"Rat Rifle" and Serial Number Assertions for Model 65's and MC-58's
I read through this thread again last night, and noticed one unanswered question that I could answer. I also noticed serial number assertions made in 3 posts, about which I’d like to inquire further. I thought I’d post again, and revive this excellent thread.
There is a posting over on milsup.com under .22 Smallbore rifles about a H&R 65 USMC "Rat-Gun". Posted as a H&R 65 Trainer during WW11 with a silencer on it to shoot rats in the garbage dumps in the South Seas Islands. Anyone ever heard of this?
Yes. A board member here, and also on one of my boards has a Model 65 “Rat Rifle.” The front sight is set back further than a normal Model 65, and a portion of the barrel is threaded. It also has a thread cover to protect the threads when not in use. It was designed to use a .22 Maxim Silencer, and saw use by Marines in the Pacific in WWII for shooting rats. It was apparently also intended for small game hunting. The person who sent me photos of his Model 65 “Rat Rifle” indicated that a WWII USMC Pacific veteran saw him carrying it at a gun show, and told him some stories of using one during the war.
My next comments are in regards to the following three assertions made in this thread about serial numbers:
You H&R 65 was probably made at the end of WW11. The H&R 65 was a training rifle for USMC. Somewhere it was written about serial number 17,000 is thought to be the cut off serial number for military guns. There are no records known. So yours could be and it could not be military. In 1945 H&R started selling remaining Models 65 to civilians.
Nice rifle. By the serial number that was definitely one of the WWII USMC rifles.
From the serial number it would have been made for the USMC during WWII.
Does anyone have documentation to support any particular Model 65 serial number range being acquired by the Marine Corps? Has any contractual information been researched? I would be very interested to see any documentation that exists.
I have one theory that could support how the assertion came about. I’ve seen individuals on the internet say that approximately the first 6000 Model 65’s were Marine Corps rifles. I wonder whether the 6000 figure may originate from a misperception that the later MC-58 serial numbers were an extension of the Model 65 serial number range. From the data I’ve collected, I do not believe this to be the case, nor would it make much sense. My records indicate that Model 65 serial numbers probably ran from 1 to over 18000. (The highest Model 65 serial number I have documented is 18489) My documentation includes several Model 65 serial numbers from within the serial number range of observed MC-58’s, which are in the approximate range of 6000 to 9500, give or take a few hundred.
Another, more likely theory is that the misperception about the first 6000 rifles going to the Marine Corps originates from the Thomas D. Batha book, “U.S. Martial .22 RF Rifles.” He estimates that Model 65 production was limited to 6000 units, and indicates that MC-58 production began at serial number 6000, implying that it followed the serial number range of the Model 65. We know this to simply not be true, based on the many examples in existence well beyond his stated Model 65 serial number range, and also within the same serial number range for MC-58’s.
I believe this error by Batha is the reason Cass asked ‘type-14” in his 2/10/12 post to confirm whether serial number 7818 was a Model 65, and not an MC-58 in the post quoted below.
Thanks. Is that definitely a Mod 65 and not an MC-58?
The bolt hold open parts are the toughest to find because they broke most easily. He'll just have to get lucky to find them.
The Batha book is a good guide, but it has several inaccuracies in the Model 65 chapter.
On the subject of H&R WWII serial numbers, my observations are as follows:
Starting serial numbers over for new models was consistent with H&R practices during the WWII period from what I have observed for their Reising family of firearms.
- Serial numbers appear to have started at 1 for Reising Model 50 Submachine Guns (although the Paratrooper variant Model 55's were produced within the Model 50 serial number range)
- Serial numbers appear to have started at 1 for Reising Model 60 Semi-Automatic Carbines
- Serial numbers appear to have started at 1 for Model 65 .22 Rifles
- Serial numbers appear to have started at 1 for Model 165 “Leatherneck” Rifles
I don’t know if this practice was changed by H&R after WWII, since MC-58 production began 13 years later. From MC-58 rifles observed to date, they appear to have started later in a serial number range, unless there were more produced than is known by anyone so far. I doubt this, so I think we’re dealing with an anomaly or process change in regards to MC-58 serialization when compared to WWII practices. Batha indicates production was limited to 3450 MC-58’s, and I believe that to be an accurate figure, probably based on researched contractual information. He indicates MC-58 serialization began at 6000, which is consistent with observed examples.
My own theory about distribution of the Model 65 during WWII was that the War Production Board allowed Model 65’s to be produced and sold by H&R beginning in 1943, and that the full serial number range may have supported both military and civilian sales. This is supported by a change made to the Reising Model 50 Submachine Gun manual that was advertised and distributed for free during WWII. This was the subject of my first article for Small Arms Review magazine in 2005. H&R was forward focused to sales after the war, while supporting the war effort. They only produced one pistol for civilian use during the war, and then added the Model 65 rifle in 1943. The Model 65 was advertised in the Model 50 SMG manual edition of 1943. Model 65 sales transitioned to the Model 165 “Leatherneck” in May, 1945. I have an H&R letter and flyer that documents the Model 165 changeover.
Others here may have different opinions, and that’s why I’m offering this post up for further discussion on the subject. I’m not one to accept the status quo, and I think this subject deserves more discussion and research.