James Wesley Rawles On The Use Of Privately Owned Weapons In Warfare

BY Herschel Smith
2 months ago

Survival Blog.

Many times, I’ve heard it suggested that restrictions on privately-owned sidearms developed because of Declaration III of the Hague Convention, which banned the use of expanding (mushrooming) bullets. The U.S. government has never been a signatory to that portion of the Hague Convention, but we’ve largely abided by it. Although we do have a penchant for military shotguns, which many European military leaders consider “barbaric.”  And most recently, the U.S. Army adopted a hollowpoint 9mm cartridge.

[ … ]

In later conflicts, the tradition of POWs for aviators continued, with many willfully flouting regulations. In addition to sidearms for personal protection, many pilots and other aircrewmen carried .22 rimfire guns, for hunting small game, in case they were shot down in a remote area. The Air Force had officially-issued “Survival Guns” which were available in just small numbers. But many pilots carried their own .22 pistols–most commonly those made by Hi-Standard, or Colt Woodsman pistols.

American servicemen in the Vietnam War had a fairly large number of privately-owned weapons. These were either guns from home, or captured weapons, or a variety of guns bought on the black market from ARVN soldiers. The “status symbol” guns for both aviators and ground troops were .357 magnum revolvers.  In some instances, soldiers would have family members mail them handguns or disassembled long guns. These were mostly riot shotguns, But a few soldiers asked for  — and received via mail — their trusty .30-30 Winchester carbines. To 21st Century readers this might sound hard to believe, but it really happened.

And from the comments there is this.

I had a friend who was in Viet Nam in 1968-69 and carried his personal S&W .357mag. His parents sent him several boxes of .357 HP ammo in the mail and the military stopped the delivery and sent the ammo back to his parents. The military included a letter to his parents telling them NOT to send their son anymore ammo, that they would supply him and that hollow point ammo was not allowed due to the Hague Convention, which you were right, the US did not sign that part of.

Finally, to close out the study James writes this.

In my opinion, any active duty or reserve officer or NCO should be able to carry whatever weapon he pleases, on-post or off-post, and whether deployed or stateside. But regulations say otherwise.

It’s difficult for me to see how logistics officers could possibly handle any weapon, any caliber, and a multitude of parts for those weapons.  But it seems to have worked in the past.

I agree with one commenter, who said that “I didn’t think I’d find this interesting” but I did.  I did too, very much so.  In fact, I’ve asked before – to no avail – for pictures of revolvers used in either OIF or OEF.  I do have one picture of a 1911 carried by a general in Afghanistan, who can of course carry anything he wants.

Also, I confess that I didn’t know that until the advent of the M17 that the U.S. military shot ball rounds.  I did know that, for example, John Basilone killed all those enemy troops with an M2 and a 1911 shooting ball ammunition.

But I didn’t know that we were still using ball ammo in OEF and OIF.  Can veterans confirm this?


Comments

  1. On September 20, 2020 at 10:48 pm, Georgiaboy61 said:

    Re: “American servicemen in the Vietnam War had a fairly large number of privately-owned weapons. These were either guns from home, or captured weapons, or a variety of guns bought on the black market from ARVN soldiers…/ /…These were mostly riot shotguns, But a few soldiers asked for — and received via mail — their trusty .30-30 Winchester carbines. To 21st Century readers this might sound hard to believe, but it really happened.”

    It is a matter of historical record how troubled the introduction of the M-16 was during the Vietnam War. Secretary of Defense MacNamara and the Pentagon/DOD pushed Eugene Stoner’s design into the field and into combat before it was ready, and to compound the error, forced troops in the field to surrender weapons which had already been issued and which had worked up to that point, such as the M-14 rifle, in addition to a variety of Korean War and WWII-surplus small arms then in use.

    Big Army and the Pentagon tried to keep the fiasco under the rug, but eventually word filtered home from the troops in the field – Army and Marine alike – and outraged families demanded action. At that time, Congress was forced to act and the Ichord Hearings were held in 1967-1968.

    I won’t recount the details of that introduction – which are available elsewhere – except to say that it stands to reason that at least some of those troops requesting non-standard weapons were doing so because they did not faith in their new M-16s.

    Eventually, the M-16 was sorted out and became the weapons system it is today, but that process was not completed until well after the last troops came home in 1975. Which means that there were a significant number of personnel in theater who probably were not satisfied with their individual weapon, and were searching for alternatives – including those available to civilians.

