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Old 03-24-2014, 08:22 PM
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Default S&W 9mm Light Rifle (1940)

I'll put this here because of its association with the WWII M&P .38/200 revolver.

This is a link to a video about the failed S&W 9mm Light Rifle project. I learned a few things from it.

Video: One of WWII's More Unusual Weapons, S&W Model 1940 | Gun Digest
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Old 03-24-2014, 09:04 PM
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That was interesting. Thanks for the link.
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Old 03-24-2014, 09:37 PM
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DeWalt - there is one up for auction, so if you need one, get out your bidding paddle. I found out that it has been de-milled, and wonder if all examples were released that way?
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Old 03-24-2014, 11:59 PM
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Gary, All the 100+ examples sold to the S&WCA members some years ago, were functional and working, to my knowledge, but had a "Do Not Fire" tag on some of them due to the factory worrying about liability. I've has probably 1/2 doz of these, still have one, and have fired them many times with no problems, using US made ammo., not European ammo. I've never seen a de-milled specimen so there must be a story behind the one up for auction - probably was owned by a resident of New York, or some other anti-gun state that called it an assault rifle! The Model 1940 light rifle is a perfect example of a "Failure to Communicate." The Brits, in a panic for firearms early in WW2 because they had disarmed their citizens with anti-gun laws, had to look for any place willing to sell them guns. S&W was about to go bankrupt so the chance to sell $1,000,000 dollars of something the Brits wanted, sent the factory engineers to the drawing boards to design a carbine with the quality of the handguns S&W had made for 80 yrs. The design had serious defects a rifle maker would not have made, but a handgun maker that had never designed or made a rifle, came up with the Model 1940 and forgot to check what ammo. would be used in it by the Brits, incorrectly assuming all 9mm ammo is the same. Actually the gun is a 9mm semi auto pistol with a 9 inch barrel and a fixed shoulder stock. ( Some experimental guns had folding stocks .) Don't let the name "Light Rifle" fool you, these are very heavy weapons, around 10+ pounds loaded. The "Model 1940 Light Rifle" was the name the Brits gave it, as in their military nomenclature a 9 mm caliber was a "light" caliber therefore it was a "Light Rifle" even though their orders for the gun called for a carbine. Go figure ! Ed

Last edited by opoefc; 03-25-2014 at 12:04 AM.
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Old 03-25-2014, 12:11 AM
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Actually, it does bear a slight external resemblance to the German MP38 and MP40.
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Old 03-25-2014, 06:53 AM
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I had an opportunity to purchase one of these on GB a few years back when they were still priced at a reachable level. The distributor that had purchased them from S&W in the 70's had a few up for sale. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, I did not proceed and now they are about triple in value. As the saying goes, you snooze, you loose.
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Old 03-25-2014, 09:32 AM
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Hi
Here is a write up that I used when I displayed my two rifles.

HISTORY OF THE SMITH & WESSON
LIGHT RIFLE
MODEL OF 1940

EARLY IN THE 2ND WORLD WAR THE BRITISH WANTED SMITH AND WESSON TO DESIGN AND DEVELOP A LIGHT SEMI- AUTOMATIC SERVICE RIFLE FOR THEM THAT WOULD FIRE THE 9 MM CALIBER BULLET. THE BRITISH ADVANCED THE SMITH COMPANY 1 MILLION DOLLARS ON THE CONTRACT TO DEVELOP THIS RIFLE. DURING THE DESIGN OF THE RIFLE SMITH AGREED TO THE BRITISH REQUEST FOR AN INCREASE OF 2 GRAINS IN THE POWDER CHARGE FOR THE 9 MM. WHEN USED WITH THE 2 GRAIN INCREASE THE RIFLE FAILED TO PASS THE FIRING TESTS SET UP BY THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT.

WHEN THE EARLY PRODUCTION MODEL OF THIS RIFLE FAILED TO PASS THE BRITISH ENDURANCE TESTS, THE FACTORY TRIED TO CHANGE THE DESIGN SLIGHTLY TO IMPROVE FUNCTION. THIS NEW DESIGN WAS CALLED THE MARK II AND INCORPORATED A HEAVY CORRUGATED SLEEVE OVER THE BOLT OPERATION HANDLE. THIS SLEEVE FUNCTIONED AS ADDITIONAL SUPPORT AGAINST THE FRAME AND SERVED AS A ROTATING SAFETY, THUS ELIMINATING THE SAFETY LEVER BEHIND THE TRIGGER GUARD.

