Welcome to the WWII Forums! Log in or Sign up to interact with the community.

Shooting qualities etc of WWII-era small arms

Discussion in 'Small Arms and Edged Weapons' started by Terry D, Dec 5, 2015.

  1. Terry D

    Terry D Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2015
    Messages:
    595
    Likes Received:
    259
    Location:
    Huerta, California
    I am working on some fiction set in the 1950s and late 1940s. My protagonist is a police officer and (later a) private detective in New York. She seldom shoots suspects but she does like to shoot and she has quite a few pieces. I am not sure which weapons would be best, but I have narrowed down the list. I have done a lot of research on them, but I am interested in the opinions and experience of those who use firearms more than I do and in particular on those who have fired any of the weapons in question. Any and all thoughts are welcome, but I am particularly interested in shooting qualities: accuracy, controllability, reliability, how well or poorly a weapon fit the hand or shoulder, loudness, ejection, recoil, trigger pull, sights and sight picture, performance with different ammuntion, etc. Thoughts from active or former peace officers would help too.

    The weapons are WWII era, which means that most were in some sort of military use during the war. Others were not, but were common enough in police and civil hands and dated in manufacture from mid-1920s to early 1950s and thus belonged to roughly the same period in the history of firearms.

    Anyway, here are the weapons I am considering:

    1. Remington .41 Derringer
    2. Hi-Standard .22 HD-M automatic (probably 4.5 in bbl, possibly silenced)
    3. Beretta 418 .25 automatic
    4. Colt M1908 .380 automatic (Pocket Model, Model M, etc)
    5. FN Browning M1910 .380 automatic
    6. Savage M1917 .380 automatic
    7. Mauser C96 M1930 automatic in 7.63mm (5.5 in bbl)
    8. Star Model A automatic in 7.63mm (standard 5 in bbl, not the 7 in carbine version)
    9. Colt Super automatic, .38 Super
    10. Colt Pocket Positive, .32 S&W Long (2.5 in bbl)
    11. H&R Defender, 38 S&W (standard 4 in bbl, made for defense contract in WWII)
    12. S&W Hammerless Lemon Squeezer, .38 S&W (2 in bbl)
    13. Colt Detective Special, .38 Special (2 in bbl)
    14. S&W Centennial, .38 Special (2 in bbl)
    15. Colt Police Positive Special, .38 Special (4 in bbl)
    16. Colt Commando, .38 Special (wartime version of Official Police, 4 in bbl)
    17. S&W Heavy Duty, .38/44 (5 in bbl)
    18. Colt Army Special, .41 Long Colt (late production, 4.5 or 5 in bbl)
    19. Spanish Old Pattern revolver, .455 Webley (probably Orbea, made for British in WWI)
    20. Stevens M311 shotgun, 12 gauge (18.25 in bbl)
    21. Winchester M1897TR shotgun, 12 gauge (20 in bbl trench version, WWII manufacture with take-down feature)
    22. Savage M720R shotgun, 12 gauge (20 in bbl riot gun, WWII manufacture for US Ordnance)
    23. Winchester M1907 carbine, .351 Winchester
    24. US M1 carbine, .30 carbine (late version with second type of rear sight, bayonet lug, etc)
    25. Enfield M1917 rifle, .30-06 (possibly drilled to take Winchester A5 telescopic sight)
    26. Winchester M1895 rifle, .303 carbine version (22 in bbl)
    27. M1C Garand rifle, 30-06 (used with scope and without)
    28. Remington M81 rifle, .35 Remington (Police Special version with large magazine, etc)
    29. US M3 Submachine Gun, .45 ACP (maybe has a 9mm conversion kit too, not sure)
    30. Colt R75 Browning Automatic Rifle, .30-06 (commercial version with prong bipod, pistol grip, cooling fins, etc. May opt for the Dutch R75A with quick change bbl)

    So, there you have it. Fire away, I appreciate all comments.
     
  2. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2003
    Messages:
    5,945
    Likes Received:
    763
    Location:
    Phoenix Arizona
    I don't think there's any really significant difference between the pistols in accuracy out to say 25 yards, which is about the realistic distance you could use on other than on a shooting range. There is considerable difference in stopping power, ease of use, and reliability. Revolvers won't jam. If they misfire, you simply pull the trigger again. But, you have to keep count on your shots.

