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The American FAL that could have been

Isn't it beautiful? The FN T48 rifle in (limited) U.S. Army service, May 1955. (Photo: National Archives)

Isn’t it beautiful? The FN T48 rifle in (limited) U.S. Army service, May 1955. Dig the strapped-down M1 helmet and olive drab fatigues(Photo: National Archives)

Springfield Armory was the nation’s clearing house for rifle designs dating from approving the contracted Model 1795 muskets, through the famous Trapdoor Springfield breechloader to the M1903 (which was more or less an unlicensed copy of the Mauser bolt gun) to the M1 Garand of the 1930s and dozens of prototypes and other rifles in between.

Their last design project to be adopted, the T44 rifle, became the M14, but the route that it took to get there was very complicated.

Competing against theT25/47 design of Earle Harvey (of Springfield Armory), was Garand’s own T20 design tweaked by Springfield’s Lloyd Corbett into the T44.

Soon, the T25/47 was dropped by the wayside and the T65 .30 light rifle cartridge (7.62x51mm) became the choice of the Army moving forward and the T44 would be the gun to use it.

The thing is, the European part of NATO had fallen in love with the Belgian-made FN FAL rifle and it looked like just about everyone except the French and Italians were going to adopt it. In short, a gentleman’s agreement was made in which Europe would adopt the U.S. Army’s T65 7.62x51mm round as the NATO standard, and the U.S. would pick the FN FAL to replace the M1 Garand, M3 Grease gun and M1918 BAR light machine gun.

With that, the Army duly ordered 3,103 7.62x51mm-chambered FAL rifles from Fabrique Nationale d’Armes de Guerre in 1952 and they were imported into the U.S. from Herstal over the next two years.

These rifles, classified as “Rifle, Cal.30 T48 FN” by the Army, were 21-inch four-groove, right-hand twist barrels that taped out to 47.25-inches overall. In addition, a small quantity (200) of FAL Heavy Barrel Rifles (HBAR) with bipods were ordered– which were classified as the T48E1.

All were the standard lightweight, air-cooled, gas-operated, magazine-fed (20-round detachable) design. Though primarily intended for semiautomatic fire, they were select-fire and could stitch it up at a 600rpm cyclic for as long as the ammo held out.

Weight of the standard rifle was 9.43 lbs. empty and 10.2 lbs. with an attached muzzle-mounted rifle grenade launcher for NATO standard M29 (T42) grenades. The heavier T48E1/HBAR, with its hinged butt plate, went 12.43 lbs unloaded, and was intended to be used as a SAW or sorts.

In Jan. 1954, Harrington & Richardson Arms Company, Worcester, Ma, was awarded a contract “for the production of 500 T48 F.N. (Fabrique Nationale) Infantry Rifles required the expansion of activities in the Hand Arms & Equipment Unit. This action was necessary to prepare Ordnance drawings and provide manufacturing information and technical data to the Boston Ordnance District for use in administering the contract.”

H&R company officials visited the Canadian FAL works to observe their operations before they made their limited run.

High Standard Mfg. Co., Hamden, Ct. at the same time made 12 guns, serialed #HS1-#HS12.

This means a total of about 3,815 U.S. and Belgian-made T48s were delivered to the Army between 1952-55.

These guns were evaluated in field tests at Fort Benning, in the Arctic, and the desert.

Caption: Quabbin Pictures Taken of T48. Rifle, Caliber .30, T48 - with Gunner (Majewski) - Firing M29 (T42) Grenade, via National Archives

Caption: Quabbin Pictures Taken of T48. Rifle, Caliber .30, T48 – with Gunner (Majewski) – Firing M29 (T42) Grenade from a “mortared” position, May 1955, via National Archives

T48, Rifle, Caliber .30, T48 - with Gunner - Off-Hand Firing May 1955

Caption: T48, Rifle, Caliber .30, T48 – with Gunner – Off-Hand Firing May 1955. Photo via National Archives

One of the problems was that the original FAL was crap in the desert (which the Israelis found out in their campaign in 1967, leading to the local design and production of the AK/Valmet-based Galil), and another was that it had suffered “early and violent extraction, violent ejection, and broken parts” during testing in the frozen north– though in the end the rifle was determined to be fit for arctic use.

Besides this, the T44 was a tad lighter, had fewer components, and was all-American rather than Belgian, which in the end (IMHO) was the chief reason it was adopted in 1957 as the M14.

This left the American FAL’s out in the cold and they have largely been scrapped over the years.

Springfield Armory has no less than 58 T48 rifles listed in their collection including 28 made by H&R, 5 of the extremely rare High Standard models and 25 assorted Belgian rifles from FN itself, all transferred to the museum between 1959-65 at a value of $150-250 each (the Springfield Armory price for M14s was $155.98 at the time).

