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.

2 Comments

  1. Since the Light Rifle Program was aimed at the development of a more effective PDW to replace the M1911 pistol compactness was a primary criterion, thus the weight limitation. Consequently, I find it interesting that none of the submitted designs incorporated a folding stock. I wonder why reduced overall length was not considered by any of the designers when the intended recipients of the weapons included truck drivers and motorcycle riders. The MP 38 was already in German service when the Light Rifle requirement was issued, granted that was a pistol-caliber gun with inherent range limitations, yet the role it filled in the German army was not too different from that envisioned by the LRP. The Hyde carbine looks like the best candidate for such a feature. In fact, its wooden shoulder stock fairly screams “Replace me now before I break!” A well-engineered metal folding stock could have saved a few ounces over a conventional wooden stock, which in turn could have been added elsewhere for greater strength in the receiver or barrel, making the Benedix submission the likely winner of the competition. One also wonders why Benedix, a company that used wood in none of its existing products in 1940, didn’t hit on the idea simply as a profit enhancement feature since they undoubtedly would have outsourced the furniture if Hyde’s design had been adopted.

    • I think this is just one of those things that in hind sight seems obvious but at the time just wasn’t. I think in the minds of the designers carbines where not there own weapon but just tiny rifles, and so they fall for the trappings of rifle designs. Especially since recently all carbines where, where paired down versions of existing bolt action rifles. Also metal stocks, while efficient are pretty uncomfortable, and with the .30 rounds, may have seemed a bit to rough.

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