The .276 Garand That Almost Was, the T3E2

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The US trials that led to the adoption of the first standard issue military selfloading rifle are together one of my favorite parts of small arms history. Recently, Forgotten Weapons’ van Dyked and ponytailed founder and host Ian McCollum got a chance to handle one of my personal “holy grail” firearms, a T3E2 .276 caliber Garand rifle. His excellent video overview (including disassembly) is embedded below, and some further discussion on my part follows that:


Ian cover’s the history of the T3E2 very well, I think, but for those who cannot watch the video, I’ve quoted below the relevant segment from the first of my articles on the post-war Lightweight Rifle program, covering the development of the M1 and the creation, and rejection of the Pedersen rifle and the .276 caliber:

Shortly after the development of the repeating rifle, it became obvious that the next great step in small arms evolution would be a rifle that operated its own action, without the aid of the user. Such a rifle would not only significantly augment the rate of fire of the rifleman, but would also greatly improve his accuracy when making follow up shots (indeed it was this latter characteristic that was generally deemed most desirable). These benefits were recognized in the first decade of the 20th Century by the US Chief of Ordnance, William Crozier, who first undertook the effort of providing US troops with a “self-loading” rifle a year before the repeating M1903 was authorized for manufacture. This project, for better or worse, was throughout its life characterized by the great conservatism of the Army Ordnance Department. The earliest requirements set by the Army for selfloaders were bound within the confines of the bolt-action rifle: Not only did the Army require prospective designs to be operable both as a bolt action and as a single-shot rifle, but they even placed special emphasis on the ability to convert existing Model 1903 rifles to the new selfloading type; this last, of course, being simply too optimistic to be practical.

After the First World War, US requirements relaxed somewhat. In 1923, John D. Pedersen, a renowned firearms designer – one of the few “superstars” to ever exist in the profession – addressed the Ordnance Department with his proposal to design and build for them a .27 caliber selfloading rifle. Pedersen correctly cited that the difficulties that had been encountered in designing a successful selfloading rifle could be substantially alleviated – not to mention benefits in ammunition weight and recoil realized – if the chambering of the rifle was reduced in size from the standard .30 caliber then in service. Pedersen, who was by all accounts just as good a salesman as he was a firearms designer, was one of the few people who could successfully convince US Ordnance of a dramatic measure like this. The US Army’s selfloading rifle program would for the next decade center on Pedersen’s .276 caliber round.

It wasn’t to be, however. Pedersen, too sure of his ability to out-design his competition, would neglect his rifle during its most critical time at the very end of 1929. That year, during one of the last trials of his rifle, he left the United States and the trials behind, and traveled to the United Kingdon to sell his design to the British (who, even so early as the late 1920s, fervently wished not only for a replacement for their aging Lee-Enfield rifles, but also to adopt a common weapon with the United States). As a result, a competing design by one John Cantius Garand won the favor of the US Ordnance Department. Pedersen’s hubris was twofold: He had not only neglected to be present during this trial, which chafed the egos of Army personnel, but by his demand the contract with the Ordnance Department stipulated that he receive royalties for his design should it be produced. The Army had a great incentive to choose Garand’s design over Pedersen’s if the former were found suitable for service.

Pedersen’s vision for a .276 caliber selfloader died shortly after his rifle was rejected; without the influence of the rockstar gun designer, the keystone of the .276 concept had been removed. In a characteristically canny move, Garand had designed his rifle in both .276 and .30 caliber, and because of this the rationale for the smaller round was weakening. Though some holdouts insisted the .30 caliber was superior, many acknowledged the improvement the .276 represented; it simply wasn’t enough to justify such a logistical undertaking, and there were fears of having multiple calibers in service. In the end, conservatism won the day, and Chief of Staff Douglas MacArthur’s rejection of the .276 caliber in 1932 was merely a formalization of a decision that had already been made by the Ordnance Department: The next US rifle would be in the existing .30 caliber.

The United States adopted in 1933 the US rifle, caliber .30, M1, thus making it – for the first time in the nation’s history – the first general adopter of a totally new pattern of infantry weapon. This success would however be short-lived, as already felt in the then-fast-moving small arms world were the undercurrents of further change; the realization of the lightweight fully automatic infantry rifle was just over the horizon.

For those who’d rather an audio-only version of this history, you can also listen to a podcast I did for the Firearms Radio Network with Ryan Michad on the same subject, here. Another writeup of the history is given in the show notes for that episode, as well.

Besides Ian’s excellent historical overview, there are a few other things I can add. The first regards the change from the gas trap system to the gas port arrangement. It’s certainly true that the cooler flowing gas in the bigger volume of a gas trap system tends to create more fouling that builds up and eventually stops a rifle from working, but there was also another consideration that, while not directly indicated, is hinted at in secondary sources. This is that the gas trap mechanism made a poor mount for the infantryman’s bayonet, and that it was found that repeated thrusts with the rifle, such as was common in training, would deform the trap and prevent the gun from working properly. The gas port type system supported the bayonet directly with the metal of the barrel, and therefore would not have this problem to the degree that the gas port rifle would. This isn’t so much a counter-narrative as it is maybe another stone that was uncovered during testing; even as early as the late 1930s there are primary source documents that tell of the gas trap rifles fouling under extended firing, so both, or either, may be true.

