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1st Infantry Division Adjustable Rear Sights

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    Posted: Mar 11 2017 at 10:23pm

March 2017-C

1st Infantry Division Adjustable Rear Sights, March 1945
(MWO ORD B28-W3)


In Carbine Club newsletter 382, researcher Don Hillhouse published a detailed update on archival documents found, pertaining to the “field replacement” of the flip rear sight with the adjustable sight overseas during WWII. 

This carbine modification was in compliance with War Department Modification Work Order (MWO) ORD B28-W3.  B28 was the designation of the M1 Carbine in the Ordnance Department’s “Standard Nomenclature List” (SNL), and W3 indicated the 3rd published modification of the Carbine. 

B28-W3 was published on 11 September 1944 and directed “the modification of all carbines with the adjustable (machined or stamped) rear sight,” and included 9 pages of very specific  procedures for the proper replacement and staking of the rear sight, while avoiding damage to the receiver.  This modification was classified RED with “the work…to be completed at the earliest practicable date,” and was a “field” rather than an “arsenal” operation. 

Don’s research in Newsletter 382, and the below “After Action Report” of the 1st Infantry Division show that compliance with B28-W3 was not “practicable” until February-March 1945, as the war in Europe was winding down, and units were in reserve, or otherwise not actively engaged with the enemy.

As Don details, all the ETO’s American armies (except the 1st Airborne Army) were represented in the reports of completion of the rear sight changeover, and included a mix of both newly arrived divisions and veterans of the Normandy campaign.  However, it is not known how many carbines were thus modified before the end of the war.  In February 1945, there were over 1 million carbines in the ETO, not including those in Italy.

Any increase in combat effectiveness of the carbine, as a result of this modification, is doubtful at best…but orders were orders.   A unit history of the 8th Armored Division included a short editorial on this subject: “New adjustable ramp sights were issued for the carbine, and ranges were set up to give the men an opportunity to zero in their weapons.  The verdict on the sight was split.  Some men were loud in praise of it, others contended that the sight was an unnecessary complication for a short range weapon.  Oh well, a typical GI reaction to Army policy.  Someone would bitch if you put a blonde per private on the T/E.” (actually, T/O&E - Table of Organization and Equipment allocated for Army units.)

Curiously, B28-W3 directs that the replaced flip sights “should be thoroughly cleaned and protected with rust-preventive compound, packed 100 per package, and shipped to Rock Island Ordnance Center.”  (Yeah, right! LOL!  But at least some of the stateside rebuild facilities complied with this directive, providing early carbine collectors with sufficient numbers of flip sights via military surplus dealers.)

The lesson here for new collectors is this rule-of-thumb…not gospel, just a general guideline:  If you find what appears to be a factory-original carbine with a high-wood stock, but that has an “incorrect” adjustable rear sight, it is recommended that you think twice before changing the sight.  You may be erasing part of that carbine’s wartime history.

Our thanks to Don Hillhouse for his continued research into the wartime history of the Carbine.  See newsletter 382 for more information on this subject, and newsletter 118 for more information on MWO B28-W3.  See the below March 1945 After Action Report of the 701st Ordnance Light Maintenance Company of the 1st Infantry Division.

Marty Black




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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote ewallover Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Mar 12 2017 at 9:23am
Thanks Marty, that's exactly what I have. My milled sight is staying put!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote New2brass Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Sep 16 2019 at 11:59am
Here is a picture shared by 1989LX of a carbine with an I-cut stock and adjustable rear sight from the ETO 1944-45, most likely a field update.

Image result for m1 carbine type 2 rear sight

And here is an article on the 89th Chemical-Mortar Battalion Field Replacement of Rear Sights

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