|Model 50 Reising|
The Reising Model 50 submachine gun
|Place of origin||United States|
|Used by||See Users|
|Wars||World War II
Costa Rican Civil War
|Manufacturer||Harrington & Richardson|
|Weight||3.1 kg (6.83 lb) (M50)
2.8 kg (6.2 lb) (M55)
|Length||959 mm (37.8 in)
787 mm (31.0 in) stock retracted (M55)
|Barrel length||279 mm (11.0 in) (M50)|
.45 ACP (M60)
.22 LR (M65)
|Action||Delayed blowback, closed bolt|
|Rate of fire||550 rounds/min (M50)
500 rounds/min (M55)
|Muzzle velocity||280 m/s (919 ft/s)|
|Feed system||12, 20-round detachable box magazine|
|Sights||Front blade, rear notch|
The .45 Reising submachine gun was manufactured by Harrington & Richardson (H&R) Arms Company in Worcester, Massachusetts, and was designed and patented by Eugene Reising in 1940. The three versions of the weapon were the Model 50, the folding stock Model 55, and the semiautomatic Model 60 rifle. Over 100,000 Reisings were ordered during World War II, and were initially used by the United States Navy, Marine Corps and the United States Coast Guard, though some were shipped to Canadian, Soviet, and other allied forces to fight the Axis powers.
The Reising submachine gun was a very innovative weapon for its time featuring firepower, accuracy, excellent balance, lightweight and ease of manufacturing compared to the Thompson Model 1928 submachine gun, the leading American competitor of the time. But poor combat performance and favorable law enforcement use of the Reising forever mired the weapon in controversy.
Eugene Reising was an excellent marksman and ordnance engineer who believed engineering principals must match actual field needs. Reising practiced his creed by being an avid shooter and by serving in the early 1900s as an assistant to the firearm inventor, John M. Browning. In doing so, Reising contributed to the final design of the US .45 Model 1911 Colt Automatic Pistol, one of the most reliable pistols in history. Reising then designed a number of commercial rifles and pistols on his own, when in 1938, he turned his attention to designing a submachine gun as threats of war rapidly grew in Europe.
Two years later he submitted his completed design to the Harrington and Richardson Arms Company (H&R) in Worcester, Massachusetts. It was accepted, and in March 1941, H&R started manufacturing the Model 50 full stocked submachine gun. Months later, production began on the Model 55 (identical to the Model 50 other than having a folding wire buttstock and no compensator); and the Model 60 full stocked semiautomatic rifle that also resembled a Model 50, but had a 7.75 inch longer barrel without cooling fins or compensator.
H&R promoted the submachine guns for police and military use, and the Model 60 for security guards. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 the US was suddenly in desperate need of thousands of modern automatic weapons. Since the Reising's only competitor was the venerable .45 ACP Thompson Model 1928A1 submachine gun, a weapon that epitomized reliability and exquisite machining, the more easily manufactured Reising was quickly adopted by the US Navy and Marines as a limited-standard weapon.
The US Army first tested the Reising in November 1941 at Fort Benning, Georgia, and found several parts failed due to poor construction. Once corrected a second test was made in 1942 at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Maryland. In that test 3,500 rounds were fired resulting in two malfunctions: one from the ammunition, the other from an incomplete bolt locking. As a result, the Army didn't adopt the Reising, but the Navy and Marines did, faced with insufficient supply of Thompsons.
The Navy and Marines also noticed that the Reising had certain advantages over the Thompson. It was less costly, costing $62 compared to the $200 for the Thompson. It was much lighter (seven v. eleven pounds). And, the Model 55 was much more compact (about twenty-two v. thirty-three inches in length)--the most compact, accurate, and lightest submachine gun in the world at the time.
