Shooting the M3A1 'Grease gun'


March 18, 2011, 10:46 AM
I wrote a couple articles on the M3A1 'Grease gun' for my Michigan Firearms Examiner column.

The M3A1 'Grease gun' was a rude, crude, and effective submachine gun (

"The M3A1 “Grease gun” was one of the simplest, ugliest, and cheapest personal weapons ever fielded by the U.S. military. But, as one U.S. Marine combat veteran recently recalled, what this crude submachine gun lacked in looks, it more than made up for with brutal effectiveness."

This article includes a brief interview with a Korean War vet. I wish I would have got more of him on tape as he was a hoot!

Here's the second article. This one has footage from a U.S. Army training film with added footage of me shooting a Grease gun at the end. Watch how the brass hits the camera.

Shooting the M3A1 'Grease gun' (

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March 18, 2011, 10:57 AM
I "bought" an M-3 and three mags for a carton of Newport Menthol filter kings.

After a couple of weeks lugging it around and shooting at rats in the dump, I came to the conclusion that I got screwed on that deal.

It is impossible to carry. There is no balance point where you can comfortably carry it with one hand. Accuracy is a couple of minutes of an outhouse. I would trade you a boatload of M-3s for one CAR-15 or M-4.

I traded it to some Seabees for a couple of cases of beer. They chrome plated it at a Vietnamese body shop and mounted it on a wooden plaque to ship home as a souvenier.

March 18, 2011, 10:59 AM
Despite my affection for a certain weapon that was also useful in WW2 ... reading my onscreen name might give you a clue which one ....:D I will admit that from a cost/effectiveness point of view the M3 greasegun was what a military submachine gun really should be; cheap, reliable, effective, fairly easy to use. Not a "pretty" weapon.... but they worked well on the Japanese soldiers & the Germans ....;)

March 18, 2011, 02:15 PM
Sitting down and angling the M3 like a mortar I found that I was able to fairly consistently drop 230 gr. slugs into the vicinity of the 1100 meter machine gun targets at the range at Ft. Knox. Not sure how effective they would be, but I wouldn't want to stand there.

March 18, 2011, 03:51 PM
In Vietnam in 1967 I was a gunner on a M48A3 and it came with 3 Grease guns. They were made by American Can Co.go figure.At first we had to turn in the grease guns and they issued us M16. After using that POS I ask If I could have the grease gun back which they did.The only thing I really liked about it was it always would fire even when you didn't want it to.

March 18, 2011, 04:05 PM
I fired one about 20 years ago, and was initially bored with the slower cyclic rate (I was used to the M16 and Thompson). Looking back, it did deliver lead to the target well, and the firing rate was probably perfect for coming back on target right when it was supposed to. I wish I had one. The one I fired did not have any magazine issues; it worked every time. Cool gun.

March 18, 2011, 04:30 PM
WHY would you want to bother? If speed of fire is an issue, you can dang sure double the rate of the M/3 with any good semi and a reasonably functioning finger! Sights are pure crap.....say it again CRAP......balance is atrocious, ergonomics are, to be kind, CRAP. About all one can say with some confidence is that the dang things will shoot..........for that matter so will a pot metal pistol or a zip gun. Think Hi Point, but I think that HPs are superior from any perspective.

I've fired and handled several GGs and I simply cannot see the appeal. They lack the balance and precision (relative) of an MP40........ once owned a mint example that'd touch bullets together once you acclimated to proper trigger control...........and had a far, far, far better finish, handling characteristics and sights!

Truly, the only thing that the GG does is shoot with some reliability, tho the mags are an utter DOG to load. Thompson's are far better with the DP feed arrangement. That mag issue is the single item that made the GGs prime competitor WILL wear out your fingers loading the things!

Guess the "cool, tacticool, factor is at work.......proof that you could really sell anything labeled 'authentic' to a gullible market.

Heck, the only one I EVER saw that I thought was worth keeping was one I found that'd been squashed by an M/60...........kinda resembled the 'shoot around the corner' WW2 bbls............neat souvenir & to my mind worth just as much in it's smashed rat configuration as it would've been otherwise!!!

March 18, 2011, 05:10 PM
When I arrived at my first unit in Alaska, we were issued the M3. I was in the Anti Armor Platoon and trained on TOW II missle system, yet the anit armor weapon was a 90mm recoilless rifle. That lasted for about 6 months when we were issued M16A2s and TOW II missle systems.

The M3s we were issued had the 9mm conversion although the arms room still had the .45 parts. I only got to shoot them a couple of times but it seemed effective at short ranges which it was intended for.