A very minor second quibble is that, so far as I can guess, the .276 Pedersen cartridge used in the T3E2 did not have a substantially lower peak chamber pressure than the standard .30 M2 caliber round. The idea that it was lower pressure appears to be based on British testing documents which quote a pressure of 19 tons, or about 43,000 PSI (.30-06 M2 Ball has a maximum peak pressure of about 50,000 PSI). However, the British testing method that was probably used differed significantly from the American one, utilizing the parent firearm itself instead of a standard test rig, and tends to give lower pressure readings as a result. There’s a more in-depth discussion of this subject over at the IAA Forum, linked here.

The third is the idea that the .276 Pedersen, if it had been adopted, would have prevented the adoption of the .223 Remington/5.56x45mm round. I’m venturing deep into speculative territory by saying this, but I have to protest otherwise. The program that led to the .223/5.56 cartridge was essentially a rogue effort, and was primarily concerned with weight reduction. I don’t see how the .276 caliber – which weighs much closer to .30-06 than it does .223 – could have delayed or threatened this program any differently than the post-war .30 Light Rifle (later 7.62 NATO) did. It’s true, certainly, that the AR-15 and its small-caliber, high-velocity round were adopted through a pretty narrow set of circumstances, but I don’t think the adoption of the .276 would have changed them very much.

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A packet of ten rounds of .276 caliber ammunition for the T3E2 Garand. This was not the final configuration of the .276 caliber round, what would have been adopted was the wider .276 T2. Image source: rockislandauction.com

 

One additional fact supporting this is that the .276 caliber round that the T3E2 used, and the .276 caliber that would have eventually been adopted had MacArthur’s edict never happened, were not the same! The round used in the T3E2 Garand rifle was a well-tapered cartridge with a .447″ cartridge base, thinner than the .473″ base of the .30-06 Springfield round. However, this round did not meet the performance specifications desired by the US Army when loaded with every kind of propellant the Army wanted available, and as a result the specification was changed to the larger .276 T2 cartridge, which utilized a modified version of the .30-06’s .473″ case head, with about the same overall length as the previous .276 cartridge (2.85″). This cartridge was about the same size and weight as the more modern 7mm-08 Remington round based on the .308 Winchester (the civilian offshoot of the .30 Light Rifle, which became 7.62 NATO), and it was this larger T2 round that would have been adopted as the .276 caliber, had that come to pass. In other words, had the .30 caliber not won the day, the US would have adopted a round very similar in size, weight, and capability to the later 7.62 NATO. It seems likely to me that had the .276’s adoption gone through, it would have precluded the .30 Light Rifle cartridge program, rather than the .223 caliber project. In this alternate timeline, maybe today the US Army would be using 5.56mm NATO in conjunction with a venerable, well-tapered “7mm NATO” based on the .276 T2!

My personal feeling is that MacArthur and the US Army made the right decision in choosing the .30-06 caliber: The .30-06 M1 was a less effective weapon than the .276 caliber T3E2, certainly, but not by very much – especially once the .276 T2 cartridge had been implemented, as that presumably would have decreased the T3 rifle’s capacity to 8 just like the actual .30-06 M1. Still, I regret that the T3E2 was not adopted; the .276 Garands are all extremely handy, nice rifles that make the .30-06 versions feel ungainly and clunky. I can’t help but feel just a little pang when I think of how if things had been different, how maybe today we’d be buying excellent, soft-shooting little 7mm rifles from the Civilian Marksmanship Program instead!

 

The T3E2 rifle that Ian took a look at in the video is up for auction through Rock Island Auction Company. If you want to bid on it, or just look at the excellent photos of it, you can visit the auction page here.



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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  • datimes

    Very cool gun for a collector. However, I like to shoot my rifles.

    • Ian McCollum

      If I owned it, I would definitely shoot it. 🙂

  • Jay

    Very good video. Ian makes awesome videos.

    I disagree, that it was a good decision to keep the .30-06 for this rifles. The decision came from one single arrogant fool, who, in my opinion, was promoted beyond his competence.
    Every time, you have one man dictate things against the results of extensive testing, bad things happen.

    • I don’t think MacArthur’s edict was a bolt out of the blue, though:

      “In the end, conservatism won the day, and Chief of Staff Douglas MacArthur’s rejection of the .276 caliber in 1932 was merely a formalization of a decision that had already been made by the Ordnance Department: The next US rifle would be in the existing .30 caliber.”

      • ostiariusalpha

        The very same army staff that insisted that the .276 Pedersen wasn’t powerful enough, were also the ones that wanted to keep the .30-06. That’s what you’d call having an agenda. If the .30-06ers had been overruled, their uprated .276 T2 would have been given the boot along with it.

        • I doubt they were the very same between 1932 and 1948.

          • ostiariusalpha

            No, but the 1948 crowd that promoted the T65 were the scions of the .30-06 conservatives of 1932, their philosophy had simply changed bannermen with the new generation.

          • I actually think their thinking was distinct. In the 1930s, Ordnance seemed very happy with the performance of .276, and rejected it on logistical grounds.

            By 1943, Ordnance wanted “not one step back” from .30 M2, while achieving material savings.

          • ostiariusalpha

            If they were so happy with it, they wouldn’t have tried to alter the case dimensions. They wanted an autoloading infantry rifle that could fire the .30-06 from the very beginning, and didn’t like the drop in power of the .276 Pedersen despite its good performance in the trials, the logistics matter was just an excuse. The belt fed guns would have been perfectly fine continuing on as .30-06, separate from the infantry rifles and squad atomatics.

          • “Very happy with the performance of the .276”.

            They altered the case dimensions to allow for a wider variety of propellants, not to increase performance.

            Yes, they did want a rifle that used .30-06 from the beginning, but because of logistical commonality, not because they thought its performance was ideal.

