American rifles....

The Allies 1939-1945, and those fighting against Germany.

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Post by phylo_roadking » Sat Jul 29, 2006 9:39 am

Yep the German forces of both world wars had a respect for the pyrotechnics, but not the on-the-ground damage; lets face it, if you're dug in LONG enough to be targeted for a barrage like that, then youre dug in enough to have well-raised your chances of living through it. Its a bit like the remarkably small killing radius of a grenade in the open, as opposed to in an enclosed area - the killing radius of a 25lb-er shell isn't that great, and the excavating properties of such a round arent great either. Doesnt take much earth or many logs over your head to be pretty untouchable....which after all was exactly only the same sort of defence USMC forces had against Japanese artillery in the Pacific!

And look at the experience of the Pacific again, and the amount of damage that WASN'T done to bunkers and earth defences by even BB bombardment!

Dirt/earth/soil is a finest absorber of explosive force and overpressure....and when shells hit the ground, they expend at least half their force right into it. It was AIR-bursts in trees in forests on the WestWall that really taught Americans about artillery....
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Re: American rifles....

Post by 2nd SS Panzer Das Reich » Sun Aug 27, 2006 7:48 am

bradhunter wrote:
Only snipers. The USMC was still using the Springfield in the Pacific, though....
Not just the USMC but the US Army (in Europe and Pacific) as well. I have talked to vets from both theaters of war and they have both talked of the Springfield being used as a sniper rifle.
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Springfields

Post by John W. Howard » Mon Aug 28, 2006 12:59 pm

Hello 2SS:
I think Brad was referring not only to the sniper-rifles, but to the fact that some units were still using '03's in the field as well. The USMC landed on Guadalcanal with '03's if I am not mistaken. Best wishes.
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Post by Rodger Herbst » Tue Aug 29, 2006 3:18 am

When the marines landed on Guadalcanal they had '03s,the Japs would wait until they fired 5 rds. then charge, when the army relieved the marines they had M1s, would fire 5 rds. then wait, let the Japs charge because they still had 3 rds. left. Some say they didn't like the M1 because when the last rd. was fired and the clip was ejected it made a tinnng sound and gave your position away. To me it's lot of BS, who in hell counts rds. in a fire fight, how in hell could you hear a clip being ejected in the middle of all the noise? You get a lot of crap stories, don't believe most of them.

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Post by phylo_roadking » Tue Aug 29, 2006 8:08 am

Rodger, the ejected clip was certainly a problem in Erope in the winter of 1944, when the ejection noise wouldn't be heard - but the empty clip hitting frozen ground would ring like a tuning fork!!! A "dead" giveaway....so a lot of GIs took to keeping an empty clip in a pocket and chucking it in the dark...so that if they were then rushed they met their attackers with a full magazine....
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Post by Reb » Tue Aug 29, 2006 9:50 am

Roger

I don't know who really counts rounds in a scrap but I know I was trained to do so. Typically - any time I pulled the trigger more than once I figgured I'd dumped the mag and would reload. Never was good at math!

I finally fired a Garand a couple years ago. Nice gat but holy smoke - I think AK, M-16 and Mini-14 must have turned me into a wimp - the Garand was like getting married to a fat girl after dating a supermodel!

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Post by Rodger Herbst » Wed Aug 30, 2006 3:37 am

Reb, I can see counting your own rounds, but counting how many rounds the enemy fired at you and you would figure he had to reload so it would be safe to charge him, man that's taking one hell of a chance.

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Post by Reb » Wed Aug 30, 2006 4:18 am

Roger

More of a chance than I care to take. What if your math is screwed up?

I have a distinct memory of firing seven rounds through my revolver in an ambush. No matter how I've sliced it and diced it over the years it always comes back to seven. But we know that revolvers only hold six and so much for Reb's ability to count!

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Post by phylo_roadking » Wed Aug 30, 2006 6:35 am

ark ark - thats EXACTLY why Colt and others made limited editions in the last century of revolvers with SEVEN chambers crammed in! Cos those pesky varmint dog soldiers WOULD listen for the sixth round then come at you a-whoopin'!

