Big Bertha

Big Bertha
Circa 1940, on the streets of Rochester New York, Bertha does her work.
"I don't make hell for nobody. I'm only the instrument of a laughing providence. Sometimes I don't like it myself, but I couldn't help it if I was born smart."

1st Sgt. Milton Anthony Warden.
"From here to Eternity"

Paul Valery

"You are in love with intelligence, until it frightens you. For your ideas are terrifying and your hearts are faint. Your acts of pity and cruelty are absurd, committed with no calm, as if they were irresistible. Finally, you fear blood more and more. Blood and time."

The Wisdom of the Ages

"When a young man, I read somewhere the following: God the Almighty said, 'All that is too complex is unnecessary, and it is simple that is needed',"

Mikhail Kalashnikov
"Here lies the bravest soldier I've seen since my mirror got grease on it."

Zapp Brannigan

Saturday, June 11, 2011

More Procurement Idiocy


You'll recall the complete snubbing with which our brilliant leaders blessed the LMG that was markedly superior to the BAR way back here.
Well, Major Melvin Johnson, USMCR also designed a semi-auto rifle in .30-06 that gave the M1 Garand a run for its money and would probably have been adopted instead but for the stupidity of them-that-buys-our-guys-their-stuff.
The pregnant guppy at top is the unit in question - the Johnson M1941 Semi-automatic rifle.
If you read the Wiki entry for this rifle you'd gather that the Garand walked all over this thing in tests.
Not so - to my mind.
When we discussed the Johnson LMG earlier I'd linked to this site which also has a nice treatise on the Johnson vs Garand match-up.
We'll sing the praises of the Garand first.
Slightly higher rate of fire - offset by the Johnson's greater magazine capacity.
It worked better than the Johnson with a bayonet mounted... and... not much else.
The fact is: so much money had already been pissed away developing (and developing, and developing) the Garand that the decision essentially came down to this: which one was familiar (Made by Springfield Armory) and had already had a ton of money spent on it?
The Johnson, at trials, went up against a Garand that was in constant, well-funded development while the Johnson was designed, built and tested as-is.

What more; the total R&D and manufacturing costs of the Johnson were less than those burned up in just the conversion of the Garand from a "gas-trap" to a "gas-port" system.
The big differences that put it out of the game?
It was completely recoil operated so the barrel retracted less than half an inch per shot. This was problematic with a standard bayonet since the weight of same would affect the cycling.
It had lots of small parts that they worried our stupid, fuckin' dogfaces were likely to lose.
Now there's a vote of confidence.
The upside: ten rounds vs eight.
The capability of being reloaded at any time in the process - bolt open or closed - with single rounds or the standard '03 stripper-clips.
2/3rds the perceived recoil!
What's more, Johnson had designed it so that it could be produced in any well-equipped machine shop while the precious Garand, in the early stages, could be produced only at the sacred Springfield Armory thus making its production far more than slightly vulnerable to sabotage.
The Johnson used a two-piece, wooden stock with the fore-stock being separated from the butt by the rotary magazine that gave it the "fish-belly" look.
Patent drawing above.
Patent here.
Now, I've never shot a Garand but my understanding is that it loads quickly with the eight-round, en-bloc clip but to top it off while still partially loaded is a process requiring both hands while the Johnson - as stated above - could be fed single rounds or fed with five-round clips - at any time.
It could fire both M1 ball and M2 ball while the Garand was a hazard when fed M1.
And did I mention: 2/3rds perceived recoil?
Here's the beauty part, especially given the ways of modern warfare:
I can't say it better than this guy - although I can't find the site again:

"The Johnson Semi-Automatic Rifle M1941 could change calibers easily, by simply removing the barrel (I've done a thousand times, it takes about 15 to 20 seconds), and installing another barrel. It had barrels with various calibers built for it, and it could fire 7.7 Japanese, 7 x 57mm Mauser, 8 x 57mm Mauser, and any other that are near the same size cartridges. It could be loaded with a standard 5-round stripper clip, or load a single cartridge at a time, into a 10-round magazine (topping it up using a 5-round stripper clip, or a single round with the bolt open or closed was a normal activity)."


I rest my case.

11 comments:

Big W said...

I've seen the Johnson up close at a local gun shop some years back, I think the asking price was like $2500.00 over ten years ago. Once in awhile they come up for sale on some gun forums, still cost a fortune. I did have the opportunity to fire a Garand at a gun range twenty years ago and remember liking it a lot. The price tag always held me back from actually owning one. Mausers, Arisakas, and Mosins always much more affordable.

Anonymous said...

Hard to argue with success..

The garand proved to be a decidingly good choice .. The competition of that era for the next battle rifle must have been cut throatedly interesting---


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pedersen_rifle

J Pedersen's action was pretty amazing, simple and strong.
Plus examine his cartridge design, far better than the '06, perhaps where we're going after the current design gets redone.

Dan brock said...

No doubt the Garand did a great job. It's an ugly rifle to my mind but that means nothing.
My point is that, based on nothing but hide-bound idiocy, the govt. went with the more expensive - and certainly comparable - alternative.
Johnson's design was later modified by Eugene Stone for the AR 15 and so on.

Kevin said...

"Plus examine his cartridge design, far better than the '06, perhaps where we're going after the current design gets redone."