            Do you have any evidence that they didn’t like the drop in performance with the .276? Primary sources to that effect? What the serious scholars on this subject like Bruce Canfield indicate is that by 1932, there were relatively few holdouts on the board who were skeptical about the .276’s performance. What makes you think otherwise?

          • ostiariusalpha

            Yes, more variety of propellants because they were trying to force the .276 Pedersen to be the do-all cartridge (sound familiar?) that they really wanted: the .30-06. If they had reduced the scope of the weapons it was meant to operate in down to just the service rifle and SA, then the propellant issue would have been moot.

          • No. It was because they wanted a wider set of commercial manufacturers to be able to make the .276, which would prove to be an extremely well-founded concern after December of 1941!

            I don’t know what you mean by “SA”, but the .276 was only ever intended to be used in the service rifle. I have never even seen plans for retrofit of M1918 BARs for the cartridge.

          • I suspect that someone would have suggested the conversion if the .276 had been standardized. Clearly, the BAR can be adapted to shorter cartridges. The British adapted at least one for the .280/30, and the US Army experimented with .30 Light Rifle conversions with the T34. I seem to remember Jim Ballou mentioning a 7.62x39mm conversion after his BAR book was released.

        • MichaelZWilliamson

          That, and they were still arguing for their beloved .30 the last time I checked on an “AR15 SUCKS!” thread.

          They just won’t retreat or die.

  • TechnoTriticale

    Based on results (outcome of subsequent war), MacArthur made the correct call. We also need to keep in mind the context (1932, the Depression) and not wanting to waste the inventory of .30-06 (or having to convert any serious number of existing weapons).

    Nonetheless, had the .276P been adopted, it might have avoided the need for the .30 Carbine, and perhaps the .45 ACP SMGs. .276P would have had to co-exist with .30-06, which would have been needed for MG, plus use in existing inventory of BAR and Springfields.

    • ostiariusalpha

      Ideally a new squad automatic would have replaced the M1918 in the stead of the M1918A1. This would have left the stock of .30-06 for use in belt-fed, full-size machine guns. Well, hindsight is 20-20.

      • Where was the money, though?

        • ostiariusalpha

          Well, eliminating this piece of crap probably would have funded all the tooling easy:

          • marathag

            developed thru the M2 to the M5, produced till 1944 when replaced by the M24

            Brazil did some crazy rebuild of their Stuarts, 90mm low pressure cannon and diesel engine in the late ’70s

          • ostiariusalpha

            MacArthur chose the M1 Combat Coffin over the .276 Pedersen. Frankly, he chose wrong.

          • Huh? Why? The M1 Combat Car laid the groundwork for the M2, M3, M5, M7, etc. Sure, it wasn’t the most advanced light tank in the world, but the chassis proved to be excellent and viable throughout the entire war.

            Also, I’d be extremely surprised if you had anything like actual figures to compare the cost of fielding the M1 Combat Car over the difference between the .276 Garand and the .30 Garand. I doubt it was anything close to an “either-or” thing. The .30 Garand was just a much better choice since it used the same ammunition we were already making (I doubt the stockpiles mattered a whole lot, except maybe rhetorically) and was virtually just as ready for service as the T3.

          • ostiariusalpha

            The wonderful chassis is completely irrelevant, Nate. That thing would have been annihilated in serious combat.

          • How is proving a reliable and excellent chassis for a light tank less worthwhile than having a slightly more efficient infantry caliber, even in retrospect?

            Doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

          • ostiariusalpha

            You don’t need 113 vehicles to “prove” a chassis. What the hell are you smoking?

          • How did those 113 chassis negatively impact the war effort to any significant degree?

          • ostiariusalpha

            By giving the standard rifleman 20% less ammo? What do think I’m going to say here, Nate?

          • The standard rifleman would have had 8 rounds per clip either way, because the T2 round had the same base diameter as .30-06. Weren’t you paying attention?

          • What do you have against the M1 Car?

          • ostiariusalpha

            Other than it was a waste of money? That’s a great idea, Nate, let’s build a hundred thin-hulled little tanks, armed with only machineguns, and bad gas-mileage. It should have stayed as a test bed for the M3.

          • We made 113 M1 Combat Cars. We made 25,000 M3/M5 Stuarts and variants based on the same chassis as the M1.

            How was that a waste?

          • tom schwallie

            Indeed. The US government spent very little on tank development in the 1930’s, but fortunately what they spent proved to be useful as the groundwork for the family of vehicles that served the US Army during WW2. In particular, the Continental radial engines and the volute spring suspension and track systems designed by Harry Knox at Rock Island Arsenal would give US tanks a solid automotive basis in the first half of the war. The limited funds spent on vehicles such as the M1 combat car proved to be dollars well spent.

          • Yeah, I absolutely agree. Attacking the T1 Car as being not worth it versus a small infantry caliber advantage is baffling to me.

          • ostiariusalpha

            Because, the M3 is “based” on the M1 CC chassis only in the sense that it succeeded it, they are not the same chassis. The time spent on both the M1 and M2 would have been better invested in an M3-like light tank to start off with. The money saved would have covered the .276 tooling with change to spare.

          • You are absolutely wrong about that. Here’s what Hunnicutt has to say:

            http://i.imgur.com/BzkxlQm.png

            So, basically, the T2 is a T5 (later standardized as M1 Combat Car) with a Vickers-type suspension. They found the Vickers suspension was inferior to what the T5 had, so they changed the T2 to have the T5 volute suspension (which oh by the way would be used all the way through the M3 and M4 Mediums), and redesignated it the T2E1. Then, they standardized it as the M2 Light Tank:

            http://i.imgur.com/ymEfYTj.png

            http://i.imgur.com/rWOv5W7.png

            This is all in Stuart, pages 91-94. So yes, the M1 Combat Car led directly to the M2 Light, which in turn led directly to the M3 Light, and the M5 Light. The same volute suspension was used in the M2 Medium, M3 Medium, and M4 Medium. Note that standardization of the M2A1 Light Tank occurred before the M1 Garand was standardized (but after it was adopted).