Regarding counting rounds in modern combat - not really possible, thats why they DID listen for dead giveaways like the ring of the clip! Not jst the M1, i think the Austrian Steyr did the same in WWI, they dropped them out the bottom of the collector. For THAT design it was ideal - the rifle only held five rounds in a clip, but you just rammed a new clip in and shot the bolt forward. They had a straight-pull and push bolt that everyone envied....but the time saved THAT way was wasted changing clips twice as often :-(
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Post by big_buddha » Mon Sep 04, 2006 5:47 pm

The Austrian Mannlicher did indeed eject the clip from the bottom, it did make a noise too, but compared to the other problems with that rifle, the noise of the clip was a minor problem. The straight-pull bolt is no faster in use than the British Lee-Enfield, in fact, the Lee-Enfield is easier and faster to use in skilled hands, the straight-pull had too violent an action, you had to really pull and push the thing to operate it, particularly if it wasn't spotlessly clean. Also, the action was more fragile than either the Mauser of Lee type bolts actions, many Austrian soldiers broke the lugs off their bolts, particularly in cold weather, the Italians had the same problem with their Carcano riflees using the same bolt design. The Mannlicher straight-pull was abandoned for the Mauser type, the Mannlicher rifle was probably the weakest of the major rifle types of the period (Moisin-Nagant, Lee-Enfield, Mauser) probably on a par with the Lebel overall, but still better than the Ross Rifle.

The Lee-Enfield is the best military bolt-action rifle in terms of speed of manipulation of the bolt and rate of fire, but the Mauser in the long-barelled versions was more accurate, the Boers ahd a massive advantage in accuracy at long ranges during the Boer War, but that was largely due to using a Magnum round with superior ballistics at long ranges, the Brits with round-nosed 303s could compete upto about 600 yards, anything over that distance and the Boaers had a big advantage. This is one reason why so many Brits were shot in the head at Spion Kop, the Boers could pick them off at long range due to their more accurate rifles. The Brits soon learned to shoot around the rocks by rolling to the side and firing rather than sticking their heads up over the top to fire.

Having fired both the Lee-Enfield and Mauser a load of times, I can tell you I'd take the Lee bolt action any day, the Mauser is much slower to operate, the Mauser has a much longer bolt travel and the bolt turns through 90 degrees, its awkward to use and you have to take the rifle away from your face to operate it. With the Lee-Enfield you have a bolt that only travels a short distance, turns through 60 degrees and can be operated with the rifle pressed to your face. The Old Contemptibles could manage 16 aimed rounds a minute, that is just not possible with a Mauser type bolt, hence the Germans thought they were facing machine guns rather than moustachioed fusiliers with decades of experience. There are some real advantages to the Mauser type bolt, particularly the inherant strength of the design, particularly the locking lug design, but the Lee design is far better in terms of ease of manipulation. I'm not sure why the Brits chose the Mauser action for the P14/P17, maybe something to do with requiring a highly accurate rifle rather than a fast firing one, and the Mauser design was already in production in the Springfield and many others.

I like the Russian Moisin-Nagant, it is the least susceptible to dirt and damp (largely due to the chromed bore and relaxed tolerances in the receiever milling) and the bolt action is a halfway-house between the Lee and Mauser types in terms of ease of manipulation. Given the choice of all bolt-action rifles, I'd still pick the good old SMLE or Mk4 Lee-Enfield, it may not be the most accurate, but the lower weight and better handling and higher rate of fire win out for me, the Kar98 was a good weapon and would be my second choice, for accuracy, a long-barelled mauser in 7x57 magnum is pretty hard to beat.
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Post by phylo_roadking » Mon Sep 04, 2006 6:25 pm

BB, I've yet to come across ANYTHING that explains the WD's strange choice of the Mauser action; just comments that it happened. Probably was BECAUSE of the South African experience, without realising that it was the man as well as the rifle that gave the Boers their performance. After all, at EXACTLY that time they were even dropping the windage adjustment off the Lee Enfield! I seem to remember a comment somewhere about the War Department never liking the two-stage trigger action of the Lee Enfield...and in typical government way decided to change the whole package, not just have that foible designed back out.
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Post by big_buddha » Mon Sep 04, 2006 6:59 pm

