From the experience of the past war, the American military pilots knew that the standard weapons of the armed forces were far from fully complying with the requirements associated with surviving far from the bases. Thus, the pistols of the main models were not sufficiently suitable for hunting, and systems with suitable firing characteristics were too large and heavy to be included in a wearable emergency stock. In this regard, it was decided to develop a specialized system that fully meets the existing specific requirements.
The new weapon should have a minimum size and weight, allowing it to be stored in a compact emergency stock container. In addition, it should be made as simple as possible in production and operation. At the same time, the product was supposed to show acceptable combat characteristics and ensure effective hunting for small and medium-sized game. The solution of this technical problem was not easy, but several US weapons companies at once offered their projects soon.
One of the projects of survival weapons was developed by the Harrington & Richardson Arms Company. Its specialists proposed the simplest design of a rifle for a small-caliber cartridge, which was distinguished by good ease of use and minimal dimensions. At the stage of competition and revision of the project, the product of the H&R company received the working designation T38. Subsequently, having received customer approval, it was put into service under the official name M4 Survival Rifle ("M4 type survival rifle").
Cartridges .22 Hornet. Photo of Wikimedia Commons
The designers of Harrington & Richardson decided to simplify the production of the T38 rifle by maximizing the unification with existing serial weapons. The source of some of the components was to be the H&R M265 sporting rifle, which had a long barrel, wooden stock and manual reloading mechanics.
Also in the new project they used a number of obvious ideas, which made it possible to minimize the size and weight of the weapon while maintaining acceptable fighting qualities. It was proposed to save one of the most powerful small-caliber cartridges with the placement of ammunition in a detachable store. At the same time, gunsmiths abandoned any automation, and also used the simplest accessories of metal parts. All this made it possible to completely solve the tasks set by the customer.
T38 / M4 rifle received an extremely simple receiver, consisting of two large elements. Both parts were proposed to be produced by stamping from sheet metal. Most of the connections were made by welding, although some screws were present. In one way or another, other aggregates joined the main parts of the weapon, from the barrel to the retractable stock.
The top element of the receiver was a tube with walls of sufficient thickness. Its front end was designed to install the trunk. On the right side there was a large window for ejection of spent cartridges. Behind from above and on the right provided an L-shaped groove for the reloading handle. At the bottom of the tube there were holes and grooves for feeding cartridges and moving the firing mechanism of the trigger.
The lower unit of the box was a polygonal device that contained the magazine's receiving shaft and firing mechanism. The upper part was made open and was designed to install the tubular part. Below there were windows for various devices. In the back of the receiver were provided with a pistol grip and mounting for retractable stock.
It was decided to equip the rifle with a rifled barrel for the central ignition cartridge .22 Hornet (5,6х35 mm R). The barrel had a length of 14 inches or 360 mm (64 caliber) and was characterized by varying wall thickness. The breech of the trunk had a larger external diameter and without a gap entered the receiver tube. The muzzle of the trunk was noticeably smaller. In its place, the trunk was fixed with a few screws. In this case, screw connections were necessary not only to simplify the assembly of weapons. The weapon with the barrel removed took up much less space, which made it easier to place it in the NAZ container.
Rifle unassembled. Photo Sassik.livejournal.com
The existing manual slide bolt previously developed for the Harrington & Richardson M265 rifle was retained. The bolt group consisted of two main elements. The front one was longer and was responsible for interaction with cartridges. Inside it were a movable drummer with a mainspring and an extractor. The shutter could move along the receiver and did not have the ability to rotate. At the back, a second cylindrical device was attached to it, equipped with its own curved handle. The latter was displayed on the right side of the weapon. The low-power cartridge made it possible to securely lock the barrel only with the turned handle.
In front of the receiver was the receiving shaft store. The rifle's ammunition system used detachable box-shaped magazines for five .22 Hornet cartridges, assembled from several parts of the most simple design. The ammunition was brought to the line of dismantling by the spring of the store, after which the bolt sent them to the chamber. The empty sleeve was ejected through a window in a tubular receiver of the receiver. In its place, the store was held by an uncomplicated latch placed behind it.
The rifle was equipped with the simplest firing mechanism of the shock type. In the back of the receiver, behind the store's receiving shaft, a large trigger was mounted with an L-shaped top element, as well as a sear and a spring to hold the parts in the desired position. There was a fuse, made in the form of a movable lever on the right side of the receiver, above the trigger. The included fuse blocked USM.
Based on their requirements for mass and labor intensity of production, the authors of the T38 / M4 project used the simplest fittings. The trigger was protected from accidental pressing with a rounded clip of sufficient width. In the back of the receiver it was proposed to weld a pistol grip, made in the form of a curved metal strip. Despite some inconvenience, this grip allowed to hold the weapon in the right way.
