M1903 Springfield Rifle

The U.S. Model 1903 and 1903A3 Springfield rifles are the greatest of all U.S. military issue bolt action rifles. The Springfield was originally fielded in the first decade of the 20th century and continues to be used today as ceremonial rifles.

Parade Ground Training with M-1903 Rifles at Steward's Mates School, Naval Air Station, Seattle, WA, 26 April 1944
Parade Ground Training with M-1903 Rifles at Steward's Mates School, Naval Air Station, Seattle, WA, 26 April 1944.

Today in WW II: 18 Jan 1942 German-Japanese-Italian military alliance and cooperation agreement signed in Berlin.  More 
18 Jan 1942 US Marines arrive at Pago Pago, American Samoa, supported by aircraft from the USS Enterprise.
18 Jan 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising against Germans captors begins [18 Jan-16 May].
18 Jan 1943 Red Army takes German fortifications south of Lake Ladoga [Operation Spark], opening a corridor to Leningrad, partially lifting the siege.
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M1903 Springfield Rifle History

During the Spanish-American War of 1898, it was recognized that the Spanish Mauser, Model of 1893, exhibited characteristics superior to the "trapdoor" Springfield and Krag rifles carried by the United States troops. The Mauser was superior from the standpoint of rapidity of loading and the ammunition it fired.

U.S. Rifle, Cal. .30, M1903 (top) and M1903A3
U.S. Rifle, Cal. .30, M1903 (top) and M1903A3.

On August 15, 1900, Springfield Armory completed an experimental magazine rifle which they believed to be an improvement over the Krag. They fashioned a clip loading magazine rifle in which the cartridges were contained within the stock, preventing damage to an otherwise exposed magazine. The M1903 Springfield was the first US Army rifle to use stripper clips, which held five rounds together for easy loading. The full story on the .30-06 cartridge, developed for the Springfield but which became the Army's standard round for many firearms, is on the linked Olive-Drab.com page.

Rifle production was suspended in January 1905, after the Secretary of War received a letter from President Theodore Roosevelt criticizing the rod bayonet as being too delicate for combat. Subsequently the rod bayonet was abandoned in favor of the "Model 1905 Knife Bayonet."

Firing U.S. Rifle, Cal. .30, M1903 in sitting position, from 1932 US Army Training Film, Ft. Dupont, DE, provided courtesy of Phil Nohl
Firing U.S. Rifle, Cal. .30, M1903 in sitting position, from 1932 US Army Training Film, Ft. Dupont, DE, provided courtesy of Phil Nohl.

By the time the United States entered World War I, approximately 843,239 standard service Model 1903 rifles had been manufactured. However this was insufficient to arm U.S.troops for an undertaking of the magnitude of World War I. During WW I, Springfield Armory produced over 265,620 Model 1903 rifles but the primary rifle of that war was the M1917 Enfield. During World War II, Remington Arms and Smith-Corona produced M1903 rifles. Production improvements for the war were recognized by a change in the rifle designation to M1903A3. Many milled parts were replaced by stampings and a less expensive stock was substituted. The rear sight was moved from the barrel to the receiver and changed to a peep sight (see photo above).

National Match and Sniper Use of the M1903 Springfield Rifle

During the 1920s and 1930s, the .30-caliber M1903 Springfield rifle served as the principle military service match rifle. In 1908, the M1903 became the official National Match (NM) rifle. By 1910, select rifles were test-fired and their barrels star-gauged for accuracy. In 1929, the NM rifle was modified with a Type-C stock in place of the non-pistol grip Type-S or "straight stock." In this new form, the NM rifle was designated as the M1903A1 National Match.

There are two models of the M1903 Springfield that were specially developed for use by combat snipers, each with its own Olive-Drab page:

Replacement of the M1903 Springfield Rifle

Officially, the M1903 was rendered obsolete upon adoption of the M1 Garand in 1936. However, US Army expansion for World War II outstripped production so the Springfield remained in service. In the Pacific Theater, it was used to equip the Marine Corps as they waited for M1's. In the Army, one per Rifle Squad was standard for antitank grenade use. The sniper version of the Springfield performed extremely well and consequently had long service, used even in Vietnam. Other Springfields remained in other roles including, up to the present, as a ceremonial rifle.

M1903 Springfield Rifle Bayonets

The M1903 Springfield originally had a rod bayonet, replaced by the M-1905 bayonet in 1905. Later some Springfields used the shorter M-1 bayonet, designed for the M-1 Garand but which will fit the Springfield.

Recommended Books about the M1903 Springfield Rifle

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