What is an M-1903 and Where does it Comes From ?
The 1903 adoption of the Springfield Bolt Action was preceded by nearly 30 years of struggle and politics, using lessons learned from the recently adopted US versions of the Krag-Jørgensen rifle and the German Mauser G-98 bolt-action rifles. The M-1903 not only replaced the various versions of the US Army’s Krag, but also the Lee M-1895 and M-1885 Remington-Lee used by the US Navy and the US Marine Corps, as well as all remaining single shot trap-door Springfield M-1873. While the Krag had been issued in both a long rifle and carbine, the Springfield was issued only as a short 24 in. barrel rifle in keeping with current trends in Germany and Great Britain to eliminate long rifle and carbines.
(Source : www.warrelics.eu)
Remington Keene Rifle Army .45-70 Manufactured by Remington Arms, Ilion, New York the RK Army Rifle had a walnut stock secured by two bands, magazine cut-off, blued barrel, 5-groove rifling, right hand twist, leaf rear sight. The front sight is on the upper band holding magazine to the barrel. Also to be noticed, 8-round tubular magazine. The muzzle velocity was 1275 fps, the weapon has an overall length of 52″, a barrel length of 32 1/2″ and weighed approximately 9 lbs. In 1880, the Keene Army Rifle cost $24.00 with angular bayonet, and $22.00 without it.
The Krag Jørgensen M-1894 (Norway) Cal. 6.5X57 was a repeating bolt action rifle designed by the Norwegians Ole Herman Johannes Krag and Erik Jørgensen in the late 19th century. It was adopted as a standard arm by Denmark, the United States of America and Norway.
(This rifle is from Armes de Collection in France and you can click the image to visit this website because this Rifle is for sale)
M-1885 Remington-Lee (also known as the M1885 Lee, and “Navy M1885”) is a bolt action, box magazine repeating rifle designed principally by James Paris Lee. It first appeared in 1879, manufactured by the Sharps Rifle Manufacturing Company. Eventually Remington took over production and produced the famous Model 1885 Remington Lee Navy Rifle in caliber .45-70. Arguably the most modern rifle in the world until the introduction of the 8mm smokeless powder using Lebel M-1886 rifle, the Lee utilized the first successful box magazine, unlike the Lebel which still used a tube magazine.
The G-98, Gewehr 98 (abbreviated G98 or Gew 98) is a German bolt action Mauser rifle firing the 8x57mm cartridge from a 5 round internal clip-loaded magazine that was the German service rifle from 1898 to 1935, when it was replaced by the Karabiner 98k. It was hence the main rifle of the German infantry during World War I. The Gewehr 98 replaced the earlier Gewehr 1888 rifle as the German service rifle.
The two main problems usually cited with the Krag were its slow-to-load magazine and its inability to handle higher chamber pressures for high-velocity rounds. The US Army attempted to introduce a higher-velocity cartridge in 1899 for the existing Krags, but its single locking lug on the bolt could not withstand the extra chamber pressure. Though a stripper-clip or charger loading modification to the Krag was designed, it was clear to Army authorities that a new rifle was required. After the US military’s experience on the receiving end of Mauser rifle fire in the 1898 Spanish American War, authorities decided to adopt a stronger Mauser-derived design equipped with a charger or stripper clip-loaded box magazine.
Bryant, Isaac Davis of L Company 159th Indiana Infantry during the Spanish-American War. He was born 18 January 1875 in Edwardsport, Knox county.
In 1882, the bolt action 6mm Lee rifle design of 1879, with its newly invented detachable box magazine, was purchased in limited numbers by the US Navy. Several hundred 1882 Lee Navy Models (M-1882 Remington-Lee) were also subjected to trials by the US Army during the 1880s, though the rifle was not formally adopted. The Navy adopted the Model 1885, and later different style Lee Model 1895 (a straight pull bolt), which saw service in the Boxer Rebellion. In Army service, both the 1885 and 1895 6mm Lee were used in the Spanish American War, along with the .30 Krag and the .45-70 Model 1873 Springfield. The Lee rifle’s detachable box magazine was invented by James Paris Lee, and would be very influential on later rifle designs. Other advancements had made it clear that the Army needed a replacement. In 1892, the US military held a series of rifle trials, resulting in the adoption of the .30 Krag-Jørgensen rifle. The Krag officially entered US service in 1894, only to be replaced nine years later by the Springfield M-1903.
