The 5 Worst Military Weapons Ever Issued

We all like to trust our military forces to choose the right gun for the job. We expect the military to have some expertise in weaponry and to be able to pick a rifle, handgun, machine gun, or whatever is appropriate for a military force. Well, sometimes that just doesn’t happen. In fact, sometimes it fails hard enough to be absolutely legendary in its failure. Today we are looking at some of those legendary failures throughout the world with the five worst military weapons ever issued.

1. Nambu Type 94

So there you were, Imperial Japan, and you found yourself facing the sleeping dragon that was the United States. As Marines pursue and punish your forces, you are feeling some kind of way. You aren’t quite confident in your own weaponry, and guns like the Nambu Type 94 are an excellent example of why you don’t have much confidence in your weaponry. 

Type 94
The Type 94 was an accidental discharge machine. (The Armory Life)

The Type 94 is a magazine fed, 8mm Nambu pistol that feeds from a six-round detachable magazine. The cartridge is anemic, and the gun uses a simple blowback action. Taking it apart to clean is needlessly complicated for a blowback pistol. The biggest problem is the external sear bar on the side of the pistol. 

If depressed, the gun can fire without a pull of the trigger. It’s one of the few guns where the term accidental discharge applies. Lord forbid you drop the gun or bump it too hard with the safety off. Luckily the 8mm Nambu cartridge isn’t known for being a man-stopper. 

2. L85 Rifle 

You’d have thought the Brits invented the bullpup concept by how hard they’ve pushed for it over the years. Even before the L1A1, they were pushing a bizarre but seemingly sound EM-2 rifle. Finally, they got their way, and in 1985 the Brits got their bullpup in the form of the SA-80 family and the L85 rifle. This rifle was a short-stroke gas piston design that fired 5.56 and was rather interesting looking. 

L85 rifle
It took HK to refine and fix the disaster that was the L85.

If you had to simplify the design, you’d say it was an AR-18 converted to a bullpup. While the Brits got their bullpup, it’s not been a very good rifle. The problems began almost immediately. The plastic furniture melted when it contacted insect repellant, which says a lot about British bugs. The metal rusted quickly inside and out of the gun. 

The gun was stamped, which was a first for RSAF. The rifle was unreliable and easily damaged. Soldiers accidentally dropped magazines due to crappy ergonomic design. The problems went on and on. In fact, it was so bad the magazines would deform if grabbed too tightly. The L85 was just a mess, and it took HK to come in and fix it to get any rifle worth salvaging. 

3. Chauchat 

World War 1 proved that automatic weapons were an absolute necessity on the modern battlefield, from the Vickers gun to submachine guns. The Chauchat was part of a short-lived genre of weapons known as machine rifles. These were used in the light machine gun role and provided a man-portable, full auto option for troopers storming trenches. The weapon used a detachable magazine, a bipod, and long recoil operation with a gas assist. 

Chauchat machine rifle - worst military weapons
The Chauchat Machine Rifle was a disaster. (Minnesota Historical Society)

This French design had some flaws, the main one being the open magazine design. Whoever thought the open magazine design was a good idea for muddy trench warfare deserved to be bonked. It allowed mud, dirt, and grit to be introduced into the weapon, which caused handfuls of problems. Overheating was common and occurred within about 120 rounds. 

This overheating would cause the barrel sleeve assembly to lock in place and stop firing until the gun cooled off. Sadly, by the time enclosed magazines came into action, the war was nearly over. The Chauchat has the excuse of being an early fielded machine rifle, but it still sucked pretty hard. 

4. Sten Gun 

The Sten gun was both a widely used weapon and a rather terrible one. After World War 1, everyone agreed submachine guns were pretty valuable, well, everyone except the British forces. They waited til the wolf was at the door and began to try and buy all the Thompsons they could. When they couldn’t get enough, they made the Sten gun. 

Sten gun with soldier - worst military weapons
The Sten gun was crazy cheap and quite dangerous.

The Sten was a mass-produced, cheaply made, open bolt, fixed firing pin, full-auto-only submachine gun made from stamped steel. They were the guns the Brits needed, but they had some serious problems. They required constant maintenance, and a dirty chamber could cause failures to fire. 

The cheapness of the weapon made accidental discharges an all too frequent occurrence. These were far from drop-safe and certainly weren’t impact-safe. Sadly the Sten gun claimed the lives of British soldiers when their comrade’s firearm discharged accidentally. Over time the design got better, but the original Stens had some serious issues. 

5. INSAS Rifle 

India was using a hodgepodge of rifles with a focus on British rifles like the Lee-Enfields and FN FAL rifles. In the 1980s, India understandably wanted to modernize, and at the same time, they wanted a domestically produced platform. This became the INSAS which became an absolute disaster for the Indian military. 

Insas rifle - worst military weapons
The Indian INSAS rifle was a disaster.

This 5.56 caliber intermediate assault rifle first met failure in an undeclared war known as the Kargil War. The conflict was fought in the Himalayans, where temperatures sank below 0°. The rifle encountered nothing but problems, including jams, cracking magazines, and routine bouts of unwanted full auto fire. Oh, and sometimes the gun squirted oil into the user’s face.

The Nepalese Army also purchased these rifles and had major issues leading to the death of 43 soldiers. The INSAS was a huge controversy, and the Indian Army held out for far too long on replacing it. They’ve since decided to utilize Russian-made AK-203 rifles in 7.62x39mm.

Just the Worst 

There are many other guns that could make this list. The M50 Reising and even the M14 had a slot here. There was the Colt Walker, which had a number of issues when first produced. However, I aimed to cover the weapons that were issued en mass and became standard firearms in a military force. These guns occasionally got better and even useable, but they were never the pinnacle of design.

Are there any other examples of military weapons that were just terrible? If so, share below! 

Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine Gunner and a lifelong firearms enthusiast. Now that his days of working a 240B like Charlie Parker on the sax are over he's a regular guy who likes to shoot, write, and find ways to combine the two. He holds an NRA certification as a Basic Pistol Instructor and is probably most likely the world's Okayest firearm instructor. He is a simplicisist when it comes to talking about himself in the 3rd person and a self-professed tactical hipster. Hit him up on Instagram, @travis.l.pike, with story ideas.

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