M-1 Thumb

Recognizing that the last rant may have been just a tad grim, it’s time to return to the realm of unbridled hilarity, courtesy of the M-1 rifle, which gave us what several generations of American servicemen knew as “M-1 Thumb.”

Port_arms In the Manual of Arms, there was a movement called “Inspection Arms.” You stood at attention with your M-1 held diagonally across your torso with your left hand at the rifle’s balance point. When you were given Inspection Arms you placed the outer edge of your right hand on the rifle’s operating-rod handle and shoved the handle smartly to the rear, opening the bolt, which was held open by a small catch.

The command to close your bolt was “Port Arms.” On “Port,” which was the preparatory command, you shoved down on the follower with your right thumb and with the edge of your right hand you pushed the bolt very slightly to the rear, which disengaged the catch. After “Port” rang out, you could hear a lot of clicking, and the command of execution, “Arms” came a couple of heartbeats later. When you heard that, you got your thumb off the follower real fast and jerked your hand away, which allowed the bolt to slam forward like the Original Hammer of Hell, and if your thumb was still down in the receiver・o I have to paint you a picture?

Anyway, many a dull formation was livened up by some poor dunce who got his thumb flattened, and it sounded like this:

“Port...ARMS!”

Then came a metallic crash as 50 bolts slammed closed in unison, and simultaneously,

“YAAAAGH!”

If an officer were in command of the formation, there would be only snickering, but if it were an NCO, especially one with a sense of humor, all military order broke down as the poor dumb bastard with the bright blue and red thumb wrung his hand in agony and the rest of us cheered.

I don’t think the Army has fun like this anymore.