The Let's Play Archive

Call of Duty

by Coolguye and TheLastRoboKy

Part 1: St. Mere Eglise (night)

Episode 1: St. Mere Eglise (night): Youtube, Polsy

Note: Stories are coming and will be filled in as time goes forward.

The weapons of the American Army, Part 1
The weapons of CoD1 are extremely lovingly crafted. They look hauntingly like their real life counterparts, and in almost all situations they also look and operate much like their real life counterparts, as well. So, as weapons show up in game, they'll be getting their own spotlight time in these sections.

The M1A1 Carbine

Like many weapons of World War 2, the M1A1 is a product of great engineering being applied to a specific, well-defined problem. World War 2 was the first dynamic war, where fast-moving action and organization was a bigger player in overall victory than overwhelming force.

This caused a unique problem when compared to earlier wars. Prior to the advent of dynamic battlefield observers, paratroopers, rangers, and other such special operations units, the same rifle generally worked pretty well for everyone. Armies didn't move that terribly fast, so if a mortar crew had to have a little extra time to catch up because they were carrying their normal combat kit AND all the mortar equipment...well, that wasn't really a problem.

It became a very big problem as support and pathfinder units started to get seriously encumbered by the weight of their kit. In the case of the Paratroopers we have this mission, the extra weight was an even bigger problem due to the rolling requirement that Roboky mentions in the video. The more weight you're carrying, the harder it is to roll properly as you land and the less effective your parachute is. An extra 10 pounds can very easily be the difference between a badly sprained ankle and a safe landing. The last thing you want when you drop into enemy territory is an injury.

Arming paratroopers like normal soldiers wasn't working, in part because of this weight limitation. Rifle ammo is huge on a per-bullet basis, and SMGs require the soldier to carry so many spare rounds it became infeasible. The call went out for a 'light rifle', and Winchester Armory eventually answered the call.

Much of the heavy lifting on the M1A1's design was done by Edward Browning, an absolutely brilliant designer who was responsible for many other designs (one of which I'll gush about in a few missions). Browning, however, unfortunately died in 1939 with the carbine unfinished. Winchester hired David Williams, a recently paroled moonshiner and murderer, to finish the work.

Never let it be said David Williams, a reformed lawbreaker and mankiller, didn't know how to break expectations and kill the crap out of men. Over the next few years of refinement and perfecting, Williams got the carbine down to a fully loaded weight of only 7.5 pounds, with stopping power comparable to the M1 Garand, though with only about half of the effective range.

The soldier reception of the M1A1 was mixed. Paratroopers, mortar crews, and other specialists absolutely loved it. It also got some good press from the USMC when they were fighting in the Pacific theater. However, it showed some reliability problems when it was used in Italy; the internal piston had a nasty habit of jamming almost permanently if it got too dirty, which happened an uncomfortable amount in Italy.

In CoD1, the M1A1 is a completely forgettable weapon. The weight of it is only modeled in Multiplayer, and even then it simply lets you move a bit faster. It does less damage than the M1 Garand, and has an outrageously long reloading time when compared to the other two American longarms. AI teammates never spawn with it, despite the fact that, as paras, all privates would be carrying one and many NCOs would be, as well. This is the major thing that is done 'wrong' during the American campaign - the Americans' loadouts are absolutely ridiculous. This, however, is generally forgivable on a gameplay limitation.

The M1 Garand

The Garand was again a Springfield development, put out by Canadian immigrant John Garand. It was conceived as an attempt at a primer-operated, breech-loading rifle. Breech-loading implies that there is an opening, or 'breech' somewhere on the top of the gun where you load in the ammo; modern-day shotguns are still technically breech-loaded in this way, even though nobody in their right mind would actually refer to them as breech-loaded firearms. The primer-operated part was the true innovation. Most weapons of the day were primed in between shots by the the shooter by operating a bolt - aka, bolt-action rifles. Having the action of striking the primer reset the rifle was actually a very revolutionary idea. It bumped around in inconclusive trials for about 4 years, before Garand finally came up with a gas-trap (it trapped gasses from exploding primer and used the force of the gas to do the work) variant that really charmed the US Army. It's important to note that despite the fact that it was conceived as a primer-operated weapon, it actually came into being as a gas-operated one! It was standardized in 1937, and entered full production shortly thereafter. Winchester actually had a lot of problems bringing the Garand to mass production, though, and it took until 1941 to fully equip the Army with enough copies of the Garand.