    The M1 carbine is something of a unique piece for the period. It's really more of a small rifle with a pistol cartridge than a typical carbine. In terms of stopping power it's limited. But, it also gives you 100 to 200 yards of accurate range versus the 25 or so with actual pistols.

    The M3 "Grease gun" is a little difficult to control on bursts. The 9mm version is very rare with only a few thousand manufactured and rarely used. Production quality varies some and the gun is designed as a "throw away" in that it wasn't made where it could be disassembled and repaired. The M3A1 is a bit better in that respect. Accuracy is so-so compared to contemporary SMGs. The biggest issue with it is jamming from the magazine feed, an issue that was never corrected in its design.
     
    Terry D likes this.
  3. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2012
    Messages:
    6,329
    Likes Received:
    1,706
    Location:
    The Arid Zone
    Are these all weapons she would use in her work, or some that are only sporting guns that she happens to own? The reason I ask is that some, like the C96, are really too large for a cop to carry, and others in .22 or .25 would only be considered a concealed back-up by a gun-savvy person.

    As for long guns, the Remington Model 81 is something you'd expect a cop to have. The FBI and many, many police agencies used them.

    I would add a military version of the Winchester Model 12. They had a short barrel, a heat shield, and were absolutely the slickest pump action of the period - or any period.
     
    Terry D likes this.
  4. Terry D

    Terry D Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2015
    Messages:
    595
    Likes Received:
    259
    Location:
    Huerta, California
    Thanks for the comments. The weapons are a mix. She knows that one weapon does not fit all situations, which partly explains the eclecticism. I don't think she carries the bigger handguns that often, except when she's pretty sure she'll need the extra oomph. She has the little pieces as back-ups and for use in situations where a small weapon is the only one she can carry. The .25 was a popular ladies' caliber in those days, so she could have one in her pocketbook without attracting a lot of attention. She relies mostly on snubbies or mid-sized patrolman's guns in the .38 range, as I think most cops did then. She has some things just because she likes them. I think the C96 may be a war souvenir (she was in the WAC during the war). A few foreign pieces aside, though, she sticks mostly to well-known American brands for which parts and ammo would be readily available. A lot of them are pretty common midcentury cop guns, like the Police Positive Special, Detective Special, Winchester 1907, and the Remington 81. She hunts with the Garand and the Enfield. As for the Winchester M12, she has a 97. I think she is familiar with it from the army, and plenty of 97s were in police use postwar. If you've shot any of these things I'd like to hear of your experiences with them.
     
  5. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2003
    Messages:
    5,945
    Likes Received:
    763
    Location:
    Phoenix Arizona
    Police in the 40's and 50's usually carry revolvers, not automatics. Most are 6 round although that can vary some. Reloading is usually done without "speed loaders" but rather fingering the loose rounds two at a time into the cylinder. Note, it's often easier for a left handed person to load a revolver than a right handed one... I know, I'm left handed.

    For a woman using any of the above, you should also remember the size of the weapon and her size. For example, most women would find an M1 Garand a bulky and heavy weapon to try and manage. The M1 carbine would be far handier being more compact. The big 40 caliber + pistols would also be a real handful to use. They recoil harder, are larger making getting a good grip on one harder with small hands, and are heavier to haul around.
     
  6. Terry D

    Terry D Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2015
    Messages:
    595
    Likes Received:
    259
    Location:
    Huerta, California
    She is quite a tall woman (six foot) with hands in proportion. She likes revolvers, like most cops of that time, but if you look in firearms catalogues of the era aimed at peace officers you will also see .380 and .38 Super calibers and weapons chambering them listed as well. Having been in the army and Europe she is more familiar and comfortable with autos than some other cops.
     
  7. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2003
    Messages:
    5,945
    Likes Received:
    763
    Location:
    Phoenix Arizona
    I'd say the most common police pistol of the period was something firing .38 Special with wad cutters (ie., flat nosed all lead round). That would be a department issue thing. The department she works for might not allow carry of some "personal" or one off weapon.
     
