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  #31  
Old 12-30-2012, 07:09 AM
dragoon500ly dragoon500ly is offline
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Default The Handguns, Part Two, Chapter Twenty-Five

When the United States entered World War One, it found itself with an inadequate supply of the M-1911 pistol. While other firms were tooling up to produce the weapon, other sources of handguns were needed to help alleviate the critical shortage.

While Colt was ramping up production of the M1911, as well as machine guns, the company already possessed the necessary tooling and fixtures to manufacture its large double-action revolver, the New Service. This was the same basic revolver adopted by the Army as the Model of 1909 and chambered for the .45 Long Colt cartridge. The Ordnance Department requested that Colt produce this revolver, as a limited standard, but to chamber it for the .45 ACP round. Since the ACP round is rimless, it was necessary to devise a method of loading this round into a revolver’s chambers and allow for its extraction. The solution was a simple sheet-metal stamped half-moon shape that held three rounds. The modified revolver was adopted as the Colt Model of 1917 and some 150,000 were built between October of 1917 and December of 1918.

The firm of Smith & Wesson also had the capacity to build a version of its large frame revolver, chambered for the .45 ACP round. Smith & Wesson produced 153,000 copies during WWII. This was adopted as the Smith & Wesson Model of 1917.

While the M-1911 was the preferred issue, the M1917 revolvers proved themselves to be powerful and reliable revolvers. Due to the shortages of the M1911, many M1917s found themselves used in the trenches.

After the war, the M1917 revolvers were retired into the war reserve stockpile. Official records show a total of 188,120 were still available by December 7, 1941.

With the outbreak of WWII, the M1917s were pulled out of storage and refurbished. The M1917s did not see much frontline service, there were adequate numbers of the M1911A1 available, and the revolvers were mostly reserved for stateside duties or for personnel such as the Military Police. The use of these obsolescent, but still serviceable handguns allowed for more M1911s to be shipped to the combat theaters. Still, some 20,993 revolvers did make it into the hands of combat units.

The M-1917s were issued with the Model of 1909 leather holster, which had a large leather flap that fastened to the body of the holster. The holster was a cavalry pattern (butt forward). The M1909 was modified in 1941 and reissued as the M-2 holster, the holster was redesigned slightly to allow it be worn on the hip in either butt forward or butt to the rear configuration. A canvas webbing pouch that held three sets of half-moon clips was also issued. This pouch had three pockets, each holding one set.

The official use of the M-1917 revolvers ended in May of 1945, when the Ordnance Department ordered that no more would be repaired or refurbished. It was decided to declare the M1917 as Obsolete and disposed of to reduce any further need for repair parts. The Army’s Provost Marshal General’s office requested and obtained permission to stockpile a small number of M1917s for use by Military Police units. This stockpile was latter eliminated after the Korean War.
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  #32  
Old 01-06-2013, 10:45 AM
dragoon500ly dragoon500ly is offline
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Default Rifles, Chapter Twenty-Six, Part One

The rifle was the basic weapon for most of the U.S. Army of World War Two. Indeed, the term “Rifleman” was virtually synonymous with “Infantryman” during the war.

The U.S. Rifle, Caliber .30, Model of 1903

Known to several generations of soldiers as the “Springfield 03” or more simply as the “03” this is one of the most famous U.S. military rifles of all time. It was adopted just after the turn of the century in response to problems with the Spanish-American War issue .30-40 Krag-Jorgenson rifle. This was the standard U.S. issue from 1903 until its replacement by the M-1 Garand in 1936.

As originally issued, the M1903 had an unusual integral sliding rod bayonet instead of the normal knife-bayonet. It was also chambered for the Model of 1903 cartridge (the .30-03) which had a round nosed bullet. After a short period of service, it was noted that both the rod bayonet and the M1903 cartridge had several deficiencies. In 1905, the rod bayonet was replaced by the Model of 1905 Knife-Bayonet. In 1906, the original M1903 cartridge was replaced by the improved Model of 1906, featuring a pointed (spitzer) bullet. This became the famous .30-06 cartridge and was the standard cartridge of U.S. military rifles and machine guns for the next fifty years.

The M1903 was built at the Springfield Armory in Massachusetts with the Rock Island Arsenal in Illinois gearing up for production shortly thereafter. Between 1903 and 1936, total production was 1,900,000 with a further 1,415,593 being built between 1940-1045.