Funnily enough, from what I've read repeatedly, the .276 Perdersen was very close to the "ideal" intermediary cartridge designs that pop again, and again, and again (IIUC, 6.5 to 7mm & ca. 8 grams projectile with high Bc, ideally shaped like the excellent WWII german or swiss spitzer bullets, launched at moderate speed, that actually outperform full-power rifle calibers at medium and long ranges, with a much lower recoil and better barrier penetration), in Russia, in the USA, in France, in Germany, in the USSR, in the UK (twice), in the USA again, plus now the various AR15-based "new" calibers (that are limited by having to fit into the starting 5.56 enveloppe), even china has moved toward that but not quite dared straying away from the "small caliber high velocity" modern format...
But never get adopted before of institutionnal inertia (justified during wartime, maybe), and bean-counting (in peacetime).

There's a bunch of dry, but interesting threads in an english militaria forum about some curmudgeons/old people with too much time on their hands trying to design such a thing with some actual number-crunching, and, yes, it's again close to that one. Re-inventing the wheel, indeed, from the late 19th century onward.

The .276 seems like a truly wasted opportunity, in hindsight, but military history overall seems like a pretty fertile ground for screw-ups, procurement or otherwise.

Note too that the post-WWII US small-arms procurement seems really fucked-up, looking at it objectively, to say the least (not on par with the JSF debacle, though, but it really does looks like that, a time goes, the procurement system gets increasingly dysfunctional, favoring "process" over "result", "gear" over "effect").

The good thing is that everything seem to eventually looks great with nostalgia goggle... wasn't the Garand M1 initially bypassed by the USMC, because of severe reliability issues whenever exposed to dirt, and long-range accuracy? Ditto for the M14, now the 'greatest battle rifle ever', according to what I read online, but IIRC tested as inferior to the good old FAL until "result adjustments" were made, and that was ditched ASAP (with the Ar15 as, initially, a "stop gap" solution, that has now outlasted every other US service rifles).

Anyway, I'm just talking out of my ass here, but, it's what most everybody does, online, and it feels good.

Dan brock said...

Jesus Kevin,
You have a versatile ass.
The Marines not only rejected the Garand but were favoring the Johnson.
They were used some in the Pacific and, like the LMG, were used by the Dutch.

Andy said...

Okay, yeah, procurement is, and always has been dicked up I guess, I know it sure stuck us with one lemon of a handgun. Though the M9 does LOOK cool.
I'm young to have been in on the vetting process, but I have shot both, and top off capability aside, prefer the Garand for shootability. The sights on the Johnson are kind of archaic as well, not as lame as those on European rifles of the same era, but still not precision. Opinions are what they are though...
You ever want to come out and shoot my Garand you're welcome to Dan.

Dan brock said...

Fuck me, Andy!
Am I hearing an invite?
Fuckin' Aye well-told-john-dittybag.
You know to get hold of me.

Comrade Misfit said...

The question that has to be asked is whether the Johnson was that much better to warrant scrapping the Garand and re-equipping the Army with yet another rifle on the eve of entry into the Second World War.

I suspect that the answer at the time was the correct one.

By the way, I don't think that one can really "top off" a Garand without ejecting the clip and then filling it up outside of the rifle. There is no way to lock the bolt back with the clip in, making adding cartridges that way pretty unfeasible.

I think, though, that the "you can top it off" argument is a false one. I've not read of anyone topping off a Springfield; in a fight, they'd shoot until it was empty and then roll in another clip. Same for the Garand and for every magazine rifle, other than maybe the Krag, because you had to load it one cartridge at a time anyway.

Dan brock said...

Comrade!
So nice to hear from you.
I've never fired either but apparently you can load single rounds into the Garand but it takes two hands and some concentration.
I'm not saying they picked the wrong rifle - only that they only gave lip service to any competition.
The big money and the prestige of Springfield were at stake, or so they imagined.
I think that the Johnson's ability to be produced anywhere, immediately should have been a selling point - not to mention the captured ammo capability.
Re the topping off feature, used or not, it's a nice option to have.
An SMLE, with the charger loaded correctly, can be topped of with another charger whenever you're down five rounds or more with no chance of rim lock.

Comrade Misfit said...

I've had two Garands over time. I wouldn't attempt to try and top-off a clip.

Anyway, I can't see why that would be done. Ammunition was issued in bandoleers of already loaded clips; single rounds were not issued to riflemen. The better choice would be to remove the partial clip and replace it with a full one.

Still, changing over from one rifle to another for an incremental benefit when a war is looming strikes me as being a bad idea.

Dan brock said...

The Johnson was presented in '39 so war was hardly looming. There was ample time for fair testing.
Re the topping off aspect:
I feel that it's far more than an incremental difference and can imagine many a scenario where topping up the mag would be handy - far more so than carrying around accumulated, partially-full ones.
You're not addressing the biggies: easy ability to utilize captured ammo.
Less industrial infrastructure needed for production - as well as less centralization of said production.
2/3rds less recoil.
AND MUCH CHEAPER
All the Garand has going for it the ability to use a bayonet which would have been a problem with an easy solution if the DoD had had any incentive to find one. Likewise the "small parts easy for idiots to lose" argument.
This isn't as egregious as the Lewis/Chauchat situation but it come from a similar place - in my opinion.

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