M3 and M3A1 Grease Gun SMGs


Hi guys, thanks for tuning in to another
video on ForgottenWeapons.com. I’m Ian McCollum, and I’m here today at the Rock Island Auction house taking a look at some of the guns that are going to be coming up for sale in their May of 2017 Premiere auction. Today we are looking at a pair of American World War Two submachine guns, specifically an M3 and an M3A1 submachine gun, typically known as the “Grease Gun”, because, well, they kind of look like an automotive mechanic’s grease gun. This was really America’s entry into the modern generation of stamped, cheap, sheet metal submachine guns. So the US had started the war of
course with the Thompson submachine gun, which you might note was the M1 submachine gun. .45 calibre, a lot of firepower, guys liked
them, but they were really quite expensive. At the beginning of the war the commercial
cost for a Thompson was like $200, which was a lot. Now the US military through the war would
simplify them and bring the cost down quite a bit, but even very early in the war they
recognised that they were going to want something that was a lot
more cost-effective to manufacture. So development of the M3
began in late 1942, or mid 1942. By November Aberdeen Proving
Ground had five of the guns for testing. The development, the design was
actually done by a guy named George Hyde, and you may recognise that name
if you’ve watched a lot of these videos. George Hyde is one of the lesser known, but
prominent, American gun designers of this period. He was involved in the M1 Carbine
trials, he had an entry there. And he did a lot of work on military firearms,
but his name doesn’t get associated with much. Well, he was the design engineer, primarily,
behind the Grease Gun. The project’s other main contributor was a guy named Frederick Sampson,
who was a chief design engineer for GM in Inland. And where George Hyde was the gun guy,
Sampson was the manufacturing guy. So he knew GM stamping equipment and its
capabilities and how to take the gun design and turn it into very cheaply manufacturable
parts that GM could quickly and easily make. Because that’s the whole point, it has to
be a gun that works, but in order to fulfil the design requirements it also had
to be cheap and easy and fast to make. So together they came up with this. Now you’ll note
that the Thompson was the M1 and this is the M3. There was actually an M2 submachine gun adopted
very briefly, never put into mass manufacture, and then dropped as soon as the M3 was
available. So the M2 pretty much is a non-thing. The M3 was adopted formally in January of 1943, so from Aberdeen’s testing in November to
adoption in January of ’43 only a couple of months. The gun pretty much right off the bat worked quite well. It did have some reliability issues, which
were pretty much all problems with the magazine. The magazine here is very much based on the Sten
magazine, and it is a single position feed magazine, which is not generally considered the best design. But it was
done, and it pretty much worked, and that was good enough, and no one was ever really able to … get past
the bureaucratic inertia to change the magazine, which would have set back production and
everything. So it went out with that magazine which was really the cause of all the
problems that the Grease Gun ever had. Which weren’t huge, it was overall quite a
reliable and effective and well-liked gun, once guys had the chance to actually start using it. Troops initially looking at this thing
had a very, very negative opinion of it, which is understandable just taking a
look at the thing. It looks like, well, it looks like a Sten gun, it’s a stamped together,
cheap, crude looking, you know, “Oh man, you’ve given me this and you expect me to go, you know,
put my life in the hands of this crude looking thing?” But once they got a chance to actually start
using them, guys really kind of liked these guns. They were actually a lot better than
you would think by looking at them. Now production began in early ’43, but it wasn’t
really until July of ’43 that the first guns really reached combat troops at the front. A little
longer than people had anticipated. They would be manufactured for about two years. … After these guns went into
production, well, a year after, April ’44, they started a program to develop the M3A1. Because there were a number of problems that had come
to light with this, and the biggest one was the charging handle. We’ll take a look at that in a moment,
but in April of ’44 they start a program to … update this, fix some of the problems with
it, and make it even cheaper to manufacture. And the result of that was the M3A1. Now in World War Two the vast
majority of guns used were the original M3. It’s like 640,000 of these made, and
15,000 of the M3A1s just at the end of the war. So while this is technically a World War Two gun, this
is what most of the fighting was done with, with these. And it wasn’t until late in the war that there
were really starting to be a lot of these guns actually in the hands of troops at the front.
So it wasn’t until … part of the way through 1945 that the M3 formally replaced the
Thompson as the standard submachine gun. Until then there just weren’t
enough of these out there yet. The original M3 is very easily distinguishable
by this lever on the side, that is the charging lever. And let’s start with controls. We have a big, but very well shielded,
magazine release button here on the left side. That’s a pretty strong spring in there too.
That allows me to take out the magazine. This is a 30 round mag, and as you can see it’s a double
stack but single feed magazine, patterned on the Sten. Easier to demonstrate the rest of
the stuff here with the magazine out. Now we have a hole here, which is
for this, which is the safety for this thing. That metal tab, when you fold the dust
cover down, is going to slide into that hole and it prevents the bolt from going back. If I use the handle it pushes
the cover up and disengages it. But the bolt can’t just move
backwards once the dust cover is down. That means even if you drop
it on the butt end of the gun, inertia can’t cycle the bolt back far enough
