Darne Model 1933: An Economic & Modular Interwar MG

The Darne company was one of relatively few private arms manufacturers in France, best known for shotguns. During World War One they got into the machine gun trade, making licensed Lewis guns for the French air service. After making a few thousand of those, Regis Darne designed his own belt-fed machine gun in 1917. A large order was placed by the French military, but it was cancelled before production began because of the end of the war.

Darne continued to develop this design in the 1920s, while also producing sporting arms to keep the business running. The gun was intended mostly as an aircraft gun, but designed in a rather modular fashion, easily made into both magazine-fed and belt-fed infantry versions as well as downing, wing, and observer aerial models. It was actually bought by the French Air Force, as well as several other countries during the inter-war period.

The example we are looking at today is an infantry configuration, with a bipod and light-profile barrel. It is chambered for the French 7.5x54mm cartridge, and is officially the Model 1933 (one of the last iterations made). Many thanks to the Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History in Brussels for access to this very rare piece! Check them out here:


    • No one in Europa wants guns anywhere thats just a translation error i don’t want any guns except people who hunt and those who compete in a sport. Thats all i have to say as a German 21 year old man

  1. I can’t help liking it. It’s like a MAG designed when drunk.

    The feed system seems a little overcomplicated. I imagine it was designed to accommodate 8mm Lebel originally.

    • “(…)feed system seems a little overcomplicated. I imagine it was designed to accommodate 8mm Lebel originally.”
      https://smallarmsreview.com/the-darne-machine-gun/ claims that
      …they developed a true weapons system using a single mechanism, cooled by air, which could be adapted to the use of any ammunition from 6 to 8 mm cartridges, rimmed or rimless.
      So it might be more to need to make one to fit all, rather than just 8mm Lebel cartridge.

      • The ones used by the Italian Air Force were in .303 British.
        Much of the ammos and belts in use by then required rearward extraction, so, if you wanted to make a sort of “universal MG” it was an obvious choice.

      • Daweo:

        It was designed for the 8mm Lebel, so I suppose it could be adapted to take any other cartridge.

        Hogg & Weeks state that Darne’s MGs were made for them by Unceta in Spain, as they could do it cheaper.

  2. Given a quick change barrel with a carrying/dismounting handle like a Bren, and moving the bipod mount to the front of the gas tube, it would have made at least as good a GPMG as the MG34. Being gas-operated, it would be less aggravating than the retarded-blowback AAT 52.

    That oversized trigger guard would easily be used by someone wearing not just gloves but mittens. That would be a good thing for a gun intended for use by an aircraft observer in an open gun position with a Scarff ring. Even in summer, it gets cold above 3000 meters.

    As far as its MSRP, in 1933 the exchange rate of Fr to USD was 5.8464 Fr = $1. So 700 Fr= $119.73.

    Since $1 US 1933= $22.51 today, $119.73 then = $2695.12 now. Still pretty inexpensive for a serious LMG.

    As for its design, I noticed that like John Moses Browning’s creations, when you field strip the Darne and reassemble it, the bits only go back in one way; the correct way. Considering what works of art the Darne repeating double shotguns were, this shouldn’t surprise anybody. Their designers knew what they were about.



    • And yet some firms do not learn from the past. Just ask Kirk. He’ll tell you just how much General Dynamics failed to learn and apply details from past weapons when they designed the M60. It’s possible to put the M60 together wrong so badly that it explodes and kills the user, or so the exaggerated tale goes. If you’re lucky, it will just jam itself open and leave you helpless against some ax-swinging lunatic within chopping range.

      • Explodes and kills the user? Not quite.

        Blow the top cover, launching it in the general direction of the planet Vulcan (40 Eridani II)?- definitely.

        Lose the entire trigger/grip group? Oh yes. It can still be fired; assistant gunner holds belt straight out and taut, gunner hauls bolt back and releases it, holds onto gun like grim death as it joyfully runs away. To stop it, assistant gunner twists belt about 45 degrees, causing a feedway jam.

        Life with the M60 is an endless Magical Mystery Tour.

        clear ether


        • Wait… to my understanding problem with M60 was that in reality it was kept in one piece using wire, which did not seem as trust-inspiring solution to its’ user.

          • Oh, my sweet summer child… That was only one of the many ways that weapon was deficient.

            The safety wire kept the gas system from literally unwinding; when they first built it, all there was was threads. That didn’t work, so they applied washers and serrations to keep it from unthreading itself. That, too, proved to be insufficient, so they applied safety wire to the very expensive custom washers in order to stop them from coming undone. You also had to safety-wire the little gas-port bolt that allowed access to ream out the gas port, because that, too, liked to unwind.

            The feed trays would blow off when there was an out-of-battery, usually due to someone mixing up the bolts and the barrels such that they lost the proper headspace.

            I think I’ve enumerated all the various ways in which the M60 was able to be put back together just wrong enough to make it look like it was ‘right’, but wouldn’t be able to function as an effective MG.

            I gotta be blunt, when it comes to the M60. It is the machinegun that would have resulted from burying a Lewis Gun or an FG42 in Stephen King’s Pet Sematery next to an MG42; the gun just “came back wrong”. In ohsoverymanyways…

            There’s probably a novel-length spate of words from me on the issue on this site alone. I have issues with the M60; my first act upon acquiring a time machine? Not to go back and witness the Resurrection… No, I’d go back to the period when the US was looking at designing and adopting that utter POS and spend a few weeks wandering around finding out who was actually primarily responsible for that travesty, and then breaking their main limb joints with baseball bat. Only people I’d leave with the ability to walk would be the guys who designed the Stellite barrel.

      • @Cherndog,

        It’s also the only general-issue MG I’ve ever heard of that was prone to spontaneous self-disassembly and -destruction when at the end of its service life, which could be damned low in terms of round count. Stan Goff described his falling apart during a firefight, and I had one of mine do the same damn thing during training on a range.

        The M60 is a triumph of poor execution over what should have been at least serviceable design features. That receiver, which is lauded for its light weight, is also a major flaw, in that it’s comparatively light sheet metal held together by rivets and welds. The rivets, particularly the ones at the rear receiver bridge, are ground flat in order to allow the buttstock to slide over them. This leaves a paucity of metal to actually do the work of the rivet, and that’s where they tend to fail when seriously abused and overheated, leading to that “spontaneous self-disassembly” syndrome. When you find yourself having to lean into the gun in order to keep the buttstock in place because the rivets have failed, and pull the gun back into your shoulder constantly? You may be having a bad day on the range with your M60. I once had to finish qualification with a gun that was doing that, while also concealing the failure from the lane safety who would have made me stop firing and redo my qualification. Not one of my favorite days on the range, that: I’d been doing really well on that particular table, and then I felt the gun let go of itself.

        M60: The not-quite-ready-for-primetime machine gun.

      • Oh, Bullshit. If you reassemble the gas system incorrectly, and you have to be willfully stupid to do that, the M60 will fire one round and then cease work. It will not “explode” or “jam open”. I used M60s for four years n the Second Ranger Battalion and, if you clean and maintain them they work just fine.

        • I was first assigned as a gunner to the M60 in 1983. I was an armorer starting in 1984 through the end of 1985, and ever after that, I was the go-to guy for anything relating to the MG or the Arms Room in every unit I served in.

          You served in 2/75. I know the civilian armorer support you guys had fairly intimately, because we used to swap out 90mm parts and tools all the time. Your M60s were maintained virtually to death, and I’ll guarantee you that you likely never saw the amount of bullshit that went on behind the scenes to keep them up and running. I would send my guns over to the Log Center there at Fort Lewis all the damn time, only to have them cannibalized to keep 2/75 and the aviation guys weapons up and running, which meant that my guns often didn’t come out of third shop for ‘effing months. Y’all were reportable for readiness all the way up to DA; our guns were not.

          You have a very distorted idea of how well the M60 runs, because as a Ranger, you guys had a budget for parts and priority for maintenance. If one of your guns was down, that went up to DA level as a reportable deficiency. Because of that Ranger Regiment cared. Everybody else, outside Aviation? I could have an entire arms room filled with deadlined M60s, and nobody cared. The maintenance money was not there, and neither was the emphasis. It literally did not matter to anyone whether or not our guns would run, and that played into the support we got.

          2/75 gave you an entirely distorted idea of the M60, I’m afraid. Even so, your leaders were some of the first people to start agitating for its replacement, because even with the dedicated civilian armorer you had at each Ranger Battalion, they were playing merry hell keeping your guns up and running. If I remember right, there at the end of the M60’s career, the armorer at 2/75 was coding out two or three guns for every one of your major deployments/training exercises.

          Your experience with weapons that 2/75 fielded were not typical for the rest of us out on the line. Not at all… I personally had an M60 receiver self-destruct on me during a qual range. As an armorer or range NCOIC, I watched several more do the same damn thing, almost always at the rear receiver bridge. I’ve seen the aftermath of at least one blowing up due to mis-matched barrels and bolts, due to firing out-of-battery. It blew the top cover off, and damn near blinded the gunner, who in my opinion, deserved it since he was the idiot who’d removed the barrel tags for some reason never determined.

