Help support TMP

"How common was M3 SMG in European Theater?" Topic

23 Posts

All members in good standing are free to post here. Opinions expressed here are solely those of the posters, and have not been cleared with nor are they endorsed by The Miniatures Page.

For more information, see the TMP FAQ.

Back to the WWII Discussion Message Board

Areas of Interest

World War Two on the Land

Featured Hobby News Article

Featured Link

Top-Rated Ruleset


Rating: gold star gold star gold star gold star gold star gold star gold star gold star 

Featured Showcase Article

GF9 Fire and Explosion Markers

Looking for a way to mark explosions or fire?

Featured Profile Article

First Look: Battlefront's Antwerp House

Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian opens the box on a Battlefield in a Box house.

828 hits since 19 Nov 2021
©1994-2021 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

Mister Tibbles19 Nov 2021 6:25 a.m. PST

Looking at D-Day onward doing skirmish of a platoon per side. I'm wondering if I really need to buy the AB pack of US with M3s.

Plus I'd like to know how common or uncommon these were in battle.

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP19 Nov 2021 7:04 a.m. PST

It was designed as a replacement for the Thompson, but it had various design deficiencies and manufacturing delays. You don't need any in an infantry platoon. You could give one to the platoon leader and/or an NCO if you felt like it. They are good for dismounted tankers, truck drivers, etc.

nnascati Supporting Member of TMP19 Nov 2021 7:15 a.m. PST

That is surprising, you would think the Thompson would be the more rugged, more reliable weapon. Plus with a .45 cal. round, it had better stopping power.

Oddball19 Nov 2021 7:20 a.m. PST

My buddy's Dad, Chief 104th Inf. Regt., 26th ID, was an 57mm AT crewman converted to infantry and opcom to 4th Armored just before the Bulge.

Several photos of him carrying the M-3 grease gun from late Oct / early Nov. '44.

There are other photos with the weapon present, don't know if other guys in his unit had them, or if this was his weapon set aside.

Appears that M3 began to be issued "during the summer of '44", so I don't think it is around for D-Day, but given out over the summer.

Might have gone first to tank and gun crews like Chief first before getting to the rifle companies, but don't know.

104th Regt. shipped out directly to France from US in late August '44, might have been issued the M-3 in the States before departure.

Chief said that when he got moved to a rifle company, he carried an M-1 rifle, until the very last weeks of the war.

Interesting enough, at very end of war he was posted as a Sherman rider cutting across Czechoslovakia as he spoke fluent Russian and Polish, they wanted someone up front in case they ran into Ivan. Which they did, he got some great items traded for American "Lucky Strike" cigs.

He said the TC told him to get rid of his rifle (and a bazooka that he had. Why a bazooka? Don't know why he had it) and gave him an MP-40 with a bag of magazines. TC told him to spray fire at any Germans he saw and to tell him (TC) where he (Chief) was shooting. He said he REALLY like the German weapon.

Got a funny story about how they captured German artillery LT only a few days before the end. Striped him down to his Johnnies for souvenirs. My buddy still has the officer's pistol and artillery field glasses, I got his rank shoulder boards.

Can't ask Chief any detailed questions as we lost him 15 years ago. Do know he received Bronze Star, CIB and some "Thanks for being there" medals.

So too "bury the lead" as real journalist used to say in a bygone time,

If you are doing scenarios Fall / Winter (Bulge) or '45, I would think they are if not common, they are also not uncommon.

whitejamest19 Nov 2021 7:21 a.m. PST

Surely, as civilized men and gamers, we can all by now agree that any question beginning with "I'm wondering if I really need to buy the…" can be answered with a simple "yes."

Also, my understanding was that the Thompson was a much more expensive weapon to produce. Superior, but pricey.

Oddball19 Nov 2021 7:22 a.m. PST


Both weapons fired the .45 cal round. Thompson had a higher cycle rate if I remember correctly.

I would have thought the Thompson was tougher also, as the M-3 was stamped metal, quick and cheap to produce.