to pick up a cartridge and fire inadvertently. Which is the major safety
concern with submachine guns. So this does also work if the bolt is cocked,
the gun’s ready to fire. In order to cock it we have that lever which just… It’s a very simple lever, it’s independent from the
bolt, and it’s just an arm that pushes the bolt back. Once it’s in that position then the
safety pretty much does the same thing. It’s going to actually push the
bolt just slightly farther back, which means now when I
drop the sear with the trigger, nothing happens, because that metal tab
is preventing the bolt from going forward. Of course that’s the open position, and as you can imagine that’s pretty easy to bend or damage if
you’re giving this thing some rough handling. So it was not all that uncommon,
or certainly not unheard of, for guys to bend this or this and
disable the safety function of the gun. There is no semi-auto mechanism
on the Grease Gun, it is full-auto only. However, it fires very slowly. It’s a rate of
fire of 350 or maybe 400 rounds a minute. And at that rate of fire it’s actually
very easy to fire single shots, or pairs… Trigger control is quite easy at that
low rate of fire. That was also a rate of fire that was low enough that it made these guns
a … lot easier to use with minimal amounts of training. So typically full-auto, especially
full-auto weapons with high rates of fire, require a lot of practice and a lot of
training in order to shoot effectively. Because there’s a lot of practice that you have
to have in recoil control and operating a gun. At 350 Or 400, even though this is a large .45 calibre
cartridge, this gun was pretty easy to handle. Which is nice today, and it was a nice thing for the US
Army when they were bringing in a lot of new soldiers and … you know, these weren’t career guys who’d
spend 10 years learning how to shoot the gun, they spent a few weeks, a few months
maybe, in basic training before going into the field. The rear sight is an aperture.
It is a really simple aperture, it’s just one piece of sheet metal bent at a
90 degree angle and welded to the receiver. The front sight right there is just a blade, there’s really very
little to this. It works, it’s a 100 metre, or 100 yard, zero. And then our buttstock. I will point out this is
actually an M3A1 stock that’s been put on this gun. The only difference is this metal tab welded
in the back here. That is actually a loading tool. Single feed magazines are notoriously
difficult to load when you get to the end, and having a loading tool helps. But loading
tools are very easily lost, so what you do? Well, one of the M3A1 upgrades was
to add a loading tab fixed to the stock. But I’m getting ahead of myself here. The
stock itself has a release button right here. It’s just a bar that runs across, I push that and then, in theory, (come on, there we go), push that in, and then you can pull
the … stock out to that position. And that is your shooting stock. So not
a whole lot in the way of a cheek weld, but you’re actually not getting
a ton of recoil from this thing. The M3 here weighed just over 8 pounds,
the M3A1 would weigh just under 8 pounds. And that’s plenty, especially with all the forward
bias of the weight, to keep this thing under control. The stock’s crude, but it works. Manufacturing-wise, these were made as two
stamped sides which were then seam welded together. So there’s a seam that runs all the way
around the circumference of the gun. You know, one little tab of sheet
metal here for the trigger guard. A cover here so you can get the working trigger
bits in, not that there’s a whole lot of stuff there. Welding is not very fancy. It didn’t need to
be, it just needed to be good enough to work. There is a pad here to dampen the sound of that. And a pair of sling bars on the side. These were
set up to use the same slings as the M1 carbine. Also worth noting: here on the left side of the receiver
is a little riveted on tab, a keeper to hold a little oil bottle. It’s the same oiler that was used in the M1
carbine, just to make things more efficient. So if you do need some oil
for the gun, that’s where it is. Pretty much all of our relevant markings are going
to be here on the left side of the magazine housing. Submachine gun, calibre .45,
M3, serial number and Guide Lamp. There are drawing numbers
on a number of the other parts. You can see one here on the
bottom of the trigger group cover. You can see one here on the trigger guard. Those are not serial numbers, those
are drawing numbers. So as the parts … potentially underwent any sort of
iterations, this made it very easy to keep track of what parts were of what generation, when
the iterations, the changes, were things that would have been potentially very
subtle, just manufacturing type changes. You’ll see the same sort of thing on the M1
Garand. A lot of the parts have, not serial numbers, but drawing numbers to keep track of
exactly what generation of the gun they are. Now the markings on this guy are … they’re
not coloured in and they’re a little shallower, but this is an M3A1, again made by Guide
Lamp, Springfield, and a serial number. You’ll notice this is a rather large serial number. This is
once they have started making M3A1s. So what’s the difference? So the big obvious difference between the regular
and the A1 is they got rid of this charging handle. Turns out these were being made
with not quite the right alloy of steel, and when they went to heat treat
them the heat treat didn’t really take, and these handles had a habit of breaking off in the field.
That was one of the few mechanical problems with the gun. So when they updated them in ’44, or when they updated
the design, they just got rid of that handle entirely. And instead you would stick your [finger] in the
bolt, there’s now a big cutout here at the front … and just pull the bolt back by hand. Really, really simple. And that’s the primary thing that made the guns
even cheaper to manufacturer was getting rid of half a dozen different parts or
more right there that you don’t need. Now in the process of doing this, they also …
lengthened the ejection port and the dust cover with it. You can see the difference there, and that was
