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Old September 25, 2012, 02:30 PM   #1
Steelhat
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Understanding the Military "M" designations

Does anyone produce a chart that lists in order the description of "M-1" though "M-203 Grenade Launcher" equipment designations? M-1, M-14, M-16, etc., are so common. Is it possible to find a source so I can become familiar with the many others? I picked M-203 as the upper limit only because that is the highest one I know. I am sure there are a lot of obsolete/dead projects that must have "M" designations. I would be fun to learn what they are.

Anyone find a source for a chart?
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Old September 25, 2012, 03:00 PM   #2
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If such a chart exists, it undoubtedly resides with counterintelligence, or perhaps the bureau of dis-information.
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Old September 25, 2012, 03:06 PM   #3
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"M" is for "Model". It is used so profusely that just gathering that information would take a lifetime - not to mention that a designation for one branch may be different for the same piece of equipment in another branch.
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Old September 25, 2012, 03:15 PM   #4
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That's interesting - - I never served in the military (I really kinda regret that in my older age, now) but saw the world via the Dept. of State, but I always thought that "M" meant military.

Maybe we can start a chain here, where folks can send in the "M" firearms the have known and used, with a short description. I would be glad to tabulate. It would be interesting if anyone knows the more obscure ones.

Thanks all,
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Old September 25, 2012, 03:22 PM   #5
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I believe I have seen such a list, though where, I do not know. However, I kind of think it may have been a list of vehicles, which is an even longer list. It's out there in radio land somewhere. I even know where you can find a copy of the manual for the Pattern 1914 leather equipment for the British Army, which won't help.
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Old September 25, 2012, 03:46 PM   #6
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I can assure you that it will be quite an extensive list if completed in its entirety. Think for a moment...M-1 Rifle, M-1 Carbine, M-1 Tank... and that's just what I came up with in a few seconds for just M-1. M-2 Bradley, M-2 Carbine, M-2 BMG... see my point? The US Army is not known for originality of nomenclature... So many different types of military equipment has an M-# designation.
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Old September 25, 2012, 04:09 PM   #7
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This wasn't exactly my field, but I've seen enough of this stuff to draw some conclusions.

It starts with the name of the thing. That's usually a noun with maybe some descriptive words floowing. Like "CANNON, 20 MM" then there is a colon.

Then there is either an M which means the thing is standard or an XM which means it hasn't been accepted for production.

After that there is a number. The numbers seem to be random, but for the most part they are in sequential order. Sometimes they can cycle back to 1.

Finally there is an alpha numeric designation. A letter followed by a number. These designate modifications to the thing. "A" means it's an official modification. E means the modification is experimental. The number following is how many modifications have been done.

For example, the Army's first assault rifle was the Rifle, 5.56 MM: M16. When they first started to fix it, it became the Rifle, 5.56MM: M16E1 and when the fix was official, it was the Rifle, 5.56MM: M16A1. The next version with the heavier barrel, improved sights etc was the Rifle, 5.56MM M16A2.

The Grenade Launcher you are talking about is a seperate item. It goes on (actually under the barrel) of an M16 (there is another version for the M4) and I think it's officially and GRENADE LAUNCHER, 40MM: M203. It isn't a rifle - although the barrel is rifled. It might be LAUNCHER, GRENDADE, 40MM. I'm not sure. I think they try to lead with the noun so you know how to find it in a list.

When you see things that don't follow this, it's usually because it wasn't the Army alone that developed it. For example a MACHINE GUN, 40 MM: MK19 is a Navy designation. You'll also see AN (like AN PVS 14) which I think is the result of a Joint Army Navy effort.

Like I said, this wasn't my field. You probably need to ask logistics type person. But I think I'm pretty close.
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Old September 25, 2012, 04:16 PM   #8
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Oh, before I draw the obvious replay the the M1911 and M1903 for the pistol and rifle were years (as opposed to random sequence), those weren't done according to modern Army regulations. I'm not sure when those went into effect.

