THE WHITE RIFLES

Anthony G Williams

In the early 1930s the British Government was interesting in selecting a new rifle and cartridge to replace the .303 Lee Enfield which had been in service since the late 19th Century. In the same period, the US Army was also considering a new rifle and cartridge, with the .276 Pedersen the front-runner. The British decided to take advantage of this and set up a production line for the ammunition with a view to adopting it in due course. They acquired some Pedersen rifles and tested them.

In the event, John Garand produced a rifle which was selected instead of the Pedersen, and the US Army decided, for both financial and performance reasons, to retain the .30-06 cartridge, requiring a redesign of the Garand before it was finally adopted in .30-06 calibre. The British lost interest in the .276 Pedersen and stayed with their .303 weapons until the mid-1950s.

So far the story is well known, but there is a more obscure footnote: the Pedersen was not the only American rifle tested by the British at that time. There was also a rifle (or to be precise, two rifles and a machine gun) designed by the White Automatic Gun Corporation of Boston, Mass., which were tested at Enfield Lock.

The following report into the testing of these weapons is taken verbatim from the minutes of the Small Arms Committee. It comes from the library of the Ministry of Defence Pattern Room at the Royal Armouries in Leeds and I am indebted to Richard Jones, the Custodian of the Pattern Room, for providing it to me. 


THE WHITE SELF-LOADING RIFLES AND LIGHT MACHINE GUN

 

Minute 1244 of the Small Arms Committee, 26th October 1932

 

These weapons were brought to notice in July 1930. They were being developed by the White Automatic Gun Corporation of Boston, Mass., USA, who agreed to give a demonstration of these weapons at Enfield Lock. The demonstration took place on 13th April 1932.

 There were three arms in the demonstration:

(1) Gas operated self-loader, .276 inch

(2) Recoil operated self-loader, .3 inch

(3) Gas operated light machine rifle, .3 inch

 The latter was only shown as an early model showing the use of the gas mechanism in a machine gun.

As to 1. and 2. Both these arms were loaded with a 10-round clip, like the Pedersen. These were not satisfactory, requiring very accurate loading.

No. 1 is a clever action, but is at present too complicated for Service use and needs development. The tubular gas piston appeared to be a specially attractive feature.

No. 2 is a remarkable arm, handling the full sized Springfield cartridge with full weight of barrel. Here again the mechanism is still too complicated for Service use in its present form. This mechanism is remarkable in that the recoiling parts are not retained to the stock by any outer fixed sleeve. This is a great factor in keeping down weight, but must be a source of weakness in Service use. In this arm the trigger was out of adjustment. The trigger mechanism did not appear quite satisfactory. This arm failed to function in vertical fire. The idea of testing for vertical use was new to the Inventor, who stated that the American ordnance did not carry out any such test.

Otherwise both arms functioned very well and appeared to be a considerable advance on anything we have seen before, except perhaps the Pedersen at its best. They are not yet so developed as the Pedersen, and surpass it by having a locked breech.

After the demonstration the Inventor was shown a discharger cup and informed that the arm would be expected to be capable of firing a grenade from such a cup in any later test. The Inventor was also informed that we were very pleased with the performance of his exhibits.

The chief point got from the demonstration was the design of gas operated rifle piston: this might be of value in some other arm. The demonstration was further of value in that it showed the possibilities of the longer type of action to a self-loading rifle.

Mr White also showed two partly finished actions constructed on similar lines to the recoil operated weapon, but differing in certain details. These were not fired, and were not sufficiently advanced to form a definite opinion as to their capabilities.

 

WHITE .276-INCH SELF-LOADING RIFLE

Remarks:

Handiness the rifle handles well, recoil is negligible, it is light, comfortable to fire and is free from awkward projections.

Strength the method of securing the action to the stock is not robust; it is thought that damage would readily be caused by bayonet fighting.

Accuracy poor. This may be due to ammunition or the condition of the barrel, which is understood to have fired a large number of rounds.

Fouling no trouble was experienced during the brief firing test. Trial would be necessary to see the effect of cordite on this system.

General this is an interesting weapon which appears to be worthy of further investigation. It is thought that considerable improvement can be effected in various parts, as the rifle is obviously at an early stage of development. The main features of interest lie in the locking system and the gas unit. The former permits the use of a very short action and the latter should tend to produce smooth working.

 

WHITE .30-INCH SELF-LOADING RIFLE

Remarks:

Handiness the rifle handles well, is not unduly heavy, and is free from awkward projections. It is unsatisfactory in the following respect: the firer's trigger finger is subjected to a considerable shock which very quickly causes the finger to become numb.

Accuracy good

Strength the method of retaining the body and barrel in the stock is unsatisfactory. The spring clip near the muzzle is weak and would readily become detached, and the 'T' bearing at the front of the body is not substantial. It is altogether unsuitable for bayonet fighting.

General an interesting weapon having a very short action. Several parts are reminiscent of the Pedersen, with the important difference that the action is positively locked. One disturbing feature lies in the long chain of parts between the trigger and firing pin. The gun is obviously in an early stage of development, and it is thought that a considerable amount of work remains to be done before it would be suitable for trial as a Service proposition.

 

WHITE .30-INCH LIGHT MACHINE GUN

Remarks:

It is understood that this gun was exhibited to show the locking system. The gas unit is similar in principle and was the forerunner to that of the White .276-inch self-loading rifle.

It is obviously an experimental weapon, it is too heavy for a rifle and falls far short of modern light machine gun requirements.

The locking system is simple but it is thought that certain parts would not stand up to hard wear.

The following are the more obvious defects:

(1) There is no provision for a quick barrel change.

(2) Stripping for cleaning the gas cylinder and piston is not readily carried out.

