Small Arms

Chapter II

a. Definition and Procurement Summary

Small arms include guns of caliber .60 and smaller. The principal weapons in this category are Springfield, Garand, and Enfield Rifles, Colt
Pistols, revolvers, sub-machine suns, automatic rifles, caliber .30 and caliber .50 machine guns.[1]

The field of small arms furnished an excellent example of procurement by one Service for both. Compared with the Army, Navy requirements were relatively small, and hence procurement of these weapons was centered in the Army. This policy made for inter-changeability of material, and facilitated the solution of supply problems in that competition for available sources and facilities capable of producing this special material as eliminated, however, in cases involving non-common small arms, the Bureau of Ordnance initiated direct procurement and informed the



Ordnance Department, War Department of such orders.[2]

During the course of the War Army procurement of major small arms for Navy use totaled:[3]

Caliber .30 MG M19191465,272
Caliber .30 M2 Trips Mount24,003
Caliber .45 Thompson Sub-Machine Gun183,973
Caliber .30 Rifle M1903330,582
Miscellaneous Rifles  
BAR M1918A2 41,808
 Carbine, Caliber .30 M1808,372
 Target, Caliber .2260,968
Automatic Pistols 
 Caliber .45 Colt441,998
 Caliber .22 Colt Ace/Hi Standard60,289
Caliber .38 Revolver228,780
12 Gauge Shotgun, Riot Type81,225
Bayonet M1 279,000


Navy procurement of non-common small arms, with the exception of caliber .50 mounts, did not bulk large and consisted in the main of direct purchase of certain types of caliber .30 machine gun mounts and caliber .38 Smith and Wesson revolvers.

The Marine Corps procured its enormous requirements for small arms directly from the Army.

b. Procedure for Small Arms Procurement.

The Planning Division of the Bureau was charged


with the responsibility of presenting Navy small arms requirements to the Army Service Forces for acceptance. As a rule these requirements were estimated twelve months in advance.[4] Once received by the Army Service Forces, Navy needs were combined with those of the Army and other Service branches. The final production program, determined by ASF on the basis of these figures, was certified to the Industrial Division of the Office of the Chief of Ordnance, War Department, for the placing of contracts. Upon receipt of the notice that Navy requirements had been accepted by the ASF, the Bureau of Ordnance (Production Division) placed Navy orders with the Chief of Ordnance, War Department, for each item in the quantity included in the published and accepted requirements. This order made Navy funds available to the War Department. The War Department was then committed to make monthly deliveries in accordance with these orders and with the published and accepted Navy requirements. However, since the requirements were calculated, submitted, and accepted for delivery twelve months in advance, errors were



inevitable, and requirements had to be revised periodically, usually every three months or even monthly on critical items. The enormous quantities needed, plus the constantly changing requirements, made it almost impossible to keep production abreast of demands. For this reason it was necessary to allocate the material to the Services on the basis of a ratio of total requirements to total production.

The actual monthly deliveries of small arms were not Initiated by the War Department until after the monthly meeting of the Joint Allocation's Committee at which time the quantities actually available for delivery were determined. Upon the receipt of its allocation, the Bureau (Production Division) issued shipping instructions to the War Department. Theoretically the War Department was then obligated to make delivery in accordance with these instructions within forty-five days; that is, all material allocated for one month had to be delivered not later than the 15th of the following month. When the material was actually delivered it was turned over to the Maintenance Division for issue and distribution.



Briefly summarized, responsibility for small arms procurement was as follows:

Planning Division

Calculated, revised and maintained a statement of requirements formulated twelve months in advance. Obtained monthly allocations for necessary items.

Production Division

Placed orders, and by revision, maintained quantity on order of each item in accordance with the latest revised requirements. Issued shipping instructions and expedited deliveries of all items. Kept records of actual deliveries and made the distribution of funds to the proper appropriation.

Maintenance Diversion

Handled the issue and distribution to activities within the Navy.



c. Problems

The consensus in the Bureau was that on the whole the small armS procurement program functioned relatively smoothly. It was true that difficulties were encountered from time to time, but compared with the over-all accomplishment such difficulties did not bulk large. One of the most frequent irritations sprang from the fact that it was often necessary for the Navy to accept allocations less than the published and accepted requirements, particularly on such items as rifles, carbines, and caliber .45 pistols. In other cases the Army was slow in making deliveries and exceeded he forty-five day period allowed after allocations were determined. Spare parts, packaging, and small arms ammunition were also subjected to criticism.