            So the M1 Combat Car really did lay the groundwork for US tanks in World War II. But I guess it’s not as cool as a slick little 7mm battle round, is it?

          • ostiariusalpha

            Actually, it very much isn’t slick at all. The M3 didn’t require either the M1 or M2 to prove the vertical volute suspension, they would have been attracted to dumping the leaf spring much sooner because of the heavier armor of the M3. You’re just coming across like you frickin’ hate the .276, Nate, what is your problem?

          • So, basically, you don’t have an argument, I am just a hater?

            It’s always like this. Someone gets some romantic but impractical idea in their head. I point out that it’s impractical. They proceed to try to win the Olympic Gold Medal in argumentative gymnastics by creating a convoluted and highly questionable argument. Then I dismantle that argument.

            And then they call me a hater.

            You’ve been around here quite a bit, and I know you’re no dummy, so what does this look like to you?

          • Also, dude, the Vickers leaf spring suspension was just an experiment. The volute suspension preceded it, like I said.

          • Hopefully this proves to you that I do not hate the .276 caliber:

            http://i.imgur.com/68EloqP.jpg

          • Uniform223

            Sorry if this is further off topic but it is also important to understand what the US Army (at the time) thought what tanks should be and how they should be used. It is my understanding (from what I’ve read and seen) that the US Army saw tanks as another form of fast moving cavalry for scouting and for flanking.

          • Don Ward

            Wait, what? The M1 Combat car which was fielded in 1937 isn’t really any different than the Panzer 1 first fielded by the Wehrmacht in 1934. Both were essentially demonstrator tanks. And the Panzer 1 was used in actual “real” combat. And considering the lack of quality of most German armored vehicles, I’d wager that – pound for pound – the M1 would be a better and more reliable vehicle over its Kraut counterpart.

          • ostiariusalpha

            Don, the fact that the Panzer 1 got massacred pretty regularly in the Spanish Civil War was a large part of the reason that the M1 CC never saw any actual combat.

          • You have yet to demonstrate why you think the 113 M1s that were made were some crime against decency or whatever.

            Nor have you shown that their acceptance had any bearing at all on the .276 Garand. In fact, the M1 Combat Car wasn’t standardized until 1934 or 1935, well after the .30-06 Garand had been selected for production.

          • ostiariusalpha

            You mentioned money, I showed an example of where money was wasted. You don’t think those 113 vehicles were free, do you?

          • The money wasn’t wasted, and the chronology isn’t right. The directive that resulted in the M1 Car wasn’t even given until a whole year after the .30-06 caliber had been set in stone for the M1. In other words, the M1 Combat Car wasn’t even a twinkle in its daddy’s eye when the decision was being made to go with .276 or .30 caliber.

          • ostiariusalpha

            The M1 was very much a twinkle before 1930. Try again.

          • Hunnicutt says otherwise:

            http://i.imgur.com/pMeuaOl.png

          • ostiariusalpha

            Oh, does Hunnicut deny the existence of the Vickers “6-Ton” (1928)? Or Christie’s M1928? The U.S. Army had already shown a great deal of interest in these light tanks, even before 1931, when MacArthur directed that there should be a light tank developed for the use of the cavalry. Try again.

          • Please, none of those tanks have hardly anything to do with the M1 Combat Car, except very tangentially.

            You’ve been grasping for straws ever since I first called you on the M1 Combat Car. This isn’t really a historical discussion at this point, it’s you leaping from one subject to another to try to “prove” me wrong.

          • ostiariusalpha

            It had enough to do with it that they played around with the Vickers’ leaf spring on the T2. The 6-Ton can hardly be denied as the inspiration for where the M1 CC and its thin armor came from, unless you just ignore the general facts.

            It even looks pretty obvious:

          • Yeah, so, who cares?

            Look, you’ve gone from one tenuous connection to another. They could have defunded the M1 Combat Car to pay for the .276 Garand – um, despite the fact that that the M1 Combat Car wasn’t even requested until a year after the Army settled on .30 cal – never mind that!

            And when I point that out, you switch to talking about the Vickers 6-ton, because it “obviously” inspired the M1 Combat Car. So what? What does all this have to do with the T3E2 Garand? The answer is absolutely nothing. We’re way off track, and it’s you who brought us here.

          • ostiariusalpha

            You need to reread your own comments, Nate. Everything I’ve mentioned has been a logical response to your statements.

            1. You said there was no money for manufacturing large quantities of .276, and I pointed out just one example a similar expense that had no practical return till 1942. So, the money was there, like it or not.

            2. You jumped to the defense of said expense like that was some great point of relevance to the discussion. Because, apparently, 113 thin-hulled tanks that were obsolete even before they were made is not a waste of money.

            3. Going nowhere with that silly argument, you dismissed the whole matter with proclamations that the time of the development was a year off from the cancellation of the .276. Though why that matters to the point of how much money the Army had available to it is a mystery, since 1933 was the worst year of the Depression; but what the heck, mini-tanks for the cavalry were so necessary, right? Still, I had to point out that said interest in those mini-tanks actually did precede the cancellation.

