Saturday, July 2, 2011

Post-war assault rifles

In the 1950s new rifles were developed in the United States, Soviet Union and Europe. The American M14 had a short operational life, as did the Soviet SKS. The French MAS-49 soldiered on for many years, but the Belgian FN FAL was a real winner, widely built and used.

The MAS-49
The 7.5mm MAS-49 rifle, developed by the French state arms factory Manufacture Nationale d'Armes de St Etienne (MAS), was based on the direct gas-impingement system developed by the French designer Rossignol early in the 20th century. MAS-1949 (as it was stamped on the receiver) saw heavy combat in French Indo-China and Algeria, where it proved accurate and reliable.

The MAS-1949/56, an improved pattern rifle, was adopted by the Armee de Terre (French Army) in 1956. The MAS-49/56 retained the ten-round magazine but was lighter, had a shorter barrel and forend. It also had different grenade launcher sights and, unlike the MAS-49, the weapon could be fitted with a spike-shaped bayonet. The MAS-49/56 was not replaced in front-line service until 1979, when the French Army adopted the futuristic-looking 5.56mm FAMAS assault rifle.

The British 7.62mm L1A1 self-loading rifle (SLR) was based on the Belgian Fabrique Nationale (FN) FAL. It entered service with the British Army in the mid-1960s and remained in use until 1985. Early weapons had wooden furniture, but this was later replaced with black plastic. It was a single-shot gas-operated weapon that had an effective range of 303m/328yd with iron sights. The flow of gas back on to the working parts could be adjusted, so if there was a malfunction, a simple drill was to close down the gas port at the front of the rifle. The cocking handle on the left side allowed the right hand to remain on the trigger.
A Royal Marine takes aim with his SLR during arctic warfare training in Norway in the 1970s. This rifle has black plastic furniture but has not been upgraded by being fitted with a SUIT optical sight.

The Samozaryadnyj Karabin Simonova
The 7.62mm SKS Samozaryadnyj Karabin Simonova, or Simonov Self-loading Carbine, designed by the famous Russian arms designer Simonov in 1949, was a gas-operated, magazine-fed, self-loading weapon. It utilized a short-stroke gas piston with its own return spring, and a tilting bolt locking, where a bolt tips down to lock on to the floor of the receiver. The cocking handle was attached to the right side of the bolt carrier and moved when the gun was fired. The receiver was machined from steel. The SKS was fed from the integral ten-round magazine, which could be loaded from the top through the open bolt by loose cartridges or by using special ten-round clips. Adopted by the Soviet Army as the 7.62mm Samozaryadnyj Karabin Simonova obr. 1945 goda - SKS, it entered service alongside the Kalashnikov AK-47.

The M14 rifle, or United States Rifle, Caliber 7.62mm, M14, is a selective-fire 7.62mm rifle that has now been largely superseded in military use by the Ml6. After trials against other rifles, including the FN FAL, the US Army adopted the M14 in 1957. A production line was set up at the Springfield Armory in 1958, and the first rifles were delivered in 1959. However, owing to long production delays, the 101st Airborne Division was the only army unit fully equipped with the M14 by the end of 1961.
The M14 represented a logical development of the M1 Garand, although it fired the NATO standardized 7.62mm round. The M14 saw action in Vietnam before it was replaced by the M16.

In Vietnam, although its length and weight made it unwieldy in the jungle, the powerful 7.62mm NATO round penetrated cover quite well and had a good range. The weapon also proved to be very reliable and continued to function even under adverse conditions. However, there were several drawbacks to the M14. Soldiers soon realized that in the heavy humidity of the tropics in Vietnam, the wooden stock swelled and expanded, which affected the zeroing on the sights. Fibreglass stocks were developed to compensate for this defect, but by then the M14 had been withdrawn from service. The M14 was replaced by the M16 in Vietnam in 1966-8.

No comments:

Post a Comment