done because you needed more space in here in order to be able to cock the bolt by hand.
And it didn’t really hurt anything, so why not? The rear sight on the M3 had been a very
fragile piece of unreinforced sheet metal, so on the M3A1 they did
actually make that a little beefier, now it’s got these side wings, so if you drop the gun on the
rear sight you’re much less likely to substantially bend it. As I mentioned earlier, they added this magazine loader tab to
the stock. Of course, both of these guns have A1 stocks on them. And they got rid of this oiler on the side, that was
extraneous, got in the way, not a good solution. So instead they actually fitted a little
threaded oil bottle inside the pistol grip. And they also extended the barrel retaining
catch, so this is the M3, that’s the M3A1. This one is long enough that
you can easily grab it with a finger and we’ll get to that when we
do disassembly in a moment. One last modification made, the M3 had
just this smooth profile to the barrel nut. On the M3A1 they cut a pair of profiles in here. And that was done so that you could actually slide the
stock over, and we’ll get to disassembly in a moment, but this allowed you to use the stock as a wrench
to help take the barrel out should it get stuck or tight. There were a few other elements to the Grease Guns.
In March of ’45 they adopted a flash hider as well, which isn’t on this particular example. There was a suppressor made for the gun, the
OSS was interested in that, among other people. It would work fine, it was reputedly not
quite as quiet as the suppressed Sten guns, but just a big old can suppressor on the end. Because you can take the entire barrel assembly off, the suppressed barrel assembly was a very easy
thing to make and attach whenever you wanted it. One of the more interesting bits … actually
goes back to the original design intent of the gun. One of the criteria that was originally put
into the design, but never really acted on, was that the military wanted these guns to be
easily convertible from 9mm to .45 and back. And so that is the case, in late ’43, early ’44, they
actually made about 500 9mm conversion sets. Which means just a new barrel and
a new bolt, that’s all you needed. You pull those two parts off, drop the new ones in, and you
could run the gun in 9mm using adapted 9mm magazines. Never really all that important of a
thing, so it didn’t really see any use. But you will occasionally find 9mm
conversion kits for these things out there. Alright, let’s take a look at disassembly.
It’s as you would expect, very simple. The barrel has these teeth going around
the outside which are held in place by this sheet steel spring, so what I’m going to do is
pull this down, and then I can unscrew the barrel. Barrel comes out. Alright, now I have left the bolt cocked which I should not
have, so I’m going to depress the trigger, let that down slowly. Once the barrel’s out, all I have to do is just dump out the [bolt] and spring assembly. This is all one captive unit based
on this wire spring here at the front. If you take that off, then the two guide
rods come out and the bolt comes off. But there’s really not even any reason to do that. It’s a solid bolt, you just have the
two springs here captive in the back. And this whole thing rides inside the gun. So there are two tabs up here that lock into two
notches in the front trunnion to keep it in place. Same thing … at the back. And so you can have a pressed sheet metal receiver
… without needing a whole lot of tolerancing. So looking inside it really is just a hollow shell. Two halves seam welded together with a
few things riveted or welded onto the outside. This thing that’s sticking up right in the
middle here, right there, that is the ejector. So there’s a slot in the bolt, you can
see it right at the bottom of the bolt there. That slot is open for the ejector to run in. And you can see even the ejector is just a stamped
sheet. It’s got that reinforcing rib in the middle. Really, really simple gun. Once these were in production
the unit cost was $20.94 for a complete Grease Gun. That was less than half of the cost of an M1A1 Thompson. So even once the Thompson had
been simplified as much as the army would ever simplify it, the Grease
Gun was still less than half the cost. So in theory the M3 was only really a
front line issue combat weapon until 1957, when the M14 was adopted, which replaced,
or was intended to replace, a wide swath of guns. However, this did stay in the service as the official
standard weapon for a couple of different groups, primarily tank crewman and truck drivers. Guys
who needed some sort of personal defence weapon and they gave them these because they were more
compact than M1 carbines with the collapsing stocks. And in that role these would actually
stay in the US military system until 1992. So tankers going into the Gulf War in the early
’90s had … M3A1 submachine guns with them. So really quite a long period of service for guns that
were this crude and put into production as quickly. But they really did work, they got the job done. Even today, they’re a very comfortable,
efficient, effective submachine gun. There’s really a lot to say for that very slow rate
of fire, it makes them exceedingly controllable. And especially for people who don’t have a lot of training
on full-auto guns, on submachine guns or automatic rifles, that low rate of fire makes them much more
controllable than something that’s going to be firing at 700 or 800 or even 1,000 rounds per minute. So in that guise, you know,
well done George Hyde, nice. Well, these two are both coming
up for sale here at Rock Island. So if you would like to have one or the other or
both, take a look at the description text below. You’ll find links there to Rock Island’s
catalogue pages on both of them. They are of course both machine guns.
They’re both transferable NFA machine guns, so you will have to go through that process. It means anyone who can pass the
background check can own these here in the US. Anyway, you can take a look at their
pictures, provenance, description etc. on-line, place bids on-line, or come here
live to the auction if you prefer. Thanks for watching.

