The Original M6 Aircrew Survival Rifle

M6-Aircrew-Survival-Rifle-folded

With Chiappa bringing back the overall look of the M6, I thought it prudent to review the original.

Learning from downed pilots during WWII, the U.S. Air Force sought out a simple survival rifle with which to equip their crews in rugged or hostile territory.  While the earlier bolt action M4 worked, it could be cumbersome and awkward to store and use.  A solution was provided by the Ithaca gun company in the form of a light, fold-able combination gun.  This new rifle was evolved from earlier concepts like the “Marble Game Getter.”  It was built to be rugged and weatherproof, made almost entirely of steel and a little plastic.  Loaded by breaking open along the same hinge that folded it for storage, it was a single shot device.

M6-Aircrew-Survival-Rifle-tilt

Two barrels, aligned vertically provided for chambering either a .410 shotgun shell or .22 hornet cartridge.  The latter is a center-fire hunting round that sits somewhere between .22 WMR and .223.  Because the provided cartridges were equipped with soft-point bullets, their use in warfare would be in violation of the Hague Convention.  So, ammunition for the M6 was marked “Under no circumstances is the ammunition to be used for offensive or defensive measures against enemy personnel. This ammunition is provided for use with your emergency survival Rifle for the Killing of Game for food under emergency survival conditions only.”  Nine .22 Hornet cartridges and four .410 shells can be stored inside a hatch in the butt of the M6.  These two ammunition types provided ample ability to hunt a variety of small game or defend against medium sized predators.

M6-Aircrew-Survival-Rifle-left The hammer single action only and had a selector on top to swap between .410 and .22.  While the rear sight is not finely adjustable there are two positions provided, a shorter range leaf for the .410 and longer range aperture for the .22 Hornet.  The trigger is a long squeeze bar on the underside and there is no safety mechanism.  After firing, breaking the action open actuates an ejector to help empty the chambers.

M6-Aircrew-Survival-Rifle-open2

Adopted in 1952, the M6 served into the 1970’s before being replaced.  Because the M6 sports a 14” barrel it falls under Federal SBR laws, however Springfield has produced a civilian version with an 18” barrel, off and on, from the 1970’s.



Othais

Othais is practically useless with modern firearms. That’s OK though, because he specializes in Curio and Relic military pieces and has agreed to decorate The Firearm Blog with a little history. He maintains his own site, C&Rsenal, with the help of his friends and the collector community.


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  • Hrachya H.

    Ian of ForgottenWeapons.com has an awesome video on this gun:

  • Fred Johnson

    Too cool. Thanks.

    When the Chiappa version is available for a review, I would like to know how its foam stock holds up to 12 gauge recoil.

  • HSR47

    Actually, it wouldn’t be an SBR or SBS: It would be an AOW.

    The relevant statute is 26 U.S. Code § 5845(e), and can be found here: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/26/5845

    The relevant text however is the following: “(e) Any other weapon
    The term “any other weapon” means…weapons with combination shotgun and rifle barrels 12 inches or more, less than 18 inches in length, from which only a single discharge can be made from either barrel without manual reloading…”

    Essentially, it falls into an exception made for the Marble Game Getter (and similar).

    • Othais

      Neat, thanks!

  • John

    Would it be a short-barreled rifle or a short-barreled shotgun, since it also has a shotgun barrel under 18″? Or would being both an SBR and an SBS make it an AOW?

    • Ken

      I believe the Marble Game Getter was granted an exemption to be an AOW rather than simultaneously an SBR and SBS. Therefore it only has a $5 tax instead of two $200 ones.

    • Cymond

      I was about to post that. The M-6 is an AOW, not a SBR or SBS.

      “Firearms having combination rifle and shotgun barrels, more than 12 inches but less than 18 inches long from which only a single discharge can be made from either barrel without manual reloading”

  • derfelcadarn

    Doesn’t it strike anyone as ridiculous that in the “rules” for war that thermo-nuclear devices and jellied gasoline are OK but a particular type of rifle ammo is verboten ? I think we as a species are loosing our collective minds.

    • Zachary marrs

      Back when the hauge convention was written, those didn’t exist, but I agree with you

    • Paul Epstein

      Considering that the prohibition on expanding bullets only applies to
      wars between signatory parties, and ceases to apply to any party when a
      group which hasn’t signed it joins in a particular conflict, I think it
      has far too much sway over military behavior. You literally only have to
      have some small proxy country which hasn’t signed it joined in on your
      side, and you can then use hollowpoints as much as you want with no recourse.

      • kyphe

        This is incorrect I believe, from what I know if their are signed parties on either side the prohibition stands regardless of having non signatory parties involved.

        • Paul Epstein

          http://avalon.law.yale.edu/19th_century/dec99-03.asp

          And I quote,

          “The present Declaration is only binding for the Contracting Powers in the case of a war between two or more of them.