            So, now here we are. I can point out other expenses that could have been better spent on the .276 if you like, but we’ll probably just go down the rabbit hole again.

          • The issue of the funding available to the US Army Ordnance Department leading up to WW2 is covered in its official history “The Ordnance Department: Planning Munitions for War.” Free copies are available for download from the Army and other sites.

          • 1. That’s pedantry. It had no practical return in your opinion (in reality, it seems to have had very immediate practical return). I could point to just about any government expense and claim the same thing. And your chronology is still wrong.

            2. Because your criticisms were absurd.

            3. “Interest” being “literally any other tank design you could think of”. Yes, the US Army was interested in tanks. Have you now seriously claimed that they shouldn’t have been interested in tanks?

            You seem to want it both ways – either the ’30s were a cash-strapped time where the Army couldn’t afford to do much of anything (they made those 113 M1 Cars over the course of several years, not exactly a big splurge), or the ’30s were a time riddled with frivolous expenses just waiting to be canned to fund .276 projects.

            Why on Earth would a USA in the middle of the Great Depression even contemplate switching calibers unless they had to? They had no money with which to do so!

          • ostiariusalpha

            1. No, Nate, I said it had no practical return till 1942. Attempting to put words in my mouth is sophistry, try being better than that. And you have to bother citing facts if you want to refute my chronology. Lazy.

            2. This was the “opinion” of the Ordnance Department from studies of armor penetration done in 1938, and observations of Panzer 1 and CV-35 groups being decimated and routed by Soviet T-26 light tanks. Feel free to disagree, since you seem to know better than them.

            3. It is you alone that is trying rather pathetically to distort the facts. Only you are spouting garbage about supposed tight budgets. I pointed out that this was false, the Army could afford frivolous tanks in 1933 during the deepest parts of the Depression, and they certainly could have afforded the .276 Pedersen budget (which would have been stretched out over several years, just the same as your precious Combat Car).

            In fact, as Daniel pointed out to me, the Ordnance Department budget was still strong in 1932 and even went up in 1933:

            1926 – $7,543,802.00
            1927 – $9,549,827.00
            1928 – $12,179,856.00
            1929 – $12,549,877.00
            1930 – $11,858,981.00
            1931 – $12,422,466.00
            1932 – $11,121,567.00
            1933 – $11,588,737.00

            You just don’t have a leg to stand on here, Nathaniel, and you should really stop digging because it’s getting pretty sad.

          • Please don’t take those numbers out of context. That was their entire annual budget. The bulk of the Ordnance Department’s budget would have been dominated by personnel, preservation/maintenance, and facility costs. Then you have the competition between Ordnance’s three operating units: the Field Service, the Industrial Service, and the R&D Service. I seem to remember seeing a break out of how their budget was allocated, but R&D was only a small fraction.

          • There is a discussion of Ordnance’s R&D budget for Fiscal Year 1937 starting on this page:

            http://hdl.handle.net/2027/mdp.39015031821484?urlappend=%3Bseq=230

          • ostiariusalpha

            Actually, it’s fairly clear that R&D was over 11% of the budget in both 1932 & 1933, which is actually a huge chunk for such an organization; in 1934, it was over 17%. Not many private industries can even get away with a budget having that much of their capital devoted to research.

          • I think you’re getting excited and not getting what I’m saying.

            1. You said the M1 Car didn’t pay off until 1942. Well, in the sense that the US didn’t enter the war until late 1941, I guess that’s true. However, in the sense that the US got very valuable experience with an excellent suspension, engine and drivetrain that they would use throughout the war, and got experience development tactics for use with fast tanks like the M1 Car and its progeny, then absolutely not! In fact, one could make a pretty strong argument that the M1 Car was invaluable for this.

            Here are the facts – again – that I’ve been citing all along, showing your chronology doesn’t work: The MacArthur edict selecting .30 caliber came in February 1932, and the official order came on June 1st to discontinue the .276 caliber. You can find that in Canfield’s book The M1 Garand Rifle or in History of Modern U.S. Military Small Arms Ammunition, Volume I, among other places. The project that became the M1 Combat Car was initiated on June 3, 1933, as mentioned above in Hunnicutt’s Stuart.

            2. Yes, I imagine that’s why they took the excellent chassis and turned it into the M2 and M3 Lights, while only making 113 Cars. That doesn’t change the fact that given what they knew at the time (that being 1934, four years before the 1938 report), the M1 Car was a reasonable design, very comparable to the Panzer I, II, and Mark VI.

            3. How does quoting the entire annual budgets for the US Army in the late ’20s and early ’30s prove that there was enough money for programs for new .276 caliber weapons?

            Also, I don’t know if you’re intending to make this argument, but you seem to be saying that the Army shouldn’t have had a tank program at all, and instead used that money to pay for .276 caliber weapon development programs. The only word I can think of to describe that argument is “foolish”!

          • Don Ward

            Yeah. I know. But you’re looking at the game from hindsight rather than what the current situation was. Even the Germans who violated treaty obligations and militarized their economy in the 1930s were still rocking and rolling with a large number of Panzer 1s and Panzer 2s and “acquired” Czech tanks during their invasions of Poland, the Low Countries and France. And even the Panzer 3, which was arguably their most successful tank of the war, wasn’t that high tech of a piece of machinery.

            Considering that in the mid-1930s, the United States was more focused on remaining a maritime power while investing in an Air Corp, the fact that they devoted any attention at all to armored warfare was remarkable given the pecuniary nature of Congress during the Great Depression.

