Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Turner Light Rifle

In 1941 the U.S. Army sent out a solicitation, to various contractors, for a “light rifle” that was more potent than the Colt 1911A1 and more compact than the M1 Garand. They were looking for something for issue to support/rear echelon troops who could not do their jobs hauling around a Garand, but needed a defense against the danger of motorized raids or paratrooper assault.

In response to the U.S. Army’s request Russell Turner participated as an independent inventor, outside the conventional Armory system or the prominent commercial arms firms. According to Turner, the first model of the 1941 was produced entirely from scratch, fabricated by hand with only design sketches and no proper blueprints. 

At Aberdeen, one of the big strikes against the Turner Rifle was the furniture, consisting of a ventilated steel heat shield and a tubular buttstock, as well as the hand-made nature of the weapon. While the steel furniture was in many ways ahead of its time, and the arm otherwise had many virtues, Army experts wanted something more conventional.

Coming back for another go, Turner gutted the first model for parts and went on to build a more advanced prototype.

Turner's refined carbine was noted as showing promise with a simple design and fine ergonomics, though suffered a number of malfunctions in the field; returning home afterwards, Turner found that the ammunition provided for the actual test was significantly different than the cartridges supplied for development, reportedly because Winchester's offering (the future M1 Carbine) suffered excessive muzzle blast with the original ammo, and was able to use their pull with the Army to get the ammo changed before the test. Not having been informed of the change, he was unable to make appropriate modifications to the gas system. Heavily discouraged by this seeming display of favoritism, Turner abandoned his efforts with the Light Rifle.

The solicitation would end up Winchesters M1 Carbine being the end result.

For more on Turner's 2nd model see Forgotten Weapons video HERE

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