THE BRITISH WERE NOT HAPPY WITH THIS RIFLE’S FAILURE TO PASS THE TEST AND UNDER THE TERMS OF THE AGREEMENT, THE BRITISH DEMANDED THE RETURN OF THE ADVANCE. SINCE SMITH & WESSON HAD ALREADY SPENT $870,000 OF THE ADVANCE ON RESEARCH, PROTOTYPES, AND MODELS FOR THE PROJECT, THIS WOULD BE A REAL HARDSHIP TO THE COMPANY.
THE BRITISH GRANTED THE COMPANY A 10 DAY EXTENSION ON THE RETURN OF THE $1,000,000 DOLLAR ADVANCE, THE COMPANY WAS AT ITS WIT’S END AND IT WAS AT THIS TIME WHEN THEY CALLED IN C. R. HELLSTROM AS GENERAL SUPERINTENDENT TO TAKE ON THE TASK OF SAVING THE COMPANY FROM BANKRUPTCY.


HELLSTROM IS QUOTED AS SAYING, “THIS JOB WAS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE OF MY LIFE”. THE BRITISH FINALLY REJECTED THE 9 MM LIGHT RIFLE, BUT C. R. HELLSTROM PROPOSED AN ALTERNATIVE. INSTEAD OF RETURNING THE ADVANCE PAYMENT OF $1,000,000 DOLLARS AS DEMANDED BY THE BRITISH, SMITH & WESSON OFFERED TO SUPPLY REVOLVERS AT A FIXED RATE EQUAL TO THE VALVE OF THE ADVANCE. THE BRITISH NEEDED THESE REVOLVERS AND ACCEPTED THE TERMS.

ALTHOUGH THE RIFLE WAS A FAILURE, IT RESULTED IN THE TURNING POINT OF THE SMITH & WESSON’S DOWNHILL SLIDE. WHEN THE WESSON FAMILY WAS FORCED TO HIRE HELLSTROM, IT GAVE THE FIRM THE NEW MANAGEMENT BLOOD NEEDED TO CHANGE ITS COURSE OF HISTORY AND BRING IT TO HEIGHTS NEVER BEFORE ACHIEVED.

JIM FISHER

Heres a break down of whats left of the production.

1940 LIGHT RIFLE PRODUCTION
MARK I AND MARK II

Total production of the Mark I and Mark II’s were 1,227 units, of which 1,010 were sold to the British and Canadian Governments. Smith and Wesson had great plans for this rifle, and manufactured more frames than they completed so serial numbers ranged from 1 to 2200.

Mark I Mark II Shipped to
810 British and Canadian Governments
200 British and Canadian Governments

At the close of World War II, all but 5 of the ones shipped
To the British and Canadian Governments were destroyed. These 5 units are in British Military Museum.



In 1974 Smith & Wesson discovered a limited number of crated unfired 1940 Light Rifles. In the group were 137
Mark I and 80 Mark II’s. These were sold in 1975.

Total number of both types remaining is 222.

Last edited by bmg60; 03-25-2014 at 09:35 AM.
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Old 03-25-2014, 02:18 PM
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What was the black buttstock made of? It looks like it could have been plastic. If so, I wonder if it could have been the very first plastic buttstock.
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Old 03-27-2014, 08:08 PM
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There's actually 2 for sale in an auction this coming weekend.
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Old 03-27-2014, 08:21 PM
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There are two for sale at AZ Firearms - Largest small gun shop in Arizona - $7k each.
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Old 03-28-2014, 07:12 AM
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There are threads on these "rifles" on the S&W Long Guns forum, including one started by me.

I recently discovered that one of the two sent here (South Africa) in 1940/1 has lain unnoticed at the National Military Museum for decades.

Peter
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Old 03-28-2014, 10:34 AM
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There are some serious errors in the script of the video. The gun shown is actually a Mark I, and one of the distinguishing features is the safety catch - which is NOT a winter trigger! As well as the major shortcoming of the magazine housing preventing chamber inspection, it makes shooting prone almost certain to result in a blocked exit port from a mixture of earth and empty cases.

Quite clearly the S&W designers had no experience of field use of anything except revolvers.

Peter
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Old 03-28-2014, 11:38 AM
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I couldn't believe that "winter trigger" description was correct when I heard it, but I didn't know for sure. And the idea of ejection down a chute rather than through an ejection port is just plain goofy. By this time, the basics of 9mm SMG design had pretty well been worked out, and it's amazing that those key features were not acknowledged by S&Ws design team. I'd think that any group of undergraduate mechanical engineering students could have done better.

Last edited by DWalt; 03-28-2014 at 03:32 PM.
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Old 03-29-2014, 04:40 AM
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The video was interesting. Thanks.

For those that dream of owning one but not with the price, the nearest thing may be a sling currently listed on ebay and described as belonging to a 1940 light rifle.
Apologies for those that were hopeful they were the only one to see it.
7 day auction with a day and a half to go, no bids yet……..now if it was a manual I would be bidding and not saying anything.
Cheers.
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Old 03-29-2014, 10:44 AM
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Thanks for the link!
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