The needs of the Garand were fairly ordinary, truthfully. Despite being one of the big steps toward modern assault rifles, the Army still liked big, high caliber rounds that killed the shit out of whatever it hit, and did it from a long way away. The big innovation was the mechanisms for rapid firing and rapid reloading. By trapping gasses in the firing chamber, the Garand could strip the next bullet in its block clip out and load it up automatically. The design of the clips themselves were even better; since the gun happily coughed out the retaining clip when it was empty, the grunt firing it needed only to press a new block of rounds into the gun to be firing again. From an engineering perspective it's really amazing - this is a gun that has distinct, obvious states for being loaded and unloaded, and makes itself immediately accessible for what you would most want to do with each state!

These innovations were not complete, however. The gas chamber it used to do its work made properly unloading the weapon when it was partially empty an arduous nightmare. A soldier had to hold open the chamber and dig out any unspent bullets basically one by one. Understandably, front-line soldiers thought this was nonsense, and would routinely just shoot off the rest of their clip wildly so they could reload. The mechanisms themselves also didn't have modern micro-machining to help protect it from environmental hazards like mud splashes - the British army was seriously considering replacing their rifles with Garands, but eventually rejected it when it failed to perform too often in mud. The distinctive 'ping!' sound you hear the Garand make when it's empty in the video is also very true to life.

In the war, though, the Garand performed like an absolute champion. The ability to rapidly fire off rounds was an immeasurable advantage, and the large caliber round the Garand used really was a murderer. It used .30-06 ammo - the same ammo you see used in many sniper rifles. So yeah, it could tear your ass apart. It remains an extremely common gun today for collectors and enthusiasts, and it makes a really fine hunting rifle if you've got pigs or some other sort of tenacious game in your area. I can't recommend it on smaller game like deer, though - it kinda destroys a bit too much of what you're trying to get.

In the game, the Garand does slightly less damage than comparable bolt-action rifles in an attempt to balance it, but it's still a much better weapon overall. In single player, it will still happily kill someone you hit in the upper chest or head, and anyone who doesn't die will go down so hard you'll have plenty of time to kill them. In multiplayer, a headshot is still extremely lethal, and the more rapid fire gives you half a chance (but only half of one) in close quarters. If you're carrying a bolt-action rifle and you get caught in close, you might as well just give up.

The Thompson Submachine Gun
This gun almost needs no introduction. It's legendary not just from the war, but also from its heavy use by criminal mafias and the heavy police teams that fought them. It's got an extremely long list of nicknames, each one more amusing than the last. Tommy Gun, Trench Broom, Chicago Typewriter, The Chopper - the list goes on and on and on.

The Thompson was originally an attempt by John Thompson to create an automatic rifle to replace bolt-action rifles. He investigated the pressure and gas operating models (such as the ones that eventually became the Garand), but disliked them as too complicated and, therefore, too unreliable to use in the field. He found inspiration in 1915, in the form of a patent owned by John Bell Blish. The patent was the idea of an auto-loading mechanism that functioned off an inclined plane with the payloads being pressure-adhered to the plane. He convinced a financial backer to help him, and founded his own armory to set about properly designing the weapon, then still envisioned as an automatic rifle. With World War 1 raging in Europe, Thompson eventually changed his vision to be a weapon that could establish total dominance in the trenches. He titled the initiative "Annihilator I", but by the time he'd fixed most of the design issues and had the weapon usable, World War 1 had ended. For better or for worse, the then-titled Annihilator saw about 20 years of use annihilating the shit out of America's largest cities during Prohibition.

In 1938, though, the Thompson was adopted by the US Army, pretty much unchanged from its original form. A lot of work had to be done on the magazines - the stereotypical drum magazine that you see on them in gangster movies worked great until you had to carry 3 or 4 of the goddamned things. They're noisy, heavy, and holy crap they're nearly impossible to operate when you're prone. The straight box magazines held far fewer bullets per mag, but they were eminently reliable, didn't rattle while in use, and were modular enough to handle a good amount of battlefield finagling. The duct taped magazine speedloaders? Yeah, totally a thing with the Thompson. They didn't have the pressure-loaded magazine functionality of the Blish magazine by this point, amusingly. They instead relied on two columns of ammunition that the weapon took from alternately (double column, double feed).

