The Original M6 Aircrew Survival Rifle

    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.


    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.


    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 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.