Besides its wide-spread use in World War One, most people are not aware of the role that the Springfield played in World War Two. Most of the USMC’s early campaigns were fought with the M1903. The Army used the M1903 throughout the Philippines campaign prior to its surrender. The Springfield was also used during the North African and Sicily campaigns as well as in Italy and France. During World War Two, the ‘03 was generally utilized due to a shortage of the M-1. Even when other weapons were available, the ‘03 remained the weapon of choice for many troops due to its reliability and greater inherent accuracy. Not only did the ‘03 serve in frontline fighting on all fronts, it was widely used as a training rifle.

A large number of M-1903 rifles were fitted with grenade launchers and remained in the hands of frontline troops long after other ‘03s were replaced by M-1s (due to the issues with the development of a grenade launcher for the M-1).

The M-1903 rifle and its numerous variants were declared as Limited Standard in November of 1944. This meant that the weapons currently in service would remain for use as needed, but no new procurement would be undertaken.

The original M-1903 remained in production from 1903 to 1914 and resumed in 1917 to 1936.. With the outbreak of World War Two, the decision was made to resume mass production of the ‘03. Machine tooling from the Rock Island Arsenal were transported to the Remington plant and production resumed in 1940. This was the Remington M-1903 Rifle.

As the demand for rifles increased, Remington began to run into problems with the worn-out equipment provided by Rock Island Arsenal. Remington engineers working with the Ordnance Department proposed several time-cutting changes, modifications to the stock and eliminating non-essential parts. This rifle entered production in 1941 and was designated the U.S. Rifle, Caliber .30, M-1903 (Modified).

While the changed to the modified ‘03 did result in faster production, further changes were needed, mainly this was the replacement of the M1905 rear sight with a simple stamped metal adjustable rear sight that would attach to the rifle’s receiver, rather than the rear of the barrel. This sight saved production time and was actually a better battle sight than the original. In May of 1942, this became the U.S. Rifle, Caliber .30, Model of 1903A3. In addition to the replacement of the rear sight, a longer hand guard (covering the former rear sight, the M1903A3 introduced many stamped metal components. The fit and finish of these war production rifles were a far cry from the high standards of the pre-WWII ‘03s, but they were still serviceable, with strong actions. The M-1903A3 was also built by the L.C. Smith & Corona Typewriter Company in February of 1942.

Early in WWII, the Army was faced with a serious shortage of sniper rifles. While the development of a sniper version of the M-1 was underway, the Ordnance Department directed Remington to design a variant of the M1903A3 into a sniper rifle configuration. With slight modifications to the receive, the U.S. Rifle Caliber .30, M-1903A4 (Sniper’s) was born. This was a M1903A3 with no front or rear sights and fitted with a Weaver 330C telescope (later designed by the Army as the M73B1) and a Redfield “Junior” scope mount. The Redfield sight was attached to the receiver ring and the existing rear sight base and the bolt handle was modified to clear the sight.

The M-1903A4 proved to be somewhat of a disappointment as a sniping rifle. The primary cause was the use of commercial components not designed for the rigors of combat. The Weaver telescope was found to be too delicate for service use and the lack of iron sights prevented the rifle from being used as a normal rifle if the telescope was damaged. Some 28,365 were produced Nevertheless, the M-1903A4 served throughout the war.

Two additional versions of the M1903A4 were produced especially for use by the USMC, they differed only in the type of scope fitted. The M-1903A5 was fitted with a Winchester A5 scope and dated from the First World War. They were considered to be serviceable sniping rifles. The M-1903A1 fitted with the Unertl Sniper Scope entered service in WWII, replacing the M1903A5 and serving the USMC well after the Korean War. Neither version saw any service with the Army (although you can see the M1903A1/Unertl scope in “Saving Private Ryan”).
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  #33  
Old 01-06-2013, 06:11 PM
dragoon500ly dragoon500ly is offline
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Default The Rifles, Part Two, Chapter Twenty-six

The U.S. Rifle, Caliber .30, Model of 1917

During World War One, the U.S. was faced with a serious shortage of rifles. Fortunately, there was a source of slightly obsolete but thoroughly serviceable rifles available to the government. These were the
U.S. Rifle, Caliber .30, Model of 1917, more commonly known as the Enfield or the U.S. Enfield.

The M1917 was a slight modification of a British design that was being manufactured in the U.S. under contract for the British Army. Known as the Pattern 1914, this caliber .303 weapon was produced by the firms of Winchester, Remington and Eddystone. The U.S. entered WWI when these firms were completing their contracts with the British government. Since the Springfield Armory and the Rock Island Arsenal were unable to meet the demand for rifles, even with greatly expanded production schedules, it was decided to utilize the factories and trained work forces that had successfully manufactured the P14 rifle to produce a version chambered for the standard American .30-06 cartridge. Thus the M1917 was born and some 2,422,529 were built in between 1917 and 1919. By the time of the Armistice, the majority of the soldiers and marines in the American Expeditionary Force were armed with the M1917.