As far as deployment during the war, CoD will have you believe that damn near every Tom, Dick, and Harry in Europe had one. That is nowhere near true. The Thompson was largely considered a specialized weapon, and therefore was only deployed to people with a reason to have one. NCOs generally qualified, so corporals and sergeants would roll with one, as would patrol leaders. Paratroopers would also occasionally drop with one, and US Army Ranger units used the Thompson extremely heavily. British and Canadian commandos also loved the shit out of the Thompson, and through the Lend-Lease agreement they got to see quite a bit of it. The Americans were also very free in sharing the Thompson with their Australian homies in the Pacific theater. The Pacific theater also saw more widespread use of the Thompson since there were more jungles and more close-combat shooting. Europe was very often a rifle fight, like you saw in the video. This prolific history was part of its downfall, honestly. After the war, the Thompson found its way into so many conflicts, like the Greek Civil War and the Israeli-Arab war, that the American army felt pressured to replace it with something better in order to stay ahead of the game.

And speaking of games, in CoD1 the Thompson is a great SMG, but, as we'll see later, most of the SMGs in the game are pretty much the same. The Thompson shines as the second best due to its outrageously quick reload time, though.

Weapons of the German Army, Part 1


Fuck this thing.

There is almost nothing to talk about with the MG-42 (literally 'machine gun 42' from German) because it's the paragon of heavy machine gun hardware. It's reliable, stable, pretty accurate, light enough to be handled and operated by one person (a big thing among HMGs), and oh my fucking GOD does this son of a bitch put out bullets.

The noise you hear from the gun itself, that sounds like a swarm of extremely pissed off bees, or sentient sawblades? That's not some sort of stupid aural trick - that is from the MG-42's rate of fire being so goddamn high that your ear cannot perceive the crack of one bullet leaving the barrel before the next report interrupts your perception. The rate of fire varied some with different bolts on the gun, but it capped out at 1,500 rounds per minute. Let me put that in perspective for you: that is 25 rounds per second. A Thompson submachine gun's entire box magazine is 30 rounds. This son of a bitch is firing off an entire Thompson mag in 1.2 seconds. Or, let's put it another way: Presuming you're at the max effective range of this gun (1000 m), by the time you are see the first bullet fall right at your feet (860 m/s muzzle velocity), it has already sent 29 more bullets your way. Yes, it's fucking scary.

The psychological warfare portion of it is a tale I've often heard told in museums by old curators, but have never seen on, say, the History channel. I've been contradicted in the thread on this once already, so don't take it as gospel, but my understanding is that during development and firing tests, a few German generals specifically requested a more bassy firing noise to simulate the targets being shelled at a massive rate - this, supposedly, increases the suppression effect of the weapon, which it is already stellar at.

The weak link in this massively strong chain was the barrel, however. As you might imagine, shoving thousands upon thousands of rounds through a weapon tends to heat it up pretty quickly. And even if you manage the heat, you're gonna ruin the rifling pretty fast! This was such a problem that German High Command officially forbade using more than 250 bullets per burst. I'm reasonably sure that the soldiers in CoD1 ignore this wholesale, but I'll be honest I'm usually too occupied trying to shoot the fucker firing it to check. And even if they did I couldn't blame them. Bullets are cheap, your life is not. The barrel quickly became the Achilles Heel of this weapon, though - it took about 10 seconds to change out a barrel, even in the hands of an experienced operator. Many times, Allied soldiers would stay suppressed and uncovered, only to charge once they realized the MG-42 had disabled itself.

What's almost most grimly ironic about all this is that one of the men who most strongly led the development of the MG-42, Werner Gruner, really knew fuck-all about machine guns before he worked on the MG-42. His specialty was in mass production of metal parts. The dude basically attended a conference on firearm manufacture and then spent a few hundred hours talking to soldiers, and spat out one of the most elegant and deadly firearms in mankind's history.

This machine gun is a serious work of art, and it still lives on in the MG3, the modern German heavy machine gun, which is really the same general chassis with bolts to make the rate of fire less absurd and chambered to fire a different caliber bullet.