100 thoughts on “M3 and M3A1 Grease Gun SMGs

  1. Considering it was made mostly from scrap metal its a surprisingly effect implement for combat.

  2. ha take that world look our cheep smg and despair! my father has fond memory's of this gun

  3. Saw one of our troops at an outpost with one in Nam. In a convoy, so no chance to look close.

  4. Apparently if you have an ex-wife you dont pass the back ground check. Hmmmm never entered my mind!

  5. I wonder why they wern't designed around the already prevalent Thompson magazine ? It would make sense to have a magazine that would have fitted two front line weapons .

  6. My father said as little as possible about fighting & weapons as a private first class infantry soldier in the last 6 months of combat in Europe. He crossed the Seigfreid line, and was proud of that. I believe he lost his best friend doing it. When he died he was living with Pete who had been in the same theater. I hung on every word like you do when you are 11 12 & 13. I remember him saying all the wanted was a burp gun. He had a medal as a sharpshooter, machine gunner.

  7. It looks like the M3A1 is bigger or at least wider? Im not sure it might just be the camera angle, have never seen an M3A1 in person only the M3.

  8. At Fort Hood in 1980 there was a ton of old old 45 cal ammo , So what did the army do they had us tankers go out with our M3 and fire and fire and fire the M3's till we got tired of firing them .