The M1917 was a reliable and satisfactory rifle. It was a bit longer and bulkier than the M1903, and its sights were capable of windage adjustments. But for battlefield purposes, its sights were actually superior to those of the M1903. The Enfield was equal or superior to any of the rifles used by our allies or adversaries and compared very well to the ‘03 as a combat rifle.

With the end of World War One, there was some thought to standardizing the M1917 as the replacement for the M1903. However, for several reasons, including the ‘03s superiority as a match rifle, it was decided to retain the M1093 and retire the M1917 to the war reserve stockpile. When England became involved in the Second World War and faced the threat of German invasion, weapons were desperately needed to arm the hastily formed Home Guard units. Thousands of American weapons, including large numbers of M1917 rifles, were sent under the Lend-Lease Program. In addition to the shipments to England, M1917s were shipped to China. The Chinese military made extensive use of the Enfields.

The U.S. M1917 rifles were issued to a large number of the British Home Guard units and had a red band painted around the upper part of the sore grip to indicate that the weapon used the .30-06 and not the British .303 round.

War Department records also indicate that thousands of M1917s were shipped to the Philippines during the late 1930s. In 1939, the War Department declared the M1917 as Limited Standard which meant that no more would be produced and it would be issued if weapons classified as Standard were not available.

After Pearl Harbor, the U.S. military rapidly increased its rush to rearm. In order to free up M1903s and M1s for the frontline troops, the M1917s were pulled from the reserve stockpiles, sent to a limited refurbishing and issued as training rifles. Some M1917s saw service overseas in the North Africa campaign and with service troops in the Italian campaign.

The M1917 rifle was declared as Obsolete on October 3, 1945 and soon afterwards, the remaining U.S. inventory was sold off under the auspices of the Department of Civilian Marksmanship were the M1917 enjoyed a new life as a hunting and sporting rifle throughout the 1950s and 60s.
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  #34  
Old 01-07-2013, 07:27 AM
dragoon500ly dragoon500ly is offline
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Default The Rifles, Part Three, Chapter Twenty-Six

The U.S. Rifle, Caliber .30, M-1

The U.S. service rifle most closely associated with World War Two is the M-1 Garand (named after its inventor, John C. Garand). The M-1 was the end product of development and experimentation conducted during the 1920s and 30s at the Springfield Armory. The rifle went through several design changes during this period. This included a change from primer to gas operation and the substitution of the standard .30-06 cartridge for the .276 caliber round originally conceived for use with the weapon. On January 9, 1936, the M-1 was adopted as the new service rifle.

The first production M1s came off the production line in late 1937 and limited numbers were manufactured for the next couple of years. The original M-1 utilized a gas system which trapped the escaping gas at the end of the muzzle which, in turn operated the mechanism.

In early 1940 this system was changed to a port drilled to bleed off the necessary gas. This increased the rifle’s reliability and made for a better combat weapon. This improved gas system was used on all M-1s from early 1940 until the end of production in 1957. The early M-1s saw combat service in the Philippines in 1942. While these early weapons were never recalled, as they were returned to the depots for refurbishment over the years they were converted to the new system.

Prior to Pearl Harbor, even though the U.S. was in the process of building up its military arsenal, thousands of M-1s were sent to Great Britain under the Lend-Lease Program.

During World War Two, the M-1 was manufactured by the Springfield Armory and later the civilian firm of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, total production of the M-1s by Winchester totaled some 513,880 M-1s before its contract ended in 1945. By the end of the war, total M-1 production came to 4,028,375 rifles.

While the M-1 was a superb battlefield weapon, many pre-war veterans were skeptical of the rifle when it was first introduced. Semiautomatic military rifles were somewhat of a novelty in the late 30s and early 40s and the M1s reliability and accuracy were often questioned. The M1 also had its share of developmental problems that had to be corrected. The Johnson rifle came onto the scene at about the same time that the M-1 was experiencing its early problems. Many people were convinced that the Johnson was superior to the Garand and subsequent events led to a Congressional investigation that was clearly and firmly decided in favor of the M-1.