The basic time line is that work began on creating a rifle that could handle higher loads and adopted some of Mauser’s features, began around the turn of the century by Springfield, with a prototype produced in 1900, and going into production in 1903, thus gaining its nomenclature. There was actually an interim rifle that almost entered production, the Model 1901. Springfield was sure enough that the Model 1901 would be accepted that they began making some parts, but it was not accepted and further changes were asked for. The design was further modified and accepted, type classified and entering production in 1903.
Sprinfield M-1901 Rimless .30 (36.06) Cal. Rifle.
The War Department had exhaustively studied and dissected several examples of the Spanish Mauser Model 93 rifle captured during the Spanish-American War, and applied some features of the US Krag rifle to a bolt and magazine system derived from the Mauser Model 93, to produce the new US Springfield Rifle, the Model 1903. Despite Springfield Armory’s use of a two-piece firing pin and other slight design alterations, the 1903 was in fact a Mauser design, and after that company brought suit, the US government was forced to pay royalties to Mauser Werke.
German Spanish Mauser Model 93
By January 1905 over 80,000 of these rifles had been produced at the federally-owned Springfield Armory. However, President Theodore Roosevelt objected to the design of the rod-type bayonet used as being too flimsy for combat. All the rifles to that point consequently had to be re-tooled for a blade-type bayonet, called the M-1905. A new improved Model 1904 sight was also added.
The retooling was almost complete when it was decided that another change would be made. It was to incorporate improvements discovered during experimentation in the interim, most notably the use of pointed ammunition, first adopted by the French in the 1890s and later other countries. The round itself was based on the .30-03, but rather than a 220-grain (14 g) round-tip bullet fired at 2,300 ft/s (701 m/s), it had a 150-grain (9.7 g) pointed bullet fired at 2,800 ft/s (853 m/s); the case neck was a fraction of an inch shorter as well.
L-R : Cal. 30-40 Krag, Cal. 30-03, Cal. 30.06, Cal. 7.92×57-J, Cal. 7.92×57-JS, Cal. 8×57-JR. (Photo Paul M. Alvarez – [Site] )
The new American cartridge was designated Cartridge, Ball, Caliber .30, Model of 1906″; this M-1906 cartridge is the famous .30-06 ammunition used in countless rifles and machine guns, and still among the world’s most popular civilian cartridges to the present day.
Cartridge, Ball, Caliber .30, Model of 1906 (30.06). Designed first in 1901, modified in September 1902 and again in February 1903, standardized in July 1903 as Cal. .30 Ball Cartridge Model 1936 (30-03), modified again in March 1906 and finally standardized as Cal. .3 Ball Cartridge Model 1906 (30-06) in October 1906. In 1926, an new bullet was created and the Cal. .30 Ball Cartridge M-1 was born.
The rifle’s sights were again re-tooled to compensate for the speed and trajectory of the new cartridge. As further testing revealed that the M-1906 cartridge was effective with a shorter, all-purpose barrel length of 24 inches (610 mm) in length, the decision was made to issue the Springfield with a 24″ barrel length to both cavalry and infantry forces, an idea already adopted by both the British and German armies.
By the time of US entry into World War I, 843,239 of these rifles had been produced at Springfield Armory and Rock Island Arsenal. Pre-war production utilized questionable metallurgy. Some receivers were improperly subjected to excessive temperatures during the forging process. The carbon could be burnt out of the steel producing a brittle receiver. Despite documented evidence indicating some early rifles were improperly forged, actual cases of failure were very rare. Although several cases of serious injury from receiver failure were documented, the US Army never reported any fatalities. Evidence also seems to suggest that improperly forged brass shell casings could have exacerbated receiver failure.