    By the way, combat troops requesting or wanting civilian firearms is by no means a new phenomenon…

    During the Second World War, well-before the U.S. Army and Marine Corps had set up permanent scout-sniper training programs, individual soldiers and Marines and their units in-theater had to stand-up such programs in the field on an ad-hoc, as-needed basis, when they encountered German or Japanese snipers in combat, as the case may be. It is well-known that U.S. troops requested and used a limited number of civilian sporting rifles – primarily Winchester Model 70 bolt-action rifles in 30-06 – as substitute standard precision rifles, despite the lack of official sanction to do so. There were not enough suitable Springfield M1903s on hand for the purpose, so some enterprising GIs solved things in their own manner.

    Despite being rugged and very well-built, these M70 rifles were not approved officially by the Army or the Corps for use in the field, as they were considered not durable-enough in comparison with the M1903, a fiction to which both branches clung until the 1960s, despite considerable evidence to the contrary.
    The successful use of these field-expedient weapons in WWII was not enough to convince the brass, and the whole story was rewound and played again in Korea, 1950-1953.

    During WWII, it was standard operating procedure for most Army and Marine Corps infantry units to equip senior NCOs and officers with the sidearm, the Colt M1911A1 .45 ACP pistol or its alternative/equivalent, but not ordinary enlisted soldiers or Marines, unless they were on special duties. None-the-less, before D-Day, it was quite common for paratroopers in the 101st and 82nd Airborne, to write to their folks back home requesting that a pistol and some ammunition for it be procured and sent to them in time for the big jump over France. Numerous troopers dropped into France and later Holland, carrying such non-issue items.

    Speaking of non-issue items, it has always been common among combat soldiers to collect souvenirs – typically, captured enemy small arms, edged weapons, unit insignia, patches, badges, flags and the like. German Luger pistols in 9x19mm were exceptionally sought-after in Africa, Italy and the ETO. Occasionally, a weapon would be encountered however, which was so sought-after that it was used in combat after being captured.

    Captured German MP38/40 submachine guns, for example, were quite common to encounter when troops could hang onto them without having some rear-area officer confiscate them. On the other side of the line, German troops sought captured M-1 Carbines and used them in combat; there are photos of such troops. The U.S. weapon was highly-valued as it was light, handy and effective as a sort of surrogate submachine gun, a fast-firing weapon useful from 0-150 or 200 yards.

    The relatively uncommon .30 Carbine cartridge is what held up such use for the Germans, unless they captured significant stocks of ammo also (such as during the early phases of the Ardennes campaign in late 1944/1945). 9mm Parabellum was easy to find, since it was in use by the British and Commonwealth forces in their STEN guns, as well as in their Browning Hi-Power pistols.

    How interesting that U.S. troops in Vietnam asked for their 30-30 lever-action carbines! I’ve studied military history for a long time, but have never run across that before…. but like the man said, “Why not?”

  2. On September 20, 2020 at 11:02 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    Model 70 rifles were used by Marine Corps snipers in the initial invasion of Iraq. For a dramatic rendition of this see “Generation Kill.”

    Correction: that was an M40.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7g3Av0sxJAE

  3. On September 20, 2020 at 11:05 pm, 41mag said:

    My father-in-law was a Vietnam Green Beret. All teams were allowed to carry whatever they wanted, he chose a 357mag revolver for sidearm as it would go bang instead of jam while in the bush. His long gun was more mission specific for his choices but he was free to choose.

    My dad was also in ‘Nam and hated the M16. His NCO kept his team on patrol and in-country for as long as he could so as to delay the change from their trusty M-14 to the jam-o-matic.

    30cal is a better brush gun than the 556 which tribes in the desert wars.

    Oh and the 3-round burst fire came on later b/c too many soldiers were awful shooters.

  4. On September 21, 2020 at 5:50 am, Nosmo said:

    “John Basilone killed all those enemy troops with an M2 and a 1911 shooting ball ammunition.”

    An M2? Wasn’t the M1919 (the air-cooled version of the M1917) standard squad issue for the Marines in World War II? And, wasn’t pre-war squad issue primarily rebuilt water-cooled M1917s? (Both the M1917 and M1919 used the .30-06 cartridge (7.62X63); the M2 used .50 BMG (12.7X99) Not that the M2 wasn’t, and still is, an extremely useful tool, it’s 2X the weight of the M1919 (85 lbs vs 42, the water-cooled M1917 was about 95 lbs with all its accoutrements), not to mention the weight of the .50 caliber ammo it uses.) Which means Marines who landed on Guadalcanal in August 1942 may have been equipped with at least some M1917s in addition to M1919s; I’m sure there are many better historians who should have more info.

