Hey chaps. TopGumby's recent thread about the USMC and its return to the glorious old 1911 set me thinking. How about a top ten favourite military arms thread? I am limiting my choices to hand or shoulder fired weapons using metallic cartridges. For me, this is more about the weapons that just worked rather than focusing on revolutionary technology. Though some of them most certainly qualified in that respect. Here we go.
1873 Colt Single Action Army
To me, the one that started it all. Adopted in 1873 by the U.S. Army in .45 Colt calibre this was and is a legendary hand gun and deservedly so. Quickly adapted to by soldiers this one put the final nail in the coffin of front stuffed revolvers. It was adopted and used by so many military and police forces worldwide it is almost impossible to list them all. It's .45 cailbre cartridge was to remain the most powerful factory loaded handgun round for 62 years till the .357 Magnum was introduced in 1935. Other than metallurgy it remained unchanged till the second generation was introduced in 1941. A full SIXTY-EIGHT years. It was officially replaced by the 1892 Colt double action revolver chambered in .38 Colt in 1892. A dismal failure of a battle round in a trouble prone revolver. Many soldiers carried their own private 1873s for years after its official retirement. Rough Riders in 1898. Doughboys in the Mexican campaign of 1916, and again in the trenches of WW1. It wouldn't die. And even Patton carried a beautiful nickel plated version in WW2. It went through another iteration in 1975 and even today is available from Colt's custom shop. 139 years after its introduction. This one needs no proving.
Short Magazine Lee-Enfield
This is another legendary martial arm that needs no proving. An improved and modified design of the Lee-Metford it was adopted in 1895 and served as England's main battle rifle till 1957. Sixty-two years! And what a grand old girl she is. Chambered for the legendary .303 British the SMLE(affectionately nicknamed the Smelly by our Doughboys) revolutionised battlefield rifle fire. Go read just about any account of the horrible trench warfare of WW1 and you will find counts of the Tommies cycling their SMLEs so fast the Krauts thought they were facing light machine gun fire! God help you if you were marching into to the teeth of that withering fire. This phenomenon even happened a bit in WW2 though by then the trend toward selective fire self loading battle rifles was plain. The SMLE acquitted itself beyond anyone's doubt. Even today they sell very well and are just about as popular as they ever were. Not bad for a one hundred-seven year old
1898 Mauser Gewher 98
Now here is a watershed moment in firearms history. Peter Paul Mauser was a designing genius maybe second only to our own John Moses Browning. And maybe not. The man had a gift for design. The 1898 was the culmination(and to many of us bolt rifle perfection) of his bolt rife designs that started back in 1871 and went through many iterations. Particularly the 1892 and 1895 versions. The 1892 version chambered in 7x57 Masuer gave our boys so much trouble in the Spanish American War of 1898 that our own Springfield Ordnance division aped the 1898 Mauser down to the dimensions of the cartridge head. The action may be slightly longer but the design is all Mauser. It is why I do not give the 1903 Springfield its own listing. It was great but a copy of the greatest. The 98 was chambered in 8x57 Mauser and this combination in one form or another served as Germany's main battle rifle till 1945. Forty-seven years. And I cannot begin to count the nations who used the Mausers in one form or another in various chamberings. Long live the king.
Here's the one that inspired the thread. Adopted in 1911 it was a culmination of John Browning's earlier self loading pistol designs. He sold the design to Colt and it was adopted in 1911 as the official sidearm of the U.S. Army. Later it was adopted by all the services and many foreign nations later on. It served as our main military handgun for SEVENTY-FOUR years. Finally "replaced"(displaced to many of us) by the Beretta M9 in 1985. Chambered in the superb .45 ACP(Automatic Colt Pistol) round featuring a 230grn hardball bullet at a velocity of around 850fps. This combination earned a deserved reputation as fight stopper. It also developed some asinine myths about taking down everything it came in contact with. Oh well. I will take the myths along with the legends. It also had some badmouthing its accuracy. This was due more to two things. Poor training and soldier discipline. And toward the end of service life old worn out weapons. The design is rock solid and to this day if you venture to pistol competitions the world round the 1911 is still king of the range. And many police and military departments refuse to give it up. And as mentioned the Marines just bought a few MILLION dollars worth of them. One hundred and one years after it its introduction. Obsolete? You be the judge.
Here's another classic. The Winchester Model 12 pump shotgun. First released in 1912 and discontinued in 1963 it was a legendary hunting arm. But most don't realise it was a superb military weapon. The "trench shotgun" may have came to fame in WW1 with the Winchester model 1897 and its wicked looking exposed hammer but it was quickly superseded by the model 12 for good reason. The 12 had a smoother action and was more reliable. And what's more this is another weapon that served in both world wars, Korea, and into Vitenam. My Da had a close friend who carried one in 'Nam and he told him more than once he would carry it in preference to the early M16. What made the Model 12 so effective, other than its reliability, was its lack of a trigger disconnect. This is what made the 1897 so devastating. After you pulled the trigger you could keep it in its depressed position and upon each forward rack of the slide the gun would fire. If you were experienced you could deliver the seven to nine round capacity of the shotgun in less than ten seconds. Controlling it was another story. Still, the feature made trench and house cleaning a devastating affair for enemy combatants. No one makes use of shotguns, even to this day, like we Americans. The model 12 proved its mettle over and over.