The Reising cost and weighed less because it was made mostly of stampings and had a closed-bolt design, much lighter than simple blowbacks that fired from an open-bolt position and relied on the mass (weight)of the bolt, rather than locking, to secure the cartridge at the time of firing. It was more balanced because the barrel-and-receiver-group rested concentrically within the stock. It had smoother lines because the stock was of conventional shape and the cocking handle (action bar) was placed inside the forearm. And it was more accurate because the closed-bolt only shifted the hammer and firing pin on firing, whereas the Thompson, slammed home a heavy bolt and actuator.
Though described as a submachine gun, the Reising was actually designed as a compact lightweight semi-automatic carbine that was also capable of fully automatic fire. The M50 was a selective fire weapon, capable of a fully automatic fire at a rate of 450–600 rounds per minute or semi-automatic fire. It was reported that the true full-auto rate was closer to 750–850 rounds per minute. As opposed to the then standard Thompson submachine gun, the Reising priced at approximately $50 per weapon as opposed to $225 per Thompson.
There were five versions of the Reising, two selective fire models: the M50 and M55, two semi-automatic only variants—the M60 and the M65, a .45 ACP light rifle variant the latter one chambered for the .22 Long Rifle rimfire cartridge designed for training purposes.
There were only two differences between the M50 and the M55, those being the elimination of the compensator and the addition of a rather flimsy, folding wire buttstock making the M55 lighter and shorter and was originally issued to Marine parachute infantry and armored vehicle crews.
The M60 was a long-barreled, semi-automatic carbine model designed primarily for military training and police use. However, few of these were ever sold. The Marines used M60s for training, guard duty and other non-combat roles. Some M60s were believed to have been issued to Marine officers at Guadalcanal. The remaining guns were passed on to State Guards and civilian law enforcement agencies.
The Reising entered military service primarily because of uncertainty of supply of sufficient quantities of the Thompson submachine gun. In the testing stage, it won out over some other competing designs. It was very light and quite accurate in aimed fire, attributed to its better stock fit and intricate closed bolt, delayed blowback design, though its firepower was somewhat limited due to the 20-round capacity of its largest magazine. Most submachine guns fire from the open bolt position, meaning the full weight of the bolt slams forward when the trigger is pulled; with the Reising, only a lightweight firing pin striker moves when the trigger is pulled.
The U.S. Marines adopted the Reising in 1940 with 4,200 authorized per division with approximately 500 authorized per each infantry regiment. Most Reisings were originally issued to Marine officers and NCOs in lieu of a compact and light carbine, since the M1 carbine was not yet being issued to the Marines. Although the Thompson submachine gun was available, this weapon frequently proved too heavy and bulky for jungle patrols, and initially it too was in short supply.
During World War II, the Reising first saw action on August 7, 1942, exactly eight months to the day after Pearl Harbor, when 11,000 men from the 1st Marine Division stormed the beaches of Guadalcanal, just south of the equator in the Solomon Islands. This sweltering ninety-mile long mountainous island was covered with dense jungle and swamps, and was defended by Japanese. Since Guadalcanal had an airfield, the island had to be taken as aircraft from there could isolate Australia and New Zealand from America. To the Marines' surprise, as they stepped off their landing craft and their naval fire crept forward, they were met not by Japanese, but by silence and shattered coconut groves that fringed the beach. Advancing cautiously into the dark, musky jungle, they pushed forward and took the airfield the following day. But Japanese warships and reinforcements were en route. That night, powerful shell fire swept the Marines as they were suddenly cut off from sea; to be locked in mortal ground combat with the Japanese 35th Infantry Brigade, and 2nd and 28th Infantry Divisions.
