With Veteran’s Day comes our thanks to the gallant heroes who we owe our freedom for. Among the roster of veterans is the T3 carbine, one of the pioneers of night vision weaponry. The T3′ rose to fame by eliminating the enemy in the dark of night. It helped pick off the feared Japanese jungle infiltrators during the tail end of World War II. A savvy war veteran itself, the T3 deserves a roster spot among our heroes list.
Ever since mankind discovered warfare, armies exploited every tactical advantage they could get. Some wars needed brute force and overwhelming numbers. Some required stealth and patience. In the latter’s case, mastery of fighting in the dark is one of warfare’s best strategies. If you can see your enemy while they remain unaware of your presence, you can exact victory. Over the centuries, pursuing this advantage led to many developments in modern warfare.
The Pacific Theater
World War II’s Pacific theater proved daunting for the American infantryman. Japanese forces placed emphasis on night combat in its tactical doctrine. Working under the cover of night, the Japanese used both kishu (by surprise) and kyoshu (by force). Using only small arms fire, they raided US posts by using stealth when moving through the jungle.
The Japanese Army dispatched infiltrators and unloaded harassing fire at night. They hoped to lower morale of nearby Allied soldiers through these tactics. They were correct to believe that men are most psychologically vulnerable at night. As such inflicting night terror would break their willingness to fight. Infiltrators required agility, so they armed themselves light.
By 1943, the US Army needed a solution. The Engineer Board worked on night vision capability to help see the invisible enemy. Army engineers developed a basic electronic telescope and sealed-beam light. The latter, resembling a car headlamp, connected to an infrared filter. The whole contraption gets power from a lead-acid battery stored in a canvas knapsack. Dubbed the T120, engineers then asked what gun would fit this device?
The M1 carbine emerged as the weapon best equipped for the job. With night shooting expected at close range, using a .30 cartridge seemed adequate. And as the infrared scope system added weight, a carbine would work out better than a full rifle.
T3 Carbine, Caliber .30
The Army selected Inland Manufacturing Division of General Motors to develop the carbine. Basing it on an experimental M1E7 design, they created a modified carbine. The modified the stock to accommodate both T120 and infrared lamp. Approved by the Ordnance Department, it secured limited procurement by March 1944. The designation was “Carbine, Caliber .30, T3, Sniperscope.” Thus, the legend was born.
What’s the difference between standard M1 carbines and the T3? You can tell it’s a T3 by the integral scope mounts on the receiver and the configuration of the stock. At the same time, all T3 carbines are semi-automatic without any selective-fire capability.
Inland and Winchester
Upon approval, Inland received a contract to produce 1,700 T3 carbines. The company managed to produce 811 before the Army terminated the contract as the war ended. Another contractor, Winchester Repeating Arms, also received an order for 5,160 units. They managed 1,108 before V-J Day pulled the plug for more.
The Inland and Winchester models are very alike save for some slight design changes. Both companies stamped serial numbers in special blocks showing their name. These are separate from standard M1 and M2 carbines.
The T3 saw limited action as it arrived late in the war. Yet, its effectiveness remained unquestioned. Although the Army ordered thousands of T3 carbines, only about 200 saw action. were actually employed in the South Pacific. The limited quantity didn’t mean the T3 didn’t perform its goal. Using the T3s, snipers annihilated Japanese troops who tried to cross American lines.
Sniper historian Peter Senich said that infrared sights helped in the Pacific theater. He said: “A night-vision capacity was to prove particularly effective in combating Japanese infiltration tactics conducted during periods of darkness in the Pacific. It was reported during the first seven days of action of the Okinawa Campaign that the Sniperscope (infrared) accounted for approximately 30 percent of the total Japanese casualties inflicted by small arms fire.
Buck Rogers’ Gun
Robert Rush, author if GI: The U.S. Infantryman In World War II, also recognized the T3’s role in the Okinawan conflict. He wrote: “There was a lot of talk about a new weapon some of the members of the Intelligence and Reconnaissance Platoon were carrying. It looked to many like one of Buck Rogers’ ray guns, with a large dish mounted beneath a … carbine and a large flashlight on top with a power cable leading to a metal box carried in a backpack. They called it a ‘sniperscope’ for good reason, and the Army had developed it for the sole purpose of thwarting Japanese infiltration.”
“Using this weapon, a soldier could see in the dark to a range of about 70 yds. (64 m), with objects appearing in the scope in various shades of green. About 30 percent of the total Japanese casualties inflicted through rifle fire during the first weeks of the Okinawa operation were from the sniperscope … . Although they were heavy and bulky, it was nice to sit in a concealed position and watch the green images of Japanese soldiers creep forward. A quick blast … and another enemy soldier lay dead.”
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End of an era
Of course, the T3 carbine wasn’t the game changer. Soldiers soon discovered that rain and night illumination wrecked the scope’s effectiveness. A few months later, the war came to an end within a few months. With the end came the cancellation of contracts for more T3 carbines. All in all, suppliers manufactured around 1,900 T3 carbines and 1,700 infrared sights during the war. Only about 200 made it to the front lines.
Over the years, night vision technology grew by leaps and bounds. The most modern night vision weaponry can still trace their roots to the humble T3 carbine. Thousands of soldiers literally owe their lives to the night vision pioneer.
In 2016, Inland Manufacturing introduced a vintage sniper rifle based on the T3. Termed the T30 Sniper carbine, it comes equipped with a vintage style M82G2 Sniper Scope. While vintage in appearance, high quality multi-coated lenses provide exceptional clarity. The improved scope offers more windage and elevation adjustment compared to the original.
The T30 is a fitting tribute to an old hero, to help remember the service it performed in the jungles of the Pacific theater in 1944. Similar to the T3, we honor the veterans of our previous wars. We give thanks to their service, and we appreciate the sacrifices they made that helped shape the United States to what it is today.
Among the many freedoms we Americans enjoy today is our right to bear arms. And for that we thank our veterans. Happy Veteran’s Day!
Watch this Military Arms Channel feature on the T3 carbine used in World War II:
Which do you like better, carbines or rifles? What’s your favorite type for each? Share with us your thoughts on either weaponry at the comments section below!