Interesting Reddit Post on the Development of Various Rifles

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kanzakibullet
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Interesting Reddit Post on the Development of Various Rifles

Post by kanzakibullet » Fri Aug 05, 2022 12:12 pm

Hello everyone!

I found an interesting Reddit post on the challenges in developing an infantry rifle. In this post, the author explains these challenges by examining the history of the M1903 Springfield rifle in detail, along with many other rifles in lesser detail such as the M16 and the AK family of rifles.

Here is the link to the post:

Hope you guys find this interesting!

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Re: Interesting Reddit Post on the Development of Various Rifles

Post by timmy » Sat Aug 06, 2022 1:32 am

This is an interesting post and, by and large, well written, with many points worth considering. It is a posting worthy of consideration. I would like to make several observations on it:
Though France lead the world in the adoption of self-loading rifles . . .
I think that he meant "led," not "lead," but this is an important point that many don't know and others forget, regarding French firearms development.
Third, and most damming for US Army Ordnance, is the phenomenon of bureaucratic tribalism. Simply put, the M16 was viewed as a "commercial-off-the-shelf" item antithetical to the established Army Ordnance method of development. The handling of the rifle's development was at best negligent, if not intentionally malicious. Institutions can for multiple reasons be resistant to working with the projects of others, or implementing solutions that run contrary to their short-term interests. While these factors will rarely altogether prevent the maturation of a rifle, they can certainly delay it for longer than altogether necessary.
Observations like these can be fraught with all sorts of problems, because "not invented here" and the disregard of uniformed outside opinions, often by dilettantes, seems to be present in more or less equal amounts in industry, the military, and academics, to name three areas as examples where this is commonly encountered.

The writer's harsh language doesn't give me confidence that he recognizes this problem. There are all sorts of "i told you so" and "I had a better idea, but it was not understood by lesser beings" crackpots who are associated with many endeavors. Since the writer is talking about US Military arms development, I'll speak along those lines about this.

For many years, especially associated with the NRA, General Julian Hatcher and Colonel Edward Harrison were originally part of the Ordinance department. Both have written at length about their views and experiences, and one of the more famous books on the subject is "Hatcher's Notebook," which I heartily recommend to anyone interested in guns. I'm quite sure that both of these gentlemen had some degree of confidence in their abilities and views on the subject to which they dedicated their lives.

Recently, I watched a video on a popular Youtube channel (one that I like and respect) on the Lewis Gun, a WW1 era light machine gun. The presenter and author of the videos, a pretty knowledgeable fellow, got pretty sarcastic about the US Army's rejection of the Lewis Gun, implying a "not invented here" attitude. The trouble was, I'd read Hatcher's Notes on the subject, and he'd related how, when they tested the Lewis Gun at Army Ordinance, it worked perfectly well for the lower powered British 303 round, but proved insufficiently reliable for the more powerful US 30-06 round. Was the Youtube presenter saying that he knew more than Hatcher? This would be dubious!

Without going into this further, I'll say that it's a tricky business to determine when the line of expertise is crossed into "not invented here" territory. The author of the post doesn't give me the impression of recognizing this.
A faulty gas system proved unreliable and prone to fouling, and required substantial redesign.
I would have liked to have heard more discussion from the writer on this subject, referring to the M16. He does, at a later point, address the powder issues. Many folks blame the direct gas impingement system of the M16, something that my own understanding of the issue mostly rejects. I would have liked to have heard more.
The M1 Garand
His section on the M1 is OK, in as far as it goes, but in my opinion, it doesn't go far enough. The bottom line here is that the M1 was an answer to the wrong question in the first place. The only people who "got it right" as far as the question and the answer during the M1's timeframe was Germany: an infantry squad based around the M34 or M42 machine gun, supported by essentially WW1-era M98 Mausers, was superior to a squad based around individual rifle marksman supported by a BAR. The Germans asked the right questions and came up with the best answers regarding what an infantry squad should be and do.
The M14
The M14 went deeper into developing the M1 Garand, adding fully automatic capability. The successful answers that he cites, FN, G3, and MAS, all had a big advantage: their ergonomics. The typical rifle stock configuration of the M14 simply wasn't controllable in fully automatic fire, where the straight stock design of the other rifles cited corrected this issue, making them more controllable in full auto. This ergonomic design was used in the M16, which traced its design from Stoner's AR10 development, which was also 7.62x51 NATO.
The M1 Carbine
The poor reputation of the M1 Carbine had more to do with the lack of lethality of its cartridge. The gun was intended for officers and auxiliary troops as a more effective weapon than the 1911 pistol. We could go into the ancestry of the M1 Carbine cartridge, but the point was, it simply didn't have the "oomph" necessary for the job it was asked to do. For instance, compare the ballistics of the 30 M1 Carbine cartridge to the 7.62x25 Tokarev cartridge when the 7.62x25 is fired from the PPsH41 shoulder arm. There's not that much difference, and the PPsH was a proven battle weapon.