          It shall cease to be binding from the time when, in a war between the Contracting Parties, one of the belligerents is joined by a
          non-Contracting Power.”

        • S. Cautela

          Unless you’re SPEC OPS… Then you can use all the expanding ammunition you want while the rest of us are stuck with SS109 which doesn’t yaw like XM193 out of a 1:12 twist barrel.

          • Paladin

            The SPECOPS guys get to use it because they’re engaged in “policing action” or so they say. Technically, there was no need for anyone to limit themselves to FMJ during the invasion/occupation of Afghanistan and Irag, since neither of the two are signatories to the Hague Conventions, and the enemy combatants were by and large not uniformed soldiers.

    • Zach

      What strikes me as ridiculous, is that we never signed on to it. The United States is in no way bound by the ammo restrictions of the Hauge convention.

      • REMF

        HAGUE

    • MR

      Similar to NFA rules, a rifle with a 16″ barrel is fine, but one with a 14.5″ barrel is dangerous and needs to be registered. You can build a pistol out of parts that haven’t been assembled as a rifle, but the same parts turn your pistol into a “weapon made from a rifle” if they have been assembled with a >16″ barrel and buttstock.

  • Unistat76

    I have one of the Springfield 18″ versions in .22LR/.410. It is interesting to shoot. The ergonomics are similar to a lever gun but the trigger takes some getting used to. I found that squeezing with your whole hand isn’t that great. Your strong fingers will be closest to the fulcrum and your pinky will have the farthest travel. Instead, I just place my first two fingers at the end of the trigger and squeeze.

  • HKGuns

    I’ve wanted one of these for a very long time. I just don’t see the value in what they cost these days. I’ll never understand why they stopped producing them as they are a nearly perfect survival / backpacking rifle.

  • DiverEngrSL17K

    Correct me if I am wrong, but didn’t Savage re-introduce the same basic weapon minus the additional “survival” features as the straight-stocked Model 42 Over / Under .22lr or .22WMR + .410 in recent years?

    If this is correct, we have a viable over / under gun smack in our midst that deserves a lot more close attention for what it is.

    • Giolli Joker
    • iksnilol

      True, the Savage model 42 is a combo gun in .22lr or .22 WMR with a .410 barrel. Plus it has a way better trigger than the M6, also better sights. Though it is heavier.

      Personally i have never understood the point of .22 LR over .410. Much better to have a proper drilling with a pair of shotgun barrels and a rifle barrel. Shotgun barrels in 20 gauge, not .410.

      • DiverEngrSL17K

        Good point in your second paragraph. However, I think that the whole idea of matching .22LR with .410 in an over-under combo was to maintain the advantages of light weight and compactness ( of both the gun and ammunition load ) while still providing adequate firepower for the intended role.

  • Blake

    Call me nostalgic but I really like 22 Hornet. Not for everything of course but it’s quiet, cheap to reload, recoils like a rimfire, and is deadly accurate in our CZ-527 (it’s not particularly hard to make a 5 shot group touch eachother @50yds), even with the cheaper Prvi Partizan ammo. It’s also quite versatile:

    http://www.leverguns.com/articles/paco/22hornet.htm

    “For real fun without a lot of noise, take a handful of 24 caliber magnum shot balls, a rifle primer and a 1/4 grain of Bullseye (I put a wisp of Dacron fiber over the powder charge holding it to the primer). These shotgun balls have a hard coating over them and are rated for 1100 fps velocity from scatter guns so this load won’t foul. Squeeze the ball into the mouth of the chamfered case…hand feed them into the chamber. They will go thru a 2X4…so don’t use them in a barn aiming at the roof or a garage wall as a backstop. No louder than a cap gun they are one hole accurate at 25 yards. With just a small pistol magnum primer and a 22 caliber air rifle pellet squeezed into the case, you get the same accuracy, and you can eliminate pests in a barn without worry over holes in the roof.”

    • iksnilol

      Doesn’t .22 hornet use a spitzer bullet? IIRC spitzers and tube mags don’t mix, but a lever action like the BLR or Savage 99 would probably work well.

      • Blake

        Not any more or less so than 30-30 Win does. It depends on the loading of course. But the more common loads e.g. from Prvi Partizan & Remington are soft points or hollow points, which makes sense as 22H is usually used as a varmint cartridge (esp. in areas where noise from anything more powerful is a problem). You would certainly not want to use Hornady’s excellent V-max in a tube mag, but that’s a pretty recent development. Traditionally 22H is soft point round nose.

        http://google.com/search?tbm=isch&q=“22+hornet”+ammo

        Also, unlike other centerfire rifle cartridges for which leverguns are chambered, the 22H has a very mild recoil impulse, so the risk of accidental primer discharge would be low even if one were using pointed bullets in a magazine tube.

        Personally I’d have loved to have a Savage 99 chambered in 22H. ‘Course I’d want one in a deer caliber like .243 Win too :-).

  • supergun

    Folds like a Kel Tec Sub 2000.