These 5 firearms are the most underrated weapons that the U.S. military has used and deserve way more respect than they currently get.
1) M3 Grease Gun
During WWII, the Thompson SMG, otherwise known as the Tommy gun, overshadowed the M3 and M3A1 submachine guns.
The Thompson might have been reliable, but it had issues. It weighed as much as an M1 Garand but fired a pistol bullet. Reloading it was also a hassle, and it was fairly long for a submachine gun. The Tommy gun was also complicated, and its wood furniture could be an issue. But, like a lot of things in life, the Thompson looked good, and that’s why it was remembered.
On the other hand, the M3 was lighter, shorter, faster to reload, easier to control, and ultimately simpler than the Tommy gun. It was a better gun and stuck around up until Desert Storm. Sadly, it was outshined by the Thompson, and the M3 will always be the underrated weapon to come out of World War II.
Related: Letters to Loretta: Scavenging for food along the Nazi march
2) Colt 605
Soldiers in Vietnam found the M16 to be a bit long and wanted something a little shorter for close-range jungle warfare. So Colt chopped the barrel of the M16 down to the gas block, effectively trimming off roughly five inches of barrel, and gave the warfighters a 15-inch barrel. And the Colt 605 was born.
The Colt 605 wasn’t perfect. Sadly the reduction in barrel length reduced dwell time, which reduced reliability.
With a suppressor, it worked well, but afterward, the CAR 15 came about which worked reliably without issue. The Colt 605 could have been a better rifle than the CAR 15 if done correctly. The use of the full-length gas system could reduce recoil and create a smoother shooting rifle. Sadly, this didn’t occur, and the Colt 605 will go down as one of the more rightfully underrated weapons.
However, the Colt 605 did become the grandfather to the M4 carbine and the great-grandfather to weapons like the Mk 18.
Related: The ‘Greatest Beer Run Ever’ could have been a much better Vietnam movie
3) M1917 revolver
During WWI, American forces found themselves lacking sidearms as the M1911 couldn’t be produced fast enough to arm the massive influx of soldiers.
But companies like Colt and S&W had plenty of machinery to produce revolvers rapidly. So, the U.S. military placed orders for what became known as the M1907 revolvers from Colt and Smith and Wesson.
The M1917 would be a modern revolver with a double-action/single-action trigger with a swing-out cylinder. There are small differences between the Colt and S&W M1917 revolvers, but they are largely the same.
These revolvers chamber the 45 ACP and use moon clips to eject the rounds. Yet, the lack of a rim on the automatic pistol cartridge created ejection issues if the moon clip wasn’t used.
These revolvers served throughout World War I and World War II, and in small numbers, the M1917s even served in Vietnam.
Once the United States had plenty of 1911s, these guns were largely sent to allied nations as part of lend-lease programs and they saw service in foreign countries up into the early 1990s! These robust revolvers get none of the glory they deserve even after fighting in two world wars, making them seriously underrated weapons.
Related: Did you know that the last trench gun survived until the Iraq War?
4) Colt 635 SMG
The Colt 635 submachine gun came to be in 1982 and was issued in limited numbers to American special operations forces, Marine Corps FAST teams, and Marine Corps Embassy Security forces.
It was a closed bolt, 9mm SMG that used the AR-15 design as its basis. This made it very easy for the user to transition from the M16/M4 series of rifles to the SMG.
In 1982 closed-bolt submachine guns were somewhat rare although they are more reliable, accurate, and easier to handle. On top of that, the Colt SMG was robust and accurate.
It saw use in Panama and served with elite units like Delta Force for a reason. Sadly, the Colt SMG faded away when short carbines entered the picture.
Related: A crash course in survival gear from a Delta Force legend
5) M1895 Lee-Navy Rifle
The M1895 Lee-Navy is the most underrated weapon of the U.S. military because it was so ahead of its time. It outclassed the Krag-Jorgensen rifle, and I’d argue it was a better option than the M1903 Springfield. The Marine Corps and Navy used the 6mm Lee-Navy rifle from 1895 to 1907.
The rifle used a straight-pull bolt. This gave the shooter a faster rate of fire and only involved two movements, forward and rearward.
Normal bolt actions require four movements which are considerably slower. The weapon’s 6mm round was light and enabled an individual to carry a lot of ammo.
The stripper clip system was well made and fast to reload. Sailors and Marines could reload rapidly with stripper clips or use individual rounds if necessary.
The Lee-Navy had a few issues, including a couple of fragile parts, but these could have been easily fixed. Overall, this was a fantastic rifle that could have armed the entire U.S. military.
Underrated weapons and the US military
The U.S. military is a massive machine that moves very slowly. It oftentimes gets it right, but sometimes some great weapons don’t get the glory and respect they deserve. Outside of this article, at least.
Feature Image: A student assigned to the U. S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School who is in the Special Forces Weapons Sergeant Course fires an M3 “Grease Gun” during weapons training at Fort Bragg, North Carolina May 12, 2020. (U.S. Army photo by K. Kassens)
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Forrest Higgs says
Lovely article, my grandfather, a US Army Sgt in the 41st Blue Spaders, was issued an M1917 in WWI. He didn’t come home with it, but there were a couple of half-moon clips with cartridges laying around with his other WWI bits and pieces. Now I know what that was about. Thanks.
One item in the article about the Colt 635 SMG that you might not be aware of. You said.
“In 1982 closed-bolt submachine guns were somewhat rare although they are more reliable, accurate, and easier to handle.”
Which is true, with one little additional bit. I spent considerable time in South Africa in the 1980s though the early 1990s. The army there tended to use both their regulation firearms but also captured firearms. There were quite a lot of Skorpion SMGs acquired in Angola that were issued. It was closed bolt and had a very high rate of fire. The problem with that was that the barrel would get quite hot and having a chambered round would often lead to it being cooked at random times off after a bout of sustained fire. Such cook-offs were causing unintentional woundings in SADF training on gun ranges till an order came down offering court martials for anybody who didn’t clear their skorpion after firing it.