Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 3427: Russell Turner 1941 2nd Model Prototype Light Rifle

Auction Date: December 4, 2016

Rare Prototype Turner 1941 .30 Carbine Semi-Automatic Light Rifle with Documentation

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $14,000 - $22,500

Rare Prototype Turner 1941 .30 Carbine Semi-Automatic Light Rifle with Documentation

Manufacturer: Turner, R
Model: Light Rifle
Type: Rifle
Gauge: 30 Carbine
Barrel: 17 inch round
Finish: blue
Stock: walnut
Item Views: 4049
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 176
Class: Curio & Relic Long Gun

Included with the lot is a copy of a 1964 letter from the inventor Russell Turner to writer and USMC Colonel Robert H. Rankin, in regards to a request from Colonel Rankin for information on the Turner 1941 Light Rifle (copy also included). At the time, Colonel Rankin was preparing a paper on the carbine/light rifle designs that competed in 1941 in response to a U.S. Army solicitation for a weapon that was more potent than the Colt 1911A1 and more compact than the M1 Garand, for issue to support/rear echelon troops who could not do their jobs hauling around a Garand, but needed a defense against the danger of motorized raids or paratrooper assault (compare and contrast to the modern "Personal Defense Weapon" concept), in which Turner participated as an independent inventor, outside the conventional Armory system or the prominent commercial arms firms. According to Turner, the first model of the 1941 was produced entirely from scratch, fabricated by hand with only design sketches and no proper blueprints, and was later gutted for parts when he went to build a more advanced prototype. At Aberdeen, one of the big strikes against the Turner Rifle was the furniture, consisting of a ventilated steel heat shield and a tubular buttstock, as well as the hand-made nature of the weapon. While the steel furniture was in many ways ahead of its time, and the arm otherwise had many virtues, Army experts wanted something more conventional. Coming back for another go, Turner's refined carbine was noted as showing promise with a simple design and fine ergonomics, though suffered a number of malfunctions in the field; returning home afterwards, Turner found that the ammunition provided for the actual test was significantly different than the cartridges supplied for development, reportedly because Winchester's offering (the future M1 Carbine) suffered excessive muzzle blast with the original ammo, and was able to use their pull with the Army to get the ammo changed before the test. Not having been informed of the change, he was unable to make appropriate modifications to the gas system. Heavily discouraged by this seeming display of favoritism, Turner abandoned his efforts with the Light Rifle. Pictures of Turners 1st and 2nd Carbines can be seen on pages 19 and 25 of "M1 Carbine Design, Development & Production" by Larry Ruth, with this example clearly following the 2nd Model pattern, with some mild differences in stock and magazine well configuration. Sighting is by a fixed blade and peep arrangement, with no maker's or proofmarks save "TURNER/BUTLER PA/1941" on the barrel socket, with a M1 Garand-style safety switch in the front of the trigger guard, a spring loaded thumb lever magazine catch, and a serrated cocking knob on the bolt carrier. Mechanically, the rifle is gas driven, with the port just ahead of the forearm projecting off to the right and the rod concealed by the stock, which also doubles as 3/4ths of the magazine well. Internally, the components are very simple, and again a resemblance to the Garand can be seen in the arrangement of the disconnector, and are easily accessible via a large side plate retained by a spring loaded latch and the magazine catch. The stock is smooth, with a contoured forearm and pistol grip, a cut-through sling groove in the buttstock, and a smooth alloy buttplate. Overall, the rifle shows its hand-made nature, with the receiver and carrier showing machining lines, the interior showing a few remnants of Prussian blue and similar guide marks, and the barrel and operating rod channels of the stock showing hand-cutting and remnants of pencil marks.

Rating Definition:

Fine with 70% of the original blue finish showing areas of gray and brown patina as well as some mild spotting and handling marks. The stock is in equal condition with mild scratches and dents. Mechanically excellent. Missing the magazine. A very scare piece of American small arms history, the Turner is a mechanically intriguing firearm, lightweight and agile in the hand, and would be worthy of a high place in an advanced collection of U.S. military weaponry.

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