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GUNS Magazine July 2012 Digital Edition - Page 40

The former was sTeeped in The pasT and The laTTer was a sTep inTo The fuTure and boTh see wide-spread use To This daY. Mike “Duke” Venturino Photos: Yvonne Venturino eading about American military rifle development in the 1950s is fascinating. One cannot help but feel that the US Army’s ordnance officers were stuck in time. As so often happened with military thinkers, Americans were planning for the wars just fought—World War II and the Korean War. R Over a decade previously the Germans had pioneered select-fire infantry rifles with their famous “Sturmgewehr” (aka MP43, MP44 and Stg44). Realizing infantry combat mostly occurred at ranges less than 400 meters; German ordnance officers decided a full-size cartridge like their 7.92x57mm was a waste of strategic materials. So they came up with the 7.92x33mm. Instead of a 198-grain bullet traveling in excess of 2,500 fps, they settled on a 125-grain one at about 2,300 fps. The Soviet Union’s ordnance officers quickly saw the benefits of Germany’s enlightenment and followed suit with the AK-47 and its 7.62x39mm, which is perhaps today’s most used military rifle and cartridge worldwide. But in the 1950s, American ordnance officers were still focused on full-power cartridges. In the early years of that decade, they had developed what became known as the 7.62mm NATO round. What they had actually done was compact the famed .30-06’s ballistics into a smaller package, made possible by advances in propellants. Winchester introduced its .308 Winchester in 1952 as a civilian version. 40 After controversial testing against Belgium’s Fabrique Nationale’s (FN) FAL, the government-owned Springfield Armory M14 was picked Duke considers the fully adjustable rear peep sight (above) of the M1A (and M1 Garand) as excellent. The rear peep sight of the AR-10A2 (below) is also fully adjustable and also has two sizes of peep aperture. to replace the M1 Garand as the new American infantry rifle. In truth, the M14 was only a remodeling of the Garand by giving it a 20-round detachable box magazine, flash suppressor, and manufacturing its frame so that all could be given select-fire capability. In the book The Gun, author C.J. Chivers wrote that it seemed as if 1950s American ordnance officers were more concerned with developing a better rifle for target competition than for combat infantrymen. Deliveries of M14s to US Army bases didn’t begin until about 1958, and by that time some private companies had begun to think outside the military’s box. We all know the story of how ArmaLite’s developed into the M16 and began replacing the M14 by about 1965. However, I personally didn’t know that ArmaLite’s first efforts at military rifle making centered on the 7.62mm NATO round in a model named AR10. GUNS Magazine even reported on the company’s efforts as early as the March 1957 issue. Editor Jeff John e-mailed me an article titled “Is This The New GI Rifle?” by Eugene Jaderquist. Reading it was humorous and revealing. Humorous in that George Sullivan, boss at ArmaLite, envisioned American soldiers running into combat spraying bullets from AR-10s, belt fed from dual 250-round packs carried on their backs. Actually, in the just-ended Korean Conflict Chi-Com, soldiers did just that with their PPsh41 submachine guns, but they were carrying a supply of tiny W W W. G U N S M A G A Z I N E . C O M • J U LY 2 0 1 2

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