Weekly DTIC: An Evaluation of The Winchester LMR

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Forgotten Weapons, an excellent website for the gun history buff, posted a copy of the manual for the Winchester Light Military Rifle back in 2011. The LMR (shown in the title image) is an obscure competitor to the early AR-15, against which it competed several times in the late 1950s. A relative of the highly successful M1 Carbine, the LMR was based on the Carbine’s immediate predecessor, the Williams Carbine, which itself had designed as an alternative to the M1 Carbine.

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The .30 caliber Williams Carbine, upon which the LMR was based. David Marshal Williams designed this carbine based on his earlier rifle, the Winchester G30, as a parallel development to the Winchester carbine that would become the M1, which also used Williams’ now-famous tappet gas system. Image source, uscarbines.com.

The LMR was not unlike the later Ruger Mini-14 in design, though it differed in being far lighter (even lighter – at 4.9 pounds unloaded – than its cousin the M1 Carbine), and in being chambered for an oddball .22 caliber cartridge, the .224 caliber E2. This round had a very short, stubby 53 gr bullet fired at 3,300 ft/s muzzle velocity, but was otherwise compatible with .223 Remington (at the time .222 Remington Special) chambered weapons. For most tests before 1960, in fact, AR-15s were tested using the E2 cartridge for logistics reasons. It has been speculated that it was the short, easily stabilized bullet of the .224″ cartridge that masked the poor ability of the early AR-15’s 1-in-14″ twist barrel to stabilize the longer 55gr bullet of .223 ammunition in cold weather, until January of 1963, when the 1-in-12″ twist barrels were introduced.

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The .224 E2 cartridge (right) next to an early “.222 Spl” marked cartridge (left; made as a special run of cartridges by Remington to allow the AR-15 to meet USAF penetration requirements at 500 yards, and functionally almost identical to the later .223 Remington commercial cartridge), and a Yugslavian copy of the 5.56mm M196 tracer (center). Image source, iaaforum.org.

The LMR was extensively tested, and found inferior to the AR-15 rifle in most respects. One such evaluation is the subject for today’s article; it was conducted in July of 1958 at Fort Benning, Georgia. Contained in the document are several interesting results, such as the Winchester LMR proving more accurate in semiautomatic and fully automatic fire both than the M14, but also somewhat less reliable and less resistant to the environment.

In the end, two major problems spelled the end of the Winchester rifle: In their mad rush for lighter weight, the Winchester engineers created a rifle that was fragile to handle (in particular, the handguard and trigger housing are cited as breaking with hard use), and the stubby bullet of the .224″ cartridge produced undesirable velocity loss over distance. The AR-15, which proved more reliable, less susceptible to parts breakage, and which possessed superior ballistics, continued in its development, eventually becoming the standard issue M16 rifle of the US Army.



Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He can be reached via email at nathaniel.f@staff.thefirearmblog.com.


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  • Limonata

    If Remington had a clue and could be trusted not screw it up like they did the R51, it would seem that they could fix the faults of LMR and sell an AR alternative that would sell well especially in AR ban states. At this point they have bungled their reputation that it seem impossible and impractical

    • echelon

      This gun was made by Winchester…or were you hypothesizing that Remington would make a copy of it?

      • bucherm

        Why couldn’t they? Any Patents for it have long expired.

        • echelon

          I understand. They could. I just didn’t understand why it would necessarily be Remington. Everything they touch now that they are a big corporate behemoth turns to feces.

    • Don’t you think the Ruger Mini 14 closely approximates this? Granted, it’s not as light…

      • BeGe1

        Not really. Because the LMR proved more accurate than the even the m14, a rifle that is considered a fairly accurate rifle in its own right.

        If the mini-14 were an accurate rifle as a rule instead of as an occasional exception to the rule, it would be a considerably more popular rifle (like possibly in the same arena as AR-15 popular). As it is, inaccurate rifles just aren’t interesting to most people. Hench the mini-14 is just a blip on the radar compared to the AR-15.

        • While match M14s can be made plenty accurate by a skilled (and overworked) smith, production M14s were not particularly accurate. Read the document to see, they were getting something like 5 MOA out of them.

          • Jim

            Funny the M14 EBR/M14EBR-RIs we received and used in combat had an average accuracy rate of Averaging 0.89 MOA for the first 5000 produced. They still list that as 1.5 MOA but the rifles always out perform that and is accurate for a battle field rifle. They worked just fine and saved many lives. Any properly tuned M14 variant with proper barrel tension etc is accurate enough for combat. I have used M14 variants from the 1980s till I was medically retired in April 2014 and never had a problem with accuracy be it bare sights or optics. Problem with M14s is you have to know what your doing plus trained armorers for this system are not as common as before. I hear all kinds of stuff about many of our combat rifles being inaccurate like the M16A2. Funny how advanced marksman could hit sub 1 MOA with them bare sights at 100 meters. So basically to zero the rifle at 100 meters your hitting a quarter (25 cent piece) sized target area when many claim these rifles shoot 4-6 MOA. Sorry the rifle is not inaccurate compared to battlefield rifles especially the Russian sniper variants used against out troops today.