And I'm not sure about aircraft. Those are different, but I don't know why. But the creation of Army Aviation was very political and I believe the Air Force had and maybe still has a piece of the development and testing process. That may be why.
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Old September 25, 2012, 04:18 PM   #9
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Not complete, but it'a start.

http://www.imfdb.org/wiki/Special:AllPages/M
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Old September 25, 2012, 04:37 PM   #10
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I had to look up what disambiguation meant... I pictured someone all blown to pieces
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Old September 25, 2012, 04:43 PM   #11
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Think for a moment...M-1 Rifle, M-1 Carbine, M-1 Tank...
M1 helmet
M1 mine
M1 submachine gun
M1 sling
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Old September 25, 2012, 05:06 PM   #12
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I recall reading years ago-forget where-that until 1936 or so, the practice was M-for Model-followed by the year of adoption-M1888 Rifle, M1892, M1896, M1903, M1911, M1917, M1928 pack, etc. After 1936, it was M and numerical designation. A for minor variation-M1911A1, e.g. E for Experimental.
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Old September 25, 2012, 06:06 PM   #13
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This is M1 rifle,
This is M1 gun.
One is for fighting,
One is for fun.

.



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Old September 25, 2012, 06:24 PM   #14
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SFAIK, it all started as M = Model. But it's not something that has been consistent over time.

"Rifle, Springfield, Model of 1903" or "Pistol, Colt, Model of 1911".

Then it was simplified with the Garand and the Carbine, as just M-1 for each. Dangfino.

I got to play with the M-16 half-track, back in 1955. Then with the dash dropped out, here came the M16 rifle.

I don't worry about it.

I always figured, "There's the right way, the wrong way and the Army way." It ain't right, it ain't wrong, it's just the way the Army does stuff. Shrug...
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Old September 25, 2012, 06:27 PM   #15
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M r ducks, is as good an explanation as any thus afforded. A better question is why don't they make sense.
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Old September 25, 2012, 06:50 PM   #16
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Model number makes sense. Then you have different items, like M1 Mine, helmet, tank, rifle whatever. Makes one wonder what happened to the missing models. The M14 Rifle was a superb arm, the M16 is servicable to say the least but what happend to the M15? Was a hunk of junk and scrapped fast?
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Old September 25, 2012, 08:14 PM   #17
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The M15 rifle was mean to be the heavy barrel version of the M14 to serve as the squad automatic weapon-think BAR. It was officially adopted then cancelled and never produced.
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Old September 25, 2012, 11:46 PM   #18
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Quote:
And I'm not sure about aircraft.
Aircraft are designated according to the intended mission of the aircraft.
A= attack aircraft
B= bombers
C= cargo
E= electronic countermeasure
F= fighter
H= helicopter
O= observaton
P= patrol
R= reconnaisance
S= anti-submarine or special mission
T= trainer
U= utility
V= vertical/short take-off
X= experimental
Y= prototype

I think I remembered them all.

Descriptions of missions have changed over the years, but aircraft are still described this way.
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Old September 26, 2012, 01:44 AM   #19
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Quote:
Finally there is an alpha numeric designation. A letter followed by a number. These designate modifications to the thing. "A" means it's an official modification. E means the modification is experimental. The number following is how many modifications have been done.
Not always.

For instance, the AH-64 Apache helicopter. Variants include the AH-64A (basically the original version), AH-64B, AH-64-C, and the AH-64D. Using sequential letters rather than the "A#" system seems to be fairly common for airframes, and "experimental" and "prototype" designations are contained in the first part of the designation, i.e. for instance the prototype for the AH-64 was called the YAH-64A and it's competitor was the YAH-63A.
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Old September 26, 2012, 01:49 AM   #20
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I always figured the military did it to mess with librarians or something.