  5. On September 21, 2020 at 8:45 am, TRX said:

    Some officers carried personally owned weapons in WWII; Patton being the most famous of them.

  6. On September 21, 2020 at 10:50 am, Stefan said:

    Military legal term “Ball” is Full Metal Jacket ammunition, though some tricks like filling the nose of the jacket with alloy, cork, paper, wood or air instead of lead will help destabilising and fragmentation in the wound, and adding a steel core will help in penetrating cover and light barriers. Much better being shot with a half dozen M2 .30-06 “Ball” rounds at 2000 fps than a .58 Minie ball field cast from printer’s type doing only 1100. I thought Mr Basilone used a M1917 watercooled….

  7. On September 21, 2020 at 11:05 am, Brad said:

    I’ve always been under the impression NATO dictated no hollow point ammo. I’ve also read one of the attractions of the .223/556 round when it was being tested was it’s pertinacity to tumble on impact creating large wound channels.

  8. On September 21, 2020 at 11:15 am, JoeFour said:

    Off-topic but of interest — the USMC Stinger machine gun of WW II … necessity is indeed the mother of invention:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YgecTgbz3ik&ab_channel=ForgottenWeapons

  9. On September 21, 2020 at 11:25 am, Herschel Smith said:

    @Stefan,

    ” … I thought Mr Basilone used a M1917 watercooled….”

    You’re the second person who’s said that. I’m probably wrong.

  10. On September 21, 2020 at 12:23 pm, Georgiaboy61 said:

    @ Herschel

    Re: “Model 70 rifles were used by Marine Corps snipers in the initial invasion of Iraq. For a dramatic rendition of this see “Generation Kill.” and “Correction: that was an M40.”

    The Corps is only just today, in the present, shedding its much-used and even loved M40 bolt-action rifles, which have been the mainstay of its precision marksmanship missions, billets and programs for so long. The M40 is simply the USMC designation for a Remington Model 700 bolt-action in .308 caliber (7.62×51 NATO), built-up to match-grade standards by free-floating the barrel, truing the action, bedding the action to the stock, replacing or tuning the trigger, and so forth. Typically, these rifles are worked over by Marine armorers at Quantico, Virginia or elsewhere, who double-check the work done at the factory, do any additional needed work and make sure everything is good-to-go.

    Regarding Medal of Honor recipient Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone,the pride of Raritan,New Jersey, he did indeed employ a Browning M1917 water-cooled at Bloody Ridge, above Henderson Field, on Guadalcanal, during the exploits which led to the medal. First emplaced on a tripod, and then when he and his men displaced to new positions, suspended from a sling or held with the aid of a bailer, an improvised wooden-wire handle which allowed Basilone to hold the weapon without burning himself or interfering with its operation.

    If the accounts I have seen are accurate, he deployed the weapon a lot like an oversized Tommy Gun, using it to sweep Japanese positions and targets side-to-side. Ammo belts slung over his shoulder freely.

    @ JoeFour

    Corporal Tony Stein used what he called his “Stinger” as his primary weapon during a series of combat actions at Iwo Jima which later culminated in his receiving the Medal of Honor. A machinist in civilian life, Stein and some other men had fabricated the weapon intending to use it in the upcoming action. Stein, unfortunately, did not live to receive the Medal, as he was killed in action on 1 March, 1945.

    @ 41Mag

    I know a half dozen or so men slightly older than myself (I was fourteen in 1975) who served during the Vietnam War as combat infantrymen, either Army or Marine – and not one of those guys cares for the M-16. I know; I asked them at a party one time some years back. They all loved their M-14s, however, and said so in glowing terms. The one guy – who’d been in the 101st Airborne “Screaming Eagles” U.S. Army paratroops – his son was just home from the sandbox (Iraq), so we got him a beer and asked him about his individual weapon, the M-16/M-4, and he replied that it had worked fine for him, no problems.

  11. On September 21, 2020 at 12:26 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    @Georgiaboy61,

    Not following Stoner’s design regarding ammo and chrome lining for the barrels had big consequences.

    The AR-15 has come a long, long way since then.

  12. On September 21, 2020 at 1:39 pm, NOG said:

    I read that Jerry “Mad Dog” Shriver had a Marlin 45 70 as his “bunker buster”.

  13. On September 21, 2020 at 2:26 pm, Notavet said:

    Second hand knowledge, but officer friend of mine confirmed he had ball ammo issued for his M9 during his time in Kuwait and Iraq. His group scored hollow points, but some idiot got caught with them. Senior officers chewed them all out and implemented “mag checks” after that. So top round or two were then ball ammo .. keeping hollow points hidden further down the mag.

