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M3 submachine gun

Discussion in 'Allied Light Weapons' started by warhistory, Oct 19, 2012.

  1. von Poop

    von Poop Waspish WW2|ORG Editor

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    Coincidentally, I was watching Gun Jesus's M3 video yesterday (among hours of his other stuff). Found the safety/port mechanism interesting.
    Did alright, didn't it. Serving into the 90s.

     
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  2. WILD DUKW

    WILD DUKW Active Member

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    Couple of observations about the video.

    The M3 was standardized as early as 1 March 1944. I think the narrator said 1945?

    85,100 M3s/A1s were made in 1943, 343,372 in 1944, and 192,661 in 1941 for a total of 621,133. The weapon was widely issued to combat troops prior to 1945.

    Did anyone take note of the safety problem the weapon posed in a combat situation? (The narrator didn't really mention it.)
     
  3. WILD DUKW

    WILD DUKW Active Member

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    No, it did not do alright according to this combat veteran....

    ".... but they issued what they called an M3 -- we called them a grease gun because they were just stamped out of sheet metal and the brace for you shoulder was a thing that pulled out like a grease gun thing does, or a caulking gun, and the barrel screwed on and if you fired it a few times the barrel would begin to unscrew, so you never knew it it was going to fall off or what. The safety on it was the cover that went over the chamber and you just lifted it up. Well, you could jar it loose and the thing might go off anytime. It wasn't accurate. You could probably be more effective to pickup a handful of rocks and start throwing them than to use that thing. The greatest danger of them was to our own troops. They caused a lot of accidents. So what happened is everybody that had one would throw it away as soon as they could get another gun of some kind from somebody else that didn't need it anymore." (Ralph Martin, "WWII Memories, p 35)

    This is only one WWII veteran's account of several in my possession that describes the dangers of the M3 grease gun.

    I respectfully submit that "Gun Jesus" may not know as much about using the M3 as the men who actually carried them in combat.
     
  4. von Poop

    von Poop Waspish WW2|ORG Editor

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    All he says is that it served into the 90s.
    That's a long service.
    That's all.

    Mr Mcollumm discusses the technical features of firearms. Never seen him once claim to know more than anyone really, particularly active servicemen. Rather modest chap, but someone I think I've learnt more about gun systems & development from than anyone else online.
    Really all about the mechanicals & development. If anyone's not delved into his 'Forgotten Weapons' channel, I'd heartily recommend it.
     
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  5. WILD DUKW

    WILD DUKW Active Member

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    At about 3:20 Gun Jesus clearly states the M3 was reliable, effective and that troops liked them. That is what I am addressing. My concern is that folks will watch his video and come away thinking it was a good weapon that combat troops liked. The weapon was unreliable, ineffective, and combat troops did not like using them because they were outright dangerous.

    Gun Jesus also claims the M3 was easier to control because of its slow rate of fire. Phooey! Take a look at the weapon and tell me where you can grab it with your left hand to gain any real control over where it is pointing after the first round or two ----

    Imagine how difficult is is to cock the M3A1 with cold fingers and/or wearing winter gloves.

    So I'm calling BS on Gun Jesus for misrepresenting the M3/M3A1.......
     
  6. von Poop

    von Poop Waspish WW2|ORG Editor

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    A perfectly adequate weapon that served with its creators until the 90s, and is apparently still in service with several militaries, 76 years after first issue.
    C.10 of them for the price of an exquisitely engineered Thompson, while both basically do what SMGs are supposed to do: spray bullets from a compact form at relatively close ranges.
    Almost no weapon ever came into service without issues, or troops moaning about it, (there a thread there, actually. 'Instant hits', 'She's a Honey! etc.), And it seems entirely likely that anyone would be very unimpressed at being 'downgraded' so much from Thompson to M3.

    Suspect it suffers from much slagging off because of that comparison, but it's a different approach which Uncle Sam saw fit to build hundreds of thousands of; that utility thing fitting the SMG as a whole''s pretty utility concept.
    Troops don't tend to appreciate that without such utility designs they might not even have the SMG needed for that house/trench/tunnel clearance, vehicle port, security detail, etc.
    Questions of cost, time, ease of manufacture have a quality all to themselves.


    (And on Forgotten Weapon's: his style is determinedly very neutral unless something is very very bad or very very good. It's about a calm look at each piece and how they work. Seriously, try a few more of his descriptive videos, he's not an irritating bloke in any way, as so many other shouty gun YouTubers can be.)
     
  7. WILD DUKW

    WILD DUKW Active Member

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    Dismissing (ignoring actually) the specific criticisms of the weapon by men who used them in combat, like my father and Ralph Martin, with sweeping generalities is hardly convincing.

    I, for one, do not think for a second that I know more about how the M3 performed in combat than the men who actually used it and found it wanting. And I resent your implication that my father's criticisms of the weapon were based on any factor other than its combat performance. Oh it worked just fine says von Poop. Your father was just disappointed because he didn't get a Thompson, he was just moaning about the M3, and was unappreciative because the Army made hundreds of thousands and gave him one because any SMG was better than none at all. Well done, sir.

