Winston Churchill’s Role in The Standard NATO Ammo

Churchill-Firing

World War II, as the name implies, was a tremendous conflict with gigantic leaps forward in both technologies and the tactics that went along with them. As a result of the conflict, infantry-troops carried, shoulder-fired semi-automatic firearms became the norm, first inspired by the fielding of the Garand and later perfected by the Nazis and Soviets.

As the powers stepped back from the war and looked to learn from the conflict, it was apparent that the use of full-powered ammunition was “overkill” for the fielding of combined arms. The United States immediately started work on what would come to be the 7.62×51 NATO round (based on the .308 Winchester) and the M-14.

However, the United Kingdom took a different path. Not encumbered by the firmly held belief that long range fire and an understanding that the conflicts of tomorrow would no longer be defined solely by open battlefields, the British developed two technologies that might have (and many would argue, should have) been: the .280 British and the EM-2 bullpup rifle.

As the US Military grapples today with a capability gap, the British then recognized the true value of an intermediate cartridge with solid ballistics to engage targets out to the practical effective distances of shoulder-fired weapons combat. However, the US was entrenched in the .30 caliber (an attitude which still persist today), which lead to some conflict between the friendly nations.

Ultimately, Winston Churchill pushed the UK to adopt the 7.62×51 cartridge to appease the United States, but only after Canada had agreed to adopt the .280 if the US did too.

For the full story, check out War on the Rocks to get Churchill’s detailed involvement and his personal thoughts on the M-14 (spoiler, he hated it). 



Nathan S.

One of TFB’s resident Jarheads, Nathan now works within the firearms industry. A consecutive Marine rifle and pistol expert, he enjoys local 3-gun, NFA, gunsmithing, MSR’s, & high-speed gear. Nathan has traveled to over 30 countries working with US DoD & foreign MoDs.

Nathan can be reached at Nathan.S@TheFirearmBlog.com

The above post is my opinion and does not reflect the views of any company or organization.


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  • Joseph Goins

    If Churchill shot the Thompson, can Trump shoot the MK18? The we could get from Obama is him shooting a simple over-under shotgun…but, hey, Joe Biden said it is all you need for home defense.

    • Anonymoose

      Why shoot a Mk18 when there are Mk17CQCs out there? Trump’s a big guy, so he should be able to handle it.

      • Joseph Goins

        I’d really want him to shoot the M134, but the MK18 was the closest thing to a submachine gun I could think of in the US arsenal.

        Funny how his detractors think he’s going to shoot an ICBM.

        • You think that might have something to do with, y’know, the multiple times he casually said he’d nuke [whoever] while campaigning? Sometimes people are fool enough to actually take politicians at their word.

          • Joseph Goins

            Mainstream media myths.

          • If you want to go on believing that they’re “myths”, I’d advise against googling [trump said nuke] then, it might damage your calm.

          • Joseph Goins

            Too bad he didn’t say that he would nuke anyone. Can you provide any examples of him saying that? I’ll address the most common myth that the Clinton machine started spinning: “bomb the shi† out of them.”

            I’m not denying he used those words. It said it. However, that phrase suffers from a logical fallacy known as misplaced literalism which is where a snippet is removed from it’s context. Watch his full comment. At no point did he use the word “nuke” in his speech. A reasonable person would also understand that he clearly did not intend their usage as he said immediately afterward that “you’ll get Exxon to come in there in two months” and rebuild the oil pipelines. You can’t just go to the site of a nuclear explosion two months later and do that.

            If you still assume that he was talking about using nukes, it is very probable that he is isn’t being serious since he is a bullshi††er. (I’m not trying to be crass. That is the accepted professional term.) He’s the type of guy who would go out and say “You should have seen the fish I just caught! It was this big.” He would hold up his hands |—————| wide when, in reality, the fish was |—| big. He isn’t an actual liar; he’s an exaggerator. Lying is knowing the truth and hiding it while bullshi††ing is not caring about the truth.

      • .45

        My life’s experience has taught me that the more someone keeps trying to tell you how awesome they are, the more of a paper tiger they really are. In other words, as much as Trump has talked about himself, I question whether he can handle a Ruger 10/22…

        • derpmaster

          He’s a lifelong new yorker, but I bet he knows the basics. His son is a hunter and Trump has probably shot a clay pigeon or two, being massively wealthy and all.

          • .45

            Well, supposedly he does own some guns, and TFB did do a little fluff piece a while back, theorizing that he likely has at least some kind of .38 special, though I don’t recall what sources they quoted for that. Nevertheless, Trump brags about himself like he is ten foot tall and bulletproof, which is not a sign of real strength in my experience.

          • derpmaster

            Dude’s from Queens. That mentality comes with the territory.

          • Evan

            I’m from Queens, do not have the same mentality as Donald Trump, learned about guns in the Marine Corps which I joined at 17 instead of having my dad’s lawyers get me all kinds of dubious deferments, and left NY partially because unlike the Donald, I don’t have any friends at City Hall who can get me a carry permit while I talk about how nobody else should have guns. I resent the implication.