Towards the end of the war, Springfield turned out the M-1903 Mark I. The Mark I has a cut on the left hand side of the receiver meant to act as an ejection port for the Pedersen device, a specialized insert that replaced the bolt and allowed the user to fire .30 caliber pistol cartridges semi-automatically from a detachable magazine. The stock was also slightly cut down on the left side to clear the ejection port. In all other respects, the Mark I is identical to the 1903. Temperature control during forging was improved prior to Mark I production. The receiver alloy was toughened by addition of nickel after Mark I production.
Model 1903 Mark I bolt action rifle with the original Pedersen device. (Photo James D. Julia [ Website ] )
In 1926, after experiencing the effect of the long-range German 7.92 x 57mm Mauser and machine gun fire during the war, the US Army adopted the heavy 174-grain boat-tail bullet for its .30-06 cartridge, standardized as ‘Cartridge, Ball, caliber 30, M1’. The M-1 ammunition, intended primarily for long-range machine gun use, soon became known by Army rifle competition teams and expert riflemen for its considerably greater accuracy over that of the M-1906 round. The new M-1 ammunition was issued to infantrymen with the Springfield rifle as well as to machine gun teams. However, during the late 1930s, it became apparent that, with the development of mortars, high-angle artillery, and the .50 caliber M-2 Browning machine gun, the need for extreme long-range, rifle-caliber machine-gun fire was decreasing.
In 1938, the US army reverted to a .30-06 cartridge with a 152-grain flat-base bullet, now termed M-2 Ball, for all rifles and machine guns.
In service, the Springfield was generally prized for its reliability and accuracy, though some problems remained. The precision rear aperture sight was located too far from the eye for efficient use, and the narrow, unprotected front sight was both difficult to see in poor light and easily damaged. The US Marine Corps issued the Springfield with a sight hood to protect the front sight, along with a thicker front blade. The two-piece firing pin/striker also proved to be no improvement over the original one-piece Mauser design, and was a cause of numerous Ordnance repairs, along with occasional reports of jammed magazine followers.
World War II saw new production of the Springfield at private manufacturers Remington Arms and Smith-Corona Typewriter. Remington began production of the M-1903 in September 1941, at serial number 3,000,000, using old tooling from the Rock Island Arsenal which had been in storage since 1919. The very early rifles are almost indistinguishable from 1919 made Rock Island rifles. As the already worn tooling began to wear beyond use Remington began seeking Army approval for a continuously increasing number of changes and simplifications to both speed up manufacture and improve performance. The milled parts on the Remington M-1903 were gradually replaced with stamped parts until, at about serial number 3,330,000, the Army and Remington recognized that a new model name was appropriate. Other features of the M-1903, such as high-grade walnut stocks with finger grooves, were replaced with less expensive but serviceable substitutes. Most milled parts made by Remington, were marked with an “R”.
M-1903 production was discontinued in favor of the M-1903-A3. The most noticeable visual difference in the M1903A3 was the replacement of the barrel-mounted rear sight with a smaller, simpler aperture rear sight mounted on the rear of the receiver; it was primarily adopted in order to speed familiarization by soldiers already trained on the M-1 Garand, which had a similar sighting system. However, the leaf spring providing tension to the elevation adjustment on the new aperture sight tended to weaken with continued use over time, causing the rifle to lose its preset range elevation setting. Other modifications included a new stamped cartridge follower; ironically, the rounded edges of the new design largely alleviated the fourth-round jam complaints of the earlier machined part. All stock furniture was also redesigned in stamped metal.