On the same date of Guadalcanal's invasion, the Model 50 and 55 saw action by fast striking, camouflage dressed, 1st Marine Raiders on the small outlying islands of Tulagi and Tanambogo to the north. Two companies of Marine paratroopers "The Devil Dogs" dressed in olive drab jump smocks also used Model 55s to attack the island of Gavutu, between Tulagi and Tanambogo. Although Tulagi and Tanambogo were each secured in a day, the fighting was fierce. Japanese firing from caves and beach dugouts destroyed many of the raider's assault craft before touching shore. At day's end, the raiders suffered 234 casualties from a 750 man force. The paratroopers fared worse. Of the 377 men who assaulted Gavutu, 212, roughly two-thirds were killed or seriously wounded, many because escorting warships couldn't provide close fire support in the uncharted waters, and bombers sent to assist the paratroopers, dropped their ordnance short killing their own men. Following six months of intense fighting, Guadalcanal fell to the Marines on February 7, 1943, at a cost of 6,000 wounded and killed Americans as well as 20,000 dead Japanese. Guadalcanal's capture marked the beginning of the end of the Japanese Empire. For other than minor advances in Burma and China, the Japanese were continuously pushed back to their homeland.
Although Paramarines and armored crewmen had been issued the folding stock M55, the weapon's poorly designed wire-framed stock tended to fold while firing and soon earned the M55 a poor reputation. Moreover, the Reising was designed as a civilian police weapon and was not suited to the stresses of harsh battle conditions encountered in the Solomon Islands—namely, sand, saltwater and the difficulty in keeping the weapon clean enough to function properly. Tests at Aberdeen Proving Ground and Fort Benning Georgia had found difficulties in blind-folded reassembly of the Reising, indicating the design was complicated and difficult to maintain. Many of the parts were hand fitted at the factory; this lack of parts interchangeability was not a problem for a civilian or police firearm, but it was very problematic when Reisings were maintained in the field under combat conditions.
While more accurate than the Thompson, particularly in semi-automatic mode, the Reising had a tendency to jam. This was in part due to its overly complex delayed-blowback design. This design used a system of levers within the receiver to release a fragile firing pin that could break, rust, or freeze in the humid jungle climate. This problem was exacerbated by the bolt delay recess in the receiver that accumulated dirt or fouling, preventing the bolt from seating properly; if not seated in its recess, the trigger disconnector prevented firing. In addition, the magazine was a staggered-column, single-cartridge feed design, and slight damage to the feed lips or debris in the magazine would render the magazine unusable. A partial solution to the magazine problem was the later introduction of a single-column magazine that reduced the capacity from 20 to 12 rounds.
The Reising earned a dismal reputation for reliability in the combat conditions of Guadalcanal. Fortunately, the M1 carbine became available and was often chosen over both the Reising and the Thompson in the wet tropical conditions, as the Thompson's built-in oiling pads in the receiver were a liability.
Withdrawal from the Fleet Marine Force
In late 1943 following numerous complaints, the Reising was withdrawn from Fleet Marine Force (FMF) units and assigned to Stateside guard detachments and ship detachments. After the Marines proved reluctant to accept more Reisings, and with the increased issue of the .30-caliber M1 carbine, the U.S. government passed some Reising submachine guns to the OSS and to various foreign governments (as Lend-Lease aid). Canada purchased some Model 50 SMGs and these were issued to 2nd Battalions in Canada where the 1st Battalions of regiments were serving overseas. They were issued along with .30-06 M1917 Enfields and .30-06 Lewis machine guns. One such unit to receive them was the 2nd Bn Seaforth Highlanders of Canada. The Veteran's Guard of Canada were issued the weapon to guard German Prisoners of War. Others were given to various anti-Axis resistance forces operating around the world.
Many Reisings (particularly the semiautomatic M60 rifle) were issued to State Guards for guarding war plants, bridges, and other strategic resources. And after the war thousands of Reising Model 50 submachine guns were acquired by state, county, and local U.S. law enforcement agencies. In this role the weapon proved much more successful, and by doing so, forever mired the weapon in controversy.
Issues of reliability
H&R was justifiably proud of the Reising's superior accuracy and balance, lighter weight, and ease of manufacturing when compared to the Thompson. However, the Reising's close tolerance and delicate magazine proved unreliable in the sand and mud of the Solomons—unless kept scrupulously clean. Quickly despised by front-line Marines, Lieutenant Colonel Merritt A. Edson, Commander, 1st Marine Raider Battalion, ordered that Reisings be flung into Guadalcanal's crocodile infested Lunga River, as his troops resorted to reliable bolt-action Springfield rifles.