(3) The gas cylinder and piston are situated on the left side of this gun. This appears to adversely affect accuracy when firing auto.

(4) The locking piece actuating sleeve has very small cam bearing surfaces. The latter would not withstand hard wear.

(5) A bipod rest is no fitted.

(6) There is no provision for mounting a tripod

(7) It is fitted with an underneath magazine, and is therefore unsuitable for tripod use.

(8) The cocking handle, method of gas cylinder attachment and other details all indicate that the gun is not sufficiently developed for Service requirements.

 

DATA TABLES

 

General Particulars

.276-inch Rifle

.30-inch Rifle

1.         Bore

.2765 inch

.2995 inch

2.         Where made

USA

USA

3.         British patent number 

not known

not known

4.         Recoil or gas operated

gas

recoil (toggle bolt breech closure)

5.         Can it be used as a magazine rifle

no

no

6.         Can the cartridges be fired before

 the bolt is locked

no

no

7.         On opening the bolt is the point of the striker withdrawn from the bolt face

yes

no, but the hammer is cocked and the floating striker is free to move rearwards

8.         Capacity of magazine

10 rounds

10 rounds

9.         Charger or clip loading

clip

clip

10.        Cut-off

no

no

11.        Type of magazine

rectangular box, clip forms essential part of magazine

rectangular box, clip forms essential part of magazine

12.        Safety bolt

yes

yes

13.        Is the breech rigidly locked at the moment of firing

yes

yes

14.        Length without bayonet  

39.2 inches

43.25 inches

15.        Length with bayonet

55.1 inches (USA pattern bayonet)

59.10 inches

16.        Length of barrel

20 inches

23.75 inches

17.        Length of action from face of barrel

6.9 inches

7.75 inches

18.        Length of body

7.3 inches

8.25 inches

19.        Weight of barrel

not unbreeched, fairly substantial

not unbreeched, but barrel is substantial

20.        Weight of rifle without bayonet (including magazine)

8 lb 11 oz

9 lb 6 oz

21.        Rifling:

 

 

                        No. of grooves

4

4

                        Width of grooves

.15 inch

.175 inch

                        Depth of grooves

.0045 inch

.0035 inch

                        Form of grooves  

concentric

concentric

                        Width of lands

.07 inch

.05 inch

                      Twist (inches per turn)

8.7

10

                      Direction of twist

right hand

right hand

22.        Where is the bayonet attached

barrel nut (recoil brake) and to a "T" bar on the barrel

 

23.        Strength of fore-end for bayonet fighting

medium strength (bayonet is not attached to fore-end)

strong, but T-bar fitting is weak

24.        Sights type of:

 

 

                        backsight

aperture

aperture

                        foresight

blade

blade

25.        Position of backsight

rear of body, 1 inch from the firer's eye

rear of body, 1 inch from the firer's eye

26.        Position of foresight

1 inches in rear of muzzle

.75 inch from muzzle

27.        Sight radius

25.5 inches

30.8 inches

28.        Method of attachment of sights:

 

 

                        backsight

slides in grooves in the rear of the body cover plate

slides in dovetailed groove in body back plate

                        foresight

pinned to a slot in a band block

pinned to a slot in a band block

29.        Possibility of fitting an aperture 3 to five inches from the firer's eye

already fitted

already fitted

30.        Lowest elevation of backsight

200 yards

not graduated for range

31.        Highest elevation of backsight

not graduated for range

32.        Number of parts necessary to be removed for cleaning:

 

 

                        barrel

nil

nil

                        piston and gas cylinder

3

-

                        breech block

4

3

33.        Ease of stripping after firing

easy

easy

34.        Time required for stripping after firing

a few seconds

a few seconds

35.        Tools required for stripping after firing

nil

nil

36.        Ease of stripping completely

not stripped completely

not stripped completely

37.        Time for stripping completely

38.        Tools required for stripping completely

39.        Strength of material of the parts

material appears to be satisfactory, the parts are substantial but attachment of action to stock is not robust

material appears to be satisfactory

40.        Cartridges: rim or rimless

rimless; similar to Pedersen but case is not waxed

rimless, USA Service

41.        Grenade discharger: is it possible to attach easily by screw thread

not readily

yes, but bayonet bearing would be decreased

 

General Particulars

White .3 Inch Light Machine Gun

1.         Bore

.2995 inch

2.         Where made

USA

3.         British patent number 

not known

4.         Recoil or gas operated

gas, by rising block situated at the rear of the breech block

5.         Provision for single shots and automatic

yes

6.         Breech open or closed on 'cease fire'

closed

7.           Speed of gun

500 rpm

8.         Ammunition feed

Browning box magazine 20 rounds

9.         Location of feed opening

underside

10.        location of ejection opening

topside

11.        Safety device

yes

12.        location of cocking or loading handle

left side

13.        Type of flash eliminator

none

14.        Length overall 

45.3 inches

15.        Length of barrel

23.6 inches

16.        Length of body

10.25 inches

17.        Weight of rifle without magazine

12 lb 0 oz

18.        Weight of empty magazine

7 oz

19.        Rifling:

 

                        No. of grooves

4

                        Form of grooves 

concentric

                        Width of lands

.08 inch

                      Twist (inches per turn)

10

                      Direction of twist

right hand

20.        Sights type of:

 

                        backsight

tangent open 'V' or aperture (American Service pattern)

                        foresight

blade

21.        Graduations

0-2,800 yards

22.        Height of backsight above axis of bore

1.1 inch

23.        Sight radius

30.4 inches

24.        Distance of backsight from heel of butt

14.0 inches

25.        Cartridges: rim or rimless

.3 inch USA Service

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