  14. On September 21, 2020 at 5:16 pm, Ned2 said:

    The historical information in the comments is one of the reasons we come here.
    Thank you all.

  15. On September 21, 2020 at 7:37 pm, JR said:

    Ball is always used by us military. The reason why: ball wounds, hp kills. If a guy is dead he lays there. A wounded guy is a drag to the rear. Needs medic, multiple people to carry him to aid station, etc. So, ball ammo to wound although .45 ACP ball is going to really f-up your health record.

  16. On September 21, 2020 at 8:03 pm, Levi Garrett said:

    I never quite understood the rationale behind any of the agreements/conventions/pacts that seek to “tone down” the lethality of a particular weapon or implement of war. It seems to me that if you are trying to kill an enemy in war, it shouldn’t much matter how you do it or what weapon you choose. The goal is to win, and you do that by killing all the enemy or making them submit to you. This should cause you to make darn sure your reasons for fighting are just and righteous.

  17. On September 21, 2020 at 9:24 pm, Sam Helm said:

    My understanding is that the limitations on ammunition were emplaced to limit the amount of maiming. It is just fine to kill someone, but it is bad form to permanently disfigure/disable them. Silly, if you ask me, but war was more “civilized” in those days.

  18. On September 21, 2020 at 9:46 pm, xtphreak said:

    @Levi Garrett
    @Sam Helm

    The point is after all, NOT to kill the enemy combatant.

    By wounding him, you tie up at least three personnel in transport of the wounded, care of the wounded, etc.

    It uses up the enemy’s resources faster.

  19. On September 21, 2020 at 11:01 pm, Agammamon said:

    I was in the USN until 2011. We were issued ball for the M9. It was the only option.

    HP’s never been a priority since basically no one actually carries a pistol unless their position means they have no other weapon (on ship in port, *one* guy will have a pistol, all other armed watchstanders will have an M16 or shotgun). Some guys carrying SAW or LMG’s might have a pistol as a back up but my understanding is most will leave it behind.

    In fact, IIRC, anyone under the rank of COL is issued a carbine. You need to be an O-6 before the pistol is your duty weapon.

  20. On September 22, 2020 at 1:00 am, Michael Gilson said:

    re: Hague Convention. I seem to recall that it was intended to hamper the British (just like agreements now are intended to hamper the US). The British arsenal at Dum Dum developed soft point ammo to increase effectiveness of Lee Metford ammo. The other powers had increased effect using other methods so it was a convenient club to use against the Brits. Once the Brits found another way to increase bullet effect that didn’t rely on soft point or hollow points it wasn’t worth it to them to keep fighting to retain dum dums.

  21. On September 22, 2020 at 7:42 pm, Phil Ossiferz Stone said:

    /blinks

    Gentlemen? .223 ball ammunition, so called, was designed to be frangible. And it is. It’s a lead pellet with a brass glaze that does nothing to hold it together and, at 3000+ fps, will create cantaloupe-sized wounds.

    I’m mildly amazed nobody has pointed this out.

  22. On September 22, 2020 at 8:02 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    @Phil,

    Of course that’s correct, but I had focused on pistol rounds. I wondered if my son, who was a SAW gunner, carried HP or ball rounds in his pistol while in Iraq (all SAW gunners had to carry pistols too). I never asked him.

    I guess I could have, but it never occurred to me.

  23. On September 22, 2020 at 11:17 pm, The Wretched Dog said:

    Gentlemen: Ball ammo, exclusively for all ‘normal’ units (don’t know about Spec-Ops). Pistol or rifle or machine-gun, it is all ball. Except snipers. Read on.

    I deployed to Iraq three times (logistics staff officer – aka fobbit) and carried an M9 every day, on or off base. Issued 9mm ball. Troops were issued 5.56mm ball. I carried six M16/M4 magazines on my IBA (my own mags, identical to Army issue), so I would have them available if ‘something’ occurred and I needed to use an M4. Sadly, never happened.

    That said (normal troops, all ball ammunition), Army (and I am sure Spec-Ops) snipers used 175gr open-tip, match grade, boat tailed bullets. M118LR (replaced the original M118 cartridge’s 173gr with a 175gr Sierra Match-king bullet.)

    So – an Infantry Brigade lawyer (because every brigade has a lawyer) up and decides that snipers can’t use the “hollow point” ammunition that they are issued because Hague Convention (that we never signed), etc. etc.

