The US Light Rifle Program was the search for the weapon that would eventually become the M1 Carbine, issued by the millions in World War II and in the years after. While the M1 Carbine is a familiar item to all military rifle enthusiasts, the other rifles submitted to the Army trials are largely unknown.
The program began on October 1, 1940 when the Ordnance Department release a five page request for designs. The primary requirements for the rifle were a weight of not more than 5 pounds (with sling), effective range of 300 yards, and capability for both semiauto and fully automatic fire. The rifles had to use the .30 Carbine cartridge developed with Winchester from the .32WSL. Tests would begin a mere 4 months later, on February 1st, 1941.
Due to delays in producing the new cartridges, the tests were ultimately delayed until May of 1941. By that time, there were nine rifles submitted to the tests. Two were immediately rejected – Mr Simpson of Springfield armory had submitted a rifle that weight 6lb 10oz, and this was deemed too heavy to consider. There was also a variant of the White gas operated rifle submitted, but it was chambered for the .276 cartridge, and rejected for that reason.
The remaining seven prototypes were subjected to a battery of tests to determine which were worth further development. We have photos available of all of these designs:
J. Pearce, from Savage Arms Corp.
F.W. Woodhull, from Woodhull Corp.
V.A. Browning, from Colt
E.C. Reising from Harrington & Richardson
Mr. Bergman from Auto-Ordnance
J.C. Garand from Springfield Armory
G.J. Hyde from Bendix Aviation Corp.
For more information on the Light Rifle trials and the development and service of the M1 Carbine, I highly recommend Larry L Ruth’s book, War Baby! The U.S. Caliber .30 Carbine, Vol. 1.