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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 was shipped to Canadian, Soviet, and other allied forces to fight the Axis.
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 or M1911, 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, where as 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.
VariantsEditThere 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 LR cartridge designed for training purposes. Reising Model 55 with wire stock foldedThere 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 paratroopers and armored personel 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 USMC Reising Model 60 carbineagencies.
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.
Post-World War 2Edit
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 two thousand more Model 60s, but that order was finally the last one.
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 (original M50's were unmarked metal).