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Ithaca M6

Aircrew Survival Rifle [ 1952 ]

The M6 Aircrew Survival Rifle succeeded the M4 weapon in same battlefield role for the United States Air Force during the Cold War period.

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 05/10/2022 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site.

The M6 "Aircrew Survival Rifle" was the official successor to the earlier M4 design of 1949 (detailed elsewhere on this site), made specifically to arm United States Air Force (USAF) airmen unfortunate enough to be downed behind enemy lines. The idea behind the original approach was to provide these survivors with a small-caliber, lightweight weapon to hunt and kill small game for sustenance should a rescue effort be prolonged. While the original M4 was a bolt-action weapon developed by Harrington and Richardson Arms from their civilian-minded sport shooter, the follow-up M6 offering arrived from guns-maker Ithaca and had a "break-action", over-under barrel arrangement supporting two calibers. Like the M4 before it, the M6 still chambered the .22 Hornet cartridge but also introduced the underslung barrel for firing a heftier .410 shotgun shell.

Design roots of the M6 actually place it back at the close of World War 2 (1939-1945) in 1946 where it saw development under the former United States Army Air Forces (USAAF). The program delivered a combination weapon seating a small-caliber .22 weapon over a shotgun, allowing various types of game to be hunted with success. In its original form, this weapon was known as the "Rifle-Shotgun, Survival, Caliber .22/.410". It would not be until the 1950s that the design was officially finalized and formally realized for service.

The M6 retained a rifle-like configuration with a hollowed out shoulder stock frame, centralized receiver, and barrel assemblies protruding ahead. Iron sights were affixed fore and aft along the dorsal line of the gun for some inherent accuracy when firing. The hammer protruded from the rear of the receiver in traditional fashion and a trigger "bar" system was seated under the rifle-style grip/stock handle to better work with a gloved primary hand. Construction involved stamped sheet steel to keep weight and costs in check while rubber was used at the butt plate and cheekpiece for some operator comfort when firing.

With an overall weight of 4.5lb and overall length of 28.27 inches, the gun could be toted easily enough during marches. Length was reduced to a more manageable 15 inches when the gun was folded down. The removable barrel assembly made up 14 inches of the gun's total length. Maximum range of the weapon was out to 100 meters in .22 Hornet and reduced to 25 meters with the .410 shell. Muzzle velocity was 834 meters-per-second and 345 meters-per-second, respectively. The operator could select which weapon he fired by management of a firing pin selector.

The gun carried up to nine .22 Hornet cartridges long with four .410 shells in the hollowed-out stock. The break-action design allowed access to the chamber for loading/reloading in the traditional shotgun fashion. As such, the weapon was more-or-less a single-/dual-shot, reusable firearm.

Ithaca Gun Company managed production of the firearm exclusively for the USAF. The M6 saw service from 1952 until given up in the 1970s.©MilitaryFactory.com
Note: The above text is EXCLUSIVE to the site www.MilitaryFactory.com. It is the product of many hours of research and work made possible with the help of contributors, veterans, insiders, and topic specialists. If you happen upon this text anywhere else on the internet or in print, please let us know at MilitaryFactory AT gmail DOT com so that we may take appropriate action against the offender / offending site and continue to protect this original work.


Service Year

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United States


Aircrew Survival Rifle

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(OPERATORS list includes past, present, and future operators when applicable)
Close Support
Extreme close quarters use; trench-clearing; doorbuster; security.
Special Forces
Qualities of this weapon have shown its value to Special Forces elements requiring a versatile, reliable solution for the rigors of special assignments.
Special Purpose
Special purpose weapon for a specially defined battlefield role.
Asymmetric Warfare
Design is highly variable / low-cost based on battlefield requirement and available materials; general use is in urban settings against an organized foe for high casualty count.

Compact nature allows for relatively easy concealment.
Supports 'iron sights' allowing for inherent accuracy in ranged fire.
Ease-of-use coupled with relative simplicity of combined components makes this entry a cost-effective solution for unconventional elements / fighting forces.

Overall Length
718 mm
28.27 in
Barrel Length
381 mm
15.00 in
Empty Wgt
4.54 lb
2.06 kg

Iron Front and Rear.


Manual Firing Pin Selector Lever; Dual-Shot.

(Material presented above is for historical and entertainment value and should not be construed as usable for hardware restoration, maintenance, or general operation - always consult official manufacturer sources for such information)


.22 Hornet / .410

Rounds / Feed

9 x .22 Hornet / 4 x .410 shells.
Cartridge relative size chart
*May not represent an exhuastive list; calibers are model-specific dependent, always consult official manufacturer sources.
**Graphics not to actual size; not all cartridges may be represented visually; graphics intended for general reference only.
Max Eff.Range
330 ft
(101 m | 110 yd)
Muzzle Velocity
2,735 ft/sec
(834 m/sec)

M6 Aircraft Survival Rifle - Base Series Designation.

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