Service Rifle.....

Discussion in 'Weapons, Technology & Equipment' started by chipm, Oct 17, 2019.

  1. chipm

    chipm Active Member

    ..... or the basic rifle that was issued to Infantry.
    When i see pictures of British and German soldiers and they carry a bolt-action rifle, i am always curious.
    Does it seem like an over-sight that, circa 1941, there were not more soldiers that carried something like an M1 Garand or MP-44.?
    Did the British and Germans feel that the bolt-action rifle was a better fit for their war fighting strategy.?
    Perhaps it was just overlooked or not given much thought.?
    Maybe they were working on designs for a semi-automatic service rifle and just needed more time to develop it.?
    Thank You
  2. canuck

    canuck Token Colonial Patron

    From the German perspective, work on a new infantry weapon began in the late 30's but was accelerated by the experience in Russia. It was as much about finding the right round (short round vs the longer Mauser 7.92×57mm) as the new weapon itself.
  3. Robert-w

    Robert-w Well-Known Member

    It's a bit naive to just think about the process of design - introducing a new weapon can be very disruptive. First it has to be manufactured in quantity. If you are in the middle of a war you don't want to stop the production of the exiting weapon whilst you retool the factory. retrain the production workers, sort out the production glitches etc. You have to build new production facilities - this takes time as does setting up the supply chain to the new factory(s). You will also face a period when both the old and the new weapons are in service at the same time so you will have to hold spares for both which complicates the logistics which get even more complicated if the new one uses different ammo to the old. Then you have to retrain millions of people in the new weapon which in wartime probably means pulling them out of line to do so, which unless you have a very obliging enemy can only be done in batches over quite a long period. The new weapon probably needs new infantry tactics to make full advantage of it and this too means designing and testing these then setting up a retraining programme and yet more training.
    All of this requires a huge amount of planning and preparation and takes a lot of time so there either has to be a major advantage in the new weapon or a very pressing need to replace the old one and in the middle of a war it may be better to soldier on with what you've got rather than take the risk of introducing something new even if it is technically superior.
  4. Gary Kennedy

    Gary Kennedy Member

    From what I recall and read back on recently, there was a recognition after the Great War that the natural successor to the bolt action rifle would be a self-loading weapon, with likely a magazine feed. The interwar years, as they turned out to be, did see a few nations trial and evaluate various self-loading weapons; the US Army selected the M1 rifle as the replacement for the M1903 series in 1932 and the Red Army introduced the AVS a few years later. As I recall the British Army was looking at a self-loader (and I think also optical sights) in the 1930s, and the Germans had dabbled at least.

    As alluded to above, the great barrier in introducing a new rifle is that it's highly disruptive. In peacetime, when there's an opportunity to get a staged rollout, convert units gradually and get teething troubles addressed, there's probably no budget. In wartime, there's just no time. The US was the only Army that was able to almost entirely replace their stock of bolt action rifles before they committed to large scale deployment in 1942, which can be attributed to having a weapon ready to go and converting to a war economy while undertaking mobilisation. And even then the Marines had to wait until 1943 before they got their M1 rifles at the same rate as the Army.

    The Red Army intended to arm every rifleman in a Squad with a self-loading weapon, but they went through multiple versions (AVS, SVT-38 and finally the SVT-40) in short order, and then had to gear their economy to produce what weapons were needed now, which in 1941-43 was armour and artillery and aircraft. Also, no one really wanted to introduce a new rifle round that was not compatible with their existing machine guns, otherwise you need new MGs as well. The 1890s era rifle rounds (.303-in, 7.92-mm patrone, .30-06, 7.62-mm) were intended to deliver effective fire at thousands of yards, not hundreds. That meant a big charge and heavy recoil, which did not lend themselves to semi-automatic operation in physically lightweight weapons. When the Germans introduced the kurz round for the MP43 they broke away from that constraint, but had added a new round to the production and supply system.

    I suppose it's a bit like redoing the kitchen; great idea but involves so much disruption and expense most of the time you just don't bother, until you absolutely have to.

    canuck and Dave55 like this.
  5. Blutto

    Blutto Plane Mad

    "I suppose it's a bit like redoing the kitchen; great idea but involves so much disruption and expense most of the time you just don't bother, until you absolutely have to."

