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Smith & Wesson Light Rifle M1940
The Smith & Wesson Light Rifle M1940 is a semi-automatic carbine produced by American manufacturer Smith & Wesson under request by the United Kingdom. The rifle was designed in early 1939 in preparation for the war many in the UK saw coming over the horizon. The result was this blowback operated, semi-automatic rifle chambered in 9x19mm Parabellum. The rifle's forward grip also served as both the magazine well and ejection port, in which the magazine is loaded from the front of the housing with spent casings being ejected downward in a manner not too dissimilar to the modern P90 submachine gun. While novel, this design choice made it difficult to tell if a round was chambered and also made clearing jams extremely difficult. The weapon features a fine finish and fully machined parts. While very high quality, this made the M1940 expensive and time consuming to produce.
The first rifles provided to the United Kingdom suffered from receiver breakages break after as few as 1,000 rounds were fired through them. Investigation revealed that the M1940 was designed with American civilian market 9mm ammunition in mind and could not handle the much hotter 9x19mm loads utilized by the British Army. Smith & Wesson soon provided an improved version with a strengthened receiver and improved safety. This new version was designated the Mark II, with the first version being retroactively designated the Mark I.
Despite this, the M1940 was found to be inadequate as an infantry weapon. The 9x19mm chambering and lack of full-auto fire made it inferior to a bolt-action rifle or submachine gun, as it could not perform the roles of either of those weapons. Its mechanical complexity and high weight (almost as much as an M1 Garand) also made it ill-suited for its intended role. Smith & Wesson produced 1,227 rifles, with 1,010 going to the UK. S&W apparently was optimistic about the weapon and more were produced than the British contract called for. Company archives list serial numbers up to 2200, although it is believed less than 2,200 rifles were actually completed. The rifle was also reportedly trialed by the US Army, but was rejected as 9x19mm was not a standard US military caliber at the time. Following World War II, most of the rifles in British hands were destroyed, save for a few examples that were preserved in museums. 217 unsold Model 1940s were left in S&W's inventory, which were rediscovered and sold on the civilian market in the mid 1970s.
The failure of the Smith & Wesson Light Rifle M1940 put Smith & Wesson in a difficult situation. The company had been advanced $1,000,000 from the British (approximately $21,000,000 in 2022) and the British wanted the money refunded, but S&W had spent it developing the rifle as well as on other expenses. The company offered the British the equivalent of one million dollars' worth of revolvers instead. Desperate for handguns the British readily accepted and the result was the Smith & Wesson Victory Model in 38/200 caliber. Author Charles Pate in his seminal work U.S. Handguns of World War II writes that S&W produced the 38/200 M&P exclusively from March 1940 to February 1941 when the factory's production capacity was expanded, and the company was able to return to manufacturing 38 Special revolvers as well.
- Type: Carbine
- Caliber: 9x19mm Parabellum
- Length: 32.4 in (82.2 cm)
- Weight: 9 lbs (4.1 kg)
- Feed System: 20-round detachable box magazine
The Smith & Wesson Light Rifle M1940 and variants can be seen in the following films, television series, video games, and anime used by the following actors:
|Game Title||Appears as||Mods||Notation||Release Date|
- Smith & Wesson - A list of all firearms manufactured by Smith & Wesson.