Also there is now an M320 grenade launcher that is replacing the M203.
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Old September 26, 2012, 02:27 AM   #21
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You shouldn't even get started on aircraft.
As time goes by, they add more and more complications and "exceptions to the rules."

Things are supposed to be simple, allowing up to 3 primary mission designators before the design number. (with the possibility of a leading 4th designator for special aircraft - experimental, displays, etc.) Then, capped off by the variant/series.

Sometimes aircraft follow suit properly:
F-15E
-Fighter, design 15, variant E
KC-135
-Tanker, Transport, design 135, variant A

But others play "outside the box".
Example of one that was/is truly messed up:
MH-53M(J)
-Multi-Mission - indicating that the aircraft has multiple missions AND is no longer used for its original mission.
-Helicopter
-design 53
-variant M
-upgraded to 'M' from a 'J' variant that had previously been modified from an MH-53H variant (which would have previously been a C variant ) -- This is not an official 'approved' method for aircraft designation. Yet, it was used until 2008.
Without the (J), it indicated that it was upgraded/modified from an 'J' variant that had never been an MH-53H variant; but upgraded directly from an HH-53C. This was important to mission and mobility planning, because the aircraft were slightly different, mechanically, based on the variant they were upgraded from.

But, an experimental upgrade on top of the 'M' variant of that helicopter would have resulted in another stupid designation. Since only the modification/upgrade was experimental (electronics), and not the basic aircraft, the experimental designation did not include the 'Y' mission assignment. Instead, they did this:
MH-53M(+) {read as "emm plus")
or
MH-53M+
-the '(+)' indicated it was a 'H'-to-'J' variant, upgraded to 'M' status, and further upgraded to 'M+'.
-the '+' indicated it was never an 'H' variant, before upgrading 'J'-to-'M', and then to 'M+'.

To complicate that designation further, the Air Force approved letting that 'M+' go "live" as the official designation of the upgraded aircraft. So, the previous differentiation of slight mechanical differences would be lost in the new designation.
Unfortunately for tax payers, the entire 'J', 'M', and 'M+' fleet was retired before the 'M+' upgrade made it to the real world. With the fleet's retirement, the (J) differentiation went away.
Now, quite a few of the former 'M(J)'s are in museums, due to their rather colorful and eventful histories.

Did I mention there were also 'J' variants that had sub-designations to indicate whether they had originally been a 'B' or 'C' variant? Nah... I won't get into that....
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Last edited by FrankenMauser; September 26, 2012 at 02:35 AM.
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Old September 26, 2012, 03:06 AM   #22
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Scorch- Sometimes, I believe the Y was used for 'Consolidated Use" or 'Consolidated Origin" -as in the old PBY Catalina which has a neat history of being pushed into enough rolls to give it nearly the whole alphabet if such use would have been given prior approval by whoever it was that done such things as approvals.
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Old September 26, 2012, 07:29 AM   #23
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I always figured the military did it to mess with librarians or something.
Nah. They did it to screw with junior officers.
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Old September 26, 2012, 09:17 AM   #24
Woody55
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On the aircraft. Like I said, they are different.

The Air Force has its origins in the Army Air Force. It didn't take long for the aviators to want to be their own service. Part of that campaign was arguing that the rest of the Army wasn't suited to run the aviation portion.

They separated themselves in every way they could. One of those ways was to use a different designation for aircraft than for other Army major end items. The alphabetical designations explained above pre-date the creation of the Air Force.

Once the seperation was accomplished, the new service was given the responsibility of procuring all aircraft - including the unarmed aircraft that the Army was permitted to have at the time. So, the designations stuck and are still used.

And, of course, aviators still consider themselves to be different.
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Old September 26, 2012, 09:38 AM   #25
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Too confused to continue.


Quote:
"There's the right way, the wrong way and the Army way."
Winner!

Quote:
And, of course, aviators still consider themselves to be different.
Because we are, if you ain't a pilot, you ain't xxxx.
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