This failure made a mockery of H&R's company slogan, "Six-and-one-half pounds of controlled dynamite. The H&R Reising will get a bullet there when you need it!"
There are other reasons for its failure. Foremost was the Reising's complex design of many small pins, plungers, springs and levers. Disassembly and assembly was difficult even under normal conditions. Simple maintenance was problematic as there was no bolt hold-open device. Chambering a cartridge was awkward as the action bar was hard to grasp in the forearm and could be obstructed by the sling. Worse, the safety/selector switch couldn't be sensed by feel at night if it was in the safe, semi, or automatic position.
"Filing-to-fit" of certain parts during production limited interchangeability. The exposed rear sight had no protective ears and was vulnerable to breakage. The adjustable front sight could be lost if the retaining screw wasn't tightly secured. The weapon was susceptible to jamming if grime clogged the bolt's locking recess in the receiver. The two small magazine guide retaining pins and corresponding receiver stud holes were tapered allowing disassembly and assembly only from one direction—right to left for disassembly, and left to right for assembly; adding unacceptable levels of complexity in a combat environment. The retaining pins had to be delicately pounded out whenever the bolt needed to be removed for cleaning. During the reassembly process, if the retaining pins were inserted too much or too little when reassembling, the receiver might not fit back into the tight confines of the stock.
What constitutes a "commercial" and "military" Model 50 is amorphous. First, H&R never made a distinction; the distinction is made by collectors. This confusion stems from a period in production where early Model 50s were manufactured with commercial characteristics and H&R's wartime practice of randomly installing old parts in stock throughout production.
While there is not one factor that distinguishes the so-called commercial from the military model, the commercial model is usually blued. It commonly has a fixed front sight and a rear sight with no retaining screw. It often has 28 fins on the barrel, a one piece magazine release, no outward flanges on the safety/selector switch, and no sling swivels. Lastly, the commercial model commonly has a smooth take-down screw, a two-hole trigger guard, and serial numbers ranging from one to 20,000.
Military Reisings are usually parkerized. They often have an adjustable front sight with an Allen screw and a rear sight with a retaining screw. They routinely have 14 fins on the barrel, a two piece magazine release, outward flanges on the safety/selector switch, sling swivels, stock ties (crossbolts through the forearm), and a knurled take-down screw. Finally, the military model commonly has a three-hole trigger guard, proofmarks like "PH" or "Pm2" above the chamber, and serial numbers ranging from 20,000 to 120,000.
There are three types of H&R magazines. The first and second models are both smooth body, are blued, and are twenty-shot double column. The first model is distinguished by five cartridge peep holes on the left side, a feature eliminated on the second model to prevent mud and sand from entering. In contrast, the third model is parkerized, has two long indentations on the sides to reduce its capacity to a twelve-shot single column magazine because of feeding problems experienced with former models.
Post World War II
Production of the Model 50 and 55 submachine guns ceased in 1945 at the end of World War II. Nearly 120,000 submachine guns were made of which two thirds went to the Marines. H&R continued production of the Model 60 semiautomatic rifle in hopes of domestic sales, but with little demand, production of the Model 60 stopped in 1949 with over 3,000 manufactured. H&R sold their remaining inventory of submachine guns to police and correctional agencies across America who were interested in the Reising's selective-fire capability, accuracy, and low cost relative to a Thompson. Then faced with continued demand, H&R resumed production of the Model 50 in 1950 which sputtered to a halt in 1957 with nearly 5,500 additional submachine guns manufactured. But just when the Reising story seemed to end, a foreign order was received in the 1960s for nearly 2,000 more Model 60s, but that order was finally the end.