  9. Even though war is terrible, some of the best little innovative ideas come from it. I think using the stock as a wrench is so neat, it kinda encapsulates the whole “ necessity is the mother of invention”, on an wonky looking budget gun that had to out perform its cost of production

  10. I can't understand how they can use those absolutely clostrophobiclly small sights 🙁

  11. That was some of the worst welding I have ever seen. That is on par with Russian welding quality

  12. how the hek do you zero these? like bend the metal a bit ? and file the front sight down?

  13. 8 pounds, so more or less 4 kg….. for a MP.. uff…
    my sg550 is about the same weight. that thing is 1m long, with a long heavy barrel; 528mm, diopter and bipod.
    and tbh even for a assault rifle i always thought it is a little heavy, especially after testing a german G36 (+/- 3.5kg).

  14. Is it the cameraman that's doing that heavy breathing you need to cut back on the cigarettes

  15. Denix is making a decent copy now of the M3 the one with the cocking handle it's made out of zinc metal and the cocking handle works in the bolt goes back and then you can pull the trigger the bolt goes forward pretty nice for about $200 this is as of 2018/2019

  16. This, the AK, and the Sterling is proof that guns dont always have to be expensive or overly complex. In the words of my granddad "space ships have All those technilogical feats of science and engineering. but a Honda accord still gets you to the grocery store better"

  17. the 9MM conversion kits was made due to German standard handgun ammo was 9mm. The thoughts were you can use their ammos in your weapon.

  18. When you got done reloading the mag your thumb was out of use for a hour. Never load fully. Spring too weak usually.

  19. So if the Thompson used a double feed magazine why did they decide to go with a single feed in the M3 ? That seems like a real retrograde move. Wouldn't you want magazine compatibility? Wouldn't Thompson mags be very readily available in the U.S.?

  20. thought it was called a grease gun because the magazine had to be filled with grease

  21. I recon more of those would have been kept by people if it could have been known to rise 1000 times in value!

  22. I carried one. Liked it a lot. Definitely not a sniper weapon but could spray lead!

  23. I wonder how many M3 9mm magazines they made for the conversion kits. I had a couple of them marked M3 that worked perfectly fine in my stengun.

  24. I was a street sweeper in the 1920s and used the m3-b to hose down alleys and side streets strewn with litter , got so many complaints but a great little gun.

  25. Fired one in Vegas and in Tucson, a very pleasant and comfortable SMG to fire indeed !

  26. Sten: so who are you?
    M3: I am you but made by American.

  27. How hot would that bolt get after a few mags through the gun in quick succession? I can imagine that would be an issue if you had to grab hold the damn thing every mag change.

  28. Can you do a video on the new APC9K, or americas next submachine gun?

  29. The Pennsylvania national guard used them til the very end of their service. We "trained" with them in 1987 @ indian town gap as military police our Jeep's had mounts on the dash. The training was a half day of classroom and about an hour on the range. The armorer had barrel attachments that allowed you to shoot around corners. We didn't get to try those. 😭

  30. while not as good looking as the Thompson, the Grease Gun definitely has it's own allure

  31. Two Japs per mag or you're getting flown home in a box. No need for sights either see above. Burma average contact range for some patrols was less than ten feet. Sights??

  32. That little oil bottle is so neat to me, I still have an old m1 carbine with one that is still full of oil.

  33. Did NOT know these guns were used up until the early 90's. That's a nice fun fact.

  34. Used by tank crews, nco, paratroopers, and drivers, And used in Korean War, Vietnam war, and the gulf war, and in call of duty world war 2.

  35. when i compare the US and the Russian weapons of WW2, the Russian was far better then the US, Tanks, SMG, LMG,Rocket launcher and so many other example!! and the russian have not even half the money compare to the US!!

  36. What weapon did the tank crews/truck drivers receive in replacement of the M3?

  37. i noticed that you didnr mention that it was a copy of a p 40 nazi gun

  38. “Grease gun Ka-Bar by my side. These are the tools that make men die!!”

  39. Did some fooling around with US 82 Paras back in the late 70s. They were shooting our Sterling(UK} SMGs, every man jack of those Yankee warriors loved the Sterling. Give respect, but the banana special clip on that mag made the Sterling hard to beat for reliability

  40. Designed by a certain hyde you say? Seems like a good gun for a self-defense situation.

  41. Is it me or do anyone think its the American version of the MP40?

  42. My God that thing's ugly. Even though I've seen it probably a hundred times or so in various movies and videogames, it's still just as hideous every time.

