Winchester’s Magazine-Fed M1 Garand Variants at the Cody Museum, Courtesy Forgotten Weapons

In the fourth part of the series of articles I am writing on the Lightweight Rifle program of the 1940s and ’50s, we looked at some of the experimental rifles that were being tested and evaluated during and just after World War II as potential replacements for or upgrades to the excellent M1 Garand semiautomatic rifle. The goal of these programs was ambitious: To create a rifle – based on the M1 – that would provide all the functions of the military infantry rifle, submachine gun, and automatic rifle, thereby achieving the “all in one” squad level infantry small arms package. This concept was called the “paratroop rifle”, possibly in reference to the German Fallschirmjeagergewehr (translated: paratroop rifle) FG-42 which itself was designed as an “all in one” weapon for paratroops.

Two contracts were let, one to Springfield Armory, and the other to Remington Arms Co., but Winchester’s CEO Edwin Pugsley also caught wind of these developments and was determined that Winchester would also embark on its own program to create a select-fire, box magazine fed M1 derivative, resulting in an effort that would be led by talented Winchester (and later Ruger) designer Harry Sefried. Two of the prototypes created in this effort are covered in the Forgotten Weapons video below:

While it’s true that Winchester had no formal contract for these rifles, the program to develop a “paratroop rifle” was a formal program, and very nearly resulted in the adoption of a new infantry weapon: Springfield Armory’s T20E2. This rifle was recommended for production in a quantity of 100,000 for the upcoming invasion of the Japanese home islands, and likely would have been standardized as the U.S. Rifle, Cal. .30, M2. However, the atomic bombs ended the war before this could happen, and the program continued as a development program for another 12 years before any of the fruits of its labor would eventually be adopted – resulting in the short-lived M14.

If you’re interested in Winchester’s program to develop a select-fire M1 Garand variant, you can read my article Light Rifle, Part IV: The M1 Garand Learns To Rock And Roll. I also recommend checking out Sefried’s patents on the mechanisms used in these rifles, US2464418 and US2386722.





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 is also the author of the original web serial Heartblood, which is being updated and edited regularly. He can be reached via email at nathaniel.f@staff.thefirearmblog.com.


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  • David B

    I wouldn’t call the M14 short lived. Sure, it didn’t last long as the primary infantry long arm, but it was still issued in DMR roles into Iraq and Afghanistan.

    • A bearded being from beyond ti

      Speaking of which, what’s the difference between the Mk14 and the M39?

      • Rick O’Shay

        Barrel length and weight is what immediately comes to mind. I believe the M39 is modded to be more accurate? Not sure what that entails though.

        • The Brigadier

          It involves a match grade barrel and the winter trigger assembly that is tighter than the regular trigger group. Everything else is the same, but the accuracy improvement is instantly noticeable. Springfield sells their “semi-match grade rifle” based on the M39. It runs around $2000, but Springfield sometimes offers them for $1800.

      • SP mclaughlin

        I think M39 EMR is just the USMC designation of a semi-auto locked M14 in the Sage chassis.

    • As a main infantry arm, it was the shortest-lived one in US history.

      • valorius

        The US Army infantry still uses M14 variants, not as a primary arm, obviously….but they’re still in use.

        • Yes, and the British Army still uses the L85. 🙂

          • valorius

            L85….ewww o.O

      • The Brigadier

        I thought the Mosin Nagant has that distinction? Perhaps you meant to say as a domestic manufactured rifle. We can also thank a three star AF general who just received a squadron of F-111 fighter bombers who saw a picture of the new M16 and said, “I want that futuristic rifle guarding my futuristic bombers!” The Air Force was the first to adopt the M16, but the Air Force still has M14s guarding all kinds of different AF planes and Winchester still supplies the ammo for them. The Light Rifle still lives.

    • valorius

      The M14 and variants are still in widespread US service today, all over the world. 59 years and still going strong.

    • nicholsda

      Not only that, but they asked all police forces who weren’t using the ones they lent then to send them back. If stupid Clinton hadn’t sent so many to Captain Crunch.

  • codfilet

    Interesting to hear why BAR mags were not suitable for these conversions.

  • UCSPanther

    The Beretta BM 59 rifle series comes to mind.

    • Secundius

      The Beretta Type “E” in .30-06 caliber was the predecessor to the BM-59 which used a 20-round M1918 BAR Magazine…

  • valorius

    There is no way an infantryman could carry such a long ungainly beast into battle! A infantry force equipped with 24″ barrel rifles would be so ineffective they’d be over-run by a squad of girlscouts with SBRs!
    (ongoing thread sarcasm) 😉

    • nicholsda

      But when you want to reach out and touch someone, a 24″ barrel is just about perfect. As long as the round is in the .30 or 7.62 range of ammo.

    • Secundius

      Waffen-Gregor of Dillingen, Germany make a BAR II Bullpup in .30-06 that is ~31-inches long, Sports a 22-inch Barrel and is Magazine Feed…

      • valorius

        I’m a lefty so most bullpups are a career hazard for me. lol.

        • Secundius

          I’m “Wheelchair” Handicapped!/? To Long a Rifle can Actually “Go Turtle” after Firing One…

    • The Brigadier

      They had no problem carrying the Garand all over Europe and North Africa.

      • valorius

        My point exactly. The post you replied to was blatant sarcasm.

  • Janson sure did love his weird ass magazines.

  • Old Vet

    I still remember the day we fired our M-14’s for final qualifications. It was bitter cold, snowing/sleet off and on all day. The mags were preloaded for us but were sitting out in the weather so they were iced up as well. The pop-up targets were frozen and if your hit did not knock it down, no recorded hit. You could even see the hole at the 50 yd. one but the scorer was not allowed to count it. Of the 240+ men shooting, 42 bolo’s were reported to the battalion C.O. He was livid, of course. These men were taken back to the range and “qualified” a couple of days later. I shot the worst score of my training period that day…..barely qualifying as Marksman. I was as pissed as the C.O. It prevented us from any type of elite training down the line, i.e. sniper school. Loved that old M-l4 though.