Williams, David Marshal (Carbine Williams) – Gun Maker

David Marshal “Carbine” Williams

A North Carolinian, universally known as “Carbine”, was born in 1900, Marsh Williams. Declining higher education and in 1921, he chose to operate a whiskey still around the Godwin area in the lowlands near Fayetteville, NC. Deputy Sheriff Al Pate led a raid on Williams’ still and was slain during the gun battle that raged at the still. Williams was tried and the jury was hung. He was tried a second time and was sentenced to 30 years of hard labor and to wear a felon’s stripes. The State took his citizenship so he could be hunted “Dead or Alive”.

Marsh was not a model prisoner. His conduct called for punishment and he was ordered by Captain H. T. Peoples to remain in solitary confined in a metal box in the middle of a field in the boiling sun until he apologized to the warden. He refused and remained there for longer than any man had ever survived. He was on bread and water, lost over 80 pounds and he was finally ordered to be released by the chaplain.

While in this box, to retain his sanity, he mentally assembled, disassembled and mentally fired guns that he had owned. In his mind he saw, in color, the explosion of the cartridges and the gases created. He devised an idea in his mind to use this wasted energy to operate the mechanism of pistols and rifles using a smaller and cheaper cartridge. This invention saved the U.S. Government $50,000 in its first year of use and completely revolutionized automatic weapons. He converted the .30 cal machine gun to a .22 cal and the Colt .45 cal automatic to .22 cal.

Once he recovered and while still a prisoner, he worked in the machine shop of the prison. He collected old ball bearings, truck springs, a Fordson tractor axle and a wooden fence post. He also made most of his tools and built a rifle that looked like a guard’s rifle (which he was allowed to clean) but included his now world famous “floating chamber”. He was caught making this gun but the very warden that put him in solitary realized Marsh had found his place in life. He was not trying to use it to escape, but that he was a genius. The warden convinced the prison board to let Marsh complete his project and test it. He subsequently built three rifles in prison.

He was, after “ten Christmases”, granted a full pardon by the Governor and went on to invent, make, and patent some 59 weapons for Colt, Winchester and Remington. While he was most famous for the .30 cal M-1 Army carbine he made a remarkable machine gun that fired a sustained rate of fire of 2,000 rounds a minute.

A movie was made about his life. Jimmy Stewart played “Carbine” Williams and Wendell Cory played warden Capt. H. T. Peoples.

He is recognized as not only one of the world’s greatest weapons inventors, but also was one of the few great inventors that physically made the guns he had invented. He was proud to be known as a “gun maker”.

Ross E. Beard, Jr.

Biographer to “Carbine” Williams

Colonel, SC Military Dept – Joint Services Detachment

Camden, SC

Information courtesy of Charlton Hall, March 2010.

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