          The M60 was a shiite system, but you were never in a position to have to deal with it, being privileged to work under the auspices of a command and a unit that could both afford the maintenance bills, and which gave a damn about the weapon. Most of the rest of us had no such luck, and were forced to operate those POS guns under conditions that I doubt you can even conceive. The rest of the Army is not like the Ranger Battalions or the Regiment. We got thoroughly screwed on training time, money, and maintenance on our weapons. I ain’t joking one bit when I say that I was often lucky to have 3 of my nine assigned guns up and running in my company, with some of the sister companies being even worse off. It wasn’t at all unusual for us to go fire a battalion qualification and be forced to fire the entire battalions worth of gunners off of whatever we had up in our company, which usually had the most available guns in the battalion because I spent hours upon hours of my personal time making damn sure they worked. The M60 was an excretion; once we got the M240 in, all that went away and the machine gun went from an assumption of “They’re all down…” to “What, me worry about the machine guns…?”

          No offense, but trying to extrapolate from your time in 2/75 out to the rest of the Army’s experience? Totally in error. You just don’t know what you don’t know, and a lot of that information you don’t know is hidden behind the amount of support you guys got in your arms room. You have no earthly idea how much work your civilian armorer went to, or what it cost the rest of the units assigned to Fort Lewis.

          • Well, if you ignored the weight, the ungainlyness, and the fact that the barrel wasn’t easily swapped…? Maybe. I actually got to handle an M1919A6 in Iraq, that our Hawaiian National Guard guys pulled out of a cache they sniffed out, somehow… Playing around with that thing gave me sudden insight into why so many guys from back in the day said that the M60 was just great: If the M1919A6 was all you ever had as a reference? Then the M60 started to look good. I screwed around with that (re-?) captured M1919A6 enough to get fairly familiar with it; if I could have, I’d have gotten the ammo and given it some range time, but finding .30-06 in the middle of Iraq was a pipe-dream. Which probably explained why it was in a cache in the first place. What was never explained was where the hell a new-in-crate, unfired M1919A6 came from, to wind up in Iraq somewhat north of Baghdad. I know we sold the Iraqis tanks, at some point after WWII, but…? We ran the serial number on that gun, but apparently nobody bothered to computerize the records from that far back, and nobody at DOD could ever tell us where the hell that gun came from…

            I mean, if you had nothing but the M1919 of any other flavor? Yeah; then the A6 looks good. If you have an M60 as your only alternative? Take the M60, especially if you’re operating on foot.

          • Kirk:

            A heavy and ungainly machine gun that worked? At least the M1919A6 had that going for it.

            The moral of the M60 seems to be that if you have a machine gun held together by rivets, make sure the rivets work.

            I am starting to wonder if the M15 automatic rifle might have been more useful in Vietnam than the M60. It would have been a hell of a lot easier to carry, and I suspect rather more reliable. But I suppose that design died with the Springfield Armory.

          • Never got to handle an actual M15, just talked to guys who said they had during the trials. It was a POS, and the conclusion that the M14 was just about as good was spot-on.

            The M15 was one of a bunch of guns that just didn’t work out; it was the US equivalent of the FALO or the Commonwealth C2A1 or L2A1. Unfortunately, it was nowhere near as successful as either of those two were, as questionable as they were. The later M14E2 was another attempt to work out something along those lines, but it just wasn’t happening. Having played around a bit with a converted M14E2, I can tell you that it wasn’t what I’d want to be doing supporting fires with. At all. The modern M27 can at least fill the space of an individual weapon fairly well, but neither the M15 nor the M14E2 were “gainly” enough to really answer that bit of mail.

            I think I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: If your conception of modern small-arms centered combat includes something like a magazine-fed up-chunked individual weapon, I think you’re doing it wrong. Very wrong, as noted by reality as experienced by the average combat soldier, who immediately gravitate towards something belt-fed and far more effective in that role.

            I think the basic conceptual failure is to see warfare as a thing of pure maneuver, wherein your supporting arms are blasting your way into enemy positions. If you’re gonna be doing that, belt-fed is a necessity. The volume of fires from a mag-fed upsized individual weapon aren’t going to cut it. So, everybody winds up getting themselves some belt-fed goodness to enable that sort of warfare… One way or another. It’s the desire-path of ordnance procurement.

            If you’re going for the indirect approach, a la the German WWII preferred technique of Flachen und Leuckentaktik, then you still need the belt-fed portability of a GPMG to leverage your occupation of key terrain in the enemy rear and flanks. Thus, no matter which way you go, you don’t need that up-chunked IW. Given the environment at the end of the Korean War, and going into Vietnam? If my choices were the M60 as it was actually fielded and the M1919A6? I’d have probably plumped my money down on the M60. If I could have sent it back for a bit more time in the developmental oven, I’d have done that. If I could have gotten the MAG58? I’d have gone for that, with all of its weight flaws. The absolute last thing I’d have wanted, running a squad or platoon in Vietnam, would have been one of those two M14-derived support weapons. You just can’t do enough volume of fire with one of those, period. Inherent flaw in the design; something like a BREN, that can effectively be crew-manned? Maybe. We didn’t have that option, however.

          • Also, JohnK… The criticisms I have of the M60 stem from my time with it near the end of its service life, in an environment that included a plethora of other options that we knew about, as long-service professional soldiers. If you were a draftee, in for only a couple of years, whose only experience was the M1919A6 and the M60 as it was supported during Vietnam? You just didn’t have the same experiences with the gun that I did.

            In Vietnam, Ordnance took truly heroic measures to keep the M60 fleet up and operational; guys who served on the line with the M60 often didn’t see what went on behind the scenes. If you talked to the guys who were doing that hidden support, you’d likely be shocked at the amount of effort it took; there were things like emergency shipments of spare parts brought in from the US on aircraft like the C-5, and a whole program where they went out and into the base camps to perform technical checks and mass replacements of deficient weapons while the units were on stand-down after operations. The level of support was something that guys of my generation could only dream of, especially once they pulled the machineguns off of DA-reportable readiness issues. Once they did that? People quit caring; you’d go months without any sort of response from the system to get something fixed. That got exponentially worse with the Clinton-era Small Arms Repair Parts initiatives, where they pulled all spare parts out of the arms rooms and made you have to order everything you needed as you needed it. The insanity of that policy with the M60? Oh, sweet Jesus… You have no idea. Where I’d been able to keep most of the guns running with what I had in the arms room, except things like the receiver or sight leaves, the freakin’ lack of spare parts on the M60 was a death-blow to readiness. All those little commonly-lost bits and pieces? Dear God, you simply have no idea what a nightmare that was. Some of those parts were on six-month waiting lists, and the system simply wasn’t built to support that sort of madness. The end of the M60’s lifespan in service was a perfect storm of stupid policy and bad management; there were reasons that the Rangers and Marines were going after something else, anything else… The thing about it was, too, that the jackasses running the M60 as program managers were utterly clueless as to what was going on out in the units. You couldn’t get their attention with a baseball bat, and believe me, I had fantasies about taking a road trip back East with one, to try and get their attention about it all. There was a period there towards the end of the 1990s where I had one gun in my company that I could count on to be consistently available for service, and that thing was iffy. The other eight, which oh-by-the-way, represented the vast lion’s share of our firepower as Combat Engineers, were just plain chancy.

            I’m pretty sure that if we’d still had the M60 as our primary MG when we were getting ready for Iraq in late 2002, every one of our weapons would have failed the deployment gauging and checks; what that would have meant? No ‘effing idea, because the guys at the Logistics Center were always pretty up front with me about what they could do about the M60s, were we ever to deploy: Not a damn thing. There were no available “float” weapons there at Fort Lewis to replace our battalion set, there were none available at their next echelon higher (which I remember being the depots at Ogden), and even if there were, the Aviation guys and the Rangers would have taken priority. Bluntly put, we’d have gone out the gate without machineguns.

            That’s why I’m so down on the M60; you spend most of your career with that in the back of your mind, and knowing that nobody really gives a rip about the issue? You’ll have had the same opinion I did, or you’d have been an apathetic POS along with the rest of the “leadership” that should have been raising hell on the issue.

            The M60 was adequate and just barely fit-for-purpose during Vietnam, once you factored in the lavish support it got as a system. By the time I was in, during the 1980s and 1990s? That high, hysterical laughter you hear? That’s mine… The M60 should have been replaced the minute they decided to cut off the support, and the fact that it wasn’t shows how little emphasis the weapon got in the post-Vietnam era. Which makes sense, because that era was all about large-scale mechanized warfare on the plains of Central Europe, where the supporting arms would have dominated small arms. It was only when you factored in the “small war” sort of thing that machineguns took on any importance at all, and for units like mine that were typically given Infantry-like missions and zero support. Nothing like looking back over your shoulder at the Infantry outfits two klicks to the rear, who’re also refusing your access to the fire support you’d need if someone decided to take out your worksite… AirLand Battle had Engineer units working mostly in front of the Infantry and Armor, with very limited attention paid to the implications of that fact. The sorry bastards wouldn’t even field us with Dragons or the ammo to train with them, and when Javelin came in? It was “Oh, hey… Here are the CLU’s, don’t worry about any ammo to fire for training… You won’t ever use them, and we’re going to take them back ASAP…”

            There were a lot of things that we were “supposed to get”, that never showed up or got glommed onto by the Infantry bubbas. Who’d then display a totally insouciant attitude towards us when they wanted to use us in our secondary role, as Infantry. Sans any real fire support or access to AT weapons… Christ on a crutch, when they finally authorized Bradleys to the Engineers, the first thing they tried doing was using the vehicles as reinforcements for their units, with zero attention paid to the fact that that meant “no Engineer support” anywhere on the battlefield. There’s a world of stupid about the US Army encapsulated in all of that…

          • Kirk:

            I agree that the M15 would have been suboptimal, but maybe a bit less suboptimal than the M60. Then again, a 7.62mm Darne might have been better than either of them. Could it have been worse?