            What I’m trying to say is that everyone was building tanks like the M1 Combat Car in the mid-1930s. The fact that the United States was able to so quickly dash out remarkably effective designs like the M3 Lee and the war-winning M4 Sherman so fast is in part due to the lessons learned by that lovable tin can.

          • ostiariusalpha

            Just because everyone is doing it, doesn’t make it a good idea. 😕

      • Don Ward

        Not sure where to jump in here. But haven’t we already had this conversation before on TFB about 30-06 versus the .276? While the latter might be slightly more capable at fighting for an infantryman in “modern” combat, military thinkers in the 1930s still had to take into account the superior AP ability of the 30-06 for the infantryman defending himself against armored cars, half-tracks and light tanks as well as light fortifications. The 30-06 had a better tracer round (amirite?). Plus the Aught Six was a better horse killin’ round. And the fact that – contrary to myth – World War 1 did not end the days of mounted cavalry and wars in the 1920s and 1930s in Russia, Poland and Mongolia and even into the Eastern Front of World War 2 showed that mounted cavalry was still an effective weapon.

        • ostiariusalpha

          .30-06 AP was never intended for light tanks, and was not going to give any better penetration against most realistic targets than .276 AP. It did have the better tracer, that was only useful on belt fed machine guns, which I’ve pointed out could have remained chambered in .30-06 with little logistical difficulty. Animal testing showed that the two rounds were pretty equal at killing, and troop trials showed that marksmanship with the .276 was superior.

          • Don Ward

            Welp. Time for Karl and Ian of InRange TV to start shooting up pre-World War 2 armored vehicles and live horses to test whether 30-06 or .276 was better at armor penetrating and horse killing!

            No. I kid. We shouldn’t shoot horses. That’s cruel.

            We probably shouldn’t shoot historical armored vehicles either.

          • ostiariusalpha

            Like I mentioned, the Army already did the tests.

          • n0truscotsman

            Yeah one would have to do some research and produce their own close enough variant of face hardened armor typical of early-war tanks and half-tracks for testing.

    • marathag

      Waste?

      Nobody took interwar stocks of 30-06 from Springfield strippers or Browning MG belts to put into fresh M1 clips.

      • TechnoTriticale

        I was just reporting the objection, not endorsing it. Supposedly there were over billion rds of ’06 left over from WWI. If true, I have no idea how they might have been packaged.

        • ostiariusalpha

          In the Garand? None.

        • marathag

          Way back when there was plenty of surplus 30-06 with ’30s headstamps.
          I always thought getting 276 might have done one thing, give an excuse to dump some of that in the Philippines and let the troops there actually train with live ammo.

  • SlowJoeCrow

    While the issue with gas traps and bayonets is an interesting insight into both military thought and unintended consequences, I think I the real reason for dropping gas traps in favor of ported gas system was the realization that the gas trap is an inelegant kludge of a design motivated solely by fear of drilling holes in barrels. The Germans followed the exact same process with their self loading rifles, initially forbidding ported systems but relenting after testing. As an aside the Colt-Gardner “potato digger” appears to be the only successful use of an open gas system.

  • Bob

    I always see these funky concept weapons that didn’t quite make it and I dream of an alternate history video game featuring said weapons as well as a smattering of the rarer real ones and a few of the classics. That was part of what made me happy with the game Deadfall Adventures. Even though most people didn’t like the game, I knew I would as soon as I realized the first mission involved me storming an Egyptian pyramid to shoot mummies and Nazis in the face with a pair of old Webley revolvers. I didn’t even recognize some of the guns in that game and had to look them up, but they were all real as I recall.

    • CS

      EA/DICE did that years ago with a Secret Weapons expansion for Battlefield 1942.

    • n0truscotsman

      That is interesting to think about, isn’t it? If I ever was writing alternative history, Id spend lengthy time over at forgotten weapons (more than what I already do).

      It would have to have the STG45. 😉

  • The_Champ

    One final thought on the caliber choice; WWII showed definitively that there was no nation more capable of dealing with logistics problems like a new caliber than the USA. That said, no one had a crystal ball in the 1930s, and US military(and nation as a whole) of that time was a far far cry from what it evolved into.

  • UCSPanther

    An M1 that is both rebarreled and modified to fire .270 winchester would be as close as you could get to one of these prototypes…

    • A 7mm-08 M1A would be closer in handling and recoil, I think.

    • Surfgun

      Years ago late 80’s, Sprinfield Armory used to sell M-1’s in .270. They also sold M-1A’s in .243.

      • UCSPanther

        I think SA also offered M1As in 7mm-08 as well.

    • gunsandrockets

      In recoil, yeah. But still too long and heavy.

      Instead I like the idea of Beretta BM 59 in .243 Winchester, .260 Remington or 7mm-08.

      • UCSPanther

        A 7mm-08 BM 59 would be an interesting rifle.

  • Ax

    This is a very complex issue for a discussion in a comment thread, but even though your stance on what development would be the most plausible (i.e. 5.56 happening anyway), isn’t Ian’s scenario also quite realistic? Even if there were .22 SCHV projects in different countries, is it not realistic that these would be halted as an improvement over existing solutions, but not enough of an improvement? According to my layman’s perception of the cold war armament, a bunch of western countries were happy with the 7.62 battle rifle / 9 mm SMG combination.

    One interesting side note is that IF the .276 would have been adopted in the mid-war period, then adoption of a lightweight, short barrel, small caliber SMG/PDW could have been more plausible, since such a round would compete with submachineguns firing 9 mm ball ammo rather than with short barreled 5.56 carbines. I’m thinking that something along the lines of the .22 m1 carbine concept would have been a great improvement over the m3 grease gun.

