Monday, October 8, 2012
Birth Of A Weapon System by RangerElite
Weapons Development in WWIII 1946
Design Workshop of John C. Garand
Springfield, Massachusetts, USA
John was once again working late in the workshop, but he was not alone tonight. He was joined by Dieudonne Saive and Ernest Vervier, of the Fabriqué National de Herstal, of Belgium, and by Alex Seidel, formerly of DWM-Mauser AG, now employed by the Springfield Armory. They had been busy experimenting with many ways to improve the T46A1 (what they were now calling the American Sturmgewehr) and they think that they've discovered a way that they can make an important change that would revolutionize this rifle and make it far superior to anything that the Soviets can ever produce.
It all started after the initial trials for the T46A1, when one of Garand's contacts at the Royal Small Arms Factory at Enfield, in the U.K., sent him several thousand rounds of their new .280 caliber ammunition, along with the specs for production. Garand subsequently converted a few M1 rifles to fire the round, and was quite impressed with the ballistics coming out the shortened “intermediate” round (as a matter of metric conversion, the case was 20mm shorter than that of the .30-'06). When Garand proposed the idea to Saive, Vervier and Seidel, they got right to work improving the rifle, incorporating the new British round into its design, and building a new prototype for the testing of the the ammunition to be used by the rifle, and testing the living hell out of it, hoping that they can come up with a battle rifle that is fit for mass-manufacture and can survive and operate under any condition.
As the design and further development continued, it was Ernest Vervier (who was also developing a general purpose machine gun, independently from this project, but using the same ammunition to increase interchangeability) who recommended the design of special versions for use by special troops, such as airborne and amphibious troops, and favored of the use of synthetic materials, such as Bakelite, over natural materials, such as wood. Another question that was debated was for special versions, was a folding stock a necessity? The two Belgians believe so, as does the German, but to a lesser degree, so prototypes were made in different configurations. Carbine sized, for use by tank and air crews? How short can the barrel be before it adversely affects accuracy and range? Soon, there were all sorts of ideas were being knocked around, from full-caliber machine pistols to extended-barreled squad automatic weapons, and every configuration in between, making selection of the best models for a particular purpose a difficult proposition, at best, and a nightmare, at worst.
In the end, four weapons derived and developed from the original T46A1 prototype were selected: the base model being a product-improved version of the prototype battle rifle (T46B3 or XM4), in .280 caliber, along with a longer, heavier-barreled squad automatic weapon (T46D4 or XM6) to replace the BAR, shorter-barreled carbine, with a solid stock or a side-folding stock (T46C2/T46C3 or XM7), to replace the M1/M2/M3 carbine system, and a machine pistol (T46G4/T46G7 or XM8) chambered in 9mm or .45 ACP for tank and air crews, replacing the M3 “Grease Gun” submachine gun . They even developed a 30mm grenade-launching weapon (T48A3 or XM9) to install underneath the barrel of the battle rifle, based on a cross between the Walther flare gun and ammunition from the Rheinmetall 30mm aircraft cannon.
Things got much more interesting when they began some of the other weapons experiments, reverse-engineering and redesigning the Fallschirmjägergewehr-42 as a test machine gun, re-chambering it to fire different ammunition and observing the results. Once the final armory prototype was built, it and its drawings were transferred in deep secrecy up to Saco Manufacturing Corporation, in Maine, for finalization and pre-production, before submitting the weapon for range and combat testing. The weapon had an initial test designation of T50E1, but in service, would be classified as the XM5/M5 general-purpose machine gun.
Garand and the other gentlemen present decided that they should submit all the weapons as an entire system, with fully interchangeable parts and ammunition (except for the machine pistols and, obviously, the grenade launcher), and to this end, they would have Alex Seidel enlist the aid of his friends Edmund Heckler and Theodor Koch. They were both colleagues of his from DWM-Mauser, and now advised the Army's Chief Quartermaster, Lieutenant General Levin Hicks Campbell, and the Army's chief of weapon development and procurement, Colonel Rene Studler, and have them convince the two that it was a wise decision to accept these weapons, and the British ammunition, for the U.S. Army, and in doing so, convince the other branches and other militaries to also adopt the system of weapons, making manufacturing the weapons on a mass-production scale highly likely. And perhaps, they could convince Colonel Studler of further developing the under-slung grenade launcher, as the design was still a bit raw, and explosives, not including smokeless gun powder, was not their fortè.
So now was the moment of truth, where they would learn whether or not their weapons would be mass-produced and win the war for NATO, or they would be relegated to the dustbin of history...