1. Spare Parts

Initially, weapons were received from the Array along with what was known as concurrent and maintenance spare parts, the items and quantities of which varied from time to time.[5] In many instances, delivery of



spare parts was not actually made at the time the weapons were shipped to the Navy. Under this system it was impossible for the Bureau to perform adequate follow-up on deliveries and to prevent the accumulation of surpluses. At the Navy's request the Army agreed to deliver the weapons minus the spare parts.

Under the new agreement spare parts were procured from the Army on the basis of actual Navy requirements based on allowance lists and requisitions. The Naval Supply Depots, Norfolk, Virginia, and Oakland, California, were given authority to procure spare parts direct from the Army to maintain established stock levels without further reference to the Bureau. Arrangements were made with the Marine Corps Liaison Officer at Rock Island Arsenal, the originating point for Army shipping orders, to follow up Navy orders. It would have been very advantageous to have had a Navy Liaison Officer at Rock Island since, as might be expected, Navy business was processed after that of the Marine Corps.

2. Supply and Repair

Experience demonstrated that handling of small arms as standard stock at Naval Activities was



not satisfactory. The establishment of separate ordnance sections at the major supply depots at Norfolk and Oakland, with ordnance trained personnel in key positions, did much to improve the supply system.

Small Arms Repair Shops were also set up at the Naval Supply Depots, Norfolk and Oakland, as well as at the Navy Yard, New York (Maspeth Annex) and the Naval Supply Depot, Guam. These shops were equipped to complete major overhaul, inspection, and packaging."[6]

3. Caliber .38 Special Ammunition Assembled with (Unjacketed)

In the late summer of 1941, it was recognized that the Navy's stock of caliber .45 Colt Automatic Pistols together with expected deliveries would not be adequate to meet anticipated requirements. Although the caliber .38 Special Smith and Wesson Revolver was not a standard issue for the Navy, it was necessary to procure this weapon in large numbers if requirements for side arms were to be met.

At the time of initial procurement, COMINCH



(Readiness) authorized Issues of the weapons to activities of the Continental Naval Districts in order that caliber .45 Pistols assigned to those districts could be released and made available for issues to personnel proceeding to combat areas. After this replacement, additional requirements for caliber .45 Pistols for Naval Construction Battalions could not be met and consequently Cominch (Readiness) authorized the issue of caliber .38 Revolvers to the Chief Petty Officers of these battalions. Shortly thereafter, the Bureau of Ordnance, in compliance with a request from ComAirPac, authorized the issue of caliber .38 revolvers to aircraft crews under orders to proceed to overseas bases.

The only ammunition available for use in this revolver was assembled with unjacketed (lead) bullets. The Bureau, questioning the advisability of issuing this ammunition in view of the provisions of the Hague Convention communicated with Cominch concerning this problem. Cominch in turn requested VCNO to verify a report that British personnel captured by the Germans had been summarily shot because they had unjacketed (lead) ammunition in their possession.



ALUSNA London reported that no confirmation could be given this report. However, due to the highly critical shortage of side arms, it was impractical to withdraw completely caliber .38 Special Revolvers and unjacketed ammunition pending production of caliber .38 Special ammunition assembled with Jacketed bullets.

In August 1943, a communication from Commander Fleet Air, South Pacific, reported that the 13th Air Force (Army) had ordered all caliber .38 Revolvers turned in pending receipt of steel Jacketed ammunition. It was also stated that Army sources in that area had received reports that captured allied personnel had probably been shot because they were equipped with unjacketed ammunition. In the same communication, Commander Fleet Air, South Pacific, recommended that similar orders be issued to Naval Forces, if applicable. The Bureau promptly prepared and distributed Circular Letter A103-43 dated September 27, 1943, specifically prohibiting the possession or use of caliber .38 Special unjacketed (lead) ammunition by Navy personnel assigned to duty beyond the continental limits of the United States.


It was not long afterward, however, that caliber .35 Special ammunition assembled with jacketed bullets was available in sufficient quantities for general issue.[7]

4. Belted Ammunition

The requirements of both the Army and Navy for caliber .30 and caliber .50 ammunition for use in aircraft machine guns became so enormous during the summer of 1941 that the Army decided to belt the ammunition at the time of manufacture. The belted ammunition was packed in terne-plate lined containers, and later, in wax dipped cartons which were packed in wooden boxes.

