By Jon Miller
In a previous article I presented material on the USA Model HD .22 caliber pistol manufactured by the High Standard corporation for the War Department during World War II. This pistol was designed to be similar enough to the Model 1911 .45 caliber Colt to allow inexpensive introductory training in pistol marksmanship for inexperienced recruits.
The previous article emphasized the military silenced version (the USA Model HD-MS ) specially designed for use in covert military operations and by the Office of Strategic Services and later (allegedly) by the Central Intelligence Agency. In the previous article I stated there was a shoulder stock designed for the pistol, but that I had not found any information about it.
During a research trip to the National Archives Annex in College Park Maryland I located the fifth of the eight original copies of “Report of The Infantry Board (number 1731)” of the field test of the shoulder stock and the suppressed pistol. Included in the report were photos of the stock in folded (fig 1) and open positions (fig 2). There was also a photo of the weapon and stock in use (fig 3). This is a summary of that report.
The Infantry Board report on function of the silencer was complimentary. The silencer did not give any trouble during the tests. (Other weapons tested had problems as the hole in the end cap was not aligned with the flight path of the bullet.) The report states there were a few problems with extraction and ejection attributed to the increased energy absorption of the silencer. There were problems attributed to ammunition provided for the test not associated with the silencer.
The unsilenced gun could be heard out to 900 yards during the day. The silenced pistol’s report could be discerned intermittently at 350 yards. (This represents a significantly greater distance than the author’s experience.) It reportedly sounded like the unsilenced gun at 900 yards. The report was audible at greater distances at night.
There was little difference in visible smoke with and without the silencer during daylight This is a significant consideration in daytime covert operations. The silencer did reduce the muzzle flash by an estimated 75 to 85% at night. No flash was visible with or without the silencer from 150 yards.
Penetration was tested by firing into a penetration test rack of 13/16” thick pieces of soft pine wood separated by 1” spaces placed at 15, 25, 50 and 75 yards from the muzzle. Comparison was made to another unsilenced USA Model HD.
This test demonstrated that there was predictably less penetration into soft pine at operational distances by the pistol with silencer. ( Incidental reports of operators experienced with the silenced pistol indicate effective ranges out to 100 yards. These were operational experiences obtained in the field after this report was filed.)
The detachable wire stock is a single formed piece of 0.4” wire attached to the pistol grip by an adapter and eccentric lever. It could be removed from the pistol or replaced in a matter of seconds. Although the report does not include respective weights, it does state the stock did not add significantly to the weight of the weapon. The stock is held in either the folded or extended position by a spring and detent. In the folded storage position the stock rides under and parallel to the barrel (fig 1). The report documents improved accuracy with use of the stock.
The officers testing the stock were not enthusiastic about its performance. They specifically cited the adapter as being too flimsy and unstable. It frequently shifted out of position. While it does offer some improvement in steadiness over the unsupported pistol, the wire stock itself does not give support equal to a standard type rifle stock. It also lacked a cheek support.
In addition the shoulder stock is awkward to use as demonstrated in Figure 3. The rear sight is only nine inches from the shooter’s eye. This is close enough to the face to encourage flinching. The proximity of the eye to the rear sight blurs the sight picture reducing accuracy. The report discusses, and discards as impractical, the possible use of a peep-sight.
The report includes a discussion of “the cleaning problem”:
“Although the .22 with non-corrosive ammunition does not require much cleaning, it would appear desirable to clean it occasionally. The silencer complicates the cleaning problem. If patches are used, they are liable to foul in the holes in the barrel or to get caught in the screen washers ahead of the barrel. Also the silencer will be partially filled with water, cleaning fluid or oil. The silencer is not too easily stripped and assembled because of the large number of parts. It would seem desirable to strip it when the pistol barrel needs cleaning.” REPORT of The Infantry Board, No. 1731, CALIBER .22 HI-STANDARD PISTOL WITH SILENCER AND WIRE SHOULDER STOCK. FORT BENNING, GEORGIA. 5 December 1944. page 28.
This problem was later remedied by not cleaning the barrel, but instead replacing the rolled wire tube around the perforated barrel and screens as needed. The .22 cal barrel did not become fouled under tactical conditions as the pistol was fired sparingly. It was necessary to clean the chamber and slide occasionally due to accumulation of blown back products of combustion. This was usually accomplished by swabbing the firing chamber a barrel brush and then wiping exposed surfaces with a cloth.
The final recommendation by infantry Colonel PE Lieber was “That no further consideration be given the subject pistol as an infantry weapon.” The weapon combination was ungainly and basically unsteady. Other reports considered it inappropriate for the infantry in general to use a silenced weapon. Indeed it was never adopted as an infantry weapon.
On the other hand the OSS and its successors adopted the pistol and have found applications without the wire stock.
Other Archival documents indicate production of at least six of the prototypes and orders for one hundred more. There is no evidence of these ever being produced nor of any field use of the prototypes.
The author is still seeking an example of the wire shoulder stock. Any information would be sincerely appreciated.
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V3N6 (March 2000)|