In late 1942, Smith-Corona Typewriter Company also began production of the M-1903-A3 at its plant in Syracuse, NY. Smith/Corona parts are usually identified by the absence of markings (Smith-Corona bolts are sometimes marked with an “X” on top of the bolt handle root). To speed production output, two-groove rifled barrels were adopted, and steel alloy specifications were relaxed under War Emergency Steel criteria for both rifle actions and barrels. M-1903-A3 rifles with two-groove war emergency barrels were shipped with a printed notation stating that the reduction in rifling grooves did not affect accuracy. As the war progressed, various machining and finishing operations were eliminated on the M-1903-A3 in order to increase production levels.
Original production rifles at Remington and Smith-Corona had a dark gray-black finish similar to the Parkerizing of late World War I. Beginning in late 1943 a lighter gray-green Parkerizing finish was used. This later finish was also used on arsenal repaired weapons. It is somewhat unusual to find a World War I or early World War II M-1903 with its original dated barrel. Much, if not all, World War II .30-06 ammunition used a corrosive primer which left corrosive salts in the barrel. If not removed by frequent and proper barrel cleaning these residues could cause pitting and excessive wear. In the jungle fighting on various Pacific islands cleaning was sometimes lax and the excessive moisture compounded the corrosive action of the residue. The M-1903 and the M-1903-A3 rifle were used in combat alongside the M-1 Garand by the US military during World War II and saw extensive use and action in the hands of US troops in Europe, North Africa, and the Pacific. The US Marines were initially armed with M-1903 rifles in early battles in the Pacific, such as the Battle of Guadalcanal, but the jungle battle environment generally favored self-loading rifles. Later Army units arriving to the island were armed with the M-1 Garand. The US Army Rangers were also a major user of the M-1903 and the M-1903-A3 during World War II with the Springfield being preferred over the M-1 Garand for certain commando missions.
According to Bruce Canfield’s encyclopedic US Infantry Weapons of WW II, final variants of the M-1903 (the A3 and A4) were delivered in February 1944. By then, most American combat troops had been re-equipped with the M-1 Garand. However, some front-line infantry units in both the US Army and Marine Corps retained M-1903s beyond that date. The Springfield remained in service for snipers (using the M-1903-A4), grenadiers (using a spigot type rifle 22 mm grenade launcher) and Marine Scout Sniper units.
The M-1903-A4 was the US Army’s first attempt at a standardized sniper weapon. M-1903-A3 actions were fitted with a different stock and a Weaver Model 330 or 330C 2.2x telescopic sight in Redfield Jr. mounts; the front and rear iron sights were removed. Barrel specifications were unchanged, and many M-1903-A4s were equipped with the two-groove war emergency barrel. By all accounts, the M-1903-A4 was inadequate as a sniper rifle. The M-1903-A4 could only be singly loaded, one cartridge at a time, due to the mounting of the telescopic sight directly over the action (preventing charging the magazine with 5-round stripper clips).
More important, the Weaver scopes (later standardized as the M-73 and M73B1) were not only low-powered in magnification, they were not waterproofed, and frequently fogged over or became waterlogged during humidity changes. When this occurred, the M-1903-A4’s lack of open front or rear sights rendered the weapon useless. Normally used with ordinary M-2 ammunition with a 152-grain flat-base bullet, accuracy of the M-1903-A4 was generally disappointing; some Army snipers who came across Japanese or German sniper rifles quickly adopted the enemy weapons in place of the Springfield. The Marine Corps declined to issue the M-1903-A4, favoring instead a modified M-1903-A1 rifle fitted with a Unertl 8x target-type telescopic sight.
The US Army Military Police (MP) and the US Navy Shore Patrol also used M-1903s and M-1903-A3s throughout the war. Various US allies and friendly irregular forces were also equipped with the weapon. The 1st Brazilian Infantry Division, operating in the 5th Army in Italy was equipped with Springfield M-1903 rifles.
In August 1943, the Free French Forces of General Charles de Gaulle were re-equipped by the United States primarily with Springfield M-1903 and M-1917 Enfield rifles. The M-1903 became one of the primary rifles used by French forces until the end of the war, and was afterwards used by local militia and security forces in Indochina and French Algeria.