          • @JohnK,

            “Could it have been worse?”

            That’s a question I’ve learned to never, ever ask. Because, it can always be worse, and in ways you can’t even imagine.

            Consider a potential Vietnam where the US was stuck with the M14 for lack of an alternative (just imagine Eugene Stoner and Armalite never existed…): What were the likely paths forward, after enough people complained about the firepower disadvantage they were at, carrying around the M14/M14E2 pairing with perhaps the M1919A6 converted over to 7.62 NATO? How long would that have lasted, what with the production issues they had getting the M14 program going? Can you imagine the howls in the halls of Congress?

            In reaction, they’d have likely tried speeding up the SPIW program, which would have likely resulted in an even worse outcome than in our timeline; alternatives in the form of the various Winchester .224 offerings would have likely carried the day, with predictably similar results to the same issues encountered by M14 production and the ones surrounding the hurried introduction of the M16 to Vietnam. The whole thing has the potential to have been exponentially worse than what did happen, historically speaking.

            I don’t even know what the US would have gone with, had the M60 program failed. I strongly suspect they’d have just gone with rechambering the M1919A6, and maybe doing some more ergonomic work on the stock/grip arrangement. I vaguely remember seeing where there had been some motion towards something like that, but it didn’t go anywhere because they realized it didn’t offer much in the way of real competition to the M60.

            I don’t think that there’s any way possible that common sense would have reigned and they went back to the .280 British, the FN-FAL chambered in that, and a matching MAG58 procurement. That would have meant admitting that they’d gotten the whole thing about intermediate cartridges and small arms wrong from the git-go, with the 7.62 NATO program. That also would have been too damn simple; my take is that something akin to the Winchester .224 would have ruled the day, or something ginned up by Springfield Arsenal in its back offices. What they’d have gone with for squad support fire? No idea; maybe an attempt at a .224 M15-equivalent, or a BAR-equivalent?

            Whole thing’s speculation, but it can always, always be worse. Best not to tempt the gods of fate and circumstance by speculating, because they’ll hear you and then… You get something like the NGSW or OICW programs.

          • :Kirk

            Easy guess. Winchester .224 for the US troops, and it would have been up to the Allies to came up with something more modern in that caliber (AK-style rotating bolt and stamped steel receiver with upper and lower. FN-CAl, FN-FNC, Beretta 70…)

          • Kirk:

            I have to bow to your experience with the army, yes, things could always be worse!

            As to Vietnam, if we conduct a thought experiment in which Gene Stoner had never had lunch with Curtis LeMay, and the AR15 had never been adopted by the USAF?

            Well, being as Macnamara had closed Springfield down after 1.3 million M14s had been built, would there have been enough for Vietnam? Would M1s have been brought back into service, maybe in the 7.62mm conversion? Maybe civilian contractors such as H&R could have picked up the slack making more M14s.

            I am sure that the outcome in Vietnam would have been the same. America did not lose because of the M14 or the M16, or even the M60. But I do think that if the US had not adopted 5.56mm when it did, then it would have been a very long time coming. All of NATO (save France, of course) had adopted 7.62mm at the insistence of the USA, there would have been no need to look at replacements until the 1980s at the earliest.

            If the M60 programme had been abandoned, the USA could just have adopted the MAG, and everyone would have been happy. And of course that did happen, just 20 years too late.

          • @ Dogwalker,

            I think that’s about how it would have gone, with the US glomming onto the Winchester offering in .224 as an interim measure before SPIW came on-line, and I’d further speculate that they’d have been forced to find another expedient when that brilliant conception went the way of all beautiful theories upon encountering brutal reality. Europe might have gone about as it did in our history, but I wonder what the Brits would have done for their Armalite solution when the L1A1 needed supplementing.


            I’ve been thinking about this for a couple of days, and I find that I both agree and disagree with you about the position of small arms in modern warfare. Yes, you can make a case for their essential irrelevance to affecting much of anything past the tactical level, but I’d submit that if you’re losing a bunch of your minor tactical engagements due to your guys being poorly armed, well… That’s going to have expansive effects on your operational and strategic levels of warfare, ones that might even result in the loss of a campaign or even war.

            Not to mention, the loss of human life represented by losing those engagements, along with the accompanying morale effects. Imagine an Ichord Committee, focused not on the M16 fielding debacle, but on the entire 7.62 NATO/M14 cluster-fark. That might have been what came out of enough tactical losses due to insufficient firepower in Vietnam, and it might have injected a note of sanity into things.

            I also have to point out that one of the key failures of the M14 program was that Springfield and the other contractors never could get production off the ground with the old M1 machinery, per their promises. It took TRW with all-new machinery to finally get good numbers into serial production, and that was just in time for MacNamara to pull the rug out from under the M14 program. Which I’d suggest is something he should have done earlier, and extended to the M60, because that whole suite of weapons was very ill-thought out and not ready for primetime duty in a combat zone.

          • :Kirk
            That of manufacturing M14 on old M1 machinery was an hoax from the start.
            Of the two M1 production lines, that of Winchester already ended up in Italy and, despite being the more recent one, it was so worn out that Beretta technicians only used it to figure out the sequence of the operations before building a brand new one. I’ve no reasons to believe Springfield’s one was in better conditions.

          • @Dogwalker,

            Oh, that was without doubt a huge fraud, but it’s one of the ones they sold the M14 with. I’ve always found it really ironic that the Italians managed to pull off the BM59 with far fewer resources and in a much shorter time, attaining results that remained in service until well into the 1980s. If I were Italian, that’d be really amusing. As I am an American, it’s really kind of embarrassing…

          • Kirk:

            Let’s say the the USA did what it should have done, after forcing NATO to adopt the 7.62mm, which is to have adopted the FN FAL and MAG.

            If these had been used in Vietnam, I doubt the M16 would have been generally adopted. Maybe it would have remained with the USAF guarding SAC airfields.

            The British army did well enough in various wars with that combination. So did Rhodesia and South Africa. The US would not have lost out in Vietnam if their soldiers had been so armed. But they would not have won either. Having a good suite of small arms might be necessary to win a war, but it is not sufficient.

            If the US had gone down the FAL route, I wonder if and when they would ever have adopted an intermediate round and an assault rifle to fire it? Maybe the move towards APCs and IFVs would eventually have led to a requirement for a smaller rifle, and hence an intermediate round. Or maybe the powers that be would have found another way to fck it up.

          • @JohnK,

            The US did not lose the Vietnam War in any real military sense. That’s been the go-to excuse for the apologists, but the fact is that the war was lost in the halls of Congress when the traitor caucus in the Democratic Party chose to abrogate treaties they signed and then cut the South Vietnamese off from military aid and support. Do remember the way the ’72 Easter Offensive was crushed. Had the Communist fellow-travelers in Congress not cut South Vietnamese aid and left the Air Force to provide tactical support, the question of who won in Vietnam would remain unquestioned.

            This is one case where the “conventional wisdom” is basically a damn lie, meant to cover up political choices made by traitors in the political structure. It’s a notable thing that the same family that got us into Vietnam against the advice of the professional military and diplomatic personnel also played a key role in betraying the obligations that they’d cozened the nation into undertaking. Do remember that it was the two elder Kennedy brothers that were behind the inept coup and assassination of Diem; it was also the youngest POS Kennedy that led the charge in Congress to cut off South Vietnam’s military aid.

            So, the idea that the US somehow “lost the war militarily” is a specious one. The only thing that the vaunted Tet Offensive accomplished was the eradication of the Viet Cong as a movement and military force; both of the later invasions of South Vietnam were carried out by purely conventional forces; it was not some resolute South Vietnamese guerrilla knocking on the gates of the US Embassy in Saigon, it was a company of tanks. From the second set of Soviet weapons provided, the first having been expended in ’72.

            The counterfactual of the US using the FAL and MAG58, and what would have eventuated from there? Well… I’ll simply note that even the UK found the FAL to be a less than optimal weapon in the jungles of Malaysia and during the Indonesian crisis. Remember, they first procured the M16 during those years, and then continued to use it happily in specialist roles afterwards.

            I would speculate that something was going to have to fill that tactical vacuum. What it would have been, in a world absent Eugene Stoner and Armalite? Not a damn clue, TBH. It’s possible that the UK would have gone back to the .280 British and a downsized FAL for service in the jungles, but I think that the necessary development would have been far more expensive than they’d have been willing to spend. If you survey the market during the 1960s, what was there for a real intermediate cartridge assault rifle that could easily be procured…? I honestly can’t think of all that much. Everyone else in Europe had already followed the US down the oversized rathole of the individual weapon in 7.62 NATO, and about all that was out there were the various flavors of downloaded 7.62 in Spain and Japan.

            About the only thing that I think might have been easily available and easily repurposed for the UK? Perhaps the Valmet Rk62?

            While I think the MAG58 would have been a good choice for Vietnam, the damn thing would still have been too heavy. That might have gotten the US moving on something like the Negev or SS-77 for the light infantry role, but who knows what might have come out of that one? Madsen-Saetter could have provided a somewhat lighter solution for the guys on foot, so that might have been a path taken.

            I think the flaws of the FAL (and, there were a considerable number…) and MAG58 would have resulted in the same dissatisfaction as we had historically with the M14, only somewhat muted. The UK experience during the Emergency points out a truth about the 7.62 NATO cartridge: It’s too damn big for an individual weapon, especially in close quarters. Something smaller, lighter, and better suited to controlled automatic fire would have still been necessary.