Decades later, in 1986, H&R closed their doors and the Numrich Arms Corporation (The Gun Parts) purchased their entire inventory. Acquiring a number of Model 50 receivers, Numrich assembled them with parts. These weapons all have an "S" preceding the serial number and were sold domestically in the early 1990s after reparkerization and fitting with newly manufactured walnut stocks. These stocks are distinguished from originals by their wider than normal sling swivels and buttstocks, by the fact they have no stock ties, and have H&R marked plastic buttplates (originals were unmarked metal).
- Costa Rica
- French Indochina: 4,000 ordered, delivery and issue not confirmed.
- Finland: Captured from the Red Army.
- Nazi Germany: Captured from the Red Army.
- New Zealand
- Soviet Union: Received in the form of Lend-Lease aid.
- Philippines: Used by the Philippine Army and Philippine Constabulary during World War II and into the 1960s.
- United States
- United Kingdom
- Scarlata, Paul (13 January 2014). "The Tommy Gun's Ugly Step Child". Shotgun News. pp. 22–23.
- "Latest Submachine Gun is Designed for Mass Production". Popular Science (April): 73–77. 1941.
- Robert C. Ankony, "The US .45 Model 50 and 55 Reising submachine gun and Model 60 Semiautomatic Rifle," Small Arms Review, Jul.2008.
- Thomas B. Nelson, The World's Submachine Guns, TBN Enterprises, 1963
- Latest Submachine Gun Is Designed For Mass Production. Popular Science. April 1941. pp. 73–76. ISSN 01617370. Retrieved 13 June 2011.
- Harrington & Richardson Light Rifle. Forgotten Weapons.
- Frank Iannamico, The Reising Submachine Gun Story, Moose Lake Publishing Co., statement of R.G. Rosenquist, Curator, U.S. Marine Raider Museum, at p.132.
- Lt. Col. John George, Shots Fired in Anger, Samworth Press, 1948
- Roy F. Dunlap, Ordnance Went Up Front, Samworth Press, 1948
- p.14 Rottman Gordon & Chappell, Mike US Marine Corps 1941-1945 1995 Osprey Publishing
- Frank Iannamico, The Reising Submachine Gun Story, Moose Lake Publishing, 1999. Pages 136-7 show Unit Tables of Equipment, 1st Raider Battalion 24 Sep 42 and 1st Parachute Battalion 1 Jul 42.
- Frank Iannamico, The Reising Submachine Gun Story, Moose Lake Publishing, 1999.
- Army News, benefits, careers, entertainment, photos, promotions - Army Times HOME
- Frank Iannamico, The Reising Submachine Gun Story, Moose Lake Publishing, 1999. Pages 130-135 cover comments on the Reising and Thompson by USMC vets.
- p.515 Rottman, Gordon L. U.S. Marine Corps World War II Order of Battle 2003 Greenwood Publishing
- Ankony, Robert C. "The US .45 Model 50 and 55 Reising Submachine Gun and Model 60 Semiautomactic Rifle." Small Arms Review, Jul. 2008, pp. 64–67.
- Dunlap, Roy F., Ordnance Went Up Front, Samworth Press, 1948
- George, John (Lt. Col.), Shots Fired in Anger, Samworth Press, 1948
- Jones, Charles, "Lore of the Corps: Reisings Found to be Unreliable in Combat," ArmyTimes.com article
- Leckie, Robert, Helmet For My Pillow, Random House, 1957.
- Nelson, Thomas B., The World's Submachine Guns, TBN Enterprises, 1963
- Hogg, Ian V. and Weeks, John, Military Small Arms of the 20th Century, DBI Books, 1985
- Iannamico, Frank. The Reising Submachine Gun Story, Moose Lake Publishing, 1999
- Iannamico, Frank. United States Submachine Guns. Moose Lake Publishing, 2004
- History of the Reising Model 50 Submachinegun
- Modern Firearms
- M50 compensator patent
- M50 patent
- M55 patent
- "Latest Submachine Gun Is Designed for Mass Production", April 1941 Popular Science article
- Original manual