The Army's decision to pre-belt resulted from Its desire to provide active areas with machine gun ammunition which would be ready for immediate use. The Army expected that the good condition of the ammunition would be protected by packing in sealed container; and the then popular ratios for belting the various calibers would remain in favor indefinitely and, further, that ammunition pre-belted in such ratios



could be used effectively regardless of the nature of the various missions to be performed. However, experience proved these expectations were fully realized.

Early in 1943 the Army requested information as to whether the Navy's ammunition requirements for the calibers .30 and .50 machine guns should be factory belted. The practicability of adopting pre-belted ammunition for Navy use was considered by technical groups in the Bureau and the following advantages and disadvantages established:


(a) Ammunition is ready for Immediate use without the necessity for belting thus effecting a saving in time and effort.

(b) If rounds are properly seated in links after handling and shipment and the belting ratios are considered effective for the mission to be performed, it is not necessary to open sealed containers and thereby expose the ammunition until it is actually required for loading in planes.



(a) In many cases pre-belted ammunition,in ratios that were prescribed as much as one year previously, will not meet new requirements. It requires considerable more effort and time to remove rounds and re-belt than to belt ammunition in desired ratios from separately packed types.

(b) The ammunition often arrives in a badly corroded condition due to the exposure to atmosphere caused by piercing of terne-plate liners by projectiles, electrolysis set up by contract of steel links with brass cartridge cases, and the occasional use of unseasoned wood blocks for interior packing.

(c) When it is necessary to classify any lot of ammunition as Grade 3, (unserviceable), all other lots with which the defective lot is belted is affected.



(d) Pre-belting ammunition involves special purpose ammunition. The greater the variety of special purpose ammunition the greater the total quantity of stock that must be kept on hand.

(e) The component of belted ammunition which is most subject to corrosion is the metallic link. If links are furnished separately they can be set aside readily without rendering ammunition unserviceable due to corroded links.

At a conference which was attended by representatives of COMINCH. (readiness), the Chief of Naval Operations, and the Planning and Maintenance Divisions of the Bureau, these advantages and disadvantages were weighed carefully and the decision made that factory-belted ammunition would not be procured by the Navy. It was decided that the Navy would procure the various types of aircraft macHine gun ammunition unbelted, and that upon specific requests, combat-loaded movements only would be furnished whatever portion of their aircraft



ammunition was required for immediate use. Accordingly, Bureau of Ordnance Circular Letter A9-44, dated February 15, 1944, was prepared and distributed to acquaint the Naval service with this policy. However, in October 1944, the Commander in Chief U. S. Fleet, made exception of this policy and directed that the Bureau of Ordnance supply pre-belted ammunition to AE's and AKE's for replenishment of Fast Carrier and Bombardment Groups, and for Initial use in Combat-loaded movements. These requirements were so great that, in order to meet them, it became necessary for the Navy to obtain pre-belted ammunition directly from the Army.[8]

5. Packaging

Late in 1942 an ever increasing number of reports were received from Navy activities in advanced areas which indicated that small arms and metallic belt links were not adequately packed to withstand service conditions. The Bureau contacted the Ordnance Department, U. S. Army, early In 1943 to acquaint that department with the contents of these reports; to make known the Navy's packaging requirements; and to attempt to obtain ammunition and links packed to meet Navy




The Navy was unsuccessful in obtaining an early solution to this packing problem. Consequently in the fall of 1943, the Navy Department placed a development contract with the Coolerator Company of Duluth, Minnesota, for the design of an acceptable small arms ammunition shipping box.

The final design of this box embodied a metal container with clamp-down, self-sealing lid. A contract for the manufacture of 50,000 boxes was placed with the National Enameling and Stamping Company of Long Island, New York. Complete drawings and specifications of this box, officially designated the Small Arms Ammunition Box, Mark 1, Mod 0, were transmitted to the Ordnance Department, War Department, accompanied by a statement of Wavy requirements and a request that immediate action be taken to establish production lines to meet these requirements. The Army set up the required facilities, and before the expiration of the program supplied the Navy with 1,200,000 of these boxes.[9]



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Transcribed and formatted by Thomas Wildenberg, HyperWar Foundation