    Well I learned my lesson. This is the last time I mention my father on this forum because an "expert" who has watch a lot of You Tube videos will just step in and tell me how wrong he was.
     
  8. von Poop

    von Poop Waspish WW2|ORG Editor

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    I have no idea why you seem so angry, mate.
    Nobody's dismissed your old man's observations, nor I think would they, but there's a wider context to everything. Mentioning that denigrates nobody. It's just one of 100 perspectives... and, importantly, pixels on a screen. It ain't personal, it's a look at a gun, and maybe even looking at the way history works. Nor is anyone obliged to address any specific thing. It's a post, on a phone.
    Individual experiences on materiel are a different thing to some wider perspectives. So what?
    The PIAT & Sherman, for instance. I've known a broadly equal amount of veterans that liked & disliked them, sometimes even loathed & loved, all depending on personal experience. They disagree with each other, but don't seem to feel the need to be offended by that.

    And I'm no expert on smallarms, especially not on this site. I've no emotional attachment either way.
    I just tend to be more interested in development & production. Again, so what?
     
  9. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Good Ol' Boy Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

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    @WILD DUKW , I think you are reading far more into von Poop's comments than are warranted. As he said, he is more interested in "development and production."

    He's lurked about the joint well in excess of 12 years and enjoys a fairly good reputation for fair-mindedness in discussion, which more that adequately makes up for his lack of noticeable attractiveness to the opposite sex.

    Please back up and re-read his posts with an eye to what he is saying and not that he is trying to argue you down.
     
  10. WILD DUKW

    WILD DUKW Active Member

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    "Overall, the M3A1 was seen by most soldiers and Ordnance technicians as an improvement over the M3. However, complaints of accidental discharge continued to occur even as late as the Korean War.[34] These incidents were sometimes caused by dropping the weapon on a hard surface with an impact sufficient to knock open the ejection port cover and propel the bolt backwards (but not enough to catch the sear). The return springs would then propel the bolt forward to pick up a cartridge from the magazine and carry it into the chamber, where the bolt's fixed firing pin struck the primer upon contact.[34][35]"

    M3 submachine gun - Wikipedia

    One Cavalryman told me about his M3 discharging full auto. It was caused by a jolt when he jumped from his armored car and landed hard on his feet. The bolt cover/safety lifted enough for the weapon to fire. Before it returned to "safe" the weapon fired three or four rounds on the ground between the legs of a nearby officer.

    Others remarked the M3 was prone to being unintentionally discharged when the bolt cover/safety caught on their clothing. The same problem happened in reverse when the bolt cover/safety was inadvertently closed during combat operations. But we've already decided none of this is true, so it must have been their imagination or outright story telling. :(
     
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2019
  11. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    The Submachine Gun, .45 Caliber, T20 was standardized as the M3 on 11 January 1943. The M3E1 was standardized as the M3A1 on 21 December 1944.

    I think you meant "1945" for that last year? :D

    Not sure what you mean?
     
  12. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    Ooops! Sorry, should have read your last first before I posted. Yeah, the ejection port cover "safety" was always an issue. IIRC, the Sten had a similar issue as do a few other such weapons. However, it was a wartime design, intended for rapid production, and was a major change from the prewar philosophy of precision craftsmanship in small arms manufacture. It, like the M1 Carbine, served its purpose, and was better than most other choices available. For example, Reising .45 Caliber Submachine Gun or M3? :D
     
  13. WILD DUKW

    WILD DUKW Active Member

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    We can disagree about the combat effectiveness of the carbine and grease gun. Based on my own experience as a gunsmith and life long hunter/target shooter, I understand why veteran combat soldiers didn't trust either one.

    For example, the grease gun safety problem would have been easy to address, and for very little added cost. So it is easy to blame the Army for shipping such a dangerous POS to the troops.

    The carbine was often converted to full auto by the troops. Why? They wanted to make the lack of killing power by throwing more lead. I assume you have heard the stories of carbines failing to penetrate the multiple layers of heavy winter clothing worn by the Germans. Yes?
     
  14. Terry D

    Terry D Active Member

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    This is, I fear, yet another of those weapons arguments which could go on forever without ever coming to a definitive conclusion.

    The M3 was designed to meet a need for an inexpensive, mass-produced weapon which would be simple enough for new recruits to master relatively quickly. The standard US SMG through 1943 was the Thompson, which was in many ways a good gun but it was also heavy and slow and expensive to produce even in the simplified M1 version. The M3 was indeed easier to make but it did have some problems (as did the Thompson). It was not as stoutly made as the Tommy and so was more easily damaged, the cocking handle was not fully satisfactory (which was why it was replaced by the finger notch), and there are reports that it would fire if you dropped it hard with a loaded mag (see posts above). There are such reports about the Sten as well (see our sister site for more on that) and indeed about the MP40 and even the strongly made British Lanchester. From this I conclude that many SMGs suffered from this defect or danger to greater or less degree and that it was not peculiar to the M3. Compared with the Sten, though, the level of complaint about the M3 was much less. The M3 never had a great reputation with US troops, but I don't think that was entirely due to performance. The M3 was ugly and it had the misfortune to follow a famous and (mostly) popular gun in US service. On the plus side, it was light and simple and I have heard that the heavy bolt and relatively low rate of fire gave it good accuracy for an SMG. The weapon's long survival into the postwar era, when newer and equally cheap guns were widely available, suggests that it was at least relatively successful.