          • tts

            I’ve lived in NY state (mostly tri cities area but spent plenty time in the city) and this is incorrect.

            Its generally what I’ve found outsiders to think about the area though. The constant self promoting/braggadocio was more of a thing in LA from what I saw in the late 90’s/early 2000’s. Haven’t been back there for a while now so maybe its changed.

            Trump is his own thing and always was.

          • David Harmon

            Really? Are you actually upset about Trump or is this a valid complaint?

            He carries a Glock and a 1911 from what I have been told. He does shoot regularly as well. He’s the one that taught his kids.

            You guys have this idea that the US has always been so weird about firearms. It’s only been the last 30 years that the US has been like this about guns. Where I grew up they still had skeet teams ran by the High School. In the Ivy Leagues and private schools, like the ones Trump attended back when he was actually young 50 years ago, they had teams as well. They still have shooting teams at every major University and in High School in higher end facilities.

          • .45

            I’m allowed to dislike the a-hole that is going to be representing my country for the next four years. I do think he is too full of himself.

          • David Harmon

            Sure, just like we are allowed to make fun of you for it.

      • iksnilol

        With hands so small I doubt he can shoot either.

        • Anonymoose

          That’s why we have the A2 pistol grips to begin with, silly.

    • ARCNA442

      I’m tired of all the pro-2nd Amendment photos where they have a musket or hunting rifle. Let see some politicians with modern weapons!

  • Jeffrey Scott Boyer

    Eisenhower in the background shooting the Thompson the right way and Churchill doing an Elvis

    • Mike

      But Churchill doing it with a suit, tie and bowler hat.
      He also had a 1911 in his car after acquiring it for his bodyguard, but his bodyguard wanting to keep his revolver.

    • Joseph Goins

      He looks awkward because he’s a lefty shooting a righty gun. I thought it was odd and I noticed that he closed his right eye and made the connection.

      • Evan

        I believe Churchill was right handed. I remember reading something about a polo injury affecting something he did at the battle of Omdurman, I don’t remember the details, but I think it was something about having to use his pistol because an injury to his right shoulder preventing him from using his saber or something to that effect.

  • Graham2

    I’ve seen this photo before but never noticed the strange, additional grip on the horizontal forend.

    • retfed

      It’s an older model Thompson, not a WWII-era M1. Note the top-mounted charging handle and the Cutts compensator. The M1 had a side-mounted charging handle and no Cutts compensator. The earlier model Thompsons had the vertical foregrip so beloved of gangster movies.

      • Graham2

        Yes, I know it’s an early model, the 1928 version and not an M1, I know my Thompsons thanks, but the forward grip on the model shown is completely different. The original vertical grip was fitted to the underside of the action below the barrel and had a very small rear section of wood behind the part that is held.

        This is a horizontal grip with something added to it. Look at the photograph again and you will see what I mean and that you’re wrong.

        • retfed

          I did notice it. The forearm is the M1 length and has the M1-style finger grooves, plus the vertical foregrip. I don’t know all the various Thompson variants, and I thought this might be a hybrid, a prototype, or maybe an experimental foregrip that was being tried out for interchangeability between the old, expensive versions of the Thompson, and the new, (relatively) el cheapo M1, without the Cutts compensator or the Blish system. Or maybe Churchill had a special foregrip fitted to compensate for an injury or disability.
          I was hoping maybe someone could enlighten me. You chose to condescend to me.
          But I bow to your superior expertise in all things Thompson.

          • Graham2

            Had you said that you’d noticed it too, that would have been useful but you simply posted that it was an older model, implying that I was wrong but I didn’t get upset abut it. My theory is that someone had seen a photo of Churchill firing an older model with vertical front grip and thought he’d prefer that style, so screwed a pistol grip to the forend. I doubt it was his own gun.

  • Harry’s Holsters

    We need to see more leaders doing this! It projects strength.

    • Dougscamo

      Google Putin with firearms….just saying…..

      • Harry’s Holsters

        We need more american leaders going this, pheasant hunting and shooting clays doesn’t count. I want to see them shooting guns with our LE and Military.

        • Dougscamo

          Agree…but pheasant hunting would be a great start….

  • lostintranslation

    WW2 was over and Europe was either ruined or destitute. Japan was in ruins and Russia was exhausted.
    A good explanation of the events pertinent to the Article is available in: The Great Rifle Controversy by Edward Clinton Ezell. The book, however, does not make easy reading with its depiction of hubris and NIH.

    • tony

      I remember reading that great book in my college years. the last chapter was dedicated to the then-new M-16A2. Great book all around!

  • TheNotoriousIUD

    When Churchill was Lord of the Admiralty he oversaw the transition from coal to oil.

  • This essentially follows the classical narrative of how it went down. I look forward to people’s reactions when I publish the dissenting opinion… Whenever I get done with it.

    • Thomas Royan

      What a madman

    • You’re going to blow people’s minds. Can’t wait.

  • Evan

    Churchill was also the last man who could wear a bow tie without looking like a jackass.