            Now, another interesting counterfactual about small arms history? What if, for example, Vietnam didn’t happen at all? The close-quarters environment there was the primary driver behind the abandonment of the M14. Let’s say, for example, that instead of Vietnam, the proxy war in the 1960s took place somewhere else, say the mountains of Iran or Turkey. Hell, make it Afghanistan; what does that do to small arms design? Would the M14 and FAL have done better? Would people have even wanted a smaller cartridge?

            Outcome of that one might have been the Soviets deciding that they needed to abandon the 7.62X39 for something with more hitting power, range, and suitability for magazine feed. Which would have led to God alone knows what…

            A lot of this speculative stuff is very balloon-like. You press in on the balloon with what you think is a minor historical change, and the balloon confounds you by pushing out somewhere you never expected it to. A different theater than Vietnam might have convinced the Soviets that they needed to change what they were doing, and the NATO allies might have decided that they got it right, from the beginning.

            All of which is essentially unknowable, but amusing to speculate on.

          • : JohnK
            The FAL was a foreign design, so it being marginally better than the M14 wouldn’t have shielded it from criticism. Quite the contrary.
            Maybe, having to replace the FAL, the Ordnance Corp would have sabotaged the M16 less.

          • Kirk:

            On a historical note, I do not believe that President Kennedy or Robert Kennedy ordered the assassination of Diem. The CIA was quite capable of getting rid of people who no longer served their purpose. I happen to think they did the same thing to both the Kennedys, but that’s another matter.

            As to Edward Kennedy, he was indeed the runt of the litter, no doubt about that.

            I also agree that the US was not beaten militarily in Vietnam. Politically, certainly. But Sleepy Joe has shown that the US can still cut and run when the mood takes. Obviously, in 1975, B52s could have smashed the invading NVA. Politicians in Washington just wanted to be rid of South Vietnam. Bad luck if you died defending the place.

            In that context, the use of the M14, M16 or FAL would not have changed anything. Of course the FAL is too heavy and long, but that’s just down to the 7.62mm. As you say, absent the M16, there was nothing really smaller or lighter to be had in the 1960s. I think by the 1970s and 80s the penny would have dropped, and an intermediate round would have been developed, but it would not have been 5.56mm.

            As an aside, can you explain what is wrong, in your opinion, with the M14? Of course, it was the wrong rifle in the wrong calibre, but given that, was it a bad rifle? I see it as a modernised Garand. It was a good semi-auto full calibre rifle, if that is what you wanted. Imagining it could replace the carbine and SMG and the BAR was ridiculous, but again, not the fault of the M14, just the deranged fantasy of the loons who adopted it.

          • :JohnK
            It could have been better.
            Because it was just that. A semiauto rifle. A 20 rounds Garand. It was not an occasional LMG, nor a grenade launcher, not even a good DMR (it was forced in that role only much later).
            For the same weight, it could have been all those things. It would still have been an heavy rifle in the wrong caliber, but somewhat better than it was.

          • @JohnK,

            Man, we’re so far off into weeds off-topic that it’s not even funny.

            I think both John F. and Robert Kennedy were a pair of incompetent dilettantes playing at statecraft. JFK was doped to the gills for some very important things, being essentially run by a guy who was actually a protege of Hitler’s doctor that kept him drugged up. RFK was a sorry bastard, venal bastard that broke numerous understandings with his father’s criminal contacts that delivered Chicago to his brother. The fact that JFK had the sheer testicular fortitude to put him up for Attorney General is a telling point about both of them. The Kennedy clan, in my opinion, was and is a peripheral participant in organized crime. Just go back to why their father got fired from his position as ambassador to the UK… They’ve always been crooks, always will be. I’ve seen documentation demonstrating that the coup against Diem happened at the direction of the White House, and nothing to refute that. Diem’s death was at first seen as a happy thing, for the Kennedy crew, but then when it blew up, the squid ink got released denying it.

            I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if the CIA and FBI were behind the assassinations of both of them, but I’d submit that they probably did it out of a desire to stop the loose cannons rolling around. If they hadn’t have been assassinated, I suspect their sainted memories would hardly be sainted. They’d both go down as some of the biggest crooks in US history, as well as being womanizing thugs. Just an opinion… JFK had no business even running for president with his medical issues. RFK should never have been an Attorney General, either, especially not in his own brother’s administration.

            As to the M14? Oh, lawdy, where to start? First off, the manufacture was a travesty of failure; they never got production up to where they needed it. A lot of the Army was still hauling around the Garand when the Berlin crisis was going on, because they’d never gotten enough produced. That also was what caused TRW to be brought in, who essentially threw out everything else in terms of production machinery and built their own lines.

            Additionally, the M14 basic design was just out of date and utter shiite in a lot of regards. The bolts and op rods are prone to the same vices as the M60, exhibiting excessive peening and surface damage just from normal operation. I never had the burden of having to be armorer for those bedamned things, but I had friends who had them in their arms rooms and who’d had to try and keep the M21 rifle up and running, and it was nightmarish. Plus, I knew guys whose preferred precision rifle was an “accurized M14” and I swear to God, I cannot for the life of me understand why they loved the things so. My buddy’s had to be re-bedded damn near every time he took it down for cleaning, and that was a $600.00 trip to a specialist to get it done right. He never managed a re-bedding job that worked worth a damn.

            The M14 is just a fussy, badly-engineered POS. I mean, the damn op rods would seemingly just bend themselves out of a sense of outrage that they weren’t being treated properly… Seemingly. The plethora of aftermarket “fixes” for the M1A rifles that are still in use by the enthusiasts might be a clue that there’s a lot wrong with the damn basic design…

            The M14 is really a rifle that shouldn’t have happened. Arguably, had we fielded it during or after WWI, it would have been perfect in that milieu. In the post-WWII era? With the state of the art at that time? It was a travesty piled on top of another travesty, the 7.62mm NATO.

            You’ll note that while the FAL and G3 were sold everywhere, there wasn’t anyone who didn’t get them free who accepted the M14. Taiwan is the only country that comes to mind, and I think that pretty much speaks to itself.

            Esthetically, the M14 has a lot going for it. Functionally? Tactically? Maintenance-wise? LOL… Nope. Nothing good to be said for it. I saw all the after-action reviews from the guys using them as interim EBRs in Iraq and Afghanistan, and what’s striking is how many wound up remaining in the various arms rooms vs. going out on the daily operations.

            And, I’ll freely admit that a lot of the problems there stemmed from them being out of the system so far as parts and tech support went. The one old-timer in the weapons shop down at Doha in Kuwait that knew how to work on the damn things could write his own ticket; what he couldn’t do was take any vacations, there at the height of things.

            I feel like the M14 is basically the Mini-14 of the 7.62 rifle world; you keep ’em around out of a sense of nostalgia, the way you do a classic car, but you’re driving your damn Camry in to work every morning.

            I still think the whole set of weapons that they designed and procured back in those days could and should have been tossed simply on their basic merits alone. It never should have taken operations in Vietnam to bring out their flaws, but there ya go… They were operating with what I can only term a thoroughly delusional understanding of what combat looked like in that era. Especially for the environment they encountered in Vietnam. Might have looked different had they gone to war somewhere else, with longer ranges and less close-in work.

          • Kirk:

            WRT to the Kennedys, I am sure JFK did not order a hit on Diem, that sort if wet work was the province of the CIA. Also, whilst old Joe Kennedy was indeed a crook, I cannot condemn Robert Kennedy for taking on organised crime. It would have been very easy for him to have ignored the mob.

            As to the M14, thank you for your information. The operating system is very similar to the M1, so did the M1 share similar faults, or were these peculiar to the M14? If Ordnance managed to screw up a good operating system then that is another black mark.

          • @JohnK,

            The Kennedy administration was basically playing games through State and the CIA, encouraging the coup against Diem. His death was either ordered by someone along that chain of responsibility. If it wasn’t a predictable outcome of having ordered that coup, then they should have made damn sure he survived. If you go back and read about the entire episode from multiple sources and angles, what you get is a ring-side seat to the Acme Amateur Hour and Clownshow expressed as “statecraft”. Kinda like what’s been going on in Ukraine, God help us… I’ve also talked to guys who were in that milieu around Saigon during those years, and their opinions were that we were sticking our fingers into a mincing machine and had not a clue what was going on, all the way up to the White House. The South Vietnamese government was a circus funhouse of ass-backwardsness that we never managed to see until it was too late and it was after the fact. Case in point… One of the main guys at the Time Magazine Saigon office was Pham Xuan An, who worked for the North Vietnamese through the whole war. He had access to all kinds of things that probably should have been kept classified, but which were common knowledge among the American expat community there in Saigon. Nobody suspected him, at all. There were others; one friend of mine told me that it wasn’t until after the war that he figured out that one of the guys they’d had working inside the liaison office at the embassy had to be a North Vietnamese agent, because when they went to try and get him out, he refused departure. He was also seen later on, wearing PAVN uniform and field-grade rank. He’d had access to just about everything we were doing over there, to include some highly classified MACV-SOG recon work that they could never figure out how they got compromised virtually before the helicopters took off.

            There was a lot of stuff we could have done much better over there, in terms of execution. End of the day, however? The US military wasn’t defeated on the field, it was in Congress after we’d left and finished the whole Vietnamization process. Had we kept up the support, I think South Vietnam stood a decent chance of succeeding as a nation.