I found this fascinating in-depth debate of the comparative strengths & weaknesses of the Mauser & Lee-Enfield, its well worth reading all of it. The general concensus they form is that the Lee-Enfield is the better battle weapon due to its easier, faster bolt, bigger magazine, resistance to filthy conditions and better sights but the Mauser is the better hunting or sporting rifle as it has better accuracy, stronger, more reliable bolt action and more modern cartridge. I guess thats the same as what I said - Lee-enfield for fighting, Mauser for accuracy (hunting, target shooting etc.)

http://www.thehighroad.org/archive/inde ... -1437.html

Most of the good points of the Mauser are down to German over-engineering (they call it precision, we call it over-egging the pudding) the Mauser, is just very well thought-out and very strong, but the Lee-Enfield, although it was flawed was the better weapon for the fighting man, same thing with T-34, KV series vs Tiger, Panther etc.

Some interesting stuff from that thread about the Boer War, I forgot about the lee-Metford rifling problem as a cause of the accuracy advantage of the Mauser, didn't know about the other technical problems though. I had always read that the Boer's daily experience with his rifle and superior ammunition ballistics and longer barrels was the reason, turns out there were other reasons too:

First off..I own both Mausers (M95,M96,M98) and Enfields (SMLE, No.4 Mk1, No.4 Mk2). And I like them both..

There are a few misconceptions about these rifles and there history.

On the Enfield: This design was originated by an American: James Paris Lee. Originally, this rifle was designed for a Compressed Black Powder round pushing a unjacketed 215 grain bullet. The early "Enfields" (actually I should say..Lee Metfords), came in 2 flavors..an Infantry Rifle with a 30 inch barrel and a Calvary version with a 20 inch barrel.

Shortcomings during the Boer War.

When the Boer War rolled around..the Brits had just adopted a smokeless powder cartridge. This cartridge burned cordite, and was not only about twice as powerful as the black powder version..it burned quite a bit hotter.

The only change that the British government initially made were to replace the rear sight due to the greater muzzle velocity of the new round.

And so..during the outbreak of the Boer War..off went "Tommy Atkins" the British Soldier..

Unfortunately the Brits did not initially replace the shallow grooved Barrel made at the Metford Arsenal. And..because the new Cordite powder burned hotter along with Mercury Fulminate Primers..this had a very corrossive effect on Barrels.

This quickly led to poor accuracy as the Barrels burned out.

Both the Calvary and Infantry Models (Carbines and Rifles) did NOT have an Charger Guide. This caused some severe problems during firefights..the British Soldier was expected to load the rifle with single rounds of Ammuntion and only open up the Magazine Cutoff Switch during an emergency..(well..a Firefight is an Emergency) and after the 10 rounds were quickly expended..the Lee Metfords..took a long time to reload. (The 10 round detachable magazine on the Rifle and the 8 round detachable magazine on the Carbine were not originally designed to be swapped with a loaded magazine..it just happened that the rifle *COULD* be reloaded thusly)

Reports of Burned out barrels filtered back to England and so the Brits replaced the barrels on the Metfords with a Barrel that had deeper rifling Grooves....but..the barrels had a slightly different twist rate. Since the Barrels were made at Enfield..these became known as Lee Enfields.

And off to Africa went the Rifles along with British Reinforcements. Unfortunately there was a little flaw..since the twist rate was somewhat different than the original Lee Metford Barrels..this necessitated another change in the calibration of the sights..this time in the position of the front sight ..the rifles shot pretty far to the Left and thus the Front Sight needed a bit of "windage".

It was only late during the Boer War that the Brits corrected this problem with recalibrating the sights.

There were other problems as well..at the time very little training was done with the British Soldier on Rifle Marksmanship..instead the Brits were still training as if they were using smooth bore muskets with a short effective Range. This meant Close order formations..closing with the Enemy at a march, and then firing volleys.

The uniform of the British Soldier also had a problem..The Brits had just switched from RED to Khaki..but..their Belts and Suspenders were White and made an "X" shape across their torsos..

