Country of origin
.22 Hornet, .410 bore (3" casing)
Muzzle velocity (.22 Hornet)
Muzzle velocity (.410 bore)
Practical rate of fire
Sighting range (.22 Hornet)
Sighting range (.410 bore)
Range of effective fire (.22 Hornet)
Range of effective fire (.410 bore)
M6 Aircrew Survival Weapon is a double-barrel, "over-under"
combination weapon (meaning, each barrel has a different chambering)
developed for the US Air Force (USAF). The design was heavily
influenced by the Marble Game Getter combination gun, which was
manufactured from 1908 to 1934.
This is not meant for use in combat, but rather was issued as
a means for downed aircrews to fend for themselves in the wild. Many
aircraft don't have enough free space for firearms as large as a
conventional rifle or shotgun, and pistols are generally far from
ideal in a survival situation. Being able to hunt once an airman is
on the ground may seem trivial at first, as they are usually rescued
in minutes or hours. However, they can sometimes be stranded for
days or weeks (and sometimes, they have to walk all the way home).
The crash of a USAAF C-53 Skytrooper on the Gauli Glacier in
Switzerland on November 19th 1946 is one such example, as the remote
location, severe weather, and rugged terrain left the survivors
stranded for 5 days before they could be rescued --- even though
rescuers were alerted to the crash and had determined the exact
position only hours later. In a wartime situation, for obvious
reasons, the wait to be rescued could be even longer.
Development of what became the M6 was initiated in response
to an early 1950s USAF requirement for a new survival weapon. The
USAF had just began issuing the Harrington & Richardson M4 Survival
Rifle in 1949, but the design was considered wanting. Though the M4
could fire both the .22 Hornet and .410 bore rounds, the barrel had
to be swapped to switch between chamberings, and the simple wire
pistol grip and buttstock were extremely awkward and uncomfortable.
As the M4 was less than ideal and the M6's simple design was
relatively quick to develop, it didn't take long for the new weapon
to be tested, accepted, and put into production. The first examples
were issued in 1952.
The M6 has an extremely austere, all-metal construction, with
a skeleton buttstock, and a trigger bar rather than a traditional
curved trigger. There is no pistol grip, as the front of the stock
serves that purpose, nor is there a foregrip around the barrels.
With the exception of the receiver and the muzzle bracket, the
barrels are completely feature-free, and there is no foregrip. There
is also no trigger guard, so the operator of this weapon must be
extra cautious to avoid accidental depression of the trigger bar.
Ammunition for the M6 is stored inside the buttstock, with the top
being a hinged lid to access these rounds. A total of nine .22
Hornet rounds and four .410 bore shells are stored inside.
An interesting aspect of the M6 is that it is a "takedown"
weapon; meaning, it can be disassembled into two pieces for easy and
compact transportation. While this usually involves actually
separating the two halves of the weapon, the M6 is merely folded in
half, using the same hinge employed for loading and unloading the
barrels. This allows the M6 to be carried in a small (by long gun
standards) holster, inside a backpack or rucksack, or stowed inside
a small volume in a location where space is at a premium --- such
as, for example, an aircraft cockpit. When folded, the normally 718
mm M6 is only 381 mm long.
The sights are as simple and austere as the rest of the
weapon, consisting of a front blade and an L-shaped rear notch. The
rear sight is adjustable to two positions; a 100 m setting for the
rifle barrel, and a 25 m setting for the shotshell barrel. There is
no other range setting, and no adjustability for windage, so a
direct hit at a longer distance (by the standards of the ammunition
used) depends more on a mixture of skill, experience, and luck than
Due to the
obvious possibility that personnel may have to use the M6 in combat,
the USAF issued it with FMJ ammunition for the rifle barrel. The .22
Hornet is highly effective against "varmint" game and most
predators, such as jackals or coyotes, but the odds of felling
something much larger like a wolf (or worse, a leopard) with one
shot are very slim. Moreover, the non-expanding FMJ ammunition
issued by the armed forces employing the M6 further increase the
difficulty of bringing-down an animal immediately, as these leave a
clean and narrow wound channel, with minimal tissue disruption.
bore round is most effective against small birds and pests, such as
rats and snakes, but it can also be used effectively against very
small game such as rabbits. However, the .410's pellets are few in
number per-shell and their spread is very small, making a direct hit
on a small animal very difficult compared to a larger gauge. A .410
bore birdshot shell is also little more than a nuisance against any
animal weighing more than about 5 kg, and against larger animals,
this round is essentially useless (and also potentially more
hazardous to the user; a .410 bore birdshot round will only hurt a
dangerous predator just enough to make it angry).
Starting in the early 1970s, the M6 was gradually replaced by
the ArmaLite AR-7 Explorer, a self-loading survival rifle in a more
conventional .22LR chambering. The changeover was slow, but by the
1980s, the M6 was no longer issued by the US military. Due to a lack
of literature on the matter, it is unknown if any other nations
still issue the M6.
The acquisition of surplus M6 Aircrew Survival Weapons by
civilians has proven to be a surprisingly difficult affair compared
to other surplus firearms, as rifles and shotguns with barrels
shorter in length than 460 mm are severely restricted by US federal
law. A solution to this dilemma was found by Springfield Armory
however, who manufactures the M6 as the "M6 Scout", with US-legal
460 mm barrels and a trigger guard. The M6 Scout is also available
in a wider variety of .22 caliber chamberings (though the shotshell
barrel is always in .410 bore). Springfield Armory discontinued
production of the M6 Scout in 2004, but it is now manufactured by
Survival Weapon: Original military-issue weapon. It has 355 mm
barrels, no trigger guard, and folds-down to a 381 mm length for
easy storage and carrying.
M6 Scout: Civilian version of the M6 Aircrew Survival Weapon.
It is almost identical, but has a trigger guard and a longer 460 mm
barrel, in order to comply with US federal firearms laws. It is
notable for being an exceptionally inexpensive firearm, with a
like-new example costing as little as $200. Springfield Armory
discontinued production of the M6 Scout in 2004, but it is now
manufactured by Chiappa.
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