Why the M1 Rifle Appears to Have Two Barrels!

by Roysclockgun 31. December 2012 16:08
This missive is written primarily for our friends who are new to the love of military surplus firearms:

Two Barrels on a M1 Garand

The bolt action rifles came into being in the late 19th century, about the time of the Franco-Prussian War, circa 1870. Of course, most military leaders jumped at the chance to provide their soldiers more firepower than provided by single load, single shot rifles. The US, however, was slow to embrace a repeater of any kind in the hands of US troops. The thinking was that young soldiers would shoot up their combat load of ammunition too rapidly and without resupply, would be left on the battlefield with an empty, unloaded rifle!

In 1892, the US military finally adopted a bolt action rifle designed by two Norwegians. That design then, was Norway's primary battle rifle. The rifle was designed by Krag and Jorgensen and was forever referred to casually, as the "Krag Rifle". The official designation was, US Springfield Model 1892 Rifle. Later, upgraded by the Model 1894, 1896 and 1898 alterations, which were minor improvements. The Krag has a funny door/box on the right of the receiver, into which could be dropped loose ammo. The cartridges cycled underneath the bolt and when the bolt was operated, came up and were loaded when the bolt was moved forward again.

In 1898 the US went to war with Spain. Most of the States sent Volunteer Militia units, armed with the old Springfield Model 1876-1884 single shot, Trapdoor rifle. Regular Army and Rough Rider troops had the Krag. Both these rifles were inferior to the Mauser Bolt Action Rifle carried by the Spaniards. Spain used the Mauser Model 1893 and 1895 Rifles firing the 7x57mm Mauser Cartridge, having a greater range, muzzle velocity and accuracy than that of the Krag, firing a US 30-40 cartridge. Both out shot the old 45-70 round, used in the Trapdoor Rifle. Only superior training and leadership helped the US ground troops to triumph over the Spaniards in that war.

So, the Span-Am War forced the US military leaders to begin to look at service rifles that would be more effective and at least as good as the German made Mausers.

Paul Mauser had his factory on the Oberndorf River in Germany and would have been happy to sell Mauser Rifles to the US, but the arms makers at Springfield Armory in Mass., were too vain to admit that they had nothing better and yet they wanted to field their own design. In 1903, Springfield made, and the US adopted the US Springfield Model 1903 Rifle. However, this design was so close to Mauser's design, that Mauser sued in the International Court and won, getting a royalty for every US Mod. 1903 Rifle produced. This royalty, however, ended at the beginning of WWI. The Mod. 1903 Rifle was also made at Rock Island Arsenal, in Illinois.

The 1903 Springfield design holds five cartridges. After each shot, the bolt must be operated to eject the spent case and put the next cartridge into battery, ready to be fired by the next pull on the trigger.

When the US entered WWI in 1917, the Brits had already been warring against Germany for over 3 years. The Brits had contracted Winchester and Remington to built their own Mauser design under contract, in the US, being the Pattern 1913 Enfield Rifle, chambered for the British .303cal. cartridge. In 1917, when the Brit. contract was fulfilled the US Military ordered Win. and Rem. to re-chamber the Brit. Enfield Pattern 1913 rifle to chamber the same cartridge, as was then being used in the US Mod. 1903 Rifle. This, being the 30-06 Cartridge (.30cal. adopted in 1906, thus 30-06). So, the US Mod. 1903 Rifle and the US Model 1917 Rifle were both bolt action rifles, having a capacity for five rounds.

During WWI, it was made clear that Infantry troops needed what was then called "walking fire". This being the ability to lay down a high volume of suppressive fire, after going over the top of the trenches to assault over open ground, many times into the enemy's machine gun fire! The bolt action rifles cycled too slow to lay down the "walking fire" required to stifle the enemy's machine guns.

Many rifles were tested and rejected. Finally in 1932, a man named John Garand, who worked at Springfield Armory, had his design tested. That Garand design was adopted in 1936. Therefore, the US was the only nation to go into WWII having a main battle rifle that was a semi-automatic firing rifle. Semi-automatic means that by merely continuing to pull the trigger following each shot, you will load and fire another shot, until the magazine is empty. You need to pull the trigger for each round fired, so the firearm is not fully automatic. On a fully automatic firearm, once the trigger is pulled back and held back, all rounds in the magazine or belt, will fire, until all rounds are expended, or until the firearm overheats and malfunctions. This, as with the Thompson sub-machine gun with a long box magazine, or the US Model 1919 Machine gun, using a belt to feed cartridges. The difference between the Thompson SMG and the Model 1919 MG, is that the Thompson fires a .45 cal. pistol cartridge and is good only at short range, where as the US Model 1919 MG, fires the same round as does the US Mod. 1903 and US M1 Rifle, being the 30-06 Round. The 1919 MG has an effective range of over  a quarter mile.

Some casual observers of the US M1 Rifle, believe that it has two barrels.  What they believe to be the second barrel, on the bottom, is actually the "gas cylinder tube!" This tube or gas cylinder tube, is what causes the US M1 Rifle to be semi-automatic and fire as a repeater. By simply again pulling the trigger after each round fires, instead of manually working a bolt, the expended case is ejected up and away from the receiver and the next round in the magazine is stripped off and pushed into battery. The propellant gases, which push the bullet down and out of the bore, are leeched off in order to provide power to cycle the rifles action. Thus, the gases coming out of a hole on the underside of the barrel, are driving back the operating rod, the handle of which is seen on the right side of the M1 Rifle. This action drives back the bolt, ejects the spent round and when the spring loaded bolt slams back into battery, it strips off the next round, from the magazine and pushes that round into the chamber. The Bolt then rotates to the right and locks the action to safely fire a round. When the next round is fired, the rearward movement of the op rod, again unlocks the bolt and begins again the cycle.

Three models, the US Model 1903 Rifle, US Model 1903A3 Rifle and the US Model 1 Rifle, all were in used during WWII. The US Model 1 Rifle was more widely used in all theaters of war, during WWII. By late 1942, the US was catching up with need for the main battle rifle, being the M1 Rifle and the 1903 rifles were relegated to second echelon use and used within the Continental US to guard docks, motor pools, etc. The US 03A3 was only slightly modified to become the US 03A4, mounted with a weak scope and pressed into action at the US sniper rifle. At the very end WWII, the M1 Rifle was modified and mounted also with a weak scope to become the M1C Sniper Rifle. The Japanese, Germans and Russians all had sniper rifles used in their military organizations prior to WWII. The US was again slow to realize the battlefield necessity for a sniper rifle. Many German snipers used civilian hunting rifles for sniper work. A good number of these had, for that day, superior optics and accuracy, when up against Soviet or US snipers.

When the US Model 14 Rifle was adopted in 1957, the US M1 Rifles in service continued to serve in the US Military and military armies of US allies for many years.

Steven L. Ashe

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