A number of top military weapons included on the list below can be viewed at the Armed Forces History Museum in Largo, FL in the Firearms & Ordnance Gallery.  The weapons listed evolved throughout WWI and WWII, as well as the period between the two conflicts.  All the major powers of both world wars were continually testing weapons in an effort to evaluate and improve on its safety, dependability and accuracy to help maintain superiority both on and off the field.

 

Listed below – in alphabetical order - are various WWI and WWII weapons which have earned a top position in ranking military weapons:

 

  •  Karabiner 98k– German - This rifle was one of the last Mauser German designs.  (On display at AFHM)
    • Primary rifle for post WWI German Infantry
    • First Karabiner (98b) labeled as a carbine, not a rifle in order to fulfill guidelines of the Treaty of Versailles which forbid the Germans to produce rifles.
    • 1935 – Karabiner 98k – bolt-action was first produced

  • WWI / WWII Lee-Enfield–Great Britain – Easier and Faster Operations utilizing a “cok-on-closing” bolt along rear locking lugs. (On display at AFHM)
    • Shifted to cordite (a smokeless powder), which resulted in higher heat and additional pressure, which created a wear on the barrel’s rifling.
    • Newer design using a square-shaped rifling system made the gun more wear resistant.
    • Desire for a single weapon to be used by both infantry and cavalry result in the Short Lee-Enfield Mk.I.

 

  • World War II Little Boy (the Manhattan Project) – United States – Core component of the bomb was a smooth bore gun barrel to allow the firing of a uranium-235 projectile
    • Built as a backup for the more plentiful implosion based plutonium bomb
    • Relied on one mass of uranium hitting another in order to create a nuclear reaction
    • Final design provided 60% of the 64 kilograms of uranium-235 as projectile and 40% as a 7” long solid spike four inches in diameter.
    • Final design 10’ long, 28” diameter, total weight:  8,900 lbs.

 

 

  • WWII M1 Garand Rifle– United States – Semi-automatic rifle – Initial design began in 1919; production of what would eventually be known as M1 Garand did not begin until 1932.  (On display at AFHM)
    • Initial problems reported were easily correct and the rifle was standardized in January of 1936.
    • Cartridge - .30-06 “en bloc” clip system
    • Fixed, non-protruding magazine
    • Gas-operated action
    • Received full backing of then Secretary of War and Army Chief of Staff – General Douglas MacArthur.

  • WWI M1903 Springfield Rifle – United States – Began as a design replacement for the Krag-Jorgensen rifle.  (On display at AFHM)
    • Used the Krag and German Mauser as a basis for design
    • Initial design (M1901) was rejected by the US Army
    • .30-03 & .30-06 Springfield Cartridge
    • Though the M1903 incorporated several elements of prior weapons, the final design was still similar enough to the Mauser forcing the US Government to pay royalties to Mauserwerke.

 

  • World War I and World War II Colt M1911 Pistol– United States – Initial design began in 1890.  US Army was looking for a semi-automatic pistol to replace current service revolvers.  (On display at AFHM)
    • Culmination of Mauser, Clt, Steyr Mannlicher, DWM Luger and M1873 Colt
    • Recoil operation
    • Combustible gas driven.
    • Grip and manual safeties.
    • Main sidearm for US forces in WWII
    • Used in the Korean War, Vietnam War and the 1991 Gulf War

 

  • WWII:  Ordnance QF 25-pounder Field Gun – Great Britain and Commonwealth Nations – Design began just after WWI - British Army was looking to replace its standard field guns, which included the 4.5” howitzer.
    • Designed in 1930 – used by the Royal Army from 1938 – 1967.
    • High-angle fire of howitzer combined with direct fire ability of their 18-pdr.
    • New 25-prd was fitted with a firing platform.
    • Designated as the standard field gun of the British during WWII.

 

  • Sten– Great Britain – Developed during the early days of WWII, before US was involved in the war.  US had been supplying the British Army with their Thompson submachine gun, but with operations at peace-time levels, they could not keep up with British demands.
    • Designed based on Royal Navy’s Lanchester submachine gun and the German MP40.
    • Blowback, open bolt - bolt both loaded and fired the round and re-cocked the weapon.
    • 9 x 19mm Parabellum Cartridge

 

  • World War II StG44 (Sturmgewehr 44) – Germany - Designed to combine an easier-to-handle weapon with increased firepower.  (On display at AFHM)
    • Production began in 1944 under Hitler
    • 7.92 x 33mm Kurz Cartridge

 

The WWI and WWII era played a pivotal role in the development of military weapons.  By WWII, nations were pooling all of their industrial resources in an effort to retain military superiority.  Though tanks, aircrafts and armor were greatly emphasized during this time period, military weapons were also of great importance. A specific list of top military weapons can vary greatly, but no doubt the list presented in this article should be considered among the top military weapons of WWI and WWII.