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M1903 Springfield

Springfield M1903
Type Bolt-action rifle
Place of origin United States
Service history
In service 1903 (1903)-1974 (1974)
(still used in U.S. Marine shooting matches)
Production history
Designer Springfield Armory
Designed 1903 (1903)
Produced 1907 (1907)-1949 (1949)
Number built 1,300,000+
Variants See Variants
Weight 3.94 kg (8.7 lb)
Length 1,097 mm (43.2 in)
Barrel length 610 mm (24 in)

Cartridge .30-03; .30-06 Springfield
Action Bolt action
Rate of fire 10-15 rounds/min
Muzzle velocity 854 metres per second (2,800 ft/s)
Effective firing range 914 metres (2,999 ft)
Maximum firing range 5,029 metres (5,500 yd) with .30 M1 Ball cartridge
Feed system 5-round stripper clip, 25-round (Air Service variant) internal box magazine
Sights Flip-up rear sight graduated to 2,500 metres (2,700 yd), barleycorn-type front sight
M1903A3: Aperture rear sight, barleycorn-type front sight
Blade type Bayonet
M1903 Springfield with loading clips

The M1903 Springfield, formally the United States Rifle, Caliber .30-06, Model 1903, is an American clip-loaded, 5-round magazine fed, bolt-action service rifle used primarily during the first half of the 20th century.

It was officially adopted as a United States military bolt-action rifle on June 19, 1903, and saw service in World War I. It was officially replaced as the standard infantry rifle by the faster-firing semi-automatic 8-round M1 Garand starting in 1937. However, the M1903 Springfield remained in service as a standard issue infantry rifle during World War II, since the U.S. entered the war without sufficient M1 rifles to arm all troops. It also remained in service as a sniper rifle during World War II, the Korean War, and even in the early stages of the Vietnam War. It remains popular as a civilian firearm, historical collector's piece, and as a military drill rifle.


  • History 1
    • Background 1.1
    • Advances in small arms technology 1.2
    • Adoption 1.3
    • World War I and interwar use 1.4
    • World War II 1.5
    • Post Korean War Service 1.6
    • Today 1.7
  • Specifications 2
  • Variants 3
    • "Bannerman Springfields" 3.1
  • In popular culture 4
  • See also 5
  • Notes 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8



The 1903 adoption of the M1903 was preceded by nearly 30 years of struggle and politics, using lessons learned from the recently adopted U.S. versions of the Krag–Jørgensen rifle and contemporary German Mauser G98 bolt-action rifles. The M1903 not only replaced the various versions of the U.S. Army's Krag, but also the Lee Model 1895 and M1885 Remington-Lee used by the United States Navy and the United States Marine Corps, as well as all remaining single-shot trap-door Springfield Model 1873s. 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 Switzerland and Great Britain to eliminate the need for both long rifles and carbines.[1]

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 United States 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 U.S. military's experience with the Mauser rifle 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.

Advances in small arms technology

In 1882, the bolt action .45 Remington Lee rifle design of 1879, with its newly invented detachable box magazine, was purchased in limited numbers by the U.S. Navy. Several hundred 1882 Lee Navy Models (M1882 Remington-Lee) were also subjected to trials by the U.S. 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 6mm 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 U.S. military held a series of rifle trials, resulting in the adoption of the .30 Krag–Jørgensen rifle. The Krag officially entered U.S. service in 1894, only to be replaced nine years later by the Springfield M1903.


Springfield began work on creating a rifle that could handle higher loads around the turn of the 20th century, and adopted some of Mauser's features. A prototype was produced in 1900, and the rifle went 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. The M1903 became commonly known among its users as the "ought-three" in reference to the year '03 of first production.