US MODEL 1903 RIFLE SERIAL NUMBER RANGES
Rock Island Arsenal
0000001 – 0016000 – 1903
0016001 – 0067000 – 1904
0067001 – 0119000 – 1905
0119001 – 0269450 – 1906
0269451 – 0337861 – 1907
0337862 – 0358084 – 1908
0358085 – 0398275 – 1909
0398276 – 0456375 – 1910
0456376 – 0502045 – 1911
0502046 – 0531520 – 1912
0531521 – 0570560 – 1913
0570561 – 0595600 – 1914
0595601 – 0620120 – 1915
0620121 – 0632825 – 1916
0632826 – 0761757 – 1917
0761758 – 1055091 – 1918
1055092 – 1162500 – 1919
1162501 – 1211299 – 1920
1211300 – 1239640 – 1921
1239641 – 1252386 – 1922
1252387 – 1261486 – 1923
1261487 – 1267100 – 1924
1267101 – 1270300 – 1925
1270301 – 1274764 – 1926
1274765 – 1285265 – 1927
1285266 – 1305900 – 1928
1305901 – 1338405 – 1929
1338406 – 1369760 – 1930
1369761 – 1404025 – 1931
1404026 – 1425933 – 1932
1425934 – 1441811 – 1933
1441812 – 1491531 – 1934
1491532 – 1496022 – 1935
0000000 – 0000000 – 1936
1496023 – 1510387 – 1937
1510388 – 1532878 – 1938-1939
Total Producation – 1340000
0800000 and up Improved Heat Treatment
1275767 and up Introduction Nickel Steel
Rock Island Arsenal
000001 – 007500 – 1903
007501 – 016000 – 1904
016001 – 028000 – 1905
028001 – 075000 – 1906
075001 – 130000 – 1907
130001 – 165000 – 1908
165001 – 178000 – 1909
178001 – 201000 – 1910
201001 – 210634 – 1911
210635 – 217801 – 1912
217802 – 234830 – 1913
000000 – 000000 – 1914
000000 – 000000 – 1915
000000 – 000000 – 1916
234831 – 257061 – 1917
257062 – 326935 – 1918
326936 – 348414 – 1919
Total Production – 346000
285507 and up Improved Heat Treatment
319921 and up Introduction Nickel Steel
3000001 – 3348085 (M-1903) – 1941
3348086 – 3607999 (M-1903-A3) – 1941
3708000 – 4707999 (M-1903-A3) – 1942
4992000 – 5784000 (M-1903-A3) – 1942
3407088 – 3427087 (M-1903-A4) – 1943
4992001 – 4997045 (M-1903-A4) – 1943
Z-4000000 – Z-4002920 (M-1903-A4) – 1943
Total Production – 1084079
3608000 – 3707999 – 1943
4708000 – 4992000 – 1944
Total Production – 234000
3407088 – 3427087 – on 18 January 1943 Remington directed to divert from production 20000 M-1903-A3 rifles for conversion to the US Rifle M-1903-A4 (Sniper’s). Rifles #3407088‑3427087 (from the first “block” of numbers) were diverted, and the first “03‑A3” converted was delivered in February 1943.
4922001 – 5784000 – on 20 June 1943 an additional 8,365 M-1909-A4 rifles were ordered. “Block” for these rifles and possible future orders were 4922001‑5784000. After this block had been used to 4997045, receiver marking was changed to “03‑A4” and a new series of numbers begun with Z4000000. The second “block” of “03‑A3” numbers was used only to about 4168800 before cancellation of contract ended “03‑A3” production 28 February 1944.
In March 1944, with receiver Z4002290, production of the M-1903-A4 was ended. Total production was 1,056,276 rifles, which included about 345,000 M-1903 and M-1903 (modified), about 711,276 M-1903-A3, and just 26,653 M-1903-A4 (short of the 28,365 ordered)