A simple butt, made of a metal rod of sufficient thickness, was used. The core of the required length was bent, forming a pair of longitudinal strings and a U-shaped shoulder rest. Above the last there was a small transverse web. Straight butt elements were placed in a pair of tubes on the sides of the receiver. Near their ends were provided holes for the installation of locking pins. The stock could be moved forward until it stops, bringing the rifle to the minimum, or brought back. In the extended position, the butt was fixed with a spring-loaded latch on the right side of the weapon. The latch is controlled by a small button.
Used the simplest sights. On the muzzle of the trunk was placed the front sight, made in the form of a small flat bar. In the back of the receiver there was a bracket for mounting unregulated annular sight. It was assumed that such equipment would allow firing in the entire range of calculated ranges.
When disassembled, the H&R T38 rifle had minimal dimensions. Having removed the barrel, this weapon could be stowed in a container or holster bag with a length of no more than 14 inches - according to the dimensions of the barrel and butt. In the firing position, the rifle was approximately twice as long. Together with the rifle in a holster, it was proposed to store magazines and a stock of .22 Hornet cartridges. The mass of the rifle itself, excluding ammunition, was only 1,8 kg. The effective range of fire was set at 150 yards (136 m).
Work on the promising T38 survival rifle and other models of this class was completed in 1949. Soon, experienced rifles of several types passed comparative tests, according to the results of which the US military department chose a model for adoption. During the checks, prototypes from Harrington & Richardson Arms Company proved to be the best. A little later, the development company received an order for the serial production of a new weapon. In accordance with the order of the army command, it was put into service under the official designation M4 Survival Rifle.
The military's decision was determined by several factors. The development of H&R specialists was distinguished by its simplicity and cheapness with sufficiently high combat characteristics. A rifle with a 14-inch barrel could be packed in a bag of minimum size and placed in the pilot's NAZ. At the same time, the production of a large number of weapons, sufficient to equip all crews, would not lead to unacceptably large costs.
By its power (muzzle energy no more than 1000-1100 J), the .22 Hornet cartridge was comparable to pistol ammunition. At the same time, the pointed bullet, stabilized by rotation, had a large effective range. Depending on the type of game, the bullet retained sufficient characteristics at distances up to 100-150 m.
It was found that the T38 rifle has a very limited potential in the context of fire contact with the enemy, but it turns out to be a good means of hunting and is able to fully solve its main tasks. With its help, a downed pilot could hunt small animals and a bird. Hunting for larger game, such as a fox or roe deer, was also not ruled out, but it led to the risk of leaving wounded animals and the senseless consumption of ammunition.
Quite quickly, the contractor launched a full-scale production of new rifles. Serial production of M4 products continued until the early fifties, and during this time more than 29,3 thousand rifles were assembled. All of them were transferred to the armed forces, where they were distributed between aviation parts. A rifle, magazines, cartridges and a holster for carrying were included in the portable emergency reserve of all pilots, regardless of their specialization or type of aircraft.
Part of the M4 Survival Rifle series rifles quickly got to the Korean peninsula, where the fighting began by that time. Details of the operation of survival rifles are missing, but it can be assumed that the American pilots repeatedly had to extract such weapons from the NAZ. Most likely, it had to be used not only during the hunt, but also during clashes with the enemy. The results of such collisions are obvious: a small-caliber rifle was not an effective means of fighting the enemy’s infantry.
The full-scale operation of M4 rifles continued until the mid-fifties. By this time, it became clear that the existing weapons, which initially adapted to the solution of special problems, far from fully correspond to them. The consequence of this was the launch of a new competition. The military presented a new technical task, which was different from the previous requirements for ammunition and combat capabilities of the rifle. Soon, several new projects were proposed, and according to the results of tests for armament, the M6 survival rifle was adopted.
Shooter with M4 rifle. Photos Popular Science
As the supply of weapons of the new type occurred, the retirement of older models took place. The M4 small-bore rifles have been disposed of or sold off. Former army rifles quickly became interested in amateur shooters and athletes who showed interest in systems with similar characteristics. Weapons, originally created for hunting, in general, the hunters liked. Its operation was associated with well-known limitations and difficulties, but in its niche, the M4 Survival Rifle was a good example.
The launch of the T38 / M4 rifles started back in the late forties and ended a few years later. The Air Force and Army Aviation got rid of the decommissioned weapons no later than the end of the fifties. Despite this, a significant number of such products remained. Some rifles went into the category of museum exhibits, while others remain in operation and are still used for their intended purpose. As it turned out, with careful use and proper maintenance, the M4 Survival Rifle rifle can be used for decades.
The Harrington & Richardson Arms project, tentatively titled T38, was one of the first attempts by American industry to create specialized small arms for combat aircraft crews. The gunsmiths managed to offer the cheapest, as well as easy to manufacture and operate a rifle with fairly high performance. However, it was soon established that survival weapons should have different capabilities and indicators. In this regard, a new project was launched, as a result of which the M6 Survival Rifle double-barreled rifle was adopted.
“Survival Rifle”, Light Package // Popular Science. April 1951.