There are a ton of guns that can be considered “iconic” when it comes to those used during World War II, which makes it hard to narrow the list to just five. However, that’s what we’re going to do.
We’ll look at pistols, rifles, and submachine guns from three different countries involved in the war. In no particular order, the five iconic guns are:
M1 Garand Rifle
The M1 Garand semi-automatic rifle was hailed by General George Patton as being “the greatest battle implement ever devised,” and it’s no stretch to say that hundreds of thousands of GIs would agree with him.
Designed before World War II by John Garand at the Springfield Armory in Massachusetts, the rifle was meant to replace the M1903 bolt-action rifle. Fed from an en-bloc clip that held eight rounds of .30-06 ammo, the Garand served American soldiers well in World War II and Korea before being phased out.
MP40 Submachine Gun
Submachine guns were used on all sides during World War II, but the German MP40 has a silhouette that is instantly recognizable. Firing the popular 9mm Luger cartridge, it was a handy gun that featured a folding buttstock so that it could be fired from the hip or the shoulder.
It’s estimated that more than a million were made during the war.
Designed by John Moses Browning and adopted in March 1911, this pistol got its first taste of combat in World War I. However, the M1911 was just getting started: it was the longest-serving US sidearm in history – 74 years. It was in use during WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and beyond.
During World War II, GIs carried a 1911 on their hip and most all of them were crack shots with this .45ACP pistol.
The Luger P08 pistol was unique in that both the gun and the cartridge it fired – 9x19mm Luger – were both designed by Georg Luger. Even though the gun had technically been replaced by the P38 in 1938, there was a large demand for pistols during World War II and that meant that the P08 was never fully removed from service during the war.
Arisaka Type 99 Rifle
Japan’s Type 99 rifle, chambered in 7.7mm, takes part of its name from one of its designers: Nariakira Arisaka. The rifle was made at nine different arsenals and was intended to completely replace the earlier Type 38 rifle, but that never happened.
A lot of these rifles were brought back to the US as trophies, and most of them will have had the chrysanthemum crest scrubbed from the receiver as a last ditch by the Japanese to preserve the empire’s honor.
There are plenty of other guns that could have been put on this list, and there’s sure to be disagreement about what should have appeared here – and that’s OK. World War II was a pivotal point in world history and, really, all of the arms used during it are iconic.
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