        • Geodkyt

          The Mini-14 is about what you’d get by the Winchester LMR built in mass production to a price point. IIRC, the LMRs weren’t as accurate as the AR15s. . .

          • Yes, it’s interesting that the M14 has since gotten a reputation for accuracy, because at the time it was not particularly accurate.

          • thebackwoods

            Are you talking about M-14 or mini 14, huge difference there? I have spent a small fortune accurizing a mini 14, finally gave up and now have mainly AR`s in my collection in the semi auto configuration, would love to have the M-14 in my collection though!!

          • I am talking about the M14, as I said.

          • thebackwoods

            I did not know it had accuracy issues at all, then it was already phased out when I came along.

        • Beaumont

          Ruger’s treatment of the Mini-14 still shows the same lack of understanding of the market that Bill Ruger was known for in his latter days. The Mini has long been known for poor accuracy and non-standard, hard-to-find mags. If the company rolled out a version that fed from AR mags, was as accurate as a typical M4gery, for an MSRP of $499 or so, they would sell them by the trainload.

  • funposter

    >the ar15 proved more reliable

    • echelon

      Just what I was thinking. Tell that to the boys who were in ‘Nam…

      • TGM

        The two primary reasons for M16 unreliability issues during early Vietnam war adoption were the ammo was loaded with the wrong type of powder and M16 cleaning kits and PMCS instruction were not being issued regularly.

        • The correct powder was loaded, but some was produced with too high calcium levels.

          • BeGe1

            …which would turn it into being the wrong powder, would it not? 🙂

          • It was a bad lot, not the wrong type of powder.

          • Geodkyt

            Well, that and the shift from IMR to ball powder, in defiance of the designer’s explicit reconmendations. . . but using ball powder, just like they used in 7.62x51mm production, was another cost savings. . .

          • It’s actually a bit more complicated than that. Check out Daniel Watter’s excellent coverage of the matter at The Gun Zone.

        • echelon

          There were more issues than that, but even so it still got people killed. But look – 50+ years later and the thing is ubiquitous.

        • Geodkyt

          Basically, the Army did EXACTLY what Eugene Stoner said NOT to do with the AR15 (ammunition changes, lack of chrome lining to save costs, etc.), failed to issue cleaning kits, failed to promulgate PMCS instructions AT ALL (leading to NCOs saying, “It’s a self cleaning rifle — if you needed a cleaning kit, they’d have issued you one, troop!”), and so forth.

          The M16’s early failures (after a few years of noticeable NON-failures, when it was being troop tested by SF and ARVN troops) were wholly the fault of US Army Ordnance types, not the design. The same Ordnance types who jiggered the tests of EVERY competitor to the M14 and tried to get the whole small caliber program (including the M16) shut down and full reliance on the highly flawed M14 reinstated. (That “highly flawed” is in comparison to the top competition it faced – the FAL and AR15. The M14 is still a pretty good weapon by comparison to most of its contemporaries.)

          • Don’t forget that the decision was made, against the insistence of Stoner and Bill Davis, that M193 should use the greatly inferior Remington projectile (Type A) instead of the vastly superior (ballistically speaking) “Type B” projectile, which had a 17-25% higher BC.

          • Aberdeen determined that the Stoner/Snow projectile would have required a 1-9 or 1-10″ twist barrel for Arctic stability. This was after all of the drama of changing from 1-14″ to 1-12″ twist barrels. If the projectile swap had been seriously investigated before the 1-12″ twist change had been implemented, the Stoner/Snow projectile would have had a better chance of adoption.

          • I feel that a 1-10 twist would have been better anyway, but that is just my opinion.

            Lots of might-have-beens, but when all is said and done, what we ended up with was pretty good.

    • In early tests, the AR-15 was very reliable. It was the demand for the rifle which put a lot of stress on Colt to make as many as possible, combined with the problems in producing M193 ammnition in quantity (including lots produced with too much calcium), and the failure to issue proper cleaning and maintenance materials that led to early operational failures with the rifle.

  • Fred Johnson

    Nice looking carbine. If it had hit the civilian market and been successful, would the Ruger Mini ever have been introduced?

  • Jim_Macklin

    Ruger’s Mini-14 does not use the Williams’ tappet system. There is a fixed piston that enters a movable in a heavy operating rod.
    Ruger’s SR556 and SR762 rifles use a short stroke piston to drive an operating rod.
    Ruger’s old Deerstalker 44 Magnum Carbine also used ashort stroke piston very similar to the M1 Carbine.
    The military wants long range with bullets of high sectional density and ballistic coefficients.
    The 7″ twist will slightly over stabalize the <60 grain .0.224 bullets. But it is a better choice for the all-round 5.56×45 which will be used on deer or long range predator control.

    • I didn’t actually say that it was, though my wording is fairly ambiguous.

      The Mini-14 uses the White gas system, doesn’t it?

  • Don Ward

    It’s a Winchester AND it has an anachronistic wooden stock? I’m in love!

  • Trivia: Note that the test’s Project Officer, Hebert P. Underwood, later ended up on the Project Manager Rifles’ staff and was sent to Vietnam in late 1966 to investigate the reports of malfunctioning XM16E1.