The Always Dependable M6 Aircrew Survival Weapon

The Always Dependable M6 Aircrew Survival Weapon

The US Air Force (USAF) developed the Ithaca M6 Aircrew Survival Weapon to be a double-barrel weapon of over-under combo. This combination allows the weapon to have different chambering on each of its barrels. The weapon’s design is sort of inspired by the Marble Game Getter combo gun, which was in production during the period of 1908 to 1934. The weapon, however, was not designed for combative purposes. The main idea of the invention of this weapon was to give aircrews a means of surviving upon crashing.

Weapons such as a rifle or a pistol cannot be used in this way. Aircraft cannot accommodate big weapons such as a rifle while pistols are hardly dependable at large. It can be argued that equipping an airman with a survival weapon should not be necessary as the rescue mission will be dispatched within hours. However, one cannot be too sure that the Search and Rescue party can locate the location easily—which would lead to said airman being stranded, perhaps for weeks.

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The USAF originally issued the Harrington & Richardson M4 survival Rifle in 1949. The design of this weapon, unfortunately, was too demanding and time-consuming. In addition to all the hassle that comes with switching between chambers, it was also uncomfortable to use. Development of the M6 began in 1950 with its first generation launched in 1952. M6’s design is extremely straightforward and rigid. Its construction is composed of metal and it ditches the more traditional curved trigger for a bar as well as a skeleton buttstock. The pistol grip is absent; instead, the stock’s front part assumes the grip’s role. The barrels are practically free of any features. However, the trigger guard is also absent; a user must handle the weapon cautiously so the trigger wouldn’t be pressed accidentally.

The M6 is essentially a takedown weapon. The weapon disassembles into two parts easily, making it easier to carry around. But the weapon doesn’t separate completely. Rather, there is a hinge on it that accommodates folding up of the weapon. The USAF began replacing the M6 in the early 70s with the ArmaLite AR-7 Explorer, a survival rifle with a self-loading mechanism. Transition to the new weapon was a slow undertaking. By the 80s, however, the US military had officially ceased producing the M6. It is currently unknown whether or not there are other countries out there that still use the weapon at the moment.

Country of originUnited States
Entered service1952
Caliber.22 Hornet, .410 bore (3″ casing)
Weight (empty)2.06 kg
Length718 mm
Length (folded)381 mm
Barrel length355 mm
Muzzle velocity (.22 Hornet)838 m/s
Muzzle velocity (.410 bore)~ 345 m/s
Practical rate of fire?
Magazine capacity
Sighting range (.22 Hornet)100 m
Sighting range (.410 bore)25 m
Range of effective fire (.22 Hornet)100 m
Range of effective fire (.410 bore)25 m