    Still, I guess it did its job at the time well enough. Ugly as sin, but all it needs to do is put a lot of holes in some German guy reliably and cheaply.

  43. I liked the M3A1, very fun to shoot. Much better weapon than the 9mm Beretta that followed it.

  44. I qualified with an M3 in 1987 Fort Knox I was a 19e it was a tanker weapon

  45. one of my dads friends has an m3, he always called it an mp3 and i could never find anything on it till now. i really wanted to take it off his hands, but i dont think i ever will.

  46. After seeing how simple this is, how in the hell do you manage to kill this thing?

  47. Very comprehensive review of these weapons! The last part of the video just shows, however, how much our gun laws need to be simplified so that law-abiding Americans can more easily enjoy owning these pieces of our heritage.

  48. That is a heck of a turnaround to design and bring the weapon into service. It is really a tribute to the greatness of American industry that everythig went as smoothly as it did.

  49. My Dad liked this gun. Me and my brother never really pushed him on this but when I found his manual hidden up in my closet when I was 10 or so I figured it was one of his favorites during WW11. I wished I saved that manual and still had it but I don't.

  50. I would not want to own this ugly gun even if it was offered for free

  51. How can these be considered "forgotten" when it was still in issue by the US Army to tankers until the mid-1990s? =)

  52. Ive always wondered if someone tried to make one of these in .30 carbine.

  53. Sorry, America, but if I'd have to make a choice, I'd prefer a Soviet PPS-43 over this any day.

  54. Carried one of these briefly in my LOH in Vietnam in 1969. Not a lot of room between the pilot and observer seats, and it was either this or a CAR-15. CAR-15 finally won out because of the shorter mag length and the fact that our side knew what they sounded like if you were hidden in the weeds.

  55. Lots of people in the comments adjusting their wartime cost for inflation even though that doesn't tell you the whole story. With advances in automation and infrastructure. The a1 would cost closer to its wartime cost to produce than that adjusted $300. Steel is cheap and so is electricity, gas and the machinery.

  56. I seem to recall that the M3 buttstock was drilled and tapped at the ends to accept 1911 cleaning tips, is this the case?

  57. What friggin' genius thought a suitable replacement for this pistol cartridge firing sub machine gun was a 7.62x51mm assault/battle rifle?

  58. The M3/M3A1, Sten mk II, and Owen smg's are the very definitions of "Deadly Tube"

  59. Soldiers in 1941: this gun doesn’t look like it’ll be all that great, I think I’d much prefer the Thompson.

    Soldiers in 1991: You’ve served us well you old warhorse.

  60. Stock also is the cleaning rod and to remove the barrel. Good shit.

  61. Seems like rather than weld two halves together, why wasn't the receiver made from tube steel with the grip assembly welded on ??

  62. Damn,i thought they actually made a grease gun to look like a machine gun.i was going to buy one.

  63. The wire stock is threaded and removable, because it is also the cleaning rod. Threaded to hold the brush end.

  64. Anybody that thinks this gun is crap has never shot it. It is a Cadillac of a gun and is on target
    Totally controllable.

  65. I know this is a 2 year old video so you might not see this question. On the M3A1 in cocked mode will the safety still work just like it does in the M3 version?

  66. Uh… stick you finger in it? That thing would be so hot after a few magazines. That’s insane they didn’t put any kind of external tab or anything!!

  67. When I was a young buck Unit Armorer, I didn't appreciate this gun, even though I had a bunch (A1's) in my arms room. Now as a grown up I really appreciate the thought they put into it. I also find it interesting that it seems they purposefully didn't copy any of aspects of the excellent german, british and russian patterns and still came up with an acceptable weapon.
    I'd have no problems being issued it as a personal weapon, even today.

  68. Back in 1971-73 I served with the 3rd Armored Cav. I was a communicator and ran a radio teletype set that was mounted in the back of a command armored personal carrier. My weapon of issue was an M3-A1, man I loved that little gun, nothing thrilled me more then to hear it was time to hit the shooting ranges to keep up our proficiency with the little gem.

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