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United States Army training film (1945)
Functional models and scenes featuring live weapons are used to illustrate how World War 2 small arms weapons work.
Part 2 of 3: The Types of Operation
Explains four basic types of operation: manual, gas, blowback and recoil.
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Definition of small arms
In international arms control, small arms include revolvers and self-loading pistols, rifles and carbines, assault rifles, submachine guns and light machine guns. In the U.S. military, small arms are “Man portable, individual, and crew-served weapon systems used mainly against personnel and lightly armored or unarmored equipment.”
What Kinds of Small Arms Weapons Did the Americans Use in WWII?
World War II American military officers and non-commissioned officers like sergeants were issued handguns, some of which were revolvers and some were semi-automatic. A revolver carries its bullets in a cylinder that rotates the bullets into firing position. A semi-automatic handgun carries its bullets in a magazine inserted in the lower part of the weapon. Each bullet is moved into firing position by the action of the gases released by the preceding bullet. Caliber measures a bullet’s diameter, so a .45 caliber is .45 inches wide. WWII American handguns fired .45 caliber bullets. Many enlisted men acquired handguns as well.
The standard weapon for the Army and Marines was the rifle, including the Springfield bolt-action rifle; the semi-automatic Model 1, or M1, Garand; and the lightweight M1 carbine – all .30 caliber weapons. The bolt-action rifle advances its bullets into firing position with a handle action that must be manipulated after each shot. It is the sniper weapon of choice, but was complex to operate under fire for the average infantryman and could shoot only one round at a time. The semi-automatic M1 Garand was simpler, and its 15-round magazine could produce a hail of bullets. The shorter, lighter weight M1 carbine was issued to support units. It was produced with 15- or 30-round versions, and was manufactured by a variety of companies, proving that it was as easy to manufacture as it was to fire.
While the M1 Garand and the M1 Carbine had rapid-fire capabilities, the military’s original fully automatic weapon was the Thompson submachine gun. Nicknamed the “Tommy gun,” it was capable of delivering 500 rounds per minute from its 50- or 100-round magazines. The M3A1 automatic was a short-barreled, lightweight .45 caliber weapon affectionately known as the “grease gun” because of its resemblance to the automotive garage implement. The Browning automatic rifle, or B.A.R., used .30 caliber armor-piercing rounds. It weighed about 40 pounds, so one or two were used by a squad of eight to 24 men. The .50 caliber Browning Model 2 was suitable for mounting on tanks and aircraft.
List of small arms used by the United States of America during World War II
Rifles (Standard Issue):
M1903 Springfield rifle, M1 Garand rifle, M1917 Enfield rifle, M1941 Johnson, M1 and M1A1 carbine.
Winchester M1897 Trench Gun, Winchester M12, Browning Auto-5, Winchester Model 21, Remington 31, Ithaca 37.
Browning M1917A1, Browning M1919A4/A6 and family, B.A.R. (.30-’06), M1941 Johnson Light Machine Gun (LMG), Browning M2HB.
M3/A1 ‘Grease Gun’ (.45 ACP / 9 mm Parabellum), Thompson submachine gun (.45 ACP), M50/55 Reising (.45 ACP), M42 (UD42) (9mm Parabellum), M2 ‘Hyde’ (.45 ACP).
How WW2 Small Arms Weapons Work | PART 2 of 3 | US Army Training Film | 1945