To the Boers hiding behind the Rocks in the Hills..watching Close Order Formations of British troops performing a Slow March directly towards them..each one having an Easily Seen "bulls eye X"..well..engaging the Brits at ranges past 1000 yards was too hard to resist..and if the Boers didn't hit the soldier they were aiming at..they certainly hit the soldier next to the target.
Misses were few.

The Boers were using Mauser M95's chambered in 7x57mm. They shot a 173 grain round nose bullet. Their Rifles had a 5 round staggered internal magazine. The Rifles also had Charger Guides and so allowed for rapid reloading during firefights.

Once the British Soldier shot up the 10 rounds in his magazine, the Boer Soldier then had superior firepower since they could then fire more shots per minute due to the fact that they could reload faster then their British Counterparts.

Also significant was the fact that Boers placed a high premium on Marksmanship. Most Boers hunted since they were children. Since the Boers in the Transvaal and Orange Free State did NOT have an Army and instead had a Militia..Boers were issued "Service Rifles" which they became intimately familiar with, as they used the rifles for hunting and recreational target shooting.

Also..tactically the Boers were different than the Brits. The Boers would travel by Horse to a location, then dismount and spread out using bolders and tree stumps for cover, or sometimes dig in.

They would then shoot at slow moving close order formations of British Troops from Long Distances. The British were trained to first close with the Enemy, then take up position and then fire Volleys.

So for quite a while, the Boers would fire at British Troops without being shot at. Also since the Boers would take cover, they were harder to see and hit for the British Trooper.

Post Boer War.

The British learned a great deal from this war. And because of it, they made some changes to their Service Rifle.

(1.) They decided upon having ONE rifle for both Infantry and Calvary..thus, they shortened the Infantry rifle to have a barrel length of 25 inches.

(2.) They noted that their rifles needed to be able to be reloaded quickly, so they modified the receiver design to include a Charger Guide.

(3.) to Compensate for the Shorter Length of the Rifle, they increased the length of the Bayonet, hence the Pattern 1907 Sword Bayonet.

(4.) They noted that the Boers were superb Marksmans and their forces suffered greatly for it, so a premium was placed upon Rifle marksmanship in the Pre-WWI British Army.

(5.) to compensate for widely different cartridge dimensions of Ammunition produced by different Arsenals throughout the British Empire, the chamber was lengthened and was overly large as well as long. Since the cartridge was RIMMED, this present no headspace problem..it was just a tad hard on the Brass, but the British Army was not concerned about "reloading".

This had the happy and fortuitous side effect of making the new Short Magazine Lee Enfield (SMLE) ultra reliable when covered with filth. This was noticed in the muddy fields of Flanders, while other rifles jammed, then Enfield still chugged happily along, firing round after round into the German Army.

BUT...even though the Brits had made these changes. Most of the critics were still unhappy, and the design changes were supposed to be "temporary" until a NEW and More "MODERN" (re: Mauser) Service Rifle and Cartridge could be designed and built.

And so the Brits took the Mauser and modified it and turned it into the P14 (or I really should say the P13, it only became the P14 after it was modified to accept the .303 round). The original .276 cartridge was very similar to what the Canadians were experimenting with (the .280 Ross) for their new Service Rifle..the Ross Rifle.
Ballistically this cartridge was similar to the 7mm Remington Magnum. (which was invented much later) but had no "belt".

WWI broke out, and the P13 hadn't been adopted, and so it was quickly converted to accept .303 rounds and had the Rear Sight modifed for the .303 cartridge. And the P14 was born.

During WWI the Brits used both the P14 and the SMLE. British soldiers noted that while the P14 was more accurate, it wasn't nearly reliable as the SMLE.

The US also used 2 Rifles, the M1917 Enfield (a 30-06 variant of the P14) and the 1903 Springfield. In fact more US soldiers used the 1917 Enfield than the 1903 Springfield.

The Canadians initially used the Ross Rifle, but while the Ross Rifle excelled as a Target Rifle..it was prone to jamming if it was slightly dirty.

(The Ross Rifle is what Herbert McBride used for Sniping during WWI)

The Canadians dumped the Ross and quickly adopted the SMLE.

