Saving Private Ryan

Steven Spielberg launched his second WWII movie "Saving Private Ryan" after his “Schindler’s List”.  This time, Steven really gives viewers brutal and stunning war scenes.  For DEN Trinity, this is a good time to review the light arms used in the movie.

Miller with his Thompson M1A1, Ryan with his M1 Garand, Reiben with his BAR

Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks) uses the well known Thompson M1A1 (nickname Tommygun).  It is a .45 SMG which is based on Thompson M1921.  The original model M1921 is developed by John Taliaferro Thompson and manufactured by Auto-Ordnance Corporation soon after the end of WWI.  As the demand of firearms dropped after the first war, M1928A1(final version of M1921) become a weapon for civilians, especially for triads.  So you can see M1928A1 often in movies like “Untouchables”.   After the US involvement in WWII, the demand of firearms increased a lot and SMG is needed for close battle.  M1928A1 was therefore simplified and bought into service to become M1A1.  Changes includes the simplification of sight and bolt.  Front grip was changed to hand guard and the muzzle is also altered as well.  Heat sink on barrel was deleted.  Drum magazine was not used as it could not substance the adverse condition in field.  Like other SMG, M1A1 suffers from range shortage, and the bullet speed of .45 ACP is pretty slow around 900~1000 fps. Total production of M1 and M1A1 are around 1,250,000 pieces.

Browning Automatic Rifle M1918A1 (BAR) is also used by Private Reiben, one of the troop members.  It was built in WWI by Browning in response to a need by the US for a light "machine rifle".  The first BAR were manufactured by Colt, Winchester and Rarlin Rockewell.  Firing .30-06 ammo with full automatic ability, BAR is ideal for fire support purpose, just like the function of modern M60.  The M1918A1 model of BAR can be fired in semi-auto and full-auto mode but the semi-auto mode is deleted in M1918A2 model later in 1944.  Although the fire power is adequate with its 20 rounds magazine, BAR suffers from excessive mass and length (7.27kg and 1.21m).  Therefore its mobility is low  .The rifle is also not accurate under full-auto firing due to vast muzzle movement.

Firing of BAR

The firearms you can see most in the movie is M1 Garand.  It is a fine and accurate rifle designed by John C. Garand.  He took 20 years to perfect this rifle and his rifle was brought into service in 1936.  Shooting powerful .30-06 ammo (bullet speed 2650 fps) as well but in semi-auto mode, M1 Garand is a true mass production rifle in the WWII (total production of 4,000,000 pieces for WWII).  The magazine of M1 Garand is particularly interesting.  It is a clip magazine with a capacity of 8 rounds.  After all rounds are fired, the remaining clip will be automatically ejected from the top, and bolt will be left opened.  Soldier can then install a fresh magazine into the well and unlock the bolt to fire again.  Although 8 rounds are a bit short, having such smart mechanics is particularly useful in field.

Troop in defensive position, note the M1 Carbine held by Sergeant Horvath(soldier on top)

People may be interested in the sniper rifle uses in the movie.  It is a rifle named M1903 and its mechanic is based on Mauser.  The rifle is very accurate (don’t compared with modern sniper rifles) but it was brought in service as early as 1906.  Produce by Springfield, this rifle is designed for sniping purpose in war as it only has a 5 rounds capacity.  With a use of Weaver scope, the accuracy is further enhanced.  Using popular .30-06 ammo with single bolt action, range of this rifle is long and bullet speed is high (at 2650 fps as well).  Combined with its accuracy, it fully cover the shortages of Thompson M1A1 and BAR.

Holding by Sergeant Horvath is a M1 Carbine.  M1 Carbine is a short length, semi automatic rifle shooting .30 and its overall mechanism is differed from M1 Grand.  Having a length of 905mm and a weight of 2.48kg, this rifle is compact and light .  The purpose of building M1 Carbine is to provide a weapon which stood between a Government and M1 Garand.  Its ammo is also different from M1 Garand, which is a pistol like cartridge.  And 15 or 30 rounds magazine is available.  M1 Carbine has lots of variations like  trooper version with folding stock, full-auto version named M2 and night version with night scope.  In field, M1 Carbine has a combination of high mobility ,high capacity and moderate firing range.  Its total production amounted to 5,500,000 pieces.

For war game lovers, they will surely appreciate the realism of scenes in the movie, it just keeps your breath tight all over 150 minutes. Absent of WWII firearms in the air-soft gun format will be a problem attracting people to play WWII war game.  And I can think of is M1 Carbine produced by Marushin, BAR and Thompson produced by JAC.  There should be a different feeling for war game with WWII scenarios.  Will Marui be market sensitive enough to produce a electric gun M1 Grand or Thompson M1A1?  Let’s see in this year Japan Toy Show.

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