Museum Minute: The Public Fight For The Army's New Service Gun

May 15, 2020

Winchester G30
Credit Cody Firearms Museum

In the late 1930s, the U.S. Army selected the M-1 Garand as its new service rifle. But it turns out that it was quite a controversial decision. 

At that time, Winchester was working on its own semiautomatic rifle called the G-30. Winchester and some other opponents to the Army’s rifle choice stirred up a public outcry. Danny Micheal, the assistant curator of the Cody Firearms Museum, said they were able to get a congressional hearing about the adoption of the new rifle. 

“[They] said that the Army hadn't been thorough enough,” said Micheal. “That they hadn't picked the best gun and wanted to have a retest. And eventually, that became a real, really prominent public debate.”

It all came to a head at the Marine Corps trials in 1940. While this debate about the semiautomatic rifle was going on, the Marines were about to make their own selection. Micheal said when the Marines held their test everyone believed it would justify the Army’s position that they had picked the right or wrong gun. The M-1 Garand, the Winchester G30 and a rifle by Melvin Johnson were all entered into the test. 

“These three guns went head-to-head. They tested everything they could think of,” said Micheal. “And in the end, the Garande still proved to be the best gun. They were all kind of close. But really what everyone saw was that they're really marginal differences practically speaking, and the Army probably had made the right choice.”