You are correct on "if I should get them", too much is never enough!

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP19 Nov 2021 7:27 a.m. PST

As noted, both fired a .45 ACP.

Yes, the M3 was much cheaper to produce.

Frederick Supporting Member of TMP19 Nov 2021 7:28 a.m. PST

As I recall the M3 at least initially mostly went to chaps like tankers or gunners – if I was an infantryman, I would stick to my Thompson for as long as possible!

Personal logo Herkybird Supporting Member of TMP19 Nov 2021 9:13 a.m. PST

One very often overlooked fact is the M3 was easier to keep on target due to its lower rate of fire.
Definitely though, the 'Tommy' was way cooler!

Griefbringer19 Nov 2021 11:47 a.m. PST

Surely, as civilized men and gamers, we can all by now agree that any question beginning with "I'm wondering if I really need to buy the…" can be answered with a simple "yes."

I definitely agree, and a single pack of AB figures is unlikely to break the bank.

That said, US infantry battalion at the eve of D-Day landings was officially rather devoid of SMGs, having exactly zero weapons issued (how many had been unoffically acquired by that time may be another issue). Specific weapon allocations can be found here:


Essentially, a rifle platoon was – as the name suggests – almost fully armed with rifles (mainly Garands, plus three BARs and a single M1903 for marksman), though the officer was issued with a carbine. The rest of the battalion had a mixture of M1 carbines, M1 Garands and pistols for personal armament.

Once in Normandy, the front line units started to figure out that in the present conditions SMGs might be quite handy and started to acquire them from whenever possible (apparently some rear area units had been issued them for defence). Soon this was acknowledged even in the official TOE, which by the end of June assigned each battalion 20 SMGs (6 for each rifle company and 2 for HQ company) to be distributed as needed. This was accompanied by 18 extra BARs (6 for each rifle company).

Parachute battalions also officially had allocation of 6 SMGs per rifle company.

In the armored infantry battalions SMGs were assigned in significantly larger numbers, though in the official TOEs they seem to be mainly allocated to vehicle drivers.

Hornswoggler19 Nov 2021 2:29 p.m. PST

As has been noted, for most of the war there were (on paper) not so many of these running around on the battlefield. They were primarily allocated as "vehicle" weapons that would be carried by drivers, AFV crewmen, etc when dismounted. In an armoured rifle company every halftrack had one but as we have discussed previously on this forum, drivers when not driving seldom did much apart from hang around guarding their vehicles.

The standard personal weapon for an officer was the carbine and although anecdotally many officers did not really like the carbine they would usually swap it for a Thompson SMG, not an M3A1.

So the main use was as described by Griefbringer; initially some ad hoc or mission specific distribution followed by official recognition of the need for increased firepower in some close-in settings. I would speculate that this would largely be taken on by the NCOs, but that's just a guess.

Personal logo Murphy Sponsoring Member of TMP19 Nov 2021 7:30 p.m. PST

For those that don't know, the M3A1 SMG was issue to M60 tanks crews in the US Army and used up until the late 1980's when the M1's were coming onto the scene.
I got a chance to fire them a couple of times. Loved them but they had no real range past 40-50 meters. More of a point and spray and just hose the rounds towards the target rather than aim and shoot…

Griefbringer20 Nov 2021 10:21 a.m. PST

They were primarily allocated as "vehicle" weapons that would be carried by drivers, AFV crewmen, etc when dismounted. In an armoured rifle company every halftrack had one

Curiously enough, in an armored infantry battalion every vehicle driver – not only halftracks, but also jeeps and trucks of all sorts – was officially provided with SMG as a personal firearm. Meanwhile in ordinary infantry battalion, jeep and truck drives were assigned a curious mixture of M1 carbines and M1 Garands.

As for other US formations, in 1st Special Service Force (well, that is part Canadian, but armed with US kit) the squad leader and assistant leader were officially armed with SMGs, if I recall correctly. Ranger companies on the other hand seem to have been sparely provided with them, with one at the company HQ and one at each platoon HQ – most of the NCOs seem to have been officially provided with M1 Garands.