            Which still doesn’t either add to or take away from the misbegotten nature of how we got involved there.

            The mechanical flaws of the M14 mostly stemmed from the fact that you had this convoluted mess for an operating rod and gas system. In the AK, the bolt is virtually a carbon copy of the Garand, as is the M14. However, the AK has a straight operating rod going into the bolt carrier, and it is a much more straightforward gas system. If you look at the the M14, you have all these harmonics and weird little things caused by the op rod being essentially bent around the action. That’s the root of a lot of the problems, along with the White gas system. The Italians got along fine, basically just copying the gas system of the M1. The White system was needless complication.

            There are guys who can give you a very thorough run-down on all the ins and outs of the M14. Getting one to attain consistent accuracy, which is one of the only justifications for its existence in that caliber, is a labor of love best undertaken under the range conditions prevalent somewhere here in the US. Taking that flippin’ thing to a country like Iraq and then demanding it behave consistently is a fool’s game that quite a few people got very, very tired of.

            Both the Garand and the M14 represent, in my opinion, weapons that should have been on-issue about 1920, in terms of what we should have known about combat. That they lasted until the 1950s, and were even procured then in the M14’s case? Madness.

            The ironic thing is, they had a much better solution in hand with the .280 British and the FAL chambered in that. Had they just said “OK, let’s talk to some people who actually fought in the war at the front lines…”, they might have realized that. Instead, Studler et al chose to make believe that they were smarter than everyone else, and here we are.

            I kinda blame the simulation, TBH. If the Camp Perry National Matches had been set up to more accurately represent real-world combat conditions, we might have come up with something better. But, because they set the simulation up with unrealistic information, well… Here we are. This is yet another example of how and why you have to be very, very careful about gamification of your training simulation spaces. Camp Perry might not have been all that bad for simulating what marksmen needed to do, in the immediate post-Civil War era. However, comma… By the end of WWI, they very badly needed to update it all with an eye towards actually replicating what a modern rifleman needs to do. Individual marksmen probably should have been done away with, and they should have gone to a squad-size team with LMG-class weapons doing support. Had that happened, then we’d have likely done a much better job at decision-making and procurement.

          • Kirk:

            To be fair to President Kennedy, he was planning to pull out of South Vietnam when he was assassinated.

            As to the M14, it would seem its problems were related to the White gas system. Am I right in thinking this was also used in the M60? Seems like this was a rabbit hole Ordnance went down in the 1950s.

            The M1 and BM59 seem to have worked well enough, but really with a gas operated system it makes more sense to have the gas tube above the barrel, I think every rifle does that now. It saves a lot of complication.

            I agree that a .280 FAL and MAG combination would have been great. Both weapons would have been smaller and lighter, and come in very handy for Vietnam. Shame it never happened.

            I like your idea for a new Camp Perry competition. It sounds fun to say the least. In Britain our NRA (yes we have one, and very useless it is too) decided that when we adopted the SLR, they would continue to base their target shooting on the Lee-Enfield, thus keeping us firmly in the 19th century. When the government came along to ban semi-automatic rifles, as they invariably do, there was no critical mass of “respectable” rifle shooters to stand up to them. The rebels who had adopted 20th century rifles were easily picked off. Then they came for handguns. Sad story.

          • @JohnK,

            Vis-a-vis Kennedy’s intent with regards to Vietnam, I somehow suspect that a lot of that “He’d have gotten us out of Vietnam…” is purest revisionist wishful thinking by his partisans. The same things that locked LBJ into the whole mess would have constrained Kennedy, as well. The Republicans would have “pounced” on him for “falling dominoes” in the next presidential campaign as hard as they would have on LBJ. The Vietnam misadventure really dates back to the 1960 Presidential campaign, and the domestic political considerations were what drove that whole thing in the first place. Had Kennedy not made defense the issue he did, then he might not have won.

            I remain unimpressed at the whole of Kennedy’s administration. His activities on the side with all the women indicate a deeply narcissistic irresponsible personality that never grew up. Absent all the cover-up provided by the media, and his virtual canonization as a saint after the assassination? I think we’d remember him and his time in office very, very differently. And, not with any respect for his accomplishments, which weren’t all that great. We’ll never know what Kennedy would have done in Vietnam had he survived, but we do know what he actually did, and none of that was at all positive.

            Most of these populist parvenus are cack-handed idjits, when they start messing with things outside their experience or level of actual competence. Good foreign policy is rarely made by any of them, but the professionals often screw things up just as badly or worse. It was professionals that gave us Afghanistan and Iraq, after all…

            I may be mistaken, but I’ve never seen any sources saying that the M60 has a “White gas system” as on the M14. There are some distinct similarities between the two, but… I don’t know that those similarities are there because they were based on the same patents, but the principles appear to be very similar on the surface. In the end, there are only so many ways you can build a self-regulating gas system.

            You’ll note how rare that feature is on other weapons, and rightfully so. I don’t think “self-adjusting” anything is necessarily a good idea.

            As for the likely utility of the .280 FAL and MAG58, I think we’d have run into the same issue there that we did with the whole “one cartridge to rule them all” idea. The two spaces we have there, that of the individual weapon and the squad support weapon, are mutually exclusive in terms of what we need them to do. The individual weapon has to be light and handy enough for one person, accurate and lethal out to about 300-500m, and be capable of automatic fire for those moments when you need it. The support weapon needs to be heavy enough to reach out and touch people and equipment out to about 1200m minimum, and do it with authority. You can’t get a single cartridge to do all of that, no matter how hard you click your heels and wish for home.

            As that is the case, I think the .280 would have done very well, better than the 7.62 NATO in the individual weapon. Support weapon? Hell, no… That needs something heavier. I suspect that if the UK had type-standardized on the .280, they’d have had to come up with a heavier caliber for the MG roles. What that would have been? No idea; the MAG58 was originally designed for 6.5 Swedish, so maybe that, or a heavier .280 with a bigger case? No idea, really, but I’m pretty sure that they’d have had to.

            These single-cartridge “solutions” have always been found wanting, in one way or another. I think the NGSW is going to founder on just those same issues, especially with the full-house “combat loads”. The average soldier just can’t attain effectiveness or proficiency with something like that, and predicating everything on getting everyone to a Special Forces-level of skill is probably a non-starter because the politicians won’t pay for it.

            As for the British firearms issue, I think you guys set a bad precedent back during the early days of the 20th Century when the decision was made to attempt to disarm potential unrest by the Irish nationalists and others. That’s where the ball got started, and it’s only rolled onwards from there. The other problem is that Britain has been so peaceful and homogenous for so long that people forgot what chaos and disorder looks like, and so seek refuge with the state when it threatens, rather than taking care of themselves. A British citizen of the 18th and 19th Centuries would likely be incredulous at the state of things today, with people banning table knives and cooking tools. You can’t solve a problem that exists between the ears by banning tools; you don’t need tools to carry out an attack on someone else. Do note the popularity of acid attacks, as substitutes. All you’re really doing by banning formally-designed weapons is the disarmament of the innocent. The evil are never disarmed; they’ll find something, anything with which to carry out their assaults on decent behavior. Hell, most of the time, all they need are their fists or a handy rock. You start going down the path of banning anything that can be used as a weapon, you’ll eventually have to cover everything in the environment with foam, and then they’ll use that to stuff down someone’s throat and choke them to death. It’s as futile an effort as I can imagine… There are no “dangerous weapons”, only dangerous men. To eschew the control of those men, by applying correctives to their behavior, and focus on the things they use as though those things were the source of their behavior? Madness.

          • Kirk:

            Wikipedia says that the M60 and M14 used the White system, so that must be so. But as you say, is it worth having a “self-regulating” gas system? Most soldiers can cope with adjusting the gas port with a bullet tip.

            It may be that .280 was a bit weak for the fire support role. Then again, the M2HB was hardly a rare piece, it would have done very well at 1000m.

            As to the baleful history of British gun control, the rot set in in 1920. The government of the day said it was a plan to disarm burglars! They lied, of course. In reality they were in fear of a Red revolution, and wanted to keep arms out of the hands of the working classes, who had just spend four years learning how to use them. Now the idea that free people own arms is pretty dead in the UK. Only the cops and robbers may be armed.

          • @JohnK,

            So far as that Wikipedia reference to the supposed “White “gas expansion and cutoff” principle” they call out, I’ll be damned if I can find anything other than a self-referential circle using the exact same language as the Wikipedia article to support that. I have never, heretofore, seen or heard anything where someone has said clearly authoritatively that “The M60 has a White gas system…”, and I either missed that reference in the article before you pointed it out, or it’s a recent edit of questionable provenance. I’ll freely acknowledge that they look a lot alike, but none of the documentation I’ve ever seen has actually stated that they’re the same patents. Could be I missed it, could be that nobody has said that officially. I don’t know. The M60 is a weapon whose development and fielding badly needs a good reference work, but I don’t think anyone really gives enough of a rat’s ass about the weapon to do that. Anything I wrote would be highly critical, and if were to find living persons who’d been involved in the design/fielding of the thing, I’d be highly tempted to give them a piece of my mind, enough of one to be highly inappropriate when dealing with the elderly and (likely, prematurely…) senescent. People who didn’t have lives riding on that system back during the 1980s and 1990s just weren’t cognizant or likely to care about the issues… If I’d been a Bradley guy, with the 25mm and some backup M249s in my squad? M60 ain’t working? Big deal… I’ve got alternatives. My guys? LOL… The M60 was it. A fact that tended to focus the mind wonderfully on its maintenance and upkeep. Most of the Infantry had alternatives, or they got the lavish support the Ranger Regiment had going. The rest of us? Nada. Not a damn thing… That fact will forever color my opinion of that weapon.

