MISFIRE: The History of How America's Small Arms Have Failed Our Military.
William Hallahan (author)
/A quotation and comments follow the contents list/
PART I 1. Springfield Arsenal in the American Revolution 3 2. Shay's Rebellion: Harpers Ferry Armory 20 3. Springfield: The War of 1812 35 4. Springfield: Growth Under Roswell Lee 47 5. Harpers Ferry: Junto, Pork, and Hall's Rifle 52 6. After Lee, Decline 68 7. Hall's Rifle Exits: Army Control Enters 73 PART II 8. Commandants Craig and Ripley 87 9. Jefferson Davis and the Army's First Rifle 101 10. Civil War: Ripley Goes to Washington 109 11. Ripley and the Repeating Rifle 126 12. The Spencer Repeating Rifle 139 13. Lincoln's War Secretaries: Cameron and Stanton 147 14. Ripley and the Machine Gun 165 15. The Spencer's and Ripley's Last Days 174 PART III 16. General Alexander Dryer Versus the Indians 191 17. General Benet Versus the Bolt-Action Rifle 211 18. General Flagler and the Krag-Jorgensen RIfle 233 PART IV 19. General Crozier and the Springfield '03 Rifle 265 20. The Maxim Machine Gun 279 21. The Browning Machine Gun 288 22. The Lewis Machine Gun 296 23. Machine Guns in the Trenches 306 24. General Crozier Selects a Machine Gun 324 25. Secretary of War Baker Selects a Machine Gun 314 26. Crozier's Last Days 335 PART V 27. The Army Confronts the Tank and the Airplane 353 28. Garand Versus Pedersen: Seeking a Semiautomatic 365 29. Pigs, Goats, and MacArthur's Decision 379 PART VI 30. Mikhail Kalishnikov and the AK47 397 31. Colonel Studler Starts the Search 405 32. Earle Harvey and the T25 414 33. The M14 and Controversy 434 PART VII 34. The M14 Versus the AR-15 445 35. Dr. Carten's Dilemma 455 36. The Macdonald Whirlwind Sales Campaign 464 37. A Rigged Test and the Death of a Rifle 476 38. Ordnance "Militarizes" the AR-15 as the M16 487 39. Outcry from Vietnam 508 PART VIII 40. The Return of the Gravel-belly 525 Notes 537 Bibliography 559 Index 565QUOTATION
>From chapter 25: Secretary of War Baker Selects a Machine Gun, page 331.
"In May 1917, the name of the mysterious gun designer was revealed. The Machine Gun Board's call for submissions drew two entries from one of the towering figures in gun design, John Moses Browning. When he appeared to present both his candidates, a heavy machine gun and a lightweight portable machine gun, the board members were not at all prepared for what they would see.
"Water-cooled, belt-fed, and weighing thirty-six pounds, the Browning heavy maching gun fired the standard Springfield .30-'06-caliber rifle cartridge. During the test, Ordnance men fired twenty thousand rounds of ammunition through the Browning at six hundred rounds a minute. There was not a single jam, not a single hitch. This feat seemed so improbable that the Machine Gun Board appeared to doubt what it had just seen.
"To show that this wasn't a fluke, the commanding figure of John Browning himself stepped up to the firing line with another Browning machine gun. He set it to firing automatically while he casually linked together belts of ammunition that fed endlessly through the gun, which fired continuously as the minutes ticked by. Box after box of ammunition belts were opened and attached to the previous belt, and box after box of belts with empty cartridges came chattering out the other side. The gun ran like a sewing machine, without overheating, without jamming, without laboring. Finally, the only thing that stopped the weapon was the board. When it signaled for an end, the Browning heavy machine gun had fired for forty-eight minutes and twelve seconds. The Browning had entered the munitions world by destroying all records for performance and reliability.
"Then, as a grand finale, Browning the salesman - the showman - stepped before his machine gun and tied a blindfold around his eyes. With no tools, he disassembled the gun, reducing it entirely to its seventy component parts. Then, still completely blindfolded, he reassembled the gun with an elapsed time of fifty-five seconds. So important was this feature in battle, blindfolding became part of the standard military training program when the gun was issued to American troops."
A FEW COMMENTS
This book contains less design detail than a rec.guns reader would hope for, I suspect, but it reveals a lot of behind the scenes information that I found immensly enjoyable to read. It's essentially a history of the Springfield Armory and those men in charge of selecting the rifle the American military would be issued for war. There has been a consistent fight by those in charge against the new and different. Economics has played some part in this.
The theme running through the book is the contrast between two approches to infantry warfare. The outdated approach, in the author's argued opinion, is aimed, long-range rifle fire, which Hallahan calls the "gravel-belly" approach and which relies upon what *I* would call the "hunter mentality" whereby you pick your target and shoot specifically at that selected individual. The second approach to infantry use of rifles is the pursuit of "superior fire power", which insists that shooting rapidly without a specific, individual target is appropriate and significantly more effective in warfare than the slow fire necessary for the carefully aimed, "gravel-belly" approach. Suppression fire is of this sort.
The story of how the M16 was bungled because of ammunition choices was enlightening to me. I also found it fascinating how long it took for firearms to go from initial design to implementation.
There is no mention of handguns or non-military rifles in this book. There is some discussion of foreign designs such as the AK47 and those designs used by foriegn nations that were created by Americans taking their business overseas where it was appreciated.