Mossberg 44US: A Cheaper Training Rifle for World War Two

As World War Two expanded to encompass the whole US economy, it became clear to the Army that some cost cutting measures would be required. One place that was a clear choice was in rimfire .22 caliber training rifles. Since the 1920s, the US had used training and competition rifles from Springfield Armory, built on 1903 rifle receivers and made to the highest quality. These M1922 rifles were very high quality – too high to justify continued use during wartime. Something much cheaper and simpler would be just as good for the abbreviated marksmanship training that was the wartime standard.

The Mossberg company already made and sold the Model 44B rifle, which fit the new US Army needs more closely. It was a simple bolt action rifle with a nice aperture sight, but costing far less than the M1922. After discussion, Mossberg created a new model specifically for the military; the Model 44US. This had a plain birch stock (instead of the commercial walnut), a plastic trigger guard, and a simplified rear sight assembly (although the first batch delivered would use more expensive Lyman sights, until Mossberg was able to put their new model into full scale production).

The Mossberg 44US would remain in production until 1949, successfully serving as a training aid for new recruits and a simple but accurate rifle for shooters after the war.

30 Comments

  1. “training aid”
    Did U.S. forces used self-loading .22 rim-fire rifle during WW2 for training? It would make sense considering that default rifle was M1 Garand, which was self-loading.

    • Bolt action .22s are just about the best tool to teach someone the fundamentals of marksmanship. Makes sense that it what they used.

    • Semi-auto trainers would have cost more. For basic marksmanship training, many would have considered bolt action (or even single shot) to be preferable anyway – forces the recruit to focus on each shot rather than just pulling the trigger until he hits something.

      • Okay, but I highly doubt that real enemies will sit around and wait for you to kill them. Once your recruits have mastered the art of nailing perfect bull’s-eyes on command, are you going to tell them to make “one shot=one instant kill” in battle? Why not teach the trainees about follow-up shots for semiautomatic weapons? It’s not like every bullet induces instant death.

        • Until “recruits have mastered the art of nailing perfect bull’s-eyes on command”, I would give them MGs. 🙂

          • How clever of you. The whole point about arming fresh recruits with submachineguns was to get the most bang for one’s buck. This is especially true when there is NO time for marksmanship training, like if your base is constantly getting bombed to bits by pesky tactical bombers from the other team.

          • Actually, SMGs worked best with experienced users. Pretty much every army except perhaps the British more or less followed that principle. The Soviets did issue SMGs to whole units sometimes, but in units with mixed armament it was usually the newbies who got the Mosins and the veterans who used the PPsh (or SVT, but those were less common). Soldiers who were superior marksmen often switched between a rifle and SMG depending on the situation.

          • Purely from a safety point of view, ,22LR bolt actions are best for raw recruits, some of whom have never fired a gun.

            I saw a documentary where a Marine Corps vet from Iwo Jima was laughing at himself for having believed the training idea “don’t shoot what you can’t see. It took him about two minutes to discover the value of suppressive fire. Which partly explains why thousands of rounds were fired for each casualty.

          • To be fair, suppressive fire works the best with automatic weapons and also better with larger calibers. So, contrary to some claims, SMGs are not very good suppressive fire weapons. The main advantage of automatic SMG fire in “standard” short burst mode is increased hit probability and of course compensation for the relatively low stopping power of single pistol bullets. That is not to say that you can’t suppress with SMGs; you certainly can, but the fire has to be relatively accurate. Shooting long bursts to the same map grid won’t suppress any experienced enemy.

            But I digress a little. My original point was that suppressive fire with bolt action rifles requires many people shooting at the same point target in order to suppress it. So, for bolt action rifles “shooting only a what you can see” does make sense in many cases. At Iwo Jima even the US Marines already had Garands, but clearly doctrine had not yet caught up with the development of weapons and still reflected the old bolt-action mentality.

        • Just funning, I hope obviously so. Recruits and marksmanship should go together, give or take the current desperation.

    • Semiautomatic .22LR training rifles would seen to make sense and I doubt that the rifles would have cost more than well made bolt action rifles. One rifle that has been touted as a trainer is the Reising M65 (or MC 58?) made by H&R and supposedly used by the Marines.

      • The Marines used the M65 as vermin control. It was also very much useful for harassing Japanese patrols if a suppressor was attached… or am I wrong?

