The Weapons They Carried: 10 WWII Infantry Weapons That Were Crucial to the Fight

Members of the Milice, armed with captured British No. 4 Lee–Enfield Rifles and Bren Guns. Bundesarchiv - CC BY-SA 2.0

A look at the top 10 WWII Infantry Rifles of WWII, both Allied and Axis.

10. M1 Garand

John Garand points out features of the M1 to army generals.
John Garand points out features of the M1 to army generals.

The M1 Garand was the standard U.S. Army infantry rifle from 1936-1959. A semi-automatic rifle that General George S. Patton called “the greatest battle implement ever devised”, it gave U.S. G.I.s a huge advantage in World War II.

Whereas the German, Italian, and Japanese armies still issued bolt-action rifles as the standard for their infantry, the M1 was semi-automatic and retained high accuracy. Among the obvious advantages this provided, it led to the Japanese strategy of a “banzai charge” being far less effective, since they now faced an enemy with a high rate of fire. The M1 could also be accessorized with a bayonet or even a grenade launcher.

9. Lee-Enfield Rifle

Canadian Sgt. Harald Marshall carrying a Lee-Enfield No. 4 Mk I fitted for sniper service.

The British Lee-Enfield No. 4 MK I became the standard issue infantry rifle of Britain and the Commonwealth states in 1941, extending a long line of updates to a bolt-action design that began in 1895. In fact some forces, like the Bangladesh Police, still use a version of the Lee-Enfield, making it the longest serving bolt-action rifle in history. Across all models, over 17 million Lee-Enfield rifles have been made.

What the U.S. issued M1 Garand had in its rate of fire, the Lee-Enfield made up for in accuracy. With a ladder aperture sight calibrated for 200-1,300 yd, British infantry in World War II had amazing range and precision, firing .303 rounds from their Lee-Enfields. It could hold up to ten rounds loaded with 5-round charger clips.

8. Colt 1911

A Remington Rand-made Model 1911A1 of the U.S. Army.
A Remington Rand-made Model 1911A1 of the U.S. Army.

One of the most popular handguns ever made, the Colt 1911 set the standard for the 20th-century pistol.

The standard issue sidearm for U.S. Armed Forces from 1911 until 1986, the Colt 1911 has even been modified and for use in various service branches to this day.

The Colt 1911 was developed by Browning during the Philippine-American War because troops needed more stopping power from their weapons. The .45 caliber rounds of the Colt offered just that. It was a reliable and powerful sidearm for U.S. infantry during World War II.

7. PPSh-41

Polish soldiers with the PCA , 1951.
Polish soldiers with the PCA , 1951.

The PPSh-41, or Shpagin Machine Pistol, was the Soviet Union’s sub-machine gun of choice for World War II and over the many years that followed it. Made mostly of stamped sheet metal and wood, Russian factories were at times producing up to 3,000 of these weapons each – every single day.