Their lot includes FN-made T48E1 SN#1 complete with grenade launcher, at least two different rifles modified to run on .22LR ammo, High Standard SN#1 HS1 and FN T48 SN#2.

Early FN-made T48 SN#2. Photo: Springfield Armory

Early FN-made T48 SN#2. Photo: Springfield Armory, SPAR3673

T48E1 FN FAL HBAR SN#1 in Springfield Armory. Some 200 of these guns were acquired for testing. Note the forearm and bipod

T48E1 FN FAL HBAR SN#1 in Springfield Armory. Some 200 of these guns were acquired for testing. Note the forearm and bipod as well as the “32” rack number. Photo: Springfield Armory, SPAR 3652

FN-made T48 SN#1816 in .22LR caliber-- note thin barrel. Photo: Springfield Armory

FN-made T48 SN#1816 in .22LR caliber– note thin barrel. Photo: Springfield Armory, SPAR 3663

High Standard's first T48 FAL rifle, SN#HS1. Photo: Springfield Armory

High Standard’s first T48 FAL rifle, SN#HS1. Note the different style handguard from the FN guns above. Photo: Springfield Armory, SPAR3683

A great representation of Harrington and Richardson's (H&R's) T48 FAL, this one SN#4538. Note the grenade launcher attachment

A great representation of Harrington and Richardson’s (H&R’s) T48 FAL, this one SN#4538. Note the grenade launcher attachment. It is also one of the few T48s in the SPAR collection to retain a magazine and all of its small parts (sights, sling swivels, etc.– most are missing something) Photo: Springfield Armory, SPAR 3687.

Lucky FN-made T48 SN#13 is on public display with alongside the M14 and T44 (T65E3) SN# 1 with the following exhibit label:

“T48 – Despite American problems with the FN the British adopted the weapon over their own design increasing the pressure in the United States to conform. The Army contracted the High Standard Company of New Haven to produce an American version of the FN, designated the T48.”

Lucky FN T48 SN#13 represents the breed to the public

Lucky FN T48 SN#13, third down, represents the breed to the public. Photo: Springfield Armory.

Other guns are in private collections, public museums and the like, with at least one, H&R SN#4142, in the National Firearms Museum.

H&R SN4142 T48. Dig the beauty of those handguards

H&R SN#4142 T48. Dig the beauty of those handguards

Also, the Marine depot at Quantico as of 2008 had some 70 remaining H&R T48s, as noted in an extensive post here at FAL Files.com

After all, if anyone can appreciate a really nice select-fire 7.62x51mm battle rifle, it’s the USMC.

Captian Ben Grant with one of 70 H&R T48s via FAL Files, 2008

Captian Ben Grant, USMC with one of 70 H&R T48s in Marine Corps storage, photo via FAL Files, 2008

JTF-NCR burning the midnight oil

The 58th Presidential Inauguration Joint Task Force National Capital Region (JTF-NCR) has stood up and has been practicing for the swearing-in event, scheduled for Jan. 20. The task force is under the command of U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Bradley Becker.

As outlined in the below infographic, each of the five military branches– the U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Navy, U.S  Air Force, and U.S. Coast Guard– will have a 180-strong marching company in the parade as well as a 355-member (103 for the Coast Guard) cordon stretched along the parade route.

Each of the four federal service academies will have 90 cadets marching as will the Army and Air National Guards.

Finally, there will be six military premier bands encompassing 550 members and a 2,340-strong combined honor guard primarily drawn from the Army’s 3rd Infantry Regiment– the famous “Old Guard” who are tasked with ceremonial military duties in the Washington Military District such as mounting the guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

58th-president-inaguration

More here.

It’s about time

U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research Development and Engineering Center posted this image last week of a project they are working on to add a cheap solar panel to the average helmet cover.

solar-power-helmet

“As more electronics are integrated into the Soldier ensemble, powering them effectively becomes a challenge. Our researchers are looking into thin, wearable, photovoltaics for the Soldier’s backpack and helmet that could provide as much as 17 watts from exposure to sunlight.”

If 17 watts is enough to trickle charge an iPhone, this will be the the most welcome peice of kit ever, especally at JRTC, Hohenfels and NTC. The Spec4 mafia is already scheming.

Springfield Armory still has 2/3rds of the first M1917 rifles

The 30.06 caliber Model 1917 Enfield was developed from the .303 British Pattern 1914 (P.14) rifle. Currently on the Springfield Armory museum collection, there are two Model 1917 Enfields with Serial #1.

In the above photo, the top rifle was made by Winchester in New Haven, Connecticut, while the bottom rifle was made by Eddystone Arsenal in Chester, Pennsylvania. Approximately 2.2 Million Model 1917 Enfields would be produced between 1917 and 1918, and remain in service through WWII and with overseas American allies to this day (The Danish Sirius Patrol still uses it as the M17/M53 rifle).

The rifles were cranked out extremely fast, with the assembly record being 280 rifles a day for an individual craftsman while the assemblers in the various plants averaged 250 rifles per day per man.