            The problem with the M2HB is that it’s proper role isn’t doing the job of an MMG… Too damn heavy, logistically and mobility-wise. As a vehicle-mounted weapon? Great tool. You’re not lugging that thing on foot into the jungle for miles on end, day after day after day. And, if you did, it’s so damn heavy and hard to bring into operation that you’d likely get very few opportunities to use it.

            It’s all horses for courses; the handwriting has been on the wall for decades now that the two spaces, individual weapon and support weapon, require two different caliber solutions. Unless technology comes to our rescue, that’s not going to change any time soon. If we could get two different ballistic performance curves out of the same cartridge with different barrel lengths, maybe something could be achieved, but then you’d be paying the weight penalty for hauling those heavier cartridges around with you in the individual weapon… I’m not sure that the circle can be squared, and I regard all the guys wanting “one cartridge to rule them all” to be delusional and in denial of that which experience is trying desperately to teach us.

            Every army that’s tried out the intermediate cartridge idea has eventually had their ambitions founder on the rocks and shoals of reality, which is that they either went with too heavy a cartridge to meet the support weapon needs (which is what the US did with the 7.62 NATO debacle, and is repeating with the NGSW recap…) or the individual weapon cartridge fails when jumped up into the support weapon role. That was the error-path the Soviets and Germans took, and they fixed it by retaining a heavy rifle-caliber MG in the MTOE and farming them out to the squads. The US wound up with the 5.56mm M16/7.62mm M60, and that worked. Attempting to replace the M60 with the M249 did not, recapitulating the same mistake the Soviets made with the RPD. “Sh*t don’ work, yo…” as one of my guys would have put it.

            The civil engineering principle of the “desire path” pretty much indicates a couple of things in US small arms procurement: One, the M4 carbine was determined by grass-roots users to be a superior solution over the M16A2, indicating that the genius types behind that idea got it entirely wrong, and that the 7.62mm machine gun has a clear utility and role at the squad/platoon level that ain’t going away. You can try to change that, but in the end? Two calibers will be on issue down at that level until something major changes. I speculate that the NGSW cartridge is going to bifurcate if it makes it to adoption; the full-power version may work to answer needs in the MG role, but the individual weapon will probably default to that training round level for that role. Which will effectively mean that we’ve spent billions repeating and fielding the same weapon suite solution that we already had.

            It’s a reason I suspect that the NGSW won’t actually make it to general issue or general use in the near- or medium-term future. Long-term? LOL… As soon as Milley is gone, and Congress starts cutting budgets, that whole white elephant is going away, I suspect. 5.56 and 7.62 have this annoying flaw: They’re just “good enough” to do the job. You don’t see major complaints coming out of Ukraine, even against the tatty body armor the Russians are fielding, and I’ve been looking for them. I’m also starting to question the value of body armor when you’re in an army like the Russian one… Without the rapid and ubiquitous US-style MEDEVAC system, it’s ‘effing pointless to armor the troops. All you’re really doing with a plate carrier is prolonging the suffering, because I’ll wager you that most of the Russians are dying not because of thorax or head wounds, but because they’re bleeding out from peripheral fragment and bullet injuries that are fatal without rapid professional treatment and CASEVAC. All the body armor is accomplishing is serving to prevent the mercy-kill coming from a thorax wound, and people are going to start to do the math and realize that the armor is a waste of money. If the soldier gets good medical care and evacuation? It can be a life-saver. If there’s nobody there to apply Combat Lifesaver and good low-level medical care at the scene? You’re wasting your money; he’s gonna die anyway, so why bother arming him or trying to evacuate him. You see that calculus in play with a lot of the human-wave style assaults the Russians are pulling with the Wagner prisoner-conscripts. For them, right now? The armor is merely a sop to morale. It’s not doing a damn bit of actual good for most of the troops. Indeed, it’s actually increasing the suffering they’re experiencing.

            Kinda the same way the late 19th Century decision to outlaw the expanding bullet did, really. With the then-existing state of the medical art, it would have been exponentially kinder to have expanding bullets kill the victims, rather than just poke holes in them for infection and gangrene to perform the actual killing later on after weeks and weeks of suffering in some dank hospital… An expanding bullet that actually killed would have been far more humane, right up until the advent of modern antibiotics. Unfortunately, the idiots and dolts behind all that failed to work that out, and we got to live out the experience of having people succumb to wounds after weeks of suffering, rather than mere moments after being hit.

            Not an overall fan of the whole idea, TBH.

            As to the UK situation with weapons? I’ll simply point out that there’s never, ever been a single regime in human history that meant well when it said “Give me your weapons; I’ll protect you, you don’t need them…” Every time those words have been said, it’s a prelude to tyranny and slaughter. Doesn’t matter where, doesn’t matter when: It’s always followed, like night after day. There’s only ever been one person you can actually trust to be concerned for your physical well-being, and that’s you. You farm that out to someone else, and you’re just asking for trouble. It’s a prelude to horrors untold, and it may not actually eventuate for generations, but it will come.

            The ethos I learned was that a free man goes armed; a slave does not. I’ve seen nothing in my life to change my mind, and a lot to reinforce that mindset.

          • Kirk:

            I am sure you are right, there is no round which fits all roles. We have stumbled upon the 5.56mm and 7.62mm, and it seems to work. Muddying the waters with this 6.8mm round is just nonsense.

            I am afraid the British have had the stuffing knocked out of them. Only about 1% of the population own a gun (legally, that is) and there is no gun lobby to speak of. It is about numbers. When gun ownership falls so low, there is no political power there, and legal gun owners form a useful scapegoat. On current polls, the Labour Party will form the next government, and the leader thereof has made it plain he wants to get even more guns out of legal hands. So that will be fun.

          • @JohnK,

            I don’t see the point of the 6.8 at all. If they’d chosen to go to an improved 5.56-class round *and* something heavier than 7.62mm NATO for the MG, I could see making the change. I’ve always had the entirely unprovable feeling that the 5.56mm was just a bit too light in the loafers, if you get my drift, and the 7.62mm NATO always suffered from its initial development as another one of these “one size suits all” cartridges. I think the Swedes were on to something, with their whole 8X63 m/32 cartridge idea for their medium machineguns; I’d have looked at a modernized version of something like that, instead of the 7.62mm NATO.

            The essential insanity and futility of essentially recapping the same failed ideas that produced the 7.62mm NATO through a similarly failed process still strike me as being an utter failure of understanding about how modern combat has been working. You cannot make one cartridge fit both roles, without deeply compromising performance in one or the other role.

            As for the UK’s current state of being with regards to weapons and self-defense? I fear some basic lessons are going to be re-learnt about the advisability of relying on the state for one’s personal security and well-being. What comes out on the other end of that? No idea. I don’t envy the victims, but I do have to acknowledge that they went willingly and blindly to their own enserfment.

          • :Jonk
            I’m quite persuaded that, had the US Army, in the ’30s, instead of tinkering with the .276 Pedersen, and then staying with the 30-06, adopted a spitzer .30 Remington (it would have been impossible, I know), we wouldn’t have heard about .30 Carbine, .308 Win and .223 Rem.
            The 30-06 would have been retained for the heavy work (vehicular MG, MMG…) and the .30 Rem would have done all the rest for many years. Had them been finally replaced, they would have by something very different than what we have known.

            More than full blown and intermediate power cartridges, there are three level of power
            Under 2200 J: good for personal automatic fire, acceptable for SAW, bad for GPMG.
            From 2200J to 3000J, acceptable for personal automatic fire, good for SAW, acceptable for GPMG.
            Over 3000J, bad for personal automatic fire, acceptable for SAW, good for GPMG.

          • @Dogwalker,

            That’s a really useful way to look at it, but I’d submit that there are a few other considerations that ought to be rolled up into it. It’s not all just about the muzzle energy, which I presume is where you’re taking those measurements. The other things that need to be taken into account are energy retention at range, and the projectiles you’re throwing with those energies. You could easily meet the energy requirements with something firing a .45 caliber projectile, but… The trajectory with that size of projectile would be about like throwing a damn pumpkin.

            So, while I think the energy levels you describe are an important part of the question, they’re not the be-all and end-all of the whole thing. I’d add in “effective ranges” and “trajectories” as well.

          • Dogwalker:

            I like your idea. The 30-06 is a powerful round, too powerful really. An M1 and BAR in .30 Rem could have been smaller and lighter, and the Browning machine guns in 30-06 could have had the range needed for their job. But as you say, it would never happen.

          • :Kirk
            Yeah, obviously the sectional density is not indifferent, and the premise is that the cartrige had not been designed by morons.
            However, in the first group we have the 7.62X39, the 5.45X39 and the .223 Rem / 5.57 NATO.
            In the second we have, other than the .30 Rem (not adopted by anyone) the various classic 6.5 (Carcano, Arisaka, Mannlicher Schonauer…), .280 British, 6.8 SPC, 6.5 Grendel…
            In the third, all the full blown .30 caliber, but also .277 Fury and 6.5 Creedmoor.
            So, for every power level, even if a 6.5 will tendentially have a certain advantage in accuracy at distance over .30 calibers, there will always be justifications for the “bigger hole is better” also.

