgeable about weapons attribute the lumpara that Mel Gibson used as Mad Max to the Aussies, and you’ll hear them refer to it as “the Mad Max gun”. Dumbshits.

    Is 16 gauge the common caliber in Italy/Sicily for the lumpara? In America, I’ve seen them in 20 gauge and 12 gauge. Once took one off a bad guy when I was on the streets, homemade (but wellmade) and cut to about 8 or 9 inches. I went to the firearms lab to watch them test it so I could later testify whether it was functional or not (law makes them illegal whether functioning or nonfunctioning unless you get the Federal License and pay $200 transfer fee for one) but judges, prosecutors and juries always wanted to know if it was a non-functioning curio or relic or the real thing.

    The 12 gauge kicked like a mule shooting birdshot but truthfully, not much worse than my Thompson Contender shooting magnum .410 shells. I suspect if I had been shooting defensive loads it would have kicked lots more. I also be it makes quite a light show when shot at night, and we know that’s not good. Still, they are cool as hell.

    • El Fish —
      Lupo means wolf, and Lupara means for the wolf in Italian. Originally it for exactly the same purposes, but all the wolves in Sicily were culled by the end of the C19th. There are wolves in Sicily now but they were brought over from other parts of Italy and made a protected species. So in reality it was carried to kill other people. The wider spread shot and the reduced size make it an easy to point and shoot. So it’s a good defensive weapon for bandits but traditionally it’s associated with the vendetta in Sicily. A few years back a geezer got his balls blown-off before getting his brains blown out with a lupara for screwing the wrong girl. So lupara were always 12 gauge to get the job done. Going lower bore than that would be very dangerous, too much flash and the spread would be ridiculous. The legal limit of the barrel is 30 cm but some of them are over that anyway. I’d would rather saw the stock off on an old SxS double barrel than take the barrel down lower than 30 cm.

      In the mid-C19th, Remington and Colt manufactured coach guns, which were short barrelled barrelled SxS 12 gauges. Coach guns were anything from 12″- 20″ and used by stage coach companies to defend against highwaymen. The Brazilian armourer Rossi still make them, they also make a replica of the Josh Randall Mare’s Leg in “Wanted: Dead or Alive”. But the coach guns were nothing compared to the 1779 Nock gun. This was a 20″ seven barrel muzzle loading smooth bore volley gun, that fired all seven barrels simultaneously. I wouldn’t want to fire it but that had some serious stopping power!😀

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