The cost of the Model 1914 Enfield to the British Government was $42.00 each. These modified Enfields cost the United States Government, due to standardization methods, approximately $26.00 each.

Eddystone made 1,181,910 rifles with #1 being SPAR 3191 in the Museum’s collection

Winchester made 465,980 rifles with #1 being SPAR 3192 . It was presented to President Woodrow Wilson on 23 January 1918.

Winchester M1917 SN#1 on the rack at Springfield. Note how blonde the stock is on "Woodrow's" gun

Winchester M1917 SN#1 on the rack at Springfield. Note how blonde the stock is on “Woodrow’s” gun

Unfortunately, Springfield does not have Remington’s M1917 SN#1.

As the company was the first to start production, they likely shipped it right out. The earliest Remington M1917 rifle I can find is serial number of 137, which was likely made the first day of production. This gun is in the National Firearms Museum in Fairfax, Va.

sn-137-remington-m1917-first-day-of-production

 

Lighting it up

Here we see a U.S. Army Anti-aircraft gun battery at, Fort Shafter, Hawaii in 1925 practicing with their then-standard  3-inch M1918 guns (76.2 mm L/40), which was actually based on the old M898 3″/23 caliber gun. These in turn were replaced by the 90mm M1 in the early 1940s. There are only a handful of the old M1918s left as museum pieces.

loc-13974u-anti-aircraft-gun-fort-shafter-hawaii-1925-at-nigh-3-inch
And here we see the British counterpart in the form of a battery of Vickers QF 3.7-inch AA guns in action near Tobruk during a night raid in 1940. Though largely withdrawn from British and Commonwealth use by the early 1960s, there are apparently a few QF 3.7’s still in use on the roof of the world in Nepal.

british-3.7-inch-anti-aircraft-guns-in-action-near-tobruk-during-a-night-raid-1940-loc
Both images via the Library of Congress.

Old school master key

12-gauge-winchester-model-1897-shotgun-this-pump-action-smoothbore-was-reportedly-utilized-by-a-florida-police-department-as-an-entry-weapon-for-raidsHere we see a 12 gauge Winchester Model 1897 shotgun as modified for military service then subsequently whittled down sometime later. This pump-action smoothbore was reportedly utilized by a Florida police department as an entry weapon for raids and is currently in the collection of the National Firearms Museum.

The trench gun, likely passed on after World War II from military stores, is a really well done chop, with the brass buttplate being moved up to the end of the abbreviated stock.

As noted in Canfield’s excellent U.S. Infantry Weapons of World War II, some 20,000 M1917 Trench Guns were ordered during the Great War and as many as 48,000 subsequently modified ’97s during the second, all with the ventilated hand-guard, sling swivels and Enfeld bayonet adapter.

After 1945, with the Army purchasing upwards of 500,000 commercial shotguns of all kinds for training and constabulary use during the conflict, among the first surplused out was the Winchester trench brooms– making them exceedingly rare in original condition today.

The U.S. 1911 GI, Gallery gun edition

Photo and caption: National Firearms Museum

Photo and caption: National Firearms Museum

A common method of training is to shoot a particular model firearm chambered for a smaller cartridge. That way, you get familiar with the platform but do so with less recoil and (generally) cheaper ammo. That was the case with this Springfield Armory 1911 chambered in .22 Long Rifle. One of only 25 made, this example belonged to Major General and NRA Technical Editor Julian Hatcher.

The “U.S. Pistol, Model 1911, Gallery Practice” was designed  by J.H. Carl and developed at the Springfield Armory. It was a mixed model with a specially made Springfield slide and Colt frame. “In 1912 Springfield Armory began work on an adaptation of the .45 caliber weapon to fire .22 caliber cartridges. The object of the government experiments was to develop a gallery practice pistol that would use less expensive .22 caliber cartridges.”
u-s-pistol-model-1911-gallery-practise-2 u-s-pistol-model-1911-gallery-practise

Notes on their use by Hatcher himself:

“The pistols all functioned exceptionally well.
The accuracy compares favorably with pistols of this type previously tested at the Armory.
The following precautions should be observed in using the pistols.
The action, particularly the bolt and recoil rod, should be oiled every 200 rounds.
The action should be brushed out frequently, as residue from the powder and lubricating wax accumulates rapidly.
In loading the magazines, seven rounds only should be loaded; care being taken to see that the last cartridges lays flush with the mouth of the magazine and not down or up.
In charging the chamber, the bolt should be drawn clear to the rear and released suddenly.
The parts of the pistol are all hand made and fitted, and should not be interchanged.” – James L. Hatcher, June 26, 1919.

Springfield has two, SN# 565686 and SN# 499988 — the latter of which had its slide go mysteriously missing sometime after 1960.

Western Rifle Shooters Association

Good luck, Mr. President.

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