      • Also, Cherndog… General Dynamics had little to do with the M60. When it was first designed, it was a Springfield Arsenal initiative, then transferred over to the guys that eventually became SACO-Maremont, who were in turn eventually bought out by GD. I think… Corporate ownership changes so much in the firearms industry that it’s difficult to keep track of who had what when.

        I think one of the real problems with the M60 design process was that there wasn’t ever just one guy doing the work on it, like a Lewis or a Browning. It was, as best as I can tell, a rotating cast of thousands who were never really given responsibility or ownership for the weapons system as a whole. It was design by committee, and not too many of the committee apparently really knew what the hell a machinegun was supposed to do, or how an MG team was run. If they had, idiocies like having to zero the damn barrels individually would have never made it on to the fielded gun… That fact, right there, tells me that nobody involved with designing it had ever been a gunner or even led an MG team. There are a whole bunch of other minor details on that weapon which reveal a lot about that lack of personal knowledge. It’s like they brought a couple of guys in who’d seen an MG in action, interviewed them about what they thought was important or cool, and then went off to do their own damn thing with the design. Compared to it’s even more excresent predecessor, the M60 looks good. Compared to anything else in its class that was on issue worldwide at the time of its adoption? Yikes. A basic market survey and just looking over things like the AA-52 or the MAG-58 would have been educational…

        I mean, if you put an adjustable front sight post on the gun? How hard would that have been?

        The really crazy thing about weapons like the M60 is that they’re designed in a total vacuum ignoring very real requirements for the gun’s use in the field, as well as the administrative issues. Why on earth, for example, wasn’t there ever a nice, neat method of marking barrels and bolts with serial numbers of the receivers? All you’d have had to do would be mill a spot somewhere on the barrel that you could mark with an electropencil or something. Same with the bolt; how hard would it have been to implement some sort of tag that was held in by the cam lug? Instead, we all had to safety-wire dog tags onto the guns, and hope nobody lost them or took them off in a fit of insanity. Which I’ve seen done… I once walked out of the arms room to find that one of the platoons had taken all the tags off all their barrels and had them laid out to be spray-painted black. My question was, “OK, so how do you know which barrel gets which tag…?”

        They hadn’t bothered keeping track of that. I had to have that entire platoon’s guns headspaced again, with an emergency work order that the guys over at Third Shop weren’t at all happy about.

        I do not have fond memories of my days worrying about the M60. Not. At. All.

        • If there’s a right way to do something and a wrong way to do it, expect most uninformed nitwits to do it the wrong way.

          • The thing that never ceases to amaze me is the confidence and insouciance a lot of these nitwit types demonstrate when they’re working outside their boxes. I mean, if I go into something I know little about, I recognize that I’m ignorant and go about trying to remedy that. I take a new job? I do not go in and change things without consideration. The ever-present nitwits among us just go in like they’re experts in the new field, ‘cos they’re experts in something else, so that makes them automatically experts at everything, right? Right?

            The guys who did the M60 could not possibly have ever actually had to do basic machinegun tasks with that weapon. If they had, there are so many features they would have changed, or redesigned. The sights are just the first thing you notice as a gunner, if you ever have to swap barrels. Why am I suddenly missing everything with the barrel swapped? Oh; that’s right, the rear sight is where the weapon is zeroed, and each barrel is going to have it’s own wear idiosyncracies as well as differences in sight alignment. In the two decades or so of M60 experience that I had, I don’t think I ever saw more than one weapon where the zero for each barrel was exactly the same on one gun; there was usually at least enough variation that zero that allowed you to get first-time hits with one barrel would be radically different on the other barrel. And, since modifying the elevation setting meant loosening a screw on the fussy little aluminum leaf and moving it, well… Yeah. Yikes. I know a lot of gunners that didn’t bother, and just used Kentucky windage, not giving a rip if they hit anything with that first burst. Of course, a lot of them didn’t even really use the sights in the first place, but that was mostly down to the whole essential uselessness of them with regards to barrel changes…

            I liked to have mine zeroed and working. Just seemed more useful, to me.

    • “(…)Darne repeating double shotguns(…)”
      Have you any photo or drawing of Darne shotgun which is repeating and double at same time?

    • “(…)As far as its MSRP, in 1933 the exchange rate of Fr to USD was 5.8464 Fr = $1. So 700 Fr= $119.73.(…)”
      According to https://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USN/ref/MG/I/MG-4.html
      These guns were furnished to the French Government in 1931 for 700 francs, then equivalent to $28. Such a price was more in keeping with the cost in America of a good single-shot rifle than it was for an aircraft machine gun.

      • I think the single-shot rifle price comparison is off. I don’t have 1930s prices on hand (thanks Disney!), but the Sears 1922 catalog offered new Winchester 1894s in .30-30 for $29.70. In 27, Bannerman was offering good surplus bolt action rifles for $12.50, and lesser ones (Ross) for even less

  3. I remember a discussion we had on FW many years ago about aircraft machine guns, the 7.5mm Darne being one of them. The Darne did not exhibit the fine attention to detail in terms of fit and finish compared to other contemporary machine guns, but was nevertheless a perfectly functional, reliable and accurate weapon that was well-made where it mattered in terms of mechanical tolerances, structural strength and durability. It is a pity that it has largely been forgotten over time and become a footnote in history, even among avid military firearms historians.

  4. Having read Kirks’s justified hate of the M60 machine gun and the shortcomings of US Army procurement processes… Looking at machine guns like this Darne, the Chatelleraut(spelling?) Model 24/29 or the Czechoslovak zb.26 and 30 machine guns there would have been easily some decent useable offerings on the market instead of what the Pentagon gavebits soldiers. The BAR sucks as a light machine gun and as this weird “automatic rifle” idea that still floats around US Army thinking to this day imho adds not much to the overall firepower in a platoon of M1 garand armed soldiers actually. Sure the soldiers made it work because that is what they had avaiable and the airborne sometimes added three BAR to a squad to to have enough firepower. But an actual light machine gun would have been much better obviously. Be it magazine or belt fed.

    The M1919 and M1917 Browning machineguns could have been retained for vehicle and heavy tripod applications similar to the British split between the BREN and the Vickers guns. Or the French with their various heavy machine guns and the And I think as the French and British armies applied this split between a light machine guns and heavy tripod machine guns it was not only obvious in hindsz, but already at the time between the world wars. But when in doubt the US Army sticks in its own behind and does not look around and only circles around its own navel. But as the often described very wonky procurement process and people only being there to have a checkmark in their resume instead of caring and knowing about what they are doing, well you get such decisions far from reality and of course not-invented-here.

    Makes me wonder who else may have had a use for a Darme machine gun license? It really looks like a reasonably well designed machine gun without obvious shortcomings. As Earl Liew already wrote, too bad it did not get a chance for more wide adoption. Makes wonder where it was offered and tested around the world and why it was rejected.

    • It has to be seen if a production licence had ever been offered, since, in the end, Darne had been the sole manufacturer.

    • As an American, I wish I could offer a well-reasoned and evidence-based refutation of what Sommerbiwak says here, but… I can’t.

      What you’ve got with the whole situation regarding US weapons procurement going back to the Civil War is this strangely distorted self-image about how combat in the modern era works. Don’t forget that while the US pioneered magazine-fed repeaters during the Civil War, and sold God knows how many to the civilian market, the Army was issuing a single-shot breech-loader to the poor bastards chasing Indians on the high plains some ten years later, while said Indians were armed with Winchester, Henry, and Spencer repeating rifles they’d bought from various worthies. The thinking there was opaque, and demonstrates the beginnings of the unreality permeating the US Army’s thinking about small arms and firepower.

      Hell, Custer reportedly refused to take Gatling guns into the Little Big Horn, which were available. I suspect that few argued with him, at the time.

      As things were changing rapidly during that entire period between the Civil War and WWI, you can’t really fault people for failing to “get it right”. There were, however, fairly clear markers on the way to the carnage that was WWI, all of which were ignored by the “authorities”. The provision of the magazine cut-off as a key and essential feature on the Springfield 1903 series is an indicator of that. Although, in counter-point, they did get a lot right (along with the UK) in terms of early adoption of a single carbinesque rifle for all branches.

      Where my issues come in with US small arms and procurement stems from the post-WWI emphasis on the individual rifleman, a la Alvin York. Taking nothing away from his skill-at-arms and heroism, the unfortunate fact is that modern war can’t rely on your forces throwing up masses of men like him. York wasn’t just a badass marksman, he was a legitimate thinking practical tactician akin to Simo Hayha, whose genesis ought to have been carefully studied and then replicated. From what I’ve read, he was doing that thing that a lot of American amateur soldiers have done, working things out from first principles under fire, on the fly. What is documented of his wartime experiences shows that the man basically worked out his own version of Sturmtruppen tactics all on his own, or he applied what he’d learned hunting game in the Appalachian Mountains with frightening efficiencies. He’d have fit right in with any of the various Jager-type units across Europe, or with Roger’s Rangers.

