We are all familiar with “collector shorthand” words or phrases that are used to describe certain types of weapons and/or components but which aren’t, and never were, “official” terminology. Examples are myriad and include such well-known terms as “Trapdoor Springfield,” “gas trap Garand,” “M1 “locking bar” rear sight and “low wood” M1 carbine stocks, to name just a few. While these words and phrases can be useful as descriptive terms, others have devolved into all but meaningless terms. A good example of this is the word “cartouche” which typically meant the final inspection stamp on the stock of a martial firearm but is now often used to denote any and every marking on a weapon. For this reason, I’ve ceased using the term “cartouche” in favor of the actual term such as “final inspection stamp, “Ordnance Department escutcheon,” firing proof stamp,” etc. We touched on this before, but another type of collector terminology that has really gotten out of hand is the use of “Types” to differentiate variations of martial arms. The following was posted here previously and I think it may be helpful to repeat it.
An acquaintance recently asked me about a M1A1 carbine which he was contemplating purchasing. He said the seller indicated it was a “Type 2” and wanted to know what things he should look for. My first question was, “What is a ‘Type 2” carbine?” He said he didn’t know, hence the inquiry. I gave him a brief synopsis on the key points to observe on a M1A1 carbine but the episode got me thinking about the prevalent use of various “Types” by U.S. martial collectors. There may be a few exceptions that escape me, but the U.S. military did not use the term “type” to identify a model or variation of a weapon. This was routinely done by the Japanese in WWII but it wasn’t an American practice. However, today’s collectors have embraced the use of “type” or “types” to differentiate variants of weapons. In some cases, this may make sense if all parties are familiar with the vernacular but in many other cases it can be a cause for confusion (such as the above M1A1 example).
In the interest of full disclosure, I have used informal “type” designations in several of my books. However, this was almost always done to distinguish variations in parts and not for complete weapon “types.” For example, keeping with the M1 carbine theme, I routinely use the terms “Type 1,” “Type 2,” and “Type 3” to identify the three variants of M1 carbine bands. The first was the narrow band without bayonet lug, the second the wider band without bayonet lug and the third the wider band with bayonet lug. The terms are also sometimes used to denote the three distinct types of rear sights (non-adjustable, milled adjustable and stamped adjustable). Regardless, even though these terms have been in widespread use by carbine collectors for 25 or 30 years, I always try to take pains to make it clear that such terminology is informal and also generally enclose the term in quotation marks to reinforce the point. If there is any doubt as to the variant of part being discussed, then it would be better to use a bit lengthier, but much clearer, description such as “milled adjustable rear sight.”
Some collectors, and even some writers, take this several steps further by using the term “Type” to describe variants of weapons. This may have been intended to simplify identification but, to my mind, it only confuses the issue. Still staying with the M1 carbine theme, let’s try to figure out what constitutes the three “types” of M1 (or M1A1) carbines. It certainly can’t refer simply to the type of barrel band on the carbine in question. If so, how does one distinguish a post-WWII rebuilt carbine with a “Type 3” (wide band with bayonet lug) from a late WWII example still in its factory configuration with the same pattern band? Does a “Type 2” carbine have a “Type 1,” “Type 2,” or “Type 3” rear sight? Does it have a “high wood” (“Type 1?”) or “low wood” (“Type 2”) stock? How about a “Type 1,” “Type 2,” “Type 3,” or “Type 4” magazine catch? Does it have a “flat top” or “round top” bolt? Are those two bolts classified as “Type 1” and “Type 2?” I could go on, but you probably get the idea.
This is not restricted to carbines as I’ve seen “Type 1," "Type 2,” or “Type 3,” etc. used for other weapons such as M1903 rifles and Krags (just to name two) by collectors and some writers. I recently heard of a “Type 4-C” Krag carbine being offered for sale. I’ve got a fair number of Krag rifles and carbines and am pretty familiar with the different variants, but I couldn’t tell you what a “Type 4-C” Krag carbine is if you held a gun to my head (regardless of the “type classification” of said gun!).
While the informal use by collectors of different “Types” to identify variations of parts is pretty well established, the same is not true of complete weapons as, in many cases, there are just too many variables involved to categorize them in such neat and tidy packages. Throwing about made-up “type” terms, especially when it comes to denoting variants of weapons, can be utterly confusing. If you want to make it clear to someone exactly what type of weapon to which you’re referring, I think it would be better to take a bit more time and clarify exactly what you mean. Rather than ask what to look for on a “Type 2” M1A1 carbine, the better question would be what to look for on an early 1944 production M1A1 carbine purportedly remaining in its original factory configuration (if that is indeed what a “Type 2” is). Likewise, if someone is trying to describe a Model 1896 Krag carbine that has been restocked with a Model 1899 stock and fitted with another pattern rear sight, then they should go ahead and say that without resorting to some made-up arbitrary and possibly misleading term.
By the way, I just saw a post-war rebuilt M1 Garand rifle. It looked like a “Type 6” but had some features of a “Type 3” and some of a “Type 7.” I’m going to call it a “Type 5.33” (add the three types and divide by 3). Anyone interested?