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Reising Submachine Gun

The Reising Submachine Gun, Caliber .45 (made in Models 50, 55, and 60) was used in limited quantiites by the U.S. Marine Corps, the Coast Guard Beach Patrol, and a few other units during World War II.

Native American Marine on Bougainville holding Reising Submachine Gun, December 1943
Native American Marine on Bougainville holding Reising Submachine Gun, December 1943.

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History of the Reising Model 50 Submachinegun

Private First Class Kenneth Kleist after a training jump, San Diego, February 1943. Armed with a folding-stock Reising submachine gun
Private First Class Kenneth Kleist after a training jump, San Diego, February 1943. Armed with a folding-stock Reising submachine gun.

The Reising Submachine gun was designed by Eugene Reising in 1940, and was manufactured by Harrington & Richardson Arms until 1945.

The Reising was crucial to the Marines' plans for their parachute units, intended to be light and mobile. At first, the Reising was considered ideal for Marine parachutists because its small size made it easy for the Marines to jump with. A 1942 revision to Marine parachute unit TO&E did away with weapons platoons and its machine guns, instead distributing one 60mm mortar to each rifle platoon and equipping each rifle squad with three Johnson light machine guns. All other Marines would carry the Reising submachine guns.

Reisings were primarily used by the U.S. Marines in the Pacific theater during World War II. A compact weapon was desired for the Marines' paratroops, and their first choice was the Thompson Submachine gun. However, adequate supplies of the Thompson were not available until later in the war leading the Marines to select the Reising.

The Reising was produced in three models. Combat units used the Reising Model 50 and Model 55, identical to the Model 50 except that it offers selective fire, semiautomatic or full auto and has a folding wire stock. A third model, the Reising Model 60, was produced in small numbers, a semi-automatic only version of the Model 50 submachine gun. The Marines used a few for guard duty and other non-combat roles.

About 100,000 of the Model 50 and Model 55 were produced. After problems in the field rendered the Reising unacceptable, it was replaced by other weapons, in particular the Thompson submachine guns as soon as they were available. Ultimately, both Thompsons and Reisings were replaced by the inexpensive and plentiful M3 submachine gun.

A Marine puts on his gas mask during training.  His Reising Model 55 is to the left.   Marine Barracks, New River, NC, May 1942
A Marine puts on his gas mask during training. His Reising Model 55 is to the left. Marine Barracks, New River, NC, May 1942.

Problems with the Reising Submachine Gun

Reising Submachine Gun on Bougainville, Koiari Raid, 29 November 1943

The Reising went into combat with the Marines on Guadalcanal in August of 1942, one of the first major actions of the Pacific Theater of World War II. The Reising proved unsatisfactory for use in combat and was quickly scorned by the Marines who exchanged their Reising for anything else they could obtain. [The photo to the left was taken on the beach at Bougainville (Koiari Raid, 29 November 1943). The Marine closest to the camera has a Model 55 Reising.]

The Reising symptom was jamming, deadly in combat, but the problem was likely its overly complicated mechanism reacting badly to the salt air and sand of the island campaigns. It was also subject to parts that were not interchangable between weapons, unacceptable in the military system of maintenance and supply.

Characteristics of the Reising Submachine Gun

The Reising was chambered for the .45 ACP cartridge used by the M1911A1 pistol and the Thompson submachine guns. It weighed 6 3/4 lbs, and had a 20 shot detachable box magazine. A 12 round magazine was also available for training purposes. It had a cyclic rate of 550 rounds per minute with a muzzle velocity of 920 feet per second. . The Reising blowback operated, air-cooled design fired from a closed bolt, but was unfortunately too complicated. The photo to the right shows the Reising web sling attachment to the front swivel with a "lift the dot" fastener.

Find More Information on the Internet

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Reising Submachine Gun web sling attachment to the front swivel with a lift the dot fastener

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