      A thinking man would have carefully considered the experience of men like York, and then gone on to analyze just what the hell was going on at the pointy end of the stick. This is something that the Germans did under von Seeckt, culminating in the MG-centered tactical ideas of the Sturmtruppen, conceptualizing and codifying what is now termed Flachen und Luckentaktik, along with Auftragstaktik. These are all things that York and others were doing in WWI, but the sad fact is that their experiences were not captured and codified into the doctrine of the US Army. This, I suspect, has rather a lot to do with the whole “career cadre/wartime militia” mentality that permeates the US Army. The top-down culture is one where the assumption is that the professional full-time military is the source of all military knowledge and wisdom, which coupled with the consequences of protecting those professionals from loss in wartime, then leads to a loss of upwards information permeability. You wind up with guys like Rene Studler running the show, who had precisely zero actual combat experience of any kind whatsoever. And, he ran procurement, picking and choosing what weapons got developed and what didn’t. Zero practical experience, and as near as I can tell, the man was impervious to anyone telling him anything that might contradict his pronouncements on such matters. Studler was probably one of the main reasons we wound up with the 7.62 NATO, the M14, and the M60. The man didn’t even know what he didn’t know, and he was constantly putting his finger on the scales for things produced at his almighty Ordnance Corps facilities, even if they weren’t actually doing very well. I don’t know where the fun and games with sabotaging competing weapons came from, but I will note that those fun and games were at their height in the US system when he was there. Had they given the FN FAL or the Armalite AR-10 an honest set of trials, then the excresence that was the M14 might not have happened.

      Same thing is still going on, with regards to things like OICW, the XM-25, and NGSW. The people behind those programs are bureaucrats, all of whom “know better” than the guys in the field. Look at the M16A2; nobody came out of Vietnam asking for a heavier, longer M16 with more complicated sights that’d be a bitch to clean and maintain. Nobody. Yet, what’d we get? Yeah; the M16A2, a rifle optimized for Camp Perry matches. And, then what happened, when the Infantry saw the M4 carbine, which was only ever supposed to be this thing carried by support troops, to make their lives a little easier while performing manual labor under arms? Yeah; none of said “supporting arms” saw their M4s up until the early 2010s, not in bulk issue. Infantry grabbed every one of those things they could… Which shows the “desire path” of what was actually needed by the combat soldier.

      It’s also notable that while this process started in the early 1990s, nobody bothered to ask if the experiences in Somalia were reported accurately, vis-a-vis M855 lethality out of the M4. That didn’t happen until the 2000s, when they finally bothered to address the issue. If you go back and look, validation for the M4 with the M855 was predicated on the idea that it’d only ever be issued to support troops, and that the Really Important Combat Soldiers would have the M16A2, with its longer barrel. That premise was never questioned until people started complaining in Afghanistan and Iraq, and then it was a huge pain in the ass to get anyone to pay attention to it, at all.

      Just on that alone, I’d fire the lot of these sorry creatures. Once the decision was taken, out in the field, to give the M4 to the Infantry as their primary individual weapon, someone should have raised their little hand and said “Uhmmmm… Hey… Uh… We kinda made some compromises on that thing, ‘cos we didn’t think anyone, y’know… Important, would be… Using them.”

      Notably, nobody did, and if you raised any apocryphal questions about lethality of the M4 from practical experience, you’d have been told the same thing some of my Ranger Regiment friends were, that they simply were mistaken and hadn’t been hitting their targets… Granted, I think some of those rifles were actually pre-M4 carbines of various flavors, but the barrel lengths were about the same.

      The length of the M4 barrel is another story, in and of itself. They didn’t set that length via ballistic testing, because if they had, they’d have probably plumped down for something in the 16-inch range. The barrel length on the M4 is what it is simply due to the fact that that’s the minimum length you can have and still use the M203, which even then was projected for replacement… What the hell does that say for the people making that decision? I’ve never understood that, at all… Two more inches and a mid-length gas system, and a lot of the problems with the M4 evaporate. As well, why in the hell is Crane the only place in the system willing to spec out cold hammer-forged barrels? Those add thousands of rounds of life to the system, but the geniuses stuck with button-broaching because “it’s the TDP…”

      The history of US small arms procurement from the Civil War onwards is a litany of the people in authority just not “getting it”. If they had, then instead of saying that the troops issued repeating rifles would waste shots, they’d have realized that battles weren’t being fought in the classical manner of Napoleon any more, but mostly by firepower spread out across the battlefield. After WWI, they should have realized that the individual rifleman was not the panacea that they presumed, and that what you really needed was crew-served portable firepower. That recognition didn’t really set in until Vietnam, which was some forty-fifty years later than it should have come.

      The roots of the dysfunction stem from that whole “top-down” mentality; the career force is seen as this priesthood or monastic order of warfare, supervising the temporary “Christmas Help” of the militia brought in for actual wars. Because of this, it has been way too easy for people to ignore the actual lessons of combat, because those career-force guys who survive the wars are usually the same ones who gravitated towards the rear echelon, to preserve their precious selves for the next war. It’s no accident that Studler had no personal experience of combat; that’s the way the system is set up, following fundamental assumptions and prejudices.

      It’s notable that there has always been this dichotomy between the things that the US Army enshrines in its copious manuals, and what that army actually does under fire. If you go back and look at a typical US Army squad from late WWII, one of the halftrack-mounted nascent mechanized infantry outfits, you’d find them armed with rather more machineguns than their MTOE ever imagined. Practical experience taught them that; what’s notable is that that practical experience was never captured and enshrined in doctrine or MTOE. It all had to be relearned in Korea and Vietnam.

      The US Army likes to think of itself as a “learning organization”. It is actually anything but, in my personal experience. There’s a decided lack of informational flow from the bottom upwards, and it all goes back to that “high priests of war” mentality that the sainted Regular Army officers had inculcated into it back in ye olde dayes before the Civil War. What few really observant tactical thinkers we’ve had have all wound up getting shivved in the back by the bureaucracy, and most of them wind up as civilians after experiencing said knife. Looking back on it, every single one of the guys I worked around who was an actual active thinker, someone who looked at things with clarity and then acted on those observations effectively? They wound up with severely truncated careers; the time-serving hacks who I’d have preferred to use as tamping on cratering charges? They wound up running everything. That’s what the culture tends to vomit forth into the hallowed ranks of the senior leadership, officer and enlisted.

      It’s dysfunctional in the extreme, and I can only marvel that they’ve done as well as they have. Usually, after having tried everything else that a sensible person would have rejected out of hand…

      So, yeah… To reinforce and expand on what Sommerbiwak says, it’s a cultural thing. You wouldn’t understand it unless you’d been there for the whole thing, and it’s only by reading the actual histories with a jaundiced eye of doubt that you begin to recognize the outlines of the problem. I’ve no idea at all how you’d fix it, other than by burning the whole system down and starting over from different foundational principles… Which ain’t happening. Reforming these institutions possessing deep cultural flaws is a task for someone possessing near-godlike attributes of wisdom and foresight, and that ain’t me. About all I’m capable of is observing and reporting on things as honestly as I can. What really gets me going is how few really even recognize what I’m talking about as being of any significance or issue… You can’t fix something that isn’t recognized or discussed.

      • The Reichswehr and later Wehrmacht took their lessons from the Lost Great War. Same for the Armee del Terre, who had nearly lost the war and had paid big in blood. Big reforms and learning on an organizational scale seems to occur only after a defeat or near defeat when anybody can see that what has always been down was a mistake. But then the USA went from the Civil War onwards to either victories or at least not really losses. Vietnam and Afghanistan for example the auSA just did lose interest in the wars basically and left. And these wars have been fought far from home thus they were easy to ignore and the entrenched culture in and around the Pentagon could continue undisturbed.

        One can see similar encrustments and rigidly repeated ways of doing things in any other large organizations that lack hard reality checks from time to time. No feedback loop feeding back reality. US Army procurement is just one very prominent example with serious consequences for their mistaken decisions.

        • Absolutely.

          With the added fillip of cultural issues coming in from the surrounding society. There are a lot of odd things in US culture that feed into making the procurement system what it is, and they’re difficult to understand. Firearms are so wrapped up in the basic American identity that everyone has a damn opinion, and all of those are based on popular culture that is in turn based mostly on myth.

          It’s entirely possible that all of the interlocking interacting parts made any other solution than what we got historically essentially inescapable.

    • I may be wrong, but the Darne’s lack of wider acceptance in spite of it’s adoption by France during the early inter-war period may have had something to do with “market timing”, something I think all of us here on FW are too familiar with from a historical perspective. During this time, many prospective buyers would have already had in their inventories, or at least had access to, sufficient quantities of perfectly serviceable weapons at very reasonable prices that outweighed the advantages of buying newer and perhaps better weapons, especially when one considers the difficult economic circumstances of those years with their attendant restricted budgets. Also, I’m not sure if Darne actually spent a great deal of time and effort in trying to market their new machine gun for the same reason when they already had a viable contract for the Armee de l’Air. Does anyone have more information to share on this subject?

      • Some wiki claims the Darne came second, behind the Vickers, in the 1935 RAF contest for aerial MG in .303 British.

      • I think you’d have to get inside the minds of the people running the company, which might be possible if there’s any preserved correspondence from that era.

        Could be that they got into the whole thing back at the beginning due to a patriotic urge to help France in WWI, and then afterwards it was an attempt to recoup their money they’d invested without too much real enthusiasm. After all, they were fundamentally a sporting arms manufacturer, and if you’ve got any insight into the closed system that was French procurement, it’s a damn miracle that they got as far as they did with their design.

        We’d have to know just how much interest Darne really had in the military market. The track records of French procurement being what they are, I can’t imagine they had a lot of hope for it all.

  5. The pistol grip on the Darne seems to function pretty well as a rear support for the gun on a bipod. Almost as if it was designed this way …

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