1918 Browning BAR
What say. The BAR? I thought we were talking about portable firearms? Well we are. Yeah, it weighed about 16 pounds and would be more closely aligned with what we would think of as a Squad Automatic Weapon(fancy term for a platoon's light machine gun). Still, it was regularly carried over the shoulder and regularly fired from the shoulder but worked much better of a tripod and was really designed for such use. This war horse fired the .30-06 from an open bolt and was used by both military and civilian criminal alike. Most famously by Clyde Barrow. He would steal BARs from guard armories and of course his antics are well known. The BAR served well for nearly fifty years. Though woefully outdated by the time of the Vietnam war it was there in limited numbers(I think). Forty plus years after its introduction. This iconic piece of American war iron will not easily be forgotten and is instantly recognisable by any fan when it shows up in moves or literature.
Browning Hi Power
Here is another fan favourite and with good reason. Designed by John Moses Browning and introduced by Fabrique Nationale in 1935, this was the second semi automatic pistol design of his to have nearly worldwide adoption by both military and civilian law departments within a few years. Many claim this was what he wanted the 1911 to be but I am not sure of that. I can say this is one of the most beautiful pistols I have ever seen. Particularly for a military sidearm. You can doll up a 1911 to most certainly be beautiful but I always looked at it this way. The stock 1911 is like a mature male African lion; Big, strong, fierce looking, battle scarred, and leaves no doubt it is not to be trifled with. The Hi Power is like a leopard in his prime; Lithe, light of foot, stealthy, deadly and I dare say, sexy.
Both are more than proven but they exude different personalities. I love them both but admit to having a fixation on the 1935 Hi Power. I just never have the money to buy one! One thing I did not know till recently was that both Germany and the Allies used the Hi Power during WW2. The plant in Belgium fell early in the war and being not too dumb the Gerries took up production and used it alongside their Walthers. The Brits adopted it sometime during the war and as far as I know it is still the standard firearm of the British armed forces. Add Canada and Belgium to the list as well. SEVENTY-SEVEN years after its introduction. This one gives apologies to no one.
Here is another doozy. And I am torn a bit by this. The M14 may be a separate rifle but its origins are clearly based on the M1. The M1 became our standard infantry weapon in 1936. This made America the first world power to adopt a self loading rifle as its main battle rifle. From what I gather development of the Garand really dated clear back to 1919 but I am unsure of that history. I know it was developed by Springfield Armory chiefly by Canadian John Garand. This war horse chambered the superb .30-06 and was declared one of the finest war instruments ever by no less than George Patton. Methinks he may have been right. It changed battlefield tactics for infantry. It was technically our service rifle from 1936 to 1957. But the story does not end there. Even during the late war period Springfield was tinkering with it. Adding selective fire and detachable box magazines. Then later they shortened the action and cartridge. Eventually they wound up with the M14 and the 7.62x57 NATO round. The M14 technically served from 1959 to 1970 as a main battle rifle. However, it is still in service will all branches of the U.S. armed forces in one capacity or another. SEVENTY-SIX years after the antecedent was first adopted. How's that for longevity?
Here's another one that speaks for itself. I have a hard time with this weapon. I hated the Soviets and everything they stood for. Many good Russian folk were caught up in things beyond their control. This goes more toward the philosophy of the state. I was just trying explain why I do not have the affection for this weapon like I do western arms. But that is where it ends. Who can argue with results? Designed by mister Kalashnikov in the late forties this is another weapon that made its reputation by ripping off another firearm's design. Namely the 1944 StG 44 developed by the Germans late in WW2. The StG 44's design was a selective fire stamped weapon chambered for a shortened version of the 8mm Mauser round. The rest is history. The AK 47 has to be the most widely distributed firearm of all time. And it's ruggedness and reliability are legend. The 7.62x39 mm round it shoots is probably ideal for actual battlefield confrontation between soldiers. Slightly less powerful than our American .30 WCF(.30-30) it has stood the test of time. Sixty-five years after its introduction it shows absolutely zero chance of being obsolete any time soon. I hate to say it but it is one hell of a weapon.
This is another absolute favourite of mine. I have always loved the FN but I never realised the political intrigue that surrounded the adoption of the rifle and cartridge it chambered. As mentioned above, the U.S. M14 was a continuation of the Garand. The FN FAL(later the L1A1 as adopted by the Brits) chambered our .30 Light Rifle(7.62x51 NATO). What I did not know was that the U.S. came close to adopting the FN rather than the M14. One has to wonder if that would have happened if we would not talk about the FN in the same numbers as the AK47? As it is the FN was referred to as the right arm of the free world. It was adopted by dozens of nations and is still in service around the world. Tens of millions of these have to be out there.
I also did not realise that development on it started about the same time as the AK and that early test versions were chambered in 7.92x33 Kurz! Wow. Talk about history. It was finialised in 1954 and the adoption avalanche started thereafter. As much as I love American martial arms and have no doubts about the M1 or M14, I have to think old Winston may have been right on the money when he was pressuring Truman to adopt the FN. Imagine this scenario. Nearly two centuries before the FN's adoption the American colonists scraped, bickered and finally warred with England using largely English firearms. We made our peace and worked together. Then. almost two hundred years later we actually came close to using common weapons again. This time as allies. I think it would have made a very powerful symbol. Not to mention it would have meant more FNs!
Okay chaps. There's the long version and just my favourites. Other than year of adoption there is no attempt to make a best of the ten declaration. None of them could have done everything on their own so it is impossible for me to go there. An interesting point is that even though I could not serve in the military I have handled or shot many of these weapons. They inspire a confidence and awe that is not to be taken lightly. Millions of people lost life and limb to nations that wielded these weapons. This is my list. Lets hear yours.