On the German Side: Mauser had modified his small ring Mausers to have a stronger action, better gas handling capabilities and incorporated a Cock on Opening Action.

The Cock on Opening Action was a "Mistake" because, in the field some of the Rifleman's energy went into cocking the rifle instead of just extracting a round. This made for a slower action.


From that info, it seems that the reason for the adoption of the Mauser action in the P13/14/17 was due to the experiences of the Boer War, chiefly the greater accuracy of the Mauser, WWI showed that the SMLE was the better option, it just needed to have some flaws remedied, the 1903 SMLE was flawed, the WWI ones had most of those flaws corrected, the Mk4 WWII version had all of the flaws corrected.

ANother reason is the .303 round, being an old-fashioned, rimmed cartrisge it was ideal for a bolt-action rifle, easier to load into stripper clips and in single rounds into a rifle than rimless (Mausers are much trickier to load than Lee-Enfields) but wasn't suitable for automatic weapons such as macghine guns. The Mauser design was ideally suited to production in different calibres, so that will be a large part of the reason for adopting it, no redesign needed, just produce it in whatever calibre you want, and it used modern rimless cartridges, so if WWI hadn't happened in 1914, the Brits would have abandoned the .303 round in favour of the rimless .280 they had shosen for the P13. The Lee-enfield was eventually modified to accept rimless cartridges (7.62 Nato for sniper rifles) but was really intended for rimmed cartridges. Anyone who's ever filled a stripper clip with rounds will tell you the rimmed .303 is much easier to load than the rimless ones like the .30-06 and 7.62.
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Post by phylo_roadking » Tue Sep 05, 2006 4:59 am

BB, that brings what I've heard into one place, if you see what I mean. I've always known about the Lee-Metford problems, because they were very common here in Ireland in the hands of the RIC. I actually own a Lee-Metford bayonet. The artical mentions the corrosive effect of the propellent, doesn't mention that wear of the edges of the shallow grooves was actually very fast too, once the corrosion had "softened" the metal. So the more a weapon was used in combat, like a Boer War 2-3 day engagement, by the end of it Tommy may as well have been using a smoothbore musket!

One other thing to remember - the British Army hadn't had a stand-up battle since the Crimea; the only enemies theyd fought for 50 years had been skirmisher types in lesser or greater numbers. The closest would have been the desert campaigns against the Mahdi, but even then they depended more on massed rifle fire against large groups of the enemy - and not one firing back with an equal number of modern weapons sing the same close-order tactics. There was no way they COULD learn how useful the Lee Enfield was until WWI. In fact, every experience they DID have told them that a highly accurate skirmishers' rifle was what they needed - not a change in training and tactics!

A classic example - saved at the last moment - of making TOO many changes to a product at once, so that in the end evaluation of what change got you the result you really wanted was impossible.
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Post by big_buddha » Tue Sep 05, 2006 1:55 pm

It took a while to work the flaws out of the British rifle design, but when they had worked them out, it was a formidable weapon. The mauser design was mature by 1898, probably because the Prussians had a lot of practical experience with fighting modern wars.

The Prussians at Mons advanced en masse in formation, much like they did in 1870, the British riflemen where trained to slaughter such massed ranks with rapid, accurate volley fire, the Prussians formed a similar target to the masses of Dervishes and Fuzzy Wuzzies in the Sudan two decades before, bread and butter to the Brits. The Boers were a totally different enemy, fauly British tactics were more of a fator than faulty British equipment, although not having any long-range field guns, faulty rifles and inadequate uniforms were all important failings on the part of the Brits.
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GIs & Springfields in Europe

Post by Carl Schwamberger » Tue Sep 12, 2006 7:16 pm

Returning to the original question:

General Ridgeway in his autobiography refers to carrying a Springfield when in the combat zone. As an old soldier he was naturally more comfortable with it. He also wrote he carried armor piercing rounds for it! During a Ardennes fight in january 1944 he was inspecting a battalion position when a attack came & had the opportunity to actually take some shots at a German armored vehical with it. He identified it as some sort of selfpropelled gun, not a tank, so there is a cance his AP bullits did penetrate.

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