    • There’s a misconception that the .276 was much smaller and lighter than it actually was, which is where that perception comes from.

      Ian’s more familiar with the .276 from a shooting perspective than most people,for sure (both he and I have shot a .276 Pedersen PB), but I think he’s less familiar with the technical details of the ammunition. The .276, especially the T2, was much closer in size, weight, and recoil to the 7mm-08, or 7mm Liviano, than it was to the 6.8 SPC, for example.

      So imagine the Army had adopted the 7mm-08 instead of the 7.62 NATO. Would that have delayed SCHV? I don’t really see how.

      • n0truscotsman

        Yeah i love the idea of that cartridge being adopted. It makes for good alternative history fiction and speculation.

        But as I start to do more research into the matter, I begin to realize there would have been minimal weight differences with the use of 276 and probably no respectable ‘gain’ within the infantry world.

        I also agree with your opinion that 5.56 would have been adopted anyways. Its a stretch, but I think pretty accurate IMO given the history of that cartridge’s adoption.

        • What bugs me is why after WWII the Army didn’t pick up the .276 where they left off. All of the projectile development was pretty much done (unlike in Britain, where projectile development of the .280 was a bugbear all the way to its cancellation), and the advent of ball propellants and a less-tapered case could have resulted in a really compact and slick little round. I did an estimate the other day on what a .276 designed for ball propellants and with the taper of .308 would look like, and we’re talking a case less than 1.75″ long, using the same base as the .35 Remington. A really compact little round, and significantly lighter than anything else (including .280) that was being seriously proposed post-war.

          I know why Ordnance didn’t do this, but it was for all the wrong reasons in my opinion. Forget the .280 British, forget the .30 Light Rifle, the .276 Light Rifle would have been a helluva round.

  • mig1nc

    Awesome post. So, how close does 7mm-08 come to the later .276 Pedersen?

    • More powerful (about 3200 J vs. 2850 J), but about the same size.

  • gunsandrockets

    As far as what-if history, I’m imagining a .276 M1 caliber version of the Johnson 1941 LMG, and a .276 caliber copy of the German MG-42 GPMG.

    • Or how about an alternative version where Mel Johnson keeps his designs in .30-06 and claims that the .276 was adopted only because the Garand was too weak to handle .30-06. (Johnson had claimed that the 150gr M2 Ball round was adopted because the Garand couldn’t handle the 173gr M1 Ball round.)

      • gunsandrockets

        Perhaps Johnson’s arguments would have been different in an environment with the .276 caliber.

        What would Johnson’s rifle have looked like in .276? Didn’t the original Johnson use a box magazine? Maybe that feed would have worked better in .276 caliber than it did in 30-06.

        I think a selective fire Johnson in .276 would have been a very interesting firearm.

  • gunsandrockets

    I’m with Ian when it comes to the logistics issues of .276 vs 30-06 M1 rifles.

    When one considers the mix of munitions, let alone bullet firing munitions, of US Army infantry companies during WWII, the notion that .276 would have been too logistically complicated seems awfully naive.

    Just in a typical late war rifle squad, a US Army unit would have had .45 ACP, .30 Carbine, and .30 M2 ball firing shoulder arms.

    • To me, that’s an even stronger argument for NOT adopting a new caliber. A 2/3-caliber squad was bad enough, why make it a 3/4-caliber one?

      • gunsandrockets

        Why do you assume .276 rifles would have increased the number of calibers used in the squad? With the handier .276 rifle in service, odds are squad leaders and assistant squad leaders would have been less likely to carry M1 carbines.

        In addition, if the M1 was .276 caliber odds are some kind of .276 caliber LMG would have been adapted instead of that .30 caliber M1919a6 abortion.

        But more critically, supply of rifle ammunition is the least of all resupply problems for a US Army infantry platoon. Rifles are the last weapons to run out of ammunition and rifles are the least important element of an infantry units firepower.

        • ostiariusalpha

          I agree.

        • Tormund Giantsbane

          I doubt it though. Most of the LMG developments were things like the BAR and Bren which had max magazines of 30 rounds. The only good GPMGs were the ones used by the Nazis, and they were full caliber.

          What could have happened might have been a lightened system based on the BAR platform in .276 with a 30 round magazine, but that’s really not as drastic an improvement as the MG 34 or MG 42 were in the day.

          • gunsandrockets

            I bet of the many interesting U.S. automatic weapons developments before and during WWII, some would have been more successful and at least one of them actually seen service, had they been made in .276 rather than .30-06 caliber.

          • M.S.1

            Would have been interesting to see how the T24 machinegun (MG-24 clone in .30-06) would have fared if .276 Pedersen was the standard rifle round instead…

        • The .276 caliber could not have replaced the .45 ACP caliber for submachine guns. Neither was there any program that I know of for a .276 cal support weapon. Ergo, you have at least .276, .30-06, and .45 ACP in this hypothetical squad.

          Now, the M1 Garand weighs about 9.8 pounds unloaded. The T3E2 weighs about 9.1 pounds unloaded. A production T3E2 would have likely had a fatter cut stock and other minor changes that would have increased unloaded weight.

          For comparison, actual production M1 Carbines weighed 4.6-4.8 pounds.

          So you’re seriously telling me that adopting a 9.2 pound rifle instead of a 9.8 pound rifle would significantly reduce the number of 4.7 pound M1 Carbines being carried such that it would substantially improve the logistics situation?

          I don’t think so, man. The T3 is a handier gun than the M1, but it’s not that handy.