  8. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2012
    Messages:
    6,329
    Likes Received:
    1,706
    Location:
    The Arid Zone
    I've shot many of them. The reason I mentioned the M12 vs the 97, is that the latter has a much rougher pump action, which I think may be due to the extra force of cocking the hammer, and it's generally clunkier and less ergonomic than the Model 12. For example, back in the days of my vagrant yoot, you'd never see anyone shooting clays with a 97 even though there were plenty around - they weren't collectible yet. Everyone used a double or Model 12. Also, for reasons which are inexplicable to me, the 97 has more felt recoil.

    Most of those military rifles in 30(ish) caliber have similar handling and recoil. All of them have two stage triggers - for long range you sort of pull back through the first stage, feel more resistance and hold there until you have perfect sight alignment and then pull through for a precise shot. If going for volume or at closer ranges, you simply pull straight through in one long pull.

    The bolt actions differ in that the Enfield has a cock on closing action, while the others cock as the bolt comes back. Properly trained, you never break you sight picture while cocking and because you simply slap the bolt forward (a simpler and more ergonomic movement than pulling it back, especially against the resistance of the cocking action), an Enfield is faster to fire than other bolt actions - you just slap the bolt through the cocking action. A trained shooter might get five aimed rounds off with an Enfield in the time someone with another bolt rifle might get 3 or 4.

    The .380 autos are all blow back, and because of that give a very abrupt slap in the palm when you shoot. They just feel different than the larger locked breech or delayed breech actions of larger pistols which spread out the recoil. Just worth mentioning since you are striving for accuracy.

    The Hi Standard .22 was a great pistol with a trigger you'd only see on match guns today. Very reliable, very accurate. I'd only add that when you write there is no such thing as a true silencer. You still get a soft "pop" rather than the "phhhttt" that you hear on TV. And the noise of the slide coming back and forth makes a metallic clank. You'd also get the clink, clink, clink of the spent brass if shot on pavement.

    I would also point out that all the .38 Specials used a 158 grain lead round nose at about 800 fps - less in the snubbies. They had a terrible reputation as killing rounds and that's why the .357 mag was so eagerly adopted during that time. A savvy cop with a .38 shot the lead wadcutters used for target practice rather than the round noses. The flat face created a bigger temporary wound cavity (though they didn't use terms like that, then) then tended to yaw and spin damaging more tissue than the round noses which just kind of aerodynamically sailed through the tissue without doing much damage to anything on either side of the actual track.
     
  9. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2003
    Messages:
    5,945
    Likes Received:
    763
    Location:
    Phoenix Arizona
    The only issue rifle I really found to be a loser is the 7.7mm Type 99 Arisaka. That thing is just a POS. The bolt action is stiff and difficult to operate. If you have the dust shield over the breech it rattles and gets in the way of ejection leading to jams. The safety is difficult to operate and I'm not certain it is 100% safe even when engaged. The rifle is long and cumbersome, particularly with the monopod and such attached. It's not particularly accurate and the sights are nothing to write home about.
     
  10. Terry D

    Terry D Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2015
    Messages:
    595
    Likes Received:
    259
    Location:
    Huerta, California
    Very good comments, thanks. These little details are what make a story credible.

    1. Yes, I know that silencers of that period were not really silent--"suppressor" is, I guess, a more accurate term. The HD-M was used in WWII for close range assasination work by the OSS and SOE and postwar by the CIA. I think Francis Gary Powers had one in the U-2.

    2. As to ammunition, you might be interested in this: http://cartridgecollectors.org/content/catalogs/WESTERN/WCC-1954-2%20Jan-Law%20Enforcement%20Catalog.pdf . It gives a good idea of the kind of stuff that was available to and popular with peace officers at the time. There was a .38 Special round called Super Police (Colt, I think) with a 200 grain bullet. My character does indeed rely on wadcutters for the .38 Special. I don't know exactly when the first commercial hollow points hit the market, but they aren't mentioned in the major ammo catalogues I've seen from that era. She may have someone to cut dudums for her, but I can't even guess at the ballistics on those. So 200 grain and wadcutters it is.

    3. The Enfield was a very underrated rifle. A little heavy and awkward and I guess for shooters of the early 20th C the turned down bolt took some getting used to, but it was rugged, fast-firing, and very very accurate. It did a fine job in two world wars (ask Sergeant York) but it gets overlooked. I may put a Win A5 scope on it but I am wondering if you'd have to take the rear iron sight off to mount it--also just how hard or easy it was to remove the scope.

