Most military weapons are purpose-built. Assault rifles, light machine guns, submachine guns, and more are designed from the ground up with a military or police focus. However, the military also has a long tradition of adopting sporting and commercial weapons. With that in mind, let’s look at seven hunting weapons used by the military.
1) Winchester 1897
The Winchester 1897 shotgun was the first successful pump-action shotgun ever produced. Winchester began production of the weapon in 1897 and didn’t end it until 1957 producing in total over one million such shotguns.
Prior to America’s entry into World War I, the Winchester 1897 was a very famed sporting firearm. The M1897 was a favorite of hunters who had turned away from the older double-barrel guns for a more modern repeater. The gun offered a lighter, better-balanced, single-barrel design and held five rounds. The M1897 served a generation of sportsmen before it became the trench gun of American doughboys.
Related: Did you know that the last trench gun survived until the Iraq War?
2) Winchester Model 12
While the M1897 was the star of World War I shotguns, the Model 12 saw plenty of action in that war as well. In continued to see service throughout World War II, Korea, and even into Vietnam. The Model 12 became known as the Perfect Repeater. Production began in 1912 and ended in 1964 with over two million guns produced.
The Model 12 is an evolution of the M1897 but featured an internal hammer and was a stronger gun overall. Hunters loved the Model 12, and numerous models were designed with hunters in mind, including models with fancy gold inlay aimed at duck and bird hunters. To this very day, it’s not uncommon to see a Model 12 at a hunting camp. They are robust and capable shotguns, and that’s what made them popular military weapons.
Related: These are the 7 standout combat shotguns from around the world
3) Elephant guns
An elephant gun is a generic term to describe very large caliber sporting rifles designed for hunting big game. They are often single- or double-barrel guns that chamber extremely powerful rounds. These guns were used across Africa to hunt elephants, rhinos, cape buffalo, and big cats. They are often extremely expensive weapons.
In World War I, both the British and German militaries reached out to their African colonies to obtain elephant guns. The guns were used to pierce through early armor plates and even early armored cars, yet these massive rifles only served in small numbers.
4) Remington 870
The early to mid-1900s were a shotgun arm’s race and shotguns were massively popular with hunters. Guns were more expensive then due to the lack of real mass production like we have today. If you could only have one gun, it was likely a hunting shotgun.
Remington needed a well-made, reliable, and affordable shotgun option that could take advantage of modern construction techniques. So, the 870 was born and became an instant hit. By 1983, the Remington 870 was the best-selling shotgun ever made.
This affordable, reliable, and modern hunting gun caught the attention of the military. Navy SEALs and Marines carried them to Vietnam, where they excelled. To this day, the 870 serves in the United States military as the very versatile MCS system.
5) Winchester Model 70
Winchester does get all the cool nicknames for their guns. The Model 12 was the Perfect Repeater, and the Model 70 was known as the Rifleman’s Rifle. This bolt-action hunting rifle has been a favorite of medium- and large-game hunters since its inception in 1936. It saw chamberings in calibers as small as .22 hornet and as large as .458 Winchester Magnum. Heck, I killed my first deer with a Model 70.
The Model 70’s reputation for durability and accuracy drew the eye of the Marine Corps, which first purchased the rifles in 1942, which then saw limited action in the Pacific. The weapon stayed in the armory during the Vietnam War where legendary sniper Carlos Hathcock carried one on most of his missions.
6) Mossberg 500
Another shotgun on our list, the Mossberg 500 is a pump-action, tube-fed shotgun designed to be affordable when compared with the 870. Its aluminum receiver cut both costs and weight, and the weapon became the most-produced shotgun ever in 2021, with over 11 million manufactured. The Mossberg 500 was a very versatile gun designed for hunting everything from bears to squirrels. The company even produced a conversion barrel to turn the weapon into a muzzleloader.
The low price-to-performance ratio grabbed the eye of police agencies, and the military followed soon after. After initially failing to meet the specification, Mossberg refitted and redesigned the M500. The weapon is currently the general issue pump-action shotgun of the United States military in several configurations that include the 500MILS, 590A1, and 590A2.
7) Remington 700
The Remington 700 came to life in 1962. Since then, generations of sportsmen have used them to bag everything from deer to large game. The 700 series quickly became one of Remington’s flagship rifles. Its simple but effective bolt- and modular-action systems made the weapon an instant favorite. The Remington 700 became very well known for its excellent accuracy as well.
It wasn’t long before the Army adopted the rifle as the M24, and the Marine Corps adopted it as the M40. Both weapons remain in service to this day in various configurations.
As we saw, special and niche weapons for warfare, such as snipers and shotguns, often come from the hunting world.
These are just a few examples of hunting weapons that made it to the military, and I’m betting there are more. Hit me up below if I’m missing any honorable mentions.
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David Kruger says
In the picture for the Winchester Model 70, your boy is holding a scoped M14 without the magazine.