  • David Harmon

    I really do not like Churchill, and this made me like him even less…

    • Evan

      How can you not like Churchill? I consider him the best man of the 20th century. You don’t necessarily need to go to that same exteme, but still, what is there to dislike?

      • tts

        Not a Brit but:

        Post war national policy he and the Conservative Party of the time promoted was out of touch and seen politically as a bit underhanded, particularly with regard to his response to the Beveridge Report and the idea of introducing a UK version of, and these are his own words I’m not exaggerating, the Gestapo for political suppression (of the Left) purposes.

        The BBC has a nice summary of the 1945 election that mentions all this stuff but in a brief format. Not linking due to the moderation hold but google:

        Why Churchill Lost in 1945

        By Dr Paul Addison

        Last updated 2011-02-17

        He was a good war time leader for that era but that doesn’t make him the right fit for post WWII UK or for peace time.

        • Evan

          If you’ll remember correctly, he was elected PM again a few years later. He wasn’t the peacetime leader that he was the war leader, but still was pretty good. You add all the rest of his lifetime accomplishments, and you’d be hard pressed to find a more admirable man in the entire 20th century.

          I’m not British either, still a big Churchill fan though.

          • tts

            Not necessarily disagreeing with your post but I was more trying to address your comment: “How can you not like Churchill?”

            I think in terms of personality most everyone liked him who met him personally. But policy-wise he really made some people angry. We’ve had some Presidents like that before here in the US. Not going to say their names cuz’ politics but I think you would know them.

          • Iggy

            India might want a word with you…

      • David Harmon

        Because I’m one of those swarthy Germans.

        • Evan

          If that’s the case, you really ought to be grateful to him. As the one man in Europe willing to stand up to Hitler, if it wasn’t for Churchill, you’d likely be living under the Nazi boot still. And you can’t claim that he didn’t display magnanimity in victory, either.

          • David Harmon

            Yeah, sorry that’s not historically accurate in the least.

          • Evan

            So what, you think that Churchill refused to stand up to Hitler and then attempted to punish Germany after the war? I have no idea what kind of history you’ve been reading, but it certainly isn’t mainstream.

          • David Harmon

            “Mainstream”, there are different histories now? I read the stuff put out in books written by historians. I have no idea what you’re talking about.

            Churchill didn’t like any Germans, not even Germans that lived in the US. He also didn’t kick Germany’s ass. The Russians and Americans did. England’s direct role in the war was so limited that it’s hilarious anyone thinks otherwise. The UK only prevented themselves from being invaded, and only with deep provisioning from the US. The Russians and Americans did the vast bulk of the fighting, from Africa to the Ardennes.

    • Graham2

      What is Churchill doing in this photo that makes you like him less?

      • Graham2

        Maybe you mean the article, sorry, it’s just that your comment is under the photo.

      • David Harmon

        Don’t ask questions…

        • Graham2

          Sorry David, I won’t do it again!

  • A Fascist Corgi

    I think that the .280 British is a little bit too big and the 6.5 Grendel is a little bit too small. Something in between those 2 rounds would be the perfect standard issue NATO round in my opinion.

    We really need a bigger bullet for better close-range stopping power, but it also needs to have the best ballistic coefficient possible so that it has good long-range performance as well. And it still needs to be controllable when using full auto fire.

    I don’t care what Nathaniel says about combat beyond 200 yards not being something that your standard infantryman should really worry about. I’m subscribed to dozens of combat channels on YouTube, and most of the combat videos that I see involve long-range engagements where a magnified optic and a good long-range bullet would be ideal.

    I also don’t buy Nathaniel’s arguments about increased weight being a major problem. A few additional pounds is not going to turn a soldier into an immobile turtle. And when people cite combat loadouts of 80+ pounds, that’s not the type of loadout that I see in most combat videos. Most of the combat videos that I watch involve some sort of vehicular transport, and they’re usually not wearing those huge mountain hiking backpacks. They’re typically using trim combat packs (or none at all) that are about the same size as a kid’s school backpack.

  • mazkact

    “first inspired by the fielding of the Garand and later perfected by the Nazis and Soviets.” Oh are you gonna get it from us Garand fanboys. Are we talking tactics or firearm quality ?

  • Fruitbat44

    Interesting video. I believe that this is the first time I’ve heard about there being a 7.62 NATO version of the EM-2, certainly the first time I’ve hear of that quirk of chambering a round upon loading a magazine. I suppose it is one the great “what ifs” of firearms/military history, but the British military ultimately ended up with SLR out of this, and that is a rifle which remembered with a lot of affection.

  • Mazryonh

    Good to see your website is still active. I’d like to see you make an article analyziing the hypothetical 7x46mm UIAC cartridge too.

    • Tony Williams

      Thanks. Cris Murray’s 7×46 is very similar to USAMU’s more recent 264 and 277 USA in case dimensions except for the slightly larger calibre, so I would expect performance in the same ballpark.

  • Dougscamo

    Quail…..

  • Bob

    So it looks like either Churchill never fired the M14, or the author of the main article made a typo. That story says Churchill fired the T25 prototype which was the Harvey rifle. It was the T44 that became the M14.