The first example of a specialized weapon for pilots was the small-caliber M4 Survival Rifle rifle. For transportation, it was disassembled into several units and packed in a compact holster bag. Cartridge .22 Hornet allowed to hunt small and medium game. The rifle arranged for the military and was adopted. For several years, more than 29 thousand such products were produced, which were soon distributed between parts of the air force and the army aviation.
The M4 survival rifle was a good weapon, but it did have some flaws. First of all, the practical characteristics and capabilities of the low-power cartridge were criticized. To solve this problem, it was proposed to create a new weapon that has a different look. At the very beginning of the 1950s, US military experts formed a new technical task, and then launched another contest.
Part of the requirements for advanced survival weapons was directly borrowed from the previous technical assignment: the product had to be distinguished by its small dimensions and weight, as well as be folded for greater convenience of storage and transportation. At the same time, it was necessary to improve ergonomics and simplify the use of weapons. The main innovation of the technical specifications affected the barrel group and ammunition. Now the military wanted a double-barreled system capable of using small-caliber cartridges and ammunition with a shot. According to experts, this would lead to an increase in the potential of weapons in the context of hunting.
The project of new weapons for pilots was created by the company Ithaca Gun Company. At the development stage, her project wore the working designation T39. The order to take a promising product into service, signed in 1952, introduced a new name - M6 Survival Weapon ("M6 Survival Weapon"). Also used are the names Aircrew Survival Weapon ("Aircraft Survival Weapon") or USAF Survival Weapon. The latter pointed to the customer in the face of the US Air Force.
Cartridges .22 Hornet (left) and .410 M35 (center and right). Photo of Wikimedia Commons
The main requirements for the project, presented by the military department, were fulfilled using well-known ideas and solutions. Serious innovations, differing in complexity or excessive courage, were not foreseen. In the NAZ, the pilots were asked to include folding-breaking weapons with two barrels of different caliber. Taking into account possible exploitation in the northern regions, the weapon had improved ergonomics. Due to the need for mass production, it was also distinguished by its extremely simple design.
Fire characteristics that meet the requirements of the hunt, were obtained through the use of two barrels for different cartridges. Thus, the product T39 / M6 belonged to the class of combined guns. Two barrels were placed one above the other and secured in front of the receiver. The rear element of the latter contained some mechanical devices, and also served as the butt. For greater convenience of storage, the gun was folded in half, but the separation of pivotally connected units was not provided.
The project proposed the use of two trunks at once for different ammunition. The trunks had the same length of 14 inches (355 mm), while the length in gauges differed markedly. Two tubular parts were placed one above the other. Breechs were rigidly fixed in the receiver. The muzzle parts were fastened with a vertical part, which was also the base of the front sight.
Gun M6 folded. Photo by Thefirearmblog.com
The upper rifled barrel with a length of 62 caliber was proposed to be used with small-caliber central ignition cartridges .22 Hornet (5,7x35 mm R). The lower barrel had a smooth channel .410 caliber (10,41 mm) relative length about 34 caliber. This barrel was designed to use special shotgun shells M35. The barrels were located in the same vertical plane, which made it possible to reduce the dimensions of the weapon and simplify its folding.
The breech breeders were rigidly fixed on a common base, which was the front element of the receiver. This detail had the simplest construction and in fact was a cast metal block with several channels and grooves. In the back of this block, between the trunks, there was a spring-loaded extractor that interacted with the flanges of the sleeves in both chambers at the same time. Below the rear section of this part was placed the hinge for connection with the other units of the gun.
On the upper surface of the barrel assembly there was a longitudinal ridge with fastenings for additional parts. Ahead of it was a reversing rear sight of the sight, and its rear part was intended for the installation of a swinging latch connecting the weapon assemblies during firing. Moving this part upwards uncoupled the elements of the gun and allowed for reloading.
Device shotgun. Figure Guns.com
It was proposed to attach a device to the barrel assembly, which at the same time was the butt and casing of the firing mechanism. To simplify production, the body of this unit was made in the form of a stamped U-shaped part with windows in the sides. In the front part of it, which was the neck of the butt, was the trigger mechanism of the simplest design. The main part of the butt had the means to store ammunition.
The front end of such a butt had a vertical wall of sufficient thickness that served as a shutter. It had a pair of holes. The latter were intended for the withdrawal of two movable spring-loaded drummers located at the level of two chambers.
To interact with the drummers gun received a trigger similar to a revolving. Inside the neck of the butt was placed a swinging part, partially protruding through the upper window. Its lower part, fixed on the axis, was in contact with the spring of longitudinal location. The upper shoulder of the trigger is equipped with a guide for the moving unit. The latter directly hit the drummers and could be installed in the desired position. When this part was shifted upwards, the weapon could make a shot from a rifled barrel, while moving downward - from a smooth one. The selection of the “active” stem was carried out using a small button on the moving part of the trigger.
In the cocked position, the trigger was blocked directly by the trigger. In order to reduce the size of the weapon, simplify its design and facilitate operation in difficult conditions, the hook of the traditional form was replaced with a large key, which slightly protruded under the butt neck. This design of the trigger system allows you to shoot without removing the gloves.
Depending on the type of target, the shooter could use a small-caliber cartridge with a bullet or shotgun ammunition. The .22 Hornet cartridge differed from other products of its caliber by increased muzzle energy (up to 1000-1100 J) and increased initial bullet velocity - no less than 800 m / s. It was planned to use semi-bullet bullets with the so-called. soft nose. According to another game, it was proposed to use the M35 cartridge. It had an aluminum sleeve with a length of about 110 mm, inside which was placed the charge of the small fraction No. 6.