As for practical modelling purposes, Thompsons are probably better looking and more distinctive, but also a bit more work to paint due to the wooden parts. M3 grease gun on the other hand should be pretty straightforward, being effectively single colour.

Griefbringer21 Nov 2021 10:00 a.m. PST

One advantage of M3 grease gun (for those who are not planning to shoot theirs too often) is that it takes up less space than Thompson due to the shorter barrel and the way the shoulder stock has been made. It is probably also noticeably lighter.

And if you are ever planning to game Dirty Dozen (the movie), you are going to need a lot of M3 SMG armed folks, despite the movie (going by the memory) being set sometime before the D-Day. I presume that whoever was tasked with obtaining the props managed to get a box of these guns cheaply from somewhere.


Legion 421 Nov 2021 5:42 p.m. PST

As Murphy mentioned in the '80s the M3 Grease Gun was still used by some US Tank Crews. More like a "bail out" weapon …

And yes, The M3 like many SMGs have a short effective range …

It would be among the last weapon I would want to be issued for combat. With so many more accurate, longer effective range weapons.

But as we see, the movies lov'm !

Mister Tibbles21 Nov 2021 6:54 p.m. PST

So much great info. Thanks, fellas!

Mark 123 Nov 2021 11:11 p.m. PST

Imagine the poor comms rating in some US Army field HQ in Tunisia in early 1943, shouting into his field phone over the noise of the battle around him, turning to his CO and saying "Yes sir, Division says they are sending relief immediately! They said we should expect some M3s before noon!"

And now no one knows if they should expect some SMGs, or halftracks, tank destroyers on halftracks, Stuart light tanks, Lee medium tanks, or maybe some can openers …

(aka: Mk 1)
(that's not M1, but Mk 1, and in no case M3)

Griefbringer25 Nov 2021 10:55 a.m. PST

There was also M3 armoured car which should have seen some action in Tunisia.

M3 Howitzer on the other hand might have not made it to that theatre, but would have been a common sight a year later.

IIRC there was also M3 Carbine with IR sights that was employed in limited numbers in 1945.

There might be some other items that I cannot recall right now.

M3 Griefbringer

Legion 425 Nov 2021 6:30 p.m. PST

Yeah too many "M3s" in the inventory at that time …

Griefbringer26 Nov 2021 9:57 a.m. PST

There were also a fair few items numbered M1, such as M1 Garand, M1 Carbine, M1 helmet, 8 Inch Howitzer M1 and M1 Combat Car.

Griefbringer26 Nov 2021 11:59 a.m. PST

There might be some other items that I cannot recall right now.

I forgot 37 mm anti-tank gun M3 and the 75 mm M3 gun, which was the most common main armament of M4 medium tank (aka Sherman).

Other weapons for the M4 Sherman included 76 gun M1, 12.7 mm machine-gun M2 and 105 mm gun M4.

Meanwhile M3 medium tank could be armed with 75 mm gun M2 and 37 mm gun M5, while M5 light tank would mount 37 mm gun M6.

Hornswoggler26 Nov 2021 2:55 p.m. PST

I am not sure I get the point of these lists.

They only serve to illustrate that referring to an item of US equipment by nothing but it's 'M' number without saying what you are actually talking about (light tank, medium tank, GMC, MGMC, halftrack, helmet, bayonet, etc, etc, etc) is basically meaningless.

Griefbringer27 Nov 2021 3:47 a.m. PST

They only serve to illustrate that referring to an item of US equipment by nothing but it's 'M' number without saying what you are actually talking about is basically meaningless.

Very much true. Yet quite frequently we see people on TMP referring to US equipment simply by the M-code without bothering to specify the type of kit, leading to all sorts of confusion.

Think e.g. of a post asking for "Who manufactures US M3 in 15 mm scale? I would need a few for my army."

Sorry - only verified members can post on the forums.