    Yes indeed, plus the lack of drive in peacetime and the resistance to change, still entrenched in the public/civil service today.
    canuck likes this.
  6. Robert-w

    Robert-w Well-Known Member

    Some thought was given to replacing the SMLE with an semi automatic in the 30s when rearmament began however as the British Army was already replacing the Lewis gun with the BREN gun from 1937 replacing two standard weapons at the same time was going to be too disruptive. In today's jargon the British Army just didn't have the necessary bandwidth
  7. canuck

    canuck Token Colonial Patron

    The "pressing need" appears to have been the increasingly high volumes of automatic fire from Soviet infantry which altered the balance of firepower. People are generally far more receptive to radical change when the status quo proves to be totally inadequate.
  8. Robert-w

    Robert-w Well-Known Member

    Yes in Change Management circles it's sometimes referred to as the Burning Platform effect
    canuck likes this.
  9. Dave55

    Dave55 Atlanta, USA

    Side note the SMLE was slated to be replaced before WWI with the P13 which evolved into the P14/M1917 of Sgt York and Dad's Army fame.

    Pattern 1913 Enfield - Wikipedia.
  10. chipm

    chipm Active Member

    As always..... thanks for all of the Replies/Info.
    And just to be clear, my thought was why there were not more strides made during the Inter-War Years to develop something like the M1 and MP44. The comments about taxes and resources was both informative and humorous. :)

    With THAT said....... i am not a military person, so the info about Logistics/Training issues to develop a new rifle DURING The War was also very informative.
    To that point, i remember reading a few paragraphs about Michael Wittmann, and the amount of time and effort involved in learning to operate and use the Tiger-1.
    War is like everything else (i suppose) in life, it takes time to learn new "things".
  11. idler

    idler GeneralList Patron

    I think we dodged a bullet there. The five-round mag and a Mauser action always seemed a step backwards.

    Of course, the SMLE gave way to the No.4 during the war but that had the benefits of easier production at negligible 'cost' to the user.
  12. Dave55

    Dave55 Atlanta, USA

    Agree but the big selling point for the P13 was the very high velocity .276 round it was designed for. The action was very strong and was widely used for hunting rifles after both wars. I saw one in .458 Winchester Magnum in a small gun shop.

    As Robert pointed out, they'd either have to design new machine guns in .276 or stock two different cartridges. The US was faced with a similar problem when the M1 was getting approved for production. One version of the design was also .276 but a different cartridge which was not as powerful as the .276 Enfield. The .276 M1 held two more rounds than the 8 shot 30-06 version that was adapted after General MacArthur said no to any cartridge change. He was the Army Chief of Staff at the time.
  13. idler

    idler GeneralList Patron

    It was very much a case of designing something to fight the last war, though. It might have been theoretically great for picking off Boers on the veldt but no-one came back from the desert or the steppes with that requirement.
  14. Robert-w

    Robert-w Well-Known Member

    There was a general feeling around Europe that the 'next war' would require a smaller calibre higher velocity round but only the Italians manged to get one into service. The idea was abandoned in Britain because a change in calibre at the beginning of a war would be far too disruptive. The P14 due to its bolt locking lugs being at the front made it more accurate than the SMLE but slower to reload. It was also much more difficult to clean. The greater accuracy and the fact that it could be easily fitted with a scope made it a good candidate for sniping and it was issued to Auxillary Patrol units of the Home Guard for that purpose
  15. Dave55

    Dave55 Atlanta, USA

    Also the M1917 was the primary rifle of the American Army in WWI and Remington marketed a hunting version after the war as the Model 30.

  16. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    Many armies considered semiautomatic rifles before the war, and the British Army was no exception. Finding a good design, however, was not easy. At least two good semis were made and widely used in the United States decades before the war broke out, those being the Winchester self-loading series and the Remington Model 8. The Winchester was used in small numbers by the British and French armed forces, but both the Winchester and Remington were designed with the civilian market in mind. A really good service rifle has to be reliable, rugged enough to withstand the battering of general service use, and simple enough to be suitable for mass production. Types tried and or considered prior to and during the war included the Farquhar-Hill, the Czech ZH 29 (too expensive and difficult to make), the French RSC (not a big success in WWI), and I don't know what others. Dieudonne Saive, who later produced the FAL, worked on a design at Enfield during the war which eventually (postwar) became the SAFN 49. I should add, too, that adopting a semiauto would have almost certainly required a change in ammunition because the rimmed .303 was less than ideal in a semiautomatic (feeding). The British forces already had most of their small arms in .303 and had heaps of the round stockpiled, and in the emergency of 1939-41 it was much easier and more practical to go with what they had than to try to start from scratch with a new round and a new rifle. I don't think they were wrong to do so; the Lee-Enfield was I think the best military bolt action in the world. Yes, the US had the Garand, but they didn't have to change cartridges and they adopted the Garand well before the war and had the time to make it in quantity and work the bugs out of it before it saw action.
    Dave55 likes this.
  17. Dave55

    Dave55 Atlanta, USA

Share This Page