          • gunsandrockets

            I trust Ian’s description of how much handier the .276 T3E2 is than the .30 M1. And because of the straighter op rod the .276 rifle might have been shortened and lightened much more easily than the .30 M1 when the muzzle trap gas takeoff was abandoned.

            I presume front line infantry who carried an M1 carbine instead of an M1 rifle did so more because of how heavy and bulky an M1 rifle was, rather than how light the carbine was. Though no doubt the lighter recoil and greater magazine capacity of the carbine was attractive to some combatants.

            I also think it very odd to assume that no automatic weapon in .276 caliber would have been issued in time for WWII service if the M1 rifle been adapted in .276 instead of .30 caliber. At the very least the horrible M1919a6 would probably been chambered in .276 rather than .30 ; and been a better LMG for it too, with a lower cyclic rate, less heating, and lighter ammunition.

            In fact the .276 would really have shined as a cartridge for light automatic weapons, aiding those weapons even more than it aided the design of the Garand rifle. I doubt all the inventive and highly motivated weapons designers in the US would have been blind to that potential, were the .276 officially adapted.

          • I strongly suspect that if you asked Ian, he’d tell you there’s absolutely no contest between a T3E2 and an M1 Carbine. To suggest otherwise is completely silly, franky.

            Second paragraph is pure sophistry. How is it different to say that infantry preferred the M1 Carbine because it was lighter, or rather that they dispreferred the M1 rifle because it was heavier? The fact remains that the T3E2 is far, far closer to the M1 rifle than it is to the M1 Carbine in weight and handiness.

            I don’t assume that, I said that no program for such automatic weapons existed, so far as I know. This had to factor into the decision to go with .30 caliber, and I think they were right to do so.

            Yes, we all agree that the .276 Pedersen is a very nice cartridge (in fact, I’m more aware of it than you are, having actually fired a weapon chambered for it), but that is not significant against the endeavor of rechambering support weapons for the caliber, and adding another caliber to the logistical chain. The .276 was the better caliber, you’ll get no argument from me about that, but it wasn’t the right caliber for the US Army in the 1930s, slick as it may have been.

            Hell, they barely had money to make the first M1s, as it was!

          • MichaelZWilliamson

            The Carbine was intended for drivers, tankers and paratroopers.

      • marathag

        But then you should look at what the UK was doing thru WWII
        .38 S&W
        9mm
        .455
        45 ACP
        .303 multiple types
        30-06 multiple types
        7.92mm BESA
        50 Browning
        50 Vickers
        .55 Boys
        15mm

        One more wouldn’t have overstretched the USA logistical network

        • Could the US have handled it? Yes. The US was in by far the best position during the entire war.

          Does that mean the US should have done it? Of course not.

          The .276 was way too similar to .30-06 to warrant a switch. Everyone at the time knew that, and .276’s keystone selling point was that a .30-06 cal selfloading rifle could not be developed that weighed less than the limit.

          That proved to be not quite true, and the justification for the .276 faded away. Although, it’s worth noting that production M1 Garands tend to be over 9.5 pounds!

          • gunsandrockets

            Considering the real contemporary of the .276 was the .30 M1 ball and not .30 M2 ball, to say the .276 was too similar to the .30-06 to warrant a switch is kind of ridiculous.

            In size, weight and recoil the .276 is a lot closer to the 7.62x45mm intermediate cartridge than it is to .30-06.

          • ostiariusalpha

            He doesn’t seem to see it that way. Apparently no position is too ridiculous to defend his supposition.

          • Yes, as you said below, I am just a big mean .276 hater; that’s why I own multiple .276 boxes and tens of rounds of .276 cal ammunition of several different types and makes!

            That’s me, Mr. Grouchy McHaterpants!

          • n0truscotsman

            fanboy!

            *runs and hides*

          • What on earth does the 7.62 Czech have to do with it?

            I said the .276 Pedersen was not different enough from the .30-06 to be worth adopting, how in great heck does a Czech cartridge from the 1950s factor into that!?

  • gunsandrockets

    I found this interesting photo. Apparently the ‘new’ T2 version of the .276 cartridge is at the bottom, and the original .276 is at the top. They look pretty damned alike to me, and the T2 not at all resembling the size of a 7mm-08.

    http://s134.photobucket.com/user/pete3w/media/t-2%20SR%20amp%20standard%20_zpsqkzuk9by.jpg.html

    • Erm, what part about an 0.473″ case head (HWS I quotes 0.470″, but that’s only three thousandths difference and could be due to measuring a round within the specification) and 2.83″ overall length is unlike the 7mm-08 (0.473/2.800″)?

    • To help illustrate what I am talking about, here’s an image I took just tonight of cartridges in my own collection:

      http://i.imgur.com/7RT2akG.jpg

      Left to right are:

      Hornady 110gr BTHP 6.8 SPC
      .276 Pedersen FB9892
      Austrian S Patrone 7.62x51mm
      M2 AP .30-06
      Danish SS109 5.56x45mm

      FB9892 is one of the major variants of .276 Pedersen that we know and love. It’s the kind fired by the T3E2 and the Pedersen rifle. Note that it’s already almost the same size as the 7.62x51mm. It has a .447″ base versus the 7.62x51mm’s .473″ base, but a longer 2.830″ OAL versus the 2.800″ OAL of the 7.62.

      The T2, which would have been the .276 cartridge that got adopted, had that happened, had a base of 0.470-0.473″, very similar to the 7.62x51mm. Since the 7mm-08 is just a necked-down .308 Winchester (externally identical to the 7.62mm NATO shown here), I feel very comfortable saying that the T2 was of a similar size and weight to the 7mm-08.