SMG: U.S. Reising Model 50


SMG Reising M50 Manufacturer H&R
Cartridge 11.43×23mm Overall Length 37.8″
Action Delayed Blowback Barrel Length 11″
Magazine 12 or 20rnds dtch box Weight 6.8 lb


On paper the Reising M50 submachine gun seemed like a great idea for a nation headed to war.  In practice it was a finicky device that failed miserably in the field.

Eugene Reising had been involved in firearms development for some years, including working on Browning’s Model 1911 team.  Seeing the rapid militarization around the globe, he realized that one category of firearms, the submachine gun, had room for improvement.  He went to work and had a patent ready by 1940.  He then partnered with Harrington and Richardson and production began in 1941; just before the attacks on Pearl Harbor.M50-Reising-Submachine-Gun-left 2Unlike other SMGs of the era, the Reising fired from a closed bolt.  In an open bolt system, a pull of the trigger released the bolt to slam forward, discharging the round.  This small delay and the human resistance to the spring pressing both the bolt forward and the firer back made both accurate and precise shooting difficult.  The Reising’s closed bolt handled like a carbine and grouped favorably.  The bolt operated unlocked, but with a delay in the blowback caused by a “shelf” milled into its top that rests in a matching recess in the top of the receiver.  This slightly cushioned operation and prevented hot gas from venting out of the breech.  Again, unlike other designs, the Reising sports a shrouded action bar instead of a standard operating rod or bolt.  It is a plunger-shaped rod set inside the forestock and accessible from underneath.  This was intended to prevent snagging in the field or stocks of guns from gouging each other in storage.  A fire selector on the right side of the receiver allowed for full or semi-automatic fire modes.US SMG M50 Reising Action Bar Reising’s SMG was much lighter and easier to manufacture than the standard issue Thompson M28A1.  It would also be cheaper to purchase and require less overall machining in key parts.  Much of its construction was done on machines nearly 50 years old at the time.  It sports familiar cooling fins on the barrel and a compensator to help mitigate recoil by directing vented gas upwards.  It uses a simple aperture sight and was considered effective from 50-300 yards.  The fire rate was 450 rounds per minute.

With the outbreak of WWII the U.S. military scrambled for small arms.  While the Army tested Reising’s SMG, they found it wanting and decided to prioritize Thompson production or make do without.  The Marines, however, wanted to get something into the field badly and gave the Reising a more cursory look before adopting it as the Model 50 as a temporary relief SMG.

M50-Reising-SMG-POV sSo the Model 50 was carried early in the Pacific Theater where it met with problems almost immediately.  The delayed bolt was extremely sensitive to dirt and sand which led to regular jamming.  The double stack, single-feed magazines also proved immediately problematic and failure-to-feed issues were common if feed lips were even slightly bent.  This necessitated the development of a single-stack magazine, made by pressing flutes into the sides of a standard 20-round magazine so that it fit only 12 rounds single file.  The shrouded action bar provided an opening in the stock perfect for taking in mud and gunking up the action further.  Finally, the gun had a habit of overheating under sustained fire.

Ultimately, the M50 was loathed by the Marines and there are accounts of officers ordering whole shipments dumped straight into the ocean or rivers for fear their men might actually rely on them in combat.  They were quickly withdrawn from service and subsequently replaced with Thompson M1A1s or the “Grease Gun.”

Most Reisings still in the U.S., like ours photographed here, are actually police, prison guard and factory guard models.  The military versions are typically parkerized and feature underside slings where as the rest were blued and side-slung.  Several other models were also produced: a Model 55 wires stock paratrooper, a Model 60 “light rifle,” and a Model 65 .22 training rifle.  We will cover each of those as we encounter examples though. M50-Reising-Submachine-Gun-top 2

Special thanks goes out to The South Carolina Military Museum for letting us borrow this SMG!



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