There aren’t really a lot of engineers in the firearms business who move between specialties easily and with equivalent successes. In the case of the S&W Light Rifle, its designer was just a little out of his element.
Originally intended to be a police arm, the Light Rifle was chambered in 9mm and fired from an open bolt. By the time the rifle hit the production floor Great Britain was knee-deep in a shooting war with Germany and in desperate need of rifles. S&W offered them the M1940 and virtually every one of the 860 Light Rifles which had been made at that point were shipped across the Atlantic in exchange for a reported $1 million USD.
That deal may be the reason so many Brits hate us these days. The M1940 was a dog in every sense of the word: it was heavy, expensive, complicated, impossible to actually verify being unloaded when necessary, not terribly accurate even at just 50 yards and — the icing on the cake — had a tendency for the receiver to break at around 1,000 rounds!
The Brits virtually rejected the lot and demanded their money back, but apparently S& didn’t have it to give. Instead they reportedly made Her Majesty’s Armed Forces a sweet deal on some additional 380/200 M&P revolvers they were already using.
Today the guns are extremely rare; it’s known that S&W has a couple, there may be one or two at Aberdeen, and an unknown number (said to be less than five, with three being the most commonly suggested) in private hands. It is truly the Holy Grail of S&W collecting.
Of course, that means Ian McCollum has already handled one! Forgotten Weapons has a great video of one that showed up at Rock Island Auctions, as well as links to articles written on the gun. Be sure to read the articles, as they go into detail as to why the M1940 wasn’t even close to S&W’s finest hour.
-=[ Grant ]=-