WORST Military Small Arms of the 20th Century

February 29th, 2004  

Topic: WORST Military Small Arms of the 20th Century

Dedicated to officially issued weapons from 1901 to 2001 that just didn’t work or work out. These are my nominations after more than a little research and investigation. There are undoubtedly many more nominations out there - and I am so glad I missed all of these :!:

1. Rifles.

a. Bolt Action - This award goes to Canada for the Ross Rifle, in any of its myriad variants or modifications 85 + ). A straight pull action weapon that was over complicated and prone to jamming and damage. A good sniper’s rifle (it was retained for that purpose after its demise as an infantry weapon), but hopeless as a weapon for the basic infantryman. Luckless Canadian infantrymen started discarding the Ross as early as 1915 in favor or Lee Enfield rifles found on the battlefield

b. Automatic/Self Loading. France - Fusil Mitrailleur RSC Modele 1917, AKA the St-Etienne. A long (52.4 in/1331 mm), ugly and awkward-looking rifle that was heavy (11 lbs 9 oz/5.25 kg unloaded), cumbersome and not very reliable. Designed around the 8 mm Lebel rimmed cartridge (8x50R), this rifle was unpopular with the troops and the French Army converted all surviving rifles to manual action in 1935. Much worse than the Mauser FS Modell 15, Gewehr 41 (W) or the original M16 in its much despised “self cleaning” version.

2. Pistols. Japan - Type 94 Self-Loading Pistol. Possibly the WORST military weapon ever issued and the poster child for “Dangerous” weapons (defined as a weapon that is so poorly designed, manufactured or maintained that it poses as much or more danger to its user, or innocent bystanders, than it does to the target ). The design is so bad that it can be fired before the breech is even locked and an exposed sear bar can be released to fire the weapon if handled wrong. Definitely not a weapon to rely on in a tight situation such as combat.

3. Submachine Guns.

a. Switzerland - MP 41/44. A heavy (11 lbs 7 oz/5.19 kg unloaded), complicated, over-designed and expensive weapon that no one should have accepted for service issue, even the Swiss. Its designer was obsessed with the toggle action made famous by the Parabellum (Luger), pistol and applied here to no great effect. It was also a very clumsy weapon and holds the unique distinction of being so complex that only unit armorers were allowed to field strip them - ordinary soldiers were forbidden to do so.

b. USA - Reising M50 (close second). A complicated weapon whose action made no allowance for dirt or grit (things found in abundance down range), which caused it to jam. Worse, its very design seemed to attract fouling and/or dirt. Briefly used by USMC troops at Guadalcanal, it was soon discarded in favor of anything else they could find.

4. Machine Guns.

a. Light. France - CSRG Mle 1915, AKA the Chaucat. This has been described as the worst light machine gun ever designed and was universally hated by its users (those who survived using it anyway). A long recoil weapon (first mistake) designed for the 8 mm Lebel rimmed cartridge (8x50R)(second mistake); it was also poorly made (third mistake) of inferior materials (fourth mistake). Not content with dumping this piece of junk on its own soldiers, the French Army also convinced the US Army to take 16,000 of them. It was rechambered for US service using the .30-06 Springfield cartridge, which ensured that the weapons would shake apart, or break, even sooner than the with the 8 mm Lebel. It went on to baffle and disgust soldiers of Greece, Poland, Spain and Viet Nam (!) until the 1960s.

b. Medium/Heavy. Mitrailleuse Mle 1907, St-Etienne. Not to be confused with the rotten automatic rifle of the same name, this looser was an attempt to “improve” upon the Hotchkiss machine gun (a good weapon whose only real fault was the 24 or 30 round strip feed system) and it failed miserably. Renowned for its ability to overheat and then jam, the St-Etienne reversed the normal gas piston action (gas pressure comes in and then the piston goes back), which required a complicated system to reverse the motion to work the weapon, and placed the return spring below the barrel exposed to the elements. After numerous attempts to fix the St-Etienne, the French Army decided that it was best suited to arid climates and promptly dumped them on their troops in Morocco.
February 29th, 2004  
Nice ones...

You made me so curious about all these weapons so I found some links and pictures here:

Ross Rifle:

(scroll down to find it...)

Reising M50:
(scroll down...)


St.Etienne 1907:

I couldn't fine any images of the MP 41/44 or St-Etienne 1917 rifle...
February 29th, 2004  
Thanks for the compliment.

Very nice photos - that was quick research!

The MP 41/44 or St-Etienne 1917 rifle don't deserve photos (frankly I am surprised you found photos of the Type 94 and Chauchat :!
February 29th, 2004  
I noticed the folding sub machine gun. What do you know about that? It looks pretty cool and a good idea but was it any good?
March 1st, 2004  
Are you refering to the M3 Greasegun?
If so, everything I've heard about it is good: compact, very low recoil, durable, and relatively accurate. It was used mainly by paratroopers and tankers.
March 2nd, 2004  
If diplomatic_means is indeed referring to the M3 and M3A1, our buddy Redneck is right, as I have had the opportunity to fire the M3A1. It's a bit heavy, but definitely reliable, easy to control (if you fire short bursts - 3-5 rounds) and fun to shoot

Oddly enough, it never found much favor with the average GI, who much preferred the Thompson or M2 carbine. The "Grease Gun" had the last laugh though as it outlived them all as a service weapon by many years
March 2nd, 2004  
Those weapons sure sound like some lemons, Sir, but you missed the Japanese bolt action rifle designed as an anti-aircraft weapon (sorry I cannot find the classification at this time). You better be one hell of a shot with that thing.
March 2nd, 2004  
lol! i cracked up when i read that still can't stop laughing.
March 2nd, 2004  
Alright, I found some more info, it was the Arisaka Type 99 series rifle that was equipped with an anti-aircraft sight. Although not specifically designed as an anti-aircraft weapon, who in the world (aside from Annie Oakley ) could shoot an aircraft down with a bolt action rifle? The Japanese sure came up with some doozies during the war.
March 3rd, 2004  
Redneck, the feature you describe was indeed silly and impractical, but the Type 99 Rifle (to give its official name) was a sound enough weapon on its own. The info I have indicates that the folding anti-aircraft sight was probably meant as more of a psychological boost for the Japanese soldier - right along with the ridiculous wire monopod that was supposed to help in aiming the rifle in the anti-aircraft mode.

Undoubtedly, one or ten rifles would have been no threat against anything except a static balloon, but can you imagine and entire company firing at once (presuming you could get them to all aim at the same point and fire together). Might have been a whole 5 to 10% change of a near miss