Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Proto Scouts

In the late 19th and during the first half of the 20th centuries some ambitious military armorers did some interesting work making their standard bolt action fighting rifle a more handy implement...

The M1894 Swede was another handy fighting carbine that fails to make scout weight.  Not that the Swedes were much for fighting during the service life of this handy little rifle.

At the close of the 19th century some of the US Krag carbines (1896, 1898, and 1899) missed what some regard as the maximum standard 3.5 kg mark by fractions of ounces. 

Another interesting case was the Springfield 1903 Bushmaster Carbine created when the Oklahoma National Guard bobbed the barrels and furniture of their 1903 rifles while stationed in Panama during WWII.  The wood was cut back and the barrels shortened to 18 inches.  4,725 were so modified, but no good deed goes unpunished.  In 1945 all of them were recalled to the armory, stripped of reusable parts, and what remained dumped into the ocean.

The Enfield No.5 Jungle Carbine was called out by name in the Colonel Cooper's musings on the scout rifle concept.  Unlike the Bushmaster or the Swede, the No.5 almost "made weight" at 3.1 kg unloaded, and that with plenty of steel where a fella might to choose to remove it these days.  It was also the most numerous of such full-power fighting carbines, with some 250,000 manufactured until production was ended in 1947.

After having made the M1 Garand needlessly large and overweight - by insisting it be produced as a 30'06 rather than the 276 Pedersen for which it was developed - the US War Department experimented with a shorter version, the T26.  Too little, too late.  It came to naught.

I'm not sure the Spanish FR8 is properly considered a proto scout.  The FR8 and the FR7 - same idea but built on the 1916 small ring action - served as trainers for the Spanish military until they had enough CETME selfloading rifles (HK91 precursors) to go around.  They were not built to be lightweight fighting carbines like some of the other proto scouts, but they were shorter and lighter than the full length predecessor from which they were assembled.  Those I've seen were rougher than a cob and the rear sight looked like a "C Minus" middle school shop project.  They were made into the 1950s.

But for these examples, it seems that most armies of the world forget the value of handiness in the century between the American Civil War and the Second World War, but Colonel Cooper noticed, and added their merits to his scout rifle concept.