    4. Your comments about yaw and spin etc may explain why she is interested in the 7.63mm weapons. I have heard and read that the light 7.63mm bullet tumbled a lot and made a mess once it got inside.US forces supposedly discovered this when they encountered the Soviet PPSH 41 in Korea.

    5. As to the odd calibers...it is quite true that the NYPD insisted on officers using weapons firing standard calibers. The NYPD had two of these, the .32 S&W Long for policewomen and .38 Special for male cops. As my character gets on detectives after a while, I presume that she finagle the bagel to use the .38 Special as well as (or in preference to) the .32. After she goes into private business, she has more latitude in what she can carry.
     
  11. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2012
    Messages:
    6,329
    Likes Received:
    1,706
    Location:
    The Arid Zone
    Terry, one rifle I'd add to the list is the Lee-Enfield No 5, MK I. This was nicknamed the "Jungle Carbine" and was just the coolest bolt rifle from that period. They only weighed about 7 pounds (only two pounds more than an M1 Carbine, but with a far more lethal round and greater range). They shortened the Lee-Enfield barrel to 18 inches and added a conical flash hider on the end. I think it may have been the only common military rifle with that flash hider, so you could shoot at night and the only person seeing the flash would be the guy directly in front of it with a .303 sized hole in his chest. They even made lightening cuts in the receiver to reduce the weight more. And like any Lee-Enfield that cock-on-closing action meant a trained shooter could get rounds off quicker than other bolt rifles, and since it had the standard Lee-Enfield ten round mag, you had twice as many rounds as other bolt rifles.

    Since your protagonist is really a gun aficionado, she'd want this rifle. They had a reputation for having a "wandering zero" because metal taken out of the receiver made it less "stiff' than the standard Lee-Enfield, but that loss of accuracy didn't mean anything in the real world. You could still shoot a man through the torso well beyond 300 yards, you just wouldn't use it a a match rifle.
     
  12. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2012
    Messages:
    6,329
    Likes Received:
    1,706
    Location:
    The Arid Zone
    I get an error message there.

    Duh! I was thinking Lee-Enfield. I did own a M1917 Enfield at one time - 25 years ago? Mine was sporterized into a 30 caliber Swedish magnum of some kind, probably a .308 Norma Magnum - not sure anymore. That happened to a lot of M1917 rifles, especially in Alaska where everyone wanted heavy hitters. M1917s were dirt cheap and since the receiver was extremely strong you could just bore out the chamber, do some work on the bolt and mag well and you had a magnum for a fraction of the cost of buying a Weatherby. It's too bad looking back, because that sporterizing craze back in the day spoiled a lot of military collectibles. I bought mine used from somebody for a moose hunt which never came off. I shot it quite a bit at the range but never hunted with it. For some reason they had mounted the scope offset, if you know what I mean - iron sights on top, and the scope canted off to the left with some antique mount. I don't remeber what happened to it, I suppose I traded it off in some deal.
     
  13. Takao

    Takao Ace

    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2010
    Messages:
    9,491
    Likes Received:
    2,245
    Location:
    Reading, PA
    Correct link: http://cartridgecollectors.org/content/catalogs/WESTERN/WCC-1954-2%20Jan-Law%20Enforcement%20Catalog.pdf

    Looks like it Terry did not have enough blank spaces between the address and his typing, so the computer took the rest of his sentence as part of the web address.

    This was considered part of the address

     
  14. Terry D

    Terry D Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2015
    Messages:
    595
    Likes Received:
    259
    Location:
    Huerta, California
    Thanks Takao.

    Yes, my protagonist relies on wadcutters and the 200 grain bullet (Super Police) for the .38 Special. I don't know when the first commercial hollow points became available, but you don't see them in the catalogues of the big ammo companies in the 50s. One can always cut dum dums, but I have no idea what the ballistics on such rounds would be. The wadcutters in the ammo catalogues do have some data.
     