Anyhow, thanks for posting an interesting piece!
"One constant about the elements of 1914 - as of any era - was the disposition of everyone on all sides not to prepare for the harder alternative, not to act upon what they suspected to be true"

Barbara Tuchman, "The Guns of August"

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Re: Interesting Reddit Post on the Development of Various Rifles

Post by kanzakibullet » Sun Aug 07, 2022 7:15 am

You're welcome Mr. Timmy. You mentioned "Hatcher's Notebook" as a good read for those interested in guns. What would be your top 5 book recommendations for those who are interested in guns?

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Re: Interesting Reddit Post on the Development of Various Rifles

Post by timmy » Sun Aug 07, 2022 1:03 pm

Wow, you are putting me on the spot here!!!

There are so many books that I have not read, and there are so many gun books on so many different facets of firearms, that it's hard for me to give you an authoritative overview and also to match what you might like.

Rather than do this, let me list some books that I like, and you can go from there. They are a mix of various interests.

Hatcher's Notebook by Julian Hatcher is good, especially if you want to know about US Military arms development

The Lee Enfield Rifle by EGB Reynolds is the same sort of book, but about British Arms

The XXXX Explained by Gerard Henrotin is a series of books on different guns, giving expert explanations on disassembly and operation

Colt Firearms from 1836 by James Serven was THE book on Colt years ago, but it doesn't seem to get mentioned now. I still like mine; it is a book for Colt firearms lovers.

Handguns of the World by Edward C Ezell is a very good reference.

Bolt Action Rifles by Frank De Haas is excellent and very interesting about military and commercial rifles

Bolt Action Rifles, Volumes I and II, by Stuart Otteson are also very good, more on the technical side than De Haas

Cartridges of the World by Frank C Barnes is a great list and discussion of all kinds of cartridges, past and present.

Gun Digest published many books on a wide range of subjects -- google to find their website and look through the titles

Massad Ayoob is a very well respected author on self-defense, police matters, and RKBA. I like reading him.

Magazine articles you may come across by Finn Aagaard are excellent resources on rifles and hunting, including Africa

For some hunting stories:

Robert Ruark is a well-respected author on hunting and especially African hunting.

Peter Hathaway Capstick has written some great books and tells great yarns. But, he reminds me of when I was taught about Bollywood movies, and my friend said that she was so sad to find out that voice over singers sang, not the actors and actresses. The thing about Capstick is that it appears he was a blowzy drunk, mostly drawing on stories he heard when he was in Africa. Whatever, he can write and tell great stories, and you're missing out if you like that kind of writing and don't check him out.

I used to like Jack O'Connor when I was younger. He's a good writer who writes interesting books, but I will no longer read him. He apparently was someone who enjoyed being quite negative, and for all of his good writing, he loved to bash Elmer Keith, who contributed more to guns that O'Connor ever thought of. Another person who O'Connor loved to trash was Philip Sharpe, who wrote extensively on rifles and reloading during the 40s and 50s. I liked reading Phil Sharpe, although now reading him is more an exercise in going back in time. Elmer Keith is beginning to be in the same vein, although some appreciate Keith's blunt, unpolished writing.

There are a whole host of those old time British hunters like Corbett, Selous, and others who can be fun to read.

I also read a lot in reloading manuals.

Earlier, I'd mentioned Ian McCollum's book Chassepot to Famas: French Military Rifles 1866-2016 which I think is quite interesting.

Well, I've gone 'way over five books, but not knowing your interests, maybe there's a few in this list that you might like.
"One constant about the elements of 1914 - as of any era - was the disposition of everyone on all sides not to prepare for the harder alternative, not to act upon what they suspected to be true"

Barbara Tuchman, "The Guns of August"

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Re: Interesting Reddit Post on the Development of Various Rifles

Post by timmy » Sat Aug 20, 2022 7:46 am

I just picked up a copy of "The Complete Illustrated Encyclopedia of the world's Firearms" by Ian V Hogg. He is a pretty respected firearms writer and the book, while not featuring in-depth discussions of the guns that are presented, does provide good descriptions and great pictures that can be seen without reading glasses or a magnifying glass.

I got my copy from a used bookstore, which is pretty much the only kind I visit anymore.
"One constant about the elements of 1914 - as of any era - was the disposition of everyone on all sides not to prepare for the harder alternative, not to act upon what they suspected to be true"

Barbara Tuchman, "The Guns of August"

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