      • TM 9-280 Caliber .22 Rifles, All Types Dated: March 16, 1944, available here:
        http://www.easy39th.com/manuals2.php
        do not show any self-loading rifles, but on the other it does list none Mossberg (rifles known by that manual are:
        Rifle, U.S., Cal. .22, M1922
        Rifle, U.S., Cal. .22, M1
        Rifle, U.S., Cal. .22, M2
        Rifle, Cal. .22, Remington, Model 513T
        Rifle, Cal. .22, Stevens, Model 416-2
        Rifle, CaL .22, Winchester, Model 75
        )

  2. During US Navy recruit training at Great Lakes during the Vietnam War I shot a 100, 10X using the Mossberg rifle (with the folding rear sight). Ironically, I was never able to score 10X using the Anschutz rifles supplied by my High School rifle team.

    • I once shot a bullseye on an archery target with a .22 Anschutz, dead centre at about 25yrds. I was really pleased, until someone pointed out the target I was actually supposed to be firing at, was a little black circle at about 100yrds.

  3. Ian,

    I think the purpose of the folding rear sight was to get it out of the way so you could easily remove the bolt for cleaning without having to remove the sight from the rifle. Also, the large screw seen at the bottom of the magazine was actually a screw that ran the full length of the magazine and served as a magazine spacer if one was using .22 Long (I don’t think it could shoot .22 Short) instead of .22LR. You removed the spacer screw if shooting .22LR (which probably guaranteed your screw would be quickly lost).

    I purchased 6 of these when the CMP was selling them. 3 arrived with broken trigger guards, another broke as I was handling it, and the remaining 2 appeared to also be quite brittle and ready to break. Fortunately, at the time they were being sold, someone was selling modern-made replacement trigger guards, and another person was selling spare magazines (the CMP did not sell with magazines) – so I was able to put them all back to usable condition.

    The rifles had been sealed in heavy plastic bags by the DoD for long-term storage. In a cringe-worthy act of “I don’t care”, the DoD used box cutters to slice open each of the bags so they could verify the serial numbers before transferring the rifles to the CMP. On 4 out of my 6 rifles, the person who sliced open the bags also left a nice long scratch from the box cutter blade in the stock underneath.

    • You are correct with the purpose of the folding sight: it eases bolt removal.
      A friend of mine has the late variant with this sight. It is quite accurate. If I remember correctly, and contrary to Ian first example, his rifle has the red dot intact and the green dot is washed out.

      The “plastic” trigger guard looks like bakelite, an early synthetic material developed between 1907 and 1909 by Belgian chemist Leo Baekeland.

    • “broken trigger guards, another broke as I was handling it, and the remaining 2 appeared to also be quite brittle and ready to break. ”
      So they either did not know how plastic used for guard would work after long storage, or they did, but consider it is not serious problem.

    • Tanstaafl2,
      You referenced that the DOD had sealed the Mossberg 44 in heavy plastic bags for storage…do you know where a person could buy one still sealed in such a bag? Thank you.

      • I have no idea if it’s even possible to find one still sealed in the storage bag. I don’t remember if the serial number was marked on the outside of the bag. If not, the CMP or any FFL would have had to open it up to get the serial number for their logbooks (come to think of it so would the DoD). If you check Gunbroker, Auctionarms, Armslist, etc you might be able to find someone who kept the bag after opening it, but I expect finding one unopened will be impossible

  4. The plastic trigger guard is odd–the wood stock was carved out for it all the way to the end of the grip. Very hard to see it being any better or less expensive than a stamped piece of sheet metal. Anyone have any ideas?

    Regarding training, the idea was obviously to teach marksmanship with cheap 22 ammunition and then finish training with the service arms. Bolt action 22’s are ideal for training new shooters, or at least that was a common idea in America. Also, 30 caliber bolt action Springfields were still being issued to troops. Might be easier to transition from bolt training to semi-auto service rifle than the other way around.

  5. I’m amazed to come home today after an enjoyable afternoon target shooting at the range. And what do we find but another, always interesting video report from Ian on my pet, first ever rifle I owned, now some 60-plus years ago.
    Did I mention the aforementioned today’s afternoon shooting was done with my most venerable Mossberg 44US? The one that can still stack .22 long rifles atop one another at any reasonable range…and then some.
    This one came to me in good condition but with a somewhat bunged up wooden furniture situation. Why, I still wonder, does the guy at the factory finish the wood in a bright red, anti-camo like the Chinese do AK47 and SKS chu-wood stocks? I think it’s the same guy who just moves around from time to time.
    But the refinish came out grand, the red scraped off and a walnut stain replacing it.
    To late at night now but I’ll try for more info later, if I can.

    • “Why, I still wonder, does the guy at the factory finish the wood in a bright red, anti-camo like(…)?”
      Perhaps it was easier/faster do that and they do not except its usage in combat?

      • Daweo, I mix my own stains and it’s not significantly less expensive, more durable, or more time consuming, to create a pleasing color rather than an ugly one… but in the same vein as what you suggest, it may still have been a case where a supplier, say a furniture manufacturer went to supplying blanks or finished stocks during wartime, decided to unload some nasty “cherry-wood” stain on Uncle Sam….or, somebody at Mossberg just had really poor taste in wood finishes. The Chinese stocks, if I recall correctly, are colored by the usage of a colored varnish rather than a stain. The varnish acts as a protective layer and moisture barrier protecting the odd looking mystery wood beneath. US service arms seem for the most part to have used oil finishes and stains that absorb into the grain rather than varnishes that lay atop it. Savage riot guns as used in Vietnam are one possible exception to this, there may be others if readers care to refresh my failing memory.

        • Again, That picture is not me and this is the only site it shows up in comments on. I’m surprised every time it pops up on there…It’s kinda giving me the willies, Ian!!

    • A little more on my 44US…
      This one is a (d) model and somewhat more elaborate than Ian’s version and I’ll guess somewhat later production for the civilian market. We’ll likely never really know as the one thing it never had was neither a serial number nor a “US Property” stamp. I’m too lazy to go look it up for the details but prior to the Gun Control Act of 1968 not all firearms were required to have serial numbers and this was one of them.
      While it does sport what appears to be the Mossberg folding rear sight the really nifty feature is the hooded front sight which sports four different user-easily changeable folding posts of various heights and thicknesses so the user can custom tailor the sight picture. One of them is even a “surround-the-bull” ring post.
      On the bottom of the forend, there’s a short, best described as a kind of “proto rail” that allows quick adjustment of the sling for length. The sling swivels themselves are quick release that allow very quick addition or removal of the sling itself without affecting its adjustment. In other words, one need not disassemble the painstakingly adjusted (to you) sling to add or remove the sling from the rifle. Neat.
      A nice little added feature is the dust-cover attached to the bolt even though (in my case) I had to (temporarily) dispense with it to attach Havilin Sales’ low scope mount. By the way, the folding feature of the rear sight greatly eases bolt removal for cleaning and that’s what it’s there for.
      Speaking of “What it’s there for” features, the later iterations of the ‘delicate-and-brittle’ triggerguards are apparently made of a higher grade plastic and are MUCH more durable. Plastic marches on.
      The screw through the magazine allows use of the (then) much cheaper .22 short, not the .22 long or alternately eases loading .22 long rifle rounds. There’s really little reason to shoot .22 shorts or .22 longs anymore unless you want to deal with that aggressive pigeon or squirrels-in-attic problem without disturbing the neighborhood (so much.)
      (Don’t really do that.)
      After dealing with the hideous red-menace refinishing project, about the only other thing I did was glue a thin leather piece of leather (made from a Zeiss camera strap pad to class up the presentation,) the purpose being to prevent the butt from skidding across a wooden or concrete floor should I lean it up against a table or wall…”just for a minute”…Crash.).
      By the way, I highly recommend Havlin Sales for vintage Mossberg stuff. Not only amazingly knowledgeable but darn nice, too.
      So 60 years later, gifted me on my 10th birthday, not a bad provenance for review, eh?
      By

  6. When I was going to Michigan Technological University in the late 90s, non-ROTC members were allowed to take a few ROTC classes, including Army Marksmanship Training. After learning to effectively shot Ruger Mk II Government models, we switched to these–all of these firearms in the possession of MTU AROTC were woefully inaccurate, with plenty of scars from the vagaries of inexperienced hands, but the Mossberg was a nice rifle to fire regardless of its wear.

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