  15. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2003
    Messages:
    5,945
    Likes Received:
    763
    Location:
    Phoenix Arizona
    With shotguns the nasty round of the 40's and 50's was the cut shell. These don't work well in a pump but are fine in a break block type single or double barrel. They are made by cutting the outer shell just below the wad until it is just hanging by a small part you didn't cut.

    Fired, the whole shell goes down range where when it impacts the target it comes apart like a shrapnel shell. It is part slug in a time where slug rounds for shotguns were rare, part canister round.

    There are a number of youtube videos on this subject. This is a common practice with moonshiners and the like when using shotguns. You can take even a .410 "Lady's" shotgun and turn it into a real killer with these.
     
  16. Takao

    Takao Ace

    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2010
    Messages:
    9,491
    Likes Received:
    2,245
    Location:
    Reading, PA
    IIRC, the first commercially successful was Super-Vel back in the 60's, others before had tried but there were always problems. But, the concept had been around for some time.

    Hand-reloaders would also load hollow base wadcutters upside down for the same effect.
     
  17. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2012
    Messages:
    6,329
    Likes Received:
    1,706
    Location:
    The Arid Zone
    T.A. mentions something very interesting with cut shells. You could indeed use them in a pump. It was paper cartridges back then and the trick was to carefully cut all the way around with a razor, but just shy of penetrating all the way through. We used to do that all the time as kids, but not for hunting, just for fun. The shell would feed through the action without falling apart, then when shot the whole paper cylinder full of shot would fly out and make a mess of whatever it hit. I recall hitting small trees and rotten stumps and things like that - very impressive!

    Today they sell fragmenting bullets for handguns and they're just deadly as hell. Imagine a fragmenting slug ten or twenty times that size hitting somebody at the same velocity - that's a cut shell.
     
  18. Terry D

    Terry D Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2015
    Messages:
    595
    Likes Received:
    259
    Location:
    Huerta, California
    I had considered a Lee-Enfield, actually, but I don't think they were that readily available to American shooters at that point. My woman already has a few unusual pieces, and I didn't want to give her too many of those. The old M1917, on the other hand, was pretty common here before people started vandalizing them into sporters. Lever actions were also pretty common among US peace officers, especially rural ones, so I opted for a Winchester 1895 carbine. This was less common than the Winchester 94 but a fair number were in law enforcement use in .30-06 or the old .30-40 Krag. There appear to have been some occasional feed problems with the .30-06 in the 95. The .303 fed smoothly in it, though, and was more powerful than the .30-40. Winny 95s in .303 were quite popular in Canada, and were used by some lawmen up there. The only real drawback to it was the lack of a clip feed, though that same objection applies to the 94. (Of all the 95's, only the 7.62mmR Russian musket had a clip.) My woman may have some Lee-Enfield five round chargers. You couldn't feed those in a 95, of course, but for quicker reload it may at least be better than carrying the rounds loose.
     
  19. Terry D

    Terry D Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2015
    Messages:
    595
    Likes Received:
    259
    Location:
    Huerta, California
    Good point from both of you on the cut shells. She has a Stevens 311 double cut short, and those would work in it.
     
  20. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2012
    Messages:
    6,329
    Likes Received:
    1,706
    Location:
    The Arid Zone
    I don't think a Lee-Enfield Jungle carbine would be unusual in that period. They made 250,000 of them.

    Even though your gal is a tall strong woman, people who carry rifles tend to gravitate to shorter, lighter rifles. Back when I was a kid you could get a Garand for cheap, but almost nobody used them for hunting. They bought a bolt rifle in 30.06 or a lever gun in .30/30 because they're handier and lighter.

    The Winchester 95 is a particularly awkward rifle to carry around - it's heavy and the point of balance is right on that steel magazine ahead of the trigger - and that mag is both thin and slanted so the rifle is never balanced when carried. That's first thing you notice when you pick one up. I guess you might have to carry one around for a while to get my meaning, but that's why they were never popular. Winchester was trying to make a lever gun with a box mag so you could shoot spitzer bullets (which you can't in a tube mag), but it was kind of a failure and people preferred bolt rifles in those calibers.

    I'm just shooting ideas around, some of which might not be apparent unless you've handled the weapons. If she likes that 95, well then give it to her, just point out that idiosyncrasy about the rifle.
     

Share This Page