David Marshall "carbine" Williamsin Gun Discussion Wed Jan 12, 2011 7:51 am
by HampsterW • | 461 Posts
David Marshall Williams (November 13, 1900–January 8, 1975), also known as Carbine Williams (car-BINE) after a 1952 biographical movie, was an American designer of the short-stroke piston used in the M1 Carbine as well as the floating chamber operating system for
David Marshall Williams was born in Cumberland County, North Carolina. He was the eldest of seven children. As a young boy, he worked on his family's farm. He dropped out of school after eighth grade and began work in a blacksmith shop, served a short stint in the Navy, but was discharged because he lied about his age. After returning from the Navy, he spent a semester at Blackstone Military Academy before being expelled.
In 1918, he married Margaret Cooke and they later had one child, David Marshall, Jr. Williams worked for Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, but on the side he had an illegal distillery near Godwin, North Carolina. During a raid on this still on July 22, 1921, a deputy sheriff named Alfred Jackson Pate was shot and killed, and Williams was charged with first degree murder. The trial ended in a hung jury, but Williams decided to plead guilty to a lesser charge of second degree murder. He was given a 20 to 30 year sentence.
While serving time at the Caledonia State Prison Farm in Halifax County, North Carolina, Williams related that the superintendent, H.T. Peoples, noted his mechanical aptitude and allowed him access to the prison’s machine shop where he demonstrated a knack for fashioning replacement parts for the guards’ firearms from pieces of scrap and automobile parts. In prison, he would save paper and pencils and stay up late at night drawing plans for various firearms. His skills in the machine shop permitted him to stay ahead of his assignments and allowed him time for his own hobby. He began building lathes and other tools, and then parts for guns. His mother sent him technical data on guns and also provided him with contacts with patent attorneys. While in prison, he invented the short-stroke piston and the floating chamber principles used in millions of small-arms.
The family started a campaign to commute his sentence and they were joined by the sheriff to whom he had surrendered and the widow of the man he was accused of killing. Governor Angus McLean reduced the sentence and in 1929 Williams went on parole and in 1931 he was released from prison.
Back in Cumberland County, he set to work perfecting his inventions. After two years, he went to Washington, DC to show his work to the War Department. He got his first contract to modify the .30 caliber Browning machinegun using the floating chamber system to fire .22 caliber rimfire ammunition to facilitate inexpensive training. The Williams floating chamber was also applied to the .45 1911 automatic pistol to function with .22 ammunition (the Colt Ace .22 pistol and Ace conversion kit for .45 pistols). Williams subsequently was employed by Winchester, where he perfected the .30-06 M2 Browning rifle prototype by using his design of short-stroke tappet gas piston system. At the urging of Col. Rene Studler, a team at Winchester scaled down Williams' M2 rifle design to produce the Winchester prototype for the M1 carbine.
Williams' short-stroke piston was previously patented but his U.S. Patent 2,090,656 clearly covers the floating chamber which was apparently completely his invention. It was the Jimmy Stewart movie Carbine Williams that brought Williams his widest fame; after the release of the movie that he was known by the nickname, "Carbine" Williams.
He spent his last years in Godwin after some time in Connecticut. He died at Dorothea Dix Hospital in Raleigh, North Carolina, in 1975.
His floating chamber, used in the military .22 training versions of the Browning machinegun and Colt automatic pistol, was also used in the Remington 550-A, a popular .22 semi-automatic sporting rifle (the floating chamber allowed the Model 550 to function semi-automatically with .22 Short as well as .22 Long and .22 Long Rifle ammunition). Later, in 1954, the Winchester Model 50 Automatic shotgun was launched. This, too, featured the Williams Chamber, making it the first recoil operated semi-automatic shotgun with a non-recoiling barrel. Also, the U.S. patents for the highly successful Benelli Shotgun (U.S. Patent 4,604,942) reference Williams' U.S. Patent 2,476,232.
In 1952, MGM released a film loosely based on his life starring James Stewart and Jean Hagen as his wife Maggie; Williams served as a technical advisor.
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