    I realize that I may be treading on tender ground here, but when it comes to evaluating weaponry I am not always immediately persuaded by the experiences of a small sample of users. From what I have read of the wartime British Army, training was often abbreviated and troops were not always properly instructed on how to get the very most out of their weapons or to care for them adequately. (This seems to have been one of the factors in the Sten case.) I am less familiar with the US Army, but given that it was a hastily raised mass force I would suspect that some of the same phenomena were at work. Opinions even among veterans differ widely, as Von P says, and always will. I have read stories of men who served in Vietnam who liked the M3 a great deal. Even the Sten had its proponents, not all of them fools. (The instructors at Camp X in Canada favored it.)
     
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2019
  15. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    If I was talking about the effectiveness of the grease gun, we could or could not disagree, it makes little difference to me. And even less so regarding the carbine. "It served its purpose" is not an analysis of its effectiveness as a battlefield weapon.

    And based upon my own experience as an operations research analyst, the finer points of hunting and target shooting had little real application on the World War II battlefield. The real killers were artillery, mortars, and aircraft bombs, followed by machine guns. Individual marksmanship was, if anything, even less important than it was in the Great War. So all that is fine and dandy, but yet again has little to do with whether or not the M3 Submachine Gun served its purpose. The M3 Submachine Gun did what it was supposed to do. It was intended as a cost-effect and easier to produce submachine gun to replace the costly and difficult to manufacture M1 Submachine Gun. It wasn't perfect, but after the T20 was tested at Aberdeen it was rated better than every competing design.

    If it was so easy to address and of such tremendous concern, why wasn't it addressed in the M3A1 or in the postwar production when there was no press to get it into the field in quantity? Perhaps because it was never of sufficient concern? BTW, the chief defect found by the troops, which was recognized early in production and modified, was the weakness of the bolt handle...which was also a relatively easy fix.

    I suggest if you want to argue about the carbine that you do so in that thread.
     
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2019
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  16. EKB

    EKB Member

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    The submachine gun was, and still is, more popular with outlaws than armed forces. That about says it all.

    You don't have to look far to find complaints about every type from WW2. Weak bullet, low velocity, frequent jams, accidental discharge, quality control problems.

    The MP5 submachine gun is an old favorite of police tactical units but they now seem to favor compact assault rifles with accessory sights. The cops don’t want to be outgunned by criminals with sophisticated weaponry.

    Weapons safety and fire hazard management in WW2 was a joke. You can see guys in publicity films, inlcuding officers, with SMG muzzles pointed carelessly at each other. Some officers were liberal about letting the troops carry pistols and this led to accidents. Paratroopers smoked on airplanes in spite of open cargo doors and vapors from high octane aviation fuel.
     
  17. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Good Ol' Boy Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

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    Yes, I have heard such stories, and a purely anecdotal one from a good friend who intentionally chose the Carbine over the the Thompson because "I couldn't run with it" as he deemed the Thompson and additional ammo too heavy. He was going to be manning a .30 MG on a halftrack anyway and didn't need a heavier rifle or other automatic to lug around as a secondary weapon, which was the intent and purpose of the carbine to begin with.
     
  18. WILD DUKW

    WILD DUKW Active Member

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    My apologies to you and everyone else for bothering you all with my various sources and insights on both subjects. I just wanted to point out the deficiencies of these weapons, and based on the overall responses it seems my sources and I were wrong. I'm sure you all know best.
     
  19. Biak

    Biak Adjutant

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    It's not a matter of who's 'right' or who's 'wrong' it's more a matter of civility and discussion. The deficiencies mentioned were not relevant to the item in question, namely a veritable workhorse of not only the Second World War but Korea, Vietnam and numerous Countries from around the World. The M1 Garand could be considered as deficient to the BAR as the BAR could be wholly lacking to oh I don't know, a straffing p47 with 8 .50 caliber Brownings putting down suppression fire on advancing enemy troops.

    As for the carbine same discussion; It was a weapons platform that did it's job. And did it well according to the majority who actually used it in combat.
     
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  20. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    The British liked the Thompson, which was issued on a large scale in North Africa and Italy. Infantry notes from the theatre asbout squad tactics pointedly write about the role of the TMC rather than the SMG in North West Europe. I don't think the British used the M3 officially, though some may have been acquired.

    Re Bayonets: The report of the US Army';s New Weapons Board April 1944 noted that there was little interest in a bayonet for the carbine,(though a combination bayonet and trench knife was requested for North Africa). Soldiers preferred the short bayonet for the M1 andfthat there had been little bayonet fighting in the Italian campaign.
     

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