The special double-barreled gun T39 / M6 received the simplest sights. On the part connecting the muzzle of the two trunks, placed a simple unregulated front sight. Above the breech, in front of the protruding plate, there was a reversible rear sight. In the first position, he provided shooting at a distance of 25 yards (less than 23 m) from a smooth barrel, in the second - on 100 yards (91 m) from a rifled one.
M6 Scout rifle from Springfield Armory. Photo Guns.com
Combined shotgun equipped with original butt. In the sides of the curved metal parts provided for windows that reduce weight. Between them placed a compact ammunition compartment. In their case there were several cells for the storage of cartridges located vertically (at the working position of the gun). Four M35 cartridges could be placed near the back plate, and nine .22 Hornet were placed in the remaining holes. From above, the compartment was protected by a flap that served as the cheek of the stock.
In accordance with the requirements of the customer, the survival gun should have a minimum size and weight. In combat, M6 Survival Weapon had a total length of 718 mm; when folded - total 381 mm. Without ammunition gun weighed 2,06 kg. All this made it possible to place weapons and ammunition in a compact bag that meets the requirements of NAZ.
Operating the M6 combined rifle was not particularly difficult, and the preparation for the shot was similar to working with other “breaks”. Preparing a weapon for the hunt, the downed pilot had to decompose it, turning the block of trunks and butt relative to each other. It was necessary to manually place the ammunition in the chambers, after which it was possible to “assemble” a gun by fixing its units with the help of the upper latch. The trigger button allows you to select the used trunk. Cocking was carried out by pulling the trigger back until it clicks. After that, it was necessary to point the weapon at the target and press it on the release button. Having made a shot, the shooter had to uncouple the weapon, after which the extractor automatically pushed both sleeves out of the barrels.
Modified butt gun Scout. Photo Guns.com
In the early fifties, the T39 rifle from the Ithaca Gun Company passed all the necessary tests and was recommended for use. Soon came the corresponding order, followed by a contract for full-scale mass production. Over the next years, the United States Air Force and Army Aviation received several thousand new-type rifles. The massive production of M6 products allowed over time to decommission and write off all existing M4 rifles, the flaws in which had previously led to the emergence of a new weapon.
A few years after adopting the American pilots, hardly wanting this, were able to test the M6 Survival Weapon in practice: the United States entered the war in Vietnam. The enemy was strong enough, and one of the consequences of this was the great loss of the American Air Force. The pilots regularly had to flee with a parachute. While waiting for help, some of them were forced to use their “survival weapon”.
According to reports, the operation of such weapons in a real war led to the expected conclusions. A shot and a half-shell bullet were indeed a convenient means for hunting different game, and the pilot in distress could count on a decent supply. However, the main threat in Vietnam was far from hunger. The pilot could easily face the enemy fighters, and in this situation, the M6 gun had very little benefit. Without reloading, it could only make a couple of shots, and the power of ammunition in a fight with people left much to be desired.
Overall, the M6 Survival Weapon was justified, but in some situations it did not show the desired performance. The command regularly raised the issue of abandoning these weapons, but until a certain time such discussions led nowhere. Only in the early seventies, the US Air Force decided to abandon the existing guns in favor of small-sized serial models of military weapons, showing acceptable characteristics.
As the decommissioning of the serial combined guns were sent to the warehouses, where they went for recycling. However, a significant number of such products in one way or another did not get melted. Quite a lot of M6 products have been preserved; Now they are available in a number of museums and in many private collections. Many such guns are still capable of firing and may be of some interest to hunters.
Interest from the civilian population has led to curious consequences. In the mid-nineties, the American arms company Springfield Armory released its version of a survival gun under the designation M6 Scout. The initial design was slightly refined, taking into account legislation and ergonomics. The basic details and principles of work, however, have not changed.
A scout-shotgun received longer 18-inch (457 mm) barrels that comply with the requirements of US law. Most of the windows of the butt was sealed, the length of the compartment for the cartridges increased, and under the neck there was a curved bracket covering the release button. The latter did not change. The rest of the product M6 Scout repeated the design of "Weapons of Survival." It should be noted that now the shooter could use any .410 type of ammunition, and not just M35, supplied with the base rifle.
An interesting option for the Air Force guns offered Italian gunsmiths from the company Chiappa Firearms. Their product, Chiappa M6, retains the basic layout, but differs in the design of various parts. All these improvements were associated primarily with the use of new trunks. The upper barrel of an Italian rifle is designed for an 12 caliber cartridge, and the lower one has a chamber for a small-caliber .22 LR. The trigger was also reworked, now without a protruding trigger and equipped with a pair of individual triggers of traditional design.
Guns Ithaca M6 Survival Weapon, produced by order of the US Army, is still used by amateur arrows or remain in collections. In addition, part of the unusual niche is occupied by newer models created on the basis of a gun for NAZ. Despite the considerable age and long-standing failure of the military, the original small arms are still interesting to potential operators in the face of weapons lovers.
The M6 Survival Weapon special small-sized double-barreled shotgun was created with the aim of solving a special problem, as well as taking into account the operating experience of the previous system of its class. Entered service in the late fifties, the M6 product remained in the US Air Force until the early seventies and - under understandable circumstances - was very actively used by pilots. However, from the experience of operating the M4 and M6 shotguns, the command concluded that there was no real need for such systems. M6 was the last gun of its class, adopted for service. In the future, the United States did not develop such weapons, and the pilots now had to rely on standard army samples.
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