Rifle Competition: US vs. UK in 1950 (DTIC)

    DTIC is a wonderful resource for finding documents that are important records in firearms history. One such article, which we will be looking at today, entitled “A Comparison Test Between United Kingdom And United States Lightweight Rifles” documents the 1950 test between the .280 caliber EM-2 (Janson Rifle, later Rifle No. 9), .280 caliber FN automatic carbine (later FN FAL, after a caliber change to the American .30 Light Rifle cartridge), and .30 caliber T25 rifle.

    The tests were the product of considerable political maneuvering in the contest to field a NATO standard rifle and cartridge. In part because of this political tinge, the trials were held with great fairness, and the rifles heavily tested over the course of six months. The results were as follows:


    Two rifles of each model were subjected to a light rifle test. Of the 3 models tested the EM2 gave the best performance in the dust, mud, cold, dry, and automatic accuracy tests, but gave the poorest performance in the disassembly, sea water immersion, salt spray, rain, elevation and grenade tests and gave the greatest number of parts breakages in the endurance test. The FN rifle gave the best performance in the disassembly, endurance, salt spray and flash (with flash hider) tests but gave the poorest in the semi-automatic accuracy and cold test. The T25 rifle gave the best performance in the rain, elevation, semi-automatic accuracy, sea water immersion and grenade tests and was the only rifle to complete the cook-off test but gave the poorest performance in the mud, dust and dry tests.

    The result of these tests dealt a major blow to the EM-2 rifle, and despite its adoption by the British labor government in 1951, the EM-2 would be abandoned later that year. The T25 also left the tests with a black eye due to its sensitivity to foreign medium ingress, and would eventually be cancelled.

    This would leave the FN FAL standing alone as the NATO rifle-to-be, which was again tested against the very modest T44, which at the time was just converted from existing T20 rifle receivers (themselves just a modification of the M1 Rifle design to accept 20 round detachable magazines). The T44 fared very poorly when compared to the FAL in this second round of tests, which seemed to seal the deal and make the FAL the NATO Light Rifle. However, the T44 – down but not out – was offered again for Arctic trials, in which it performed much better than the FAL. The FAL would nevertheless become “The Right Arm of The Free World” – almost a de-facto NATO standard, but without actual standardization, and with the Americans eventually adopting the improved T44E4 in 1957 as the M14, its success would be tempered by other competitive designs.

    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. He can be reached via email at [email protected]