The U.S. was the only nation involved in World War Two that issued a semiautomatic rifle in any appreciable numbers. This gave the American soldier a distinct advantage in many combat encounters. The firepower and reliability of the Garand saved many of our soldier’s lives and took a greater toll of our enemy than would have been the case if our infantrymen had been armed with the typical bolt action rifle. Other nations used some semiautomatic rifles very sparingly, but these did not have any significant impact. The Soviet Tokarev and the German G41 and G43 were not in the same league as the M-1 and saw only limited use during the war.

While the M-1 had an outstanding record of service, it was not without its faults. Some issues, such as the “Seventh Round Stoppage” and the adoption of the improved gas system were taken care of before the Garand’s widespread issue. Other problems took longer to solve, if they were solved at all. The rifle’s en bloc clip-loading system came in for its share of criticism; as quoted from “The Book of the Garand by Julian S. Hatcher”;

“The clip, as it is now designed, is a waster of ammunition. When one, two or three rounds have been fired, the user naturally wants to replenish his magazine so that he will have the full eight rounds ready for the next target, or perhaps for a Banzai charge. But after one or more shots have been fired, it is so difficult to reload that the remaining four, five or six rounds are invariably fired at once, and a fresh clip is inserted. Such excessive firing wastes ammunition, and discloses positions, especially at night. The Garand clip-loading system should be replaced by a magazine similar to tone on the BAR or the carbine.”

One of the design features of the Johnson rifle that found favor with its supporters was its rotary magazine, which could be easily and quickly topped off. The M-1’s successor, the M-14, was equipped with a detachable box magazine.

Another frequently lodged complaint against the M1 was its weight of almost 10 pounds, a full pound and a half more than the M1903. Soldiers having to carry the rifle on training marches or in non-combatant roles, frequently complained about its weight. On the other hand, soldiers using the M-1 in combat situations rarely complained about how much the rifle weighed. Actually, the rifle’s weight was not excessive for a full power service rifle and actually helped to dampen the weapon’s recoil.

One problem that was never totally solved was the Garand’s tendency to freeze under certain conditions of prolonged exposure to rain. A special lubricant was developed and issued that assisted in reducing this problem. Small containers of the grease would be carried in the rifle’s butt trap. When applied to the camming surfaces of the bolt, the problem was lessened.

Another problem was the finish on the gas cylinder. Since this item was made from stainless steel, it could not be blued or parker zed and a paint-like coating was applied. This did not prove to be very durable and it quickly wore off under adverse conditions and exposed the shiny gas cylinder, something that was less than desirable in a combat rifle. The formulation of the coating was improved which helped a great deal, although the problem was never totally eliminated.

The original rear sight of the M1 wound not hold its adjustment very well. By late 1942, a locking bar (which could be tightened after adjustment) was adopted. Right before the end of World War Two, a improved rear sight was standardized, which eliminated the needed for the locking bar.

All of the above criticisms have merit, but there are some that frankly, leave one wondering about the so-called experience of its maker. For example, some people complained about the so-called “M1 Thumb”. This occurs when the user presses down on the follower to release the bolt and does not remove his thumb in time and the bolt slams forward on the helpless digit. This is the result of carelessness or ignorance and is a suitable punishment for someone playing around with a weapon when not properly trained. Another ridiculous rap against the M1 was the alleged defect of the distinctive pinging noise caused by the ejection of the M1’s empty clip after the last round has been fired. It has been suggested that American soldiers were killed because this noise signaled their enemy that the weapon was empty and the <insert nationality of the enemy> would then be able to charge across open ground and kill the helpless GI before he could reload. Whoever dreamed up this idiotic scenario obviously didn’t know the first thing about combat! The typical battlefield was a deafening place and it would be all but impossible for anyone even a few yards away to hear the ejection of the clip. Even if someone did hear, an experienced M1 could reload his weapon within 2-4 seconds. Finally, isolated duels between two enemies were, at the very least, rare. Even if the soldier with the empty rifle couldn’t reload in time, there were fellow GIs all too willing to do in the enemy.

Numerous changes occurred during the M-1’s WWII production run. Some of these improved the weapon’s performance, while others were designed to either speed up production or reduce costs.

Even with the faults outlined above, the M-1 was undoubtedly the best general issue rifle of World War Two and its performance in that conflict speaks for itself.

M-1 Sniper Rifles

It was always intended to field a sniper version of the M-1, but its clip loading system effectively ruled out a conventional telescope and mount. As an interim weapon, the M1903A4 was adopted with off the self commercial scopes and mounts. There were two sniper versions of the M-1 that saw service.

The M-1C entered service in June of 1944 and some 8,000 w