Saturday, June 01, 2013

The M3

I was reading over at Mostly Cajun, and got tripping down memory lane.  I started thinking about the M3 submachine gun, affectionately called the Grease Gun, because it looks so much like a mechanics tool.

When I got my tank platoon in 1976, the M3 was still in service.  It's a simple weapon, manufactured to make the most of mass production. They were provided to the government very cheaply.  I don't know what they cost to manufacture, but I know what the government vouchered them at, which leads to the story about the day I destroyed one.

Beautiful spring day in 1976, I was leading my tank platoon out of the field, toward the motor pool at Fort Knox, Ky.  It was a great day to be alive, the sun was shining, the temperature was pleasant and I was going to spend a couple of hours on the washrack, then go to my quarters to kiss my wife and play with my son.  My M3 was strapped around me with the cotton sling issued with every weapon.  Suddenly, I felt the cotton webbing turn loose, and I watched my submachine gun bounce off the side of the turret, onto the fender, where is slid down the fender and into the roadway behind me.

"Driver, Stop" I shouted into the headset I was wearing.  I knew that if I stopped, the line of tanks behind me would stop, but stopping a 52 ton tank takes time, and I watched the little gun go under the right-side track of the tank behind me.

When the line of vehicles finally came to a halt, I climbed down to retrieve my gun which had been thoroughly crushed beneath the tracks of not one, but two tanks.  It was in pieces, and I picked it all up, threw it into the tool box on the fender, and got the convoy moving again.  When we got to the motor pool, I retrieved the gun, told my platoon sergeant that I was heading for the arms room.

The armorer was not amuzed.  "What the hell happened to this gun, lieutenant?"

"Ran over it with a tank.  Actually two tanks."

"Geez, Lieutenant." he replied. "This is going to take some paperwork. You've destroyed an automatic weapon.  I'm going to have to do some research here, but we'll probably have to do a Report of Survey, appoint a disinterested officer, who'll conduct an investigation, find out that you screwed up, and make you pay for the gun."  He started flipping through his regulations.  "Come see me tomorrow and we'll see how bad it's going to be."

The next morning after formation, I made my way to his office.  "Two ways we can do this, LT.  We can either do the Report of Survey, or you can simply admit that you are responsible and write a check to the US Government."

"How much?" I asked.

"Well, you're getting a pretty good deal."  The armorer took out a sheet of paper.  "This gun didn't cost the government much.  It was built in 1944, and they're willing to depreciate it.  Can you write me a check for $6.42?"

I was stunned, but reached for my checkbook.  "Who should I make this payable to?  Treasurer of the United States?"

I wish I had a couple of those old guns hanging in the closet.


mostly cajun said...

I was told that of the three mass-produced submachineguns in WW II, the British STEN was $9, the German MP-40 was $29 and the M3 was $15 each.

Mine was "CCC" which I was told was 'Continental Can Company' manufacture.

I loved 'em too.


Rivrdog said...

That bolt-blocker gate-safety wasn't worth it's name, was it?

Could buy a dozen of them for what one Thompon cost, though.

Gerry N. said...

Is it true that the M3 could be converted to 9mm Parabellum by replacing the bbl, mag. and bolt?

Gerry N.

mostly cajun said...

In the immortal words of a Russian describing the 'safety' on a Mosin-Nagant: "Is gun! Is NOT safe!"

That cover/safety, oh well...


Old NFO said...

LOL, I'd have love to seen your face when he told you the amount! :-)

Geodkyt said...

Cajun -- that sounds about right. The Mark II Sten was around 3-4 pounds, with $2.50 or so to the pound.

M3 cost more because it required more expensive tooling and had more steel involved, even though the Sten had a more sophisticated trigger group (it was selective fire).

This at a time when the M1928 Thompson was $200 to foreign allies and about $100 to Uncle Sam.