    Staff weenie that I am (albeit former 12 years Infantry officer and shooter), I point out that the M118LR cartridge is an open-tip match round, poured base-to-nose for consistency, and is not a hollow-point within the normative meaning of the term. And that the lawyer’s faulty legal opinion would be quickly overturned.

    Which it was. By none other than the SOCOM JAG.

    Now, having said that, since we were fighting illegal combatants who neither respected nor followed the law of land warfare, we could have – with perfect consistency with that Hague Convention that we never actually signed – used Dum-Dum hollow-points and blew their sorry asses away.

    But we don’t. We use ball. Except snipers. Snipers use open-tip match. Not hollow-points.

    Clear?

    TWD

    COL, US Army (Ret.)

  24. On September 22, 2020 at 11:29 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    @Dog,

    Yes. To me. I have some 75 gr. OTM in my safe. I’m told it works effectively. My son shot 62 gr. green tip while in Iraq.

    Give a choice, I’d get rid of the green tip, and choose the 55 gr. ball or 75 gr. OTM.

    My understanding is that we fielded the green tip because we found that bullets were ricocheting off car windows in urban combat.

    As for pistol rounds, I think it’s stupid we were using ball ammo.

  25. On September 23, 2020 at 12:25 pm, Georgiaboy61 said:

    @ Herschel

    SS109/M855 62-grain “green-tip” was developed in response to a request by NATO for an enhanced 5.56×45 projectile which could penetrate a standard Warsaw Pact sheet-metal helmet at 500 meters. NATO standardized upon the cartridge in 1979, thus replacing M193 55-grain as the Stanag (stanag = “standardization agreement”) loading for the alliance.

    The anti-gun crowd have attempted over the years to claim that M855 is “armor-piercing,” but according to the military’s own classification system, it is not. NATO designates its AP round as M995, a 52-grain projectile with a tungsten core, which has a black tip in contrast to the green of M855.

    In 2010, the U.S. Army adopted an updated, improved version of M855, which was classified as M855A1. The new design of bullet is lead-free, employing a solid copper alloy core surrounding a hardened steel penetrator which extends beyond the alloy jacketing. 62-grain M855A1 offers improved penetration of sheet metal and mild steel, as well as better performance against other kinds of barriers, including masonry, brick, concrete and glass. It also penetrates body-armor more-reliably and is more-accurate than its predecessor.

    M855A1 is loaded to a significantly higher pressure than M855, producing a MV of 3211fps out of a 20-inch barrel, which plants the new cartridge firmly in M193 territory, despite the 62-grain weight of the bullet. Small Arms Solutions, LLC – amongst other sources – report that this violates NATO stanag agreements, and that the increased pressure/MV in comparison to the older load will accelerated wear and breakage of parts, lessening the operational service life of the weapon.

    The Marine Corps did not adopt M855A1 right away, due to the concerns expressed above, and also data seeming to show that the cartridge did not feed as reliably as its predecessor due to the slightly-longer and significantly more-pointed nature of the projectile. Hardened, the tips of the cartridges as they fed, were hanging up on and damaging feed ramps and causing stoppages. The Marines instead adopted the same Mk. 318 load used by JSOC.

  26. On September 25, 2020 at 3:08 pm, Sanders said:

    In the mid-80’s at Ft. Carson, those who were authorized sidearms – Officers, NCO’s, crew-served gunners – were able to carry personal sidearms after being authorized by the CO. I had my Ruger Super Blackhawk .44 Mag and an ammo can of 200 rounds authorized. I never actually carried it in the field, but it went to the field with the arms room whenever we went out. One guy was authorized his Browning Hi Power, and another guy had a 6″ bbl S&W Model 29.

    It was probably an experiment that went no where. The arms room NCO was a buddy of mine, and all he did was bitch about having to look after other people’s POF’s. I imagine he wasn’t the only armorer bitching about it. If it had still been in effect, you would have seen POF’s in GW1. Although a friend of mine was First Sergeant in his unit and carried two 1911’s when every one else had M9’s.

  27. On September 27, 2020 at 7:48 am, SGOTI said:

    To the point of: “any active duty or reserve officer or NCO should be able to carry whatever weapon he pleases”

    This largely would have negated the need for the TSA- and the bulk of the other security kabuki theater- since “Never Forget” 9/11.

    Presto! You would have tens of thousands of instant deputies and air marshals, without the need for ponderous bureaucracy. Sure, there would have been negligent discharges and posse commitatus issues, but it would have been a damn less slight to liberty than we’ve seen.

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