March 18, 2011, 07:22 PM
I knew someone who claims to have been a member of Delta Force. He said that when he went through selection in the 80s, they were issued M-3s to carry. He reckoned it was because that was the most cumberson weapon one could carry.

They were issued the arm without sling and had to improvise a way to carry the magazines which did not fit in any loadbearing equipment of that day.

March 18, 2011, 07:27 PM
There are more M3 Greaseguns in private hands than M3A1's.

I have an M3 that was originally lend-leased to the British, and then re-imported to the U.S. sometime prior to 1968. Like most lend-lease weapons, it had British proof marks and an overall coat of black paint. When I got it, I had the black paint stripped off and the whole thing re-Parkerized.

For M3 owners, there are several M3A1 parts that are worthwhile improvements, easily installed, and easily reversible. One is the M3A1 barrel, that has the flats on the collar so that the stock can be used as a removal wrench. Another is the M3A1 stock itself, which has a built-in magazine loader. The stock also has the ends drilled and tapped, so as to be usable as a cleaning rod.

My personal opinion is that the Greasegun is handier and more effective as a weapon than the Thompson. That should be the comparison -- not the Greasegun versus the M16 or M4.

March 18, 2011, 08:45 PM
AlexanderA pretty much supplied all the 'neato' facts that I love about the M3A1. Truly a cool little firearm - one of my favorite SMGs. Also has an oiler in the grip.

The magazines are a major weakness and strength. The feed lips are heavy duty steel single column feed. If you try to load with just your fingers, you will probably start cutting up your thumbs once you get 2/3 full - using the stock's loading tool helps a lot with this. However, the strength of the feed lips means thats one less thing you have to worry about - the lips are a weak part on the Thompson's magazines, but they are much easier to load as they are dual column feed.

The Grease Gun is not as pretty or as finely finished as other SMGs, but it sure performs when needed. The MP40 for example will frequently mis-feed if you apply too much force on the magazine (by holding it when firing) - in its original configuration it also could break firing pins - no worry there from the M3. Thompson is more refined, but is a very heavy gun - can also be a little finicky if the insides get too dry.

I hope you get a chance to shoot a PPS43 or a Suomi. They're interesting artifacts of WW2 as well. Suomi was probably the most versatile SMG and could be used out to 100 yards easily. They did a lot of damage to the Soviets in the Winter War. But they are very heavy as well.

Thanks for the great review.

March 18, 2011, 10:46 PM
This Marine was on Ft. Hood at one point. I got my hands on an M3 from an M88 recovery vehicle, but there was just no way I could smuggle it back to California, so I had to give it back. It was fairly rough but I wanted it.

March 19, 2011, 11:31 PM
The grease gun was used for armored vehicles because it is compact. I also heard that it would work in dirty conditions where a Thompson would jam.

March 20, 2011, 12:51 AM
We had some in my arms room in Germany in '92-'93, they were listed as belonging to recovery vehicle crewmen. I never got to shoot one, they were on the property books for about $8.

rocky branch
March 20, 2011, 01:03 AM
I carried one around in VN off and on.
Magazine carry was a problem and I had a cast off pouch of some type with a sling on it that held about 12 mags.
It was a hassle with the mags so I only carried it on short or local operations.
Very accurate and dependable piece. Handy in thick bush.
100 yds hits easy.
Easy to clean and maintain.
The slow rate of fire was a good feature.
Certainly not crap in real world application.
I carried a M16 the rest of the time and have no complaints.
Cleaning is important as well as basic.
I also had to carry a M2 Carine a couple months and was not thrilled with it.

Al Thompson
March 20, 2011, 10:05 AM
We had M3s for the recovery vehicles but rarely shot'em as there was a shortage of .45 ammunition at the time (late '80's). One of my senior NCOs loved the grease gun and mentioned modifying the recoil springs (IIRC, adding washers to the guide rods) to increase the cyclic rate. In addition to being an exemplary NCO, he was a multi-tour Vietnam Vet, so I suspect he was being honest.

March 24, 2011, 10:05 AM
One of my senior NCOs loved the grease gun and mentioned modifying the recoil springs (IIRC, adding washers to the guide rods) to increase the cyclic rate.
That trick worked with the M60 also. If you tried to "John Wayne" (shoot from the hip) with a M3, you couldn't hit the broadside of a barn from inside it. I had an old NCO show me how to properly shoot the M3 using the stock extended. I actually liked carrying the M3 and hated turning it in for the M9 pistol.

March 27, 2011, 07:07 PM
Well, I've never shot or even handeled an M3, but I've always admired it. It's one of those weapons that was the right one for the right price at the right time. The M3 is one (of the many) thats on my lottery list.

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