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 U.S. Krag rifle to a bolt and magazine system derived from the Mauser Model 93, to produce the new U.S. 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 U.S. government was judged to pay $250,000 in royalties to Mauser Werke.[2]

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 sliding rod-type bayonet used as being too flimsy for combat. In a letter to the Secretary of War, he said:

"I must say that I think that ramrod bayonet is about as poor an invention as I ever saw. As you observed, it broke short off as soon as hit with even moderate violence. It would have no moral effect and mighty little physical effect."[3]

All the rifles to that point consequently had to be re-tooled for a blade-type bayonet, called the M1905. The sights were also an area of concern, so the new improved Model 1904 sight was also added.[4][5]

The retooling was almost complete when it was decided 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 (700 m/s), it had a 150-grain (9.7 g) pointed bullet fired at 2,800 ft/s (850 m/s); the case neck was a fraction of an inch shorter as well. The new American cartridge was designated "Cartridge, Ball, Caliber .30, Model of 1906". The M1906 cartridge is better known as the .30-06 round used in many rifles and machine guns, and is still a popular civilian cartridge to the present day. 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 M1906 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-inch barrel length to both cavalry and infantry forces, an idea already adopted by both the British and German armies.[4]

World War I and interwar use

US Marines with M1903 rifles and bayonets in France (1918)
An Elder-type periscope stock fitted to an M1903 (1918). Designed for Trench warfare, this enabled the shooter to fire over the parapet of a trench while remaining under cover and protected; the rifle is also fitted with a 25-round magazine.[6]

By the time of U.S. entry into

  • M1903 Air Service variant
  • article on the M1903
  • Springfield M1903 at Modern Firearms
  • FM 23-10 Basic Field Manual: U.S. Rifle Caliber .30, M1903, 20 September 1943
  • (1943) TM 9-270 U.S. Rifle, Cal. .30, M1903A4 (Sniper's) Characteristics and Operation and Use of Telescopic Sight
  • 90th Infantry Division Preservation Group - Reference manual page including several M1903 manuals
  • The Pacific War 5: Chinese Infantry Weapons
  • Account of Theodore Roosevelt's Safari: Springfield

External links

  • Ball, Robert W. D., Springfield Armory Shoulder Weapons 1795-1968. Norfolk, VA: Antique Trader Books, 1997. ISBN 0-930-62574-9 OCLC 39273050
  • Canfield, Bruce N. (February 2008). ""Low Number" M1903 Springfields". American Rifleman. 
  • Engineer Field Manual, War Department, Document No. 355, 1909.
  • Manual for Noncommissioned Officers and Privates of Infantry of The Army of the United States, War Department, Document No. 574, 1917.
  • "Bushmaster '03 Carbine," American Rifle magazine, April 2005, p. 40.
  • U.S. Infantry Weapons of World War II. Bruce N. Canfield, Andrew Mowbray Publishers, 1994.


  1. ^ Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopedia Britannica: A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, Literature and General Information, Volumes 23-24 (11 ed.). University Press. p. 328. Retrieved 21 April 2015. 
  2. ^ Sheehan, John (1 October 2006). "Battlefield tack driver: the model 1903 Springfield in WWI". Guns Magazine (The Free Library). Retrieved 22 April 2015. 
  3. ^ Kontis, George (24 August 2011). "Are We Forever Stuck with the Bayonet?". Small Arms Defense Journal. Retrieved 22 April 2015. 
  4. ^ a b c Canfield, Bruce N. (2003). "100 Years Of The '03 Springfield".  
  5. ^ Canfield, Bruce N. (2006). "From Poor Invention To America's Best".  
  6. ^ "Bayonet" (Digital). Handbook of Ordnance Data (U.S. Government Printing Office): 332. 15 November 1918.  
  7. ^ Canfield, February 2008, p. 13
  8. ^ a b Canfield, Bruce N. (2004). "U.S. M1903A1 Rifles".  
  9. ^ Lyon, Joseph: Some Observations On The Failure Of U.S. Model 1903 Rifle Receivers (
  10. ^ a b Barnes, Frank C., Cartridges of the World, 6th ed., DBI Books Inc. (1989), p. 59
  11. ^ Dunlap, Roy (1948). "Rifles". Ordnance Went Up Front: some observations and experiences of a sergeant of Ordnance, who served throughout World War II with the United States Army in Egypt, the Philippines and Japan, including way stations (Plantersville, S.C.: Small-Arms Technical Publishing Company).  
  12. ^ Vanderpool, Bill "Bring Enough Gun" American Rifleman October 2013 pp.80-85&115-116
  13. ^ a b c d e Dunlap, Roy, Ordnance Went Up Front, Samworth Press (1948), p. 302
  14. ^ a b c Canfield, Bruce N. (2015). "Wartime Remington M1903s?".  
  15. ^ Brophy, William, The Springfield 1903 Rifles, Stackpole Books (1985), p. 187
  16. ^ Dunlap, Roy, Ordnance Went Up Front, Samworth Press (1948), p. 362
  17. ^ a b Dunlap, Roy, Ordnance Went Up Front, Samworth Press (1948), p. 301
  18. ^ Bishop, Chris (1998), The Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II, New York: Orbis Publiishing Ltd,  .
  19. ^ George, John (Lt Col), Shots Fired In Anger, NRA Press (1981), p. 391: "Nearly every one [Marine] I talked to [on Guadalcanal] who used the Springfield in combat-without a scope-would have much rather been using a Garand."
  20. ^ George, John (Lt Col), Shots Fired In Anger, NRA Press (1981), p. 391
  21. ^ George, John (Lt. Col.), Shots Fired In Anger, NRA Press (1981), p. 392
  22. ^ a b George, John (Lt. Col.), Shots Fired In Anger, NRA Press (1981), p. 392-393
  23. ^ Dunlap, Roy, Ordnance Went Up Front, Samworth Press (1948), p. 303
  24. ^ George, John (Lt. Col.), Shots Fired In Anger, NRA Press (1981), p. 296-299
  25. ^
  26. ^ Canfield, Bruce N. American Rifleman (September 2008) pp.72-75
  27. ^ Norell, James O.E. (2003). "U.S. M1903A1 Rifles".  
  28. ^ Canfield, Bruce N. (2007). "U.S. M1903A1 Rifles".  
  29. ^ Ian D. Skennerton, The Lee Enfield: A Century of Lee-Metford & Lee-Enfield Rifles & Carbines, Arms & Militaria Press 2007, ISBN 978-0-949749-82-6 (p.162)
  30. ^ , Cope & Fenwick, London 1920 (p.17)The National Guard in the Great War, 1914-1918A E Manning-Foster,


See also

Ernest Hemingway used this rifle, with iron sights, to take all his big game, including lions, on his first African safari in 1933. That safari is the subject of Green Hills of Africa, published in 1935.

The M1903 features heavily in Part 1 of the television miniseries The Pacific, seen in the hands of men of the 1st Marines taking part in the Guadalcanal Campaign.

An M1903 fitted with a scope was used by Daniel Jackson (Barry Pepper) in the movie Saving Private Ryan, and has appeared in other movies, such as The Sand Pebbles, as well. In the game Sniper Elite and its sequel, Karl Fairburne, the protagonist of the series, was issued with a Springfield M1903A4. In the Treyarch video game, Call of Duty: World at War, the Springfield is the main sniper rifle used by US forces in the campaign, and the first available sniper rifle in multiplayer. Also; the Ubisoft game, Far Cry 2, features this rifle with a telescopic sight as a sniper weapon, however inaccurately with the bolt on the left hand side and the rounds loaded in a stripper clip through a hole in the bottom of the rifle. The Birdseye Sniper Rifle in Bioshock Infinite also appears to be based on an early-production M1903, although it differs slightly in appearance.

The movie SERGEANT YORK features Gary Cooper, as York, demonstrating his considerable skills as a marksman using the M1903. Cooper was adept at firearms use, and his handling of the weapon was thoroughly competent throughout the sequence.

The Springfield is the rifle that Francis Macomber uses in Ernest Hemingway's "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber". It is also used by the young Rudy Waltz in Kurt Vonnegut's