Smith & Wesson Light Rifle, Model 1940

Some forgotten weapons are lost gems, and some are designs that really never should have gotten off the drawing board. The S&W Model 1940 Light Rifle is the latter, and a company with as much history and Smith and Wesson really should have known better.

S&W M1940 Light Rifle
He's stuck with an M1940 Light Rifle, so he doesn't want to show his face

In a nutshell, the M1940 was a hobbled version of a WWI-era submachine gun; too expensive and not useful enough to justify. It was all milled but crippled by parts breakage; had a 400m micrometer adjustable sight but fired from an open bolt; neatly directed brass away from the shooter but made malfunction clearing impossible in doing so.

As was rather drolly stated in a 1968 Gun Facts magazine article on the M1940:

After 900 to 1,000 rounds, we are told by two very competent sources, the end of the receiver would snap right off. Doubtless this annoyed the British.

You can download the whole article from the Smith & Wesson Model 1940 Light Rifle page in the Vault, as well as read a more detailed history of the gun and download the original S&W manual.

Neal and Jinks have pipe dreams of them all, Mark I’s and Mark II’s alike, sitting in pristine splendor swathed in cosmoline
in a British warehouse. More likely they were heaved into the Channel, which is what the British traditionally do with the tools of their salvation every time they ‘ve won the war to end all wars.


  1. Imagine the ejection tube filled by mud (that sometimes happens in the field 🙂 ).
    The ejection port and magwell make the gun look funny…it seems like a SMG with 5.56×45 size mag attached ! 🙂
    Thanks for the info !

  2. The reason we generally ‘heaved’ weapons and materiel into the Channel had nothing to do with pacifism and everything to do with Lend-Lease. Not our property and surplus to US requirements = destruction. The Light Rifles were destroyed because they were crap, as noted by the same authors.

  3. I’ve read formerly secret documents that suggest that there are 4300 of these hidden away
    in a Swedish ministry of defense warehouse. Apparently the Swedish government bought them
    in march 1941 along with 6.5 million rounds of 9mm ammunition form Winchester.
    For some unknown reason the light rifles were never issued to the troops,
    and are apparently still hidden away unused in the crates they were delivered in.

    Along with the light rifles the government also bought 500 Thompson 1921 (stamped 1928a)
    along with 2.3 million rounds of .45 acp. the Thompson guns were used. Because the .45acp
    rounds were never produced in Sweden the guns were quickly passed down to low priority
    units.Then then in the 50s most of them disappeared, rumors are that they were sold to Israel.

  4. Well at least the thompsons were sold to a good cause.also,Iv’e heard that the rifle also had a problem with the way the shell casing was ejecte and the factory prototypes were affixed with a red plate warning people not to fire it under any circumstances.

  5. I just heard another reason why British rejected this gun. What happened is Americans chambered in 9mm commonly used in USA and shipped the guns to UK. And in UK it appeared that British 9mm cartridges were normally loaded for much higher pressures (kinda +P). And during British tests these guns were broken! This issue disappointed British government so much that they didn’t even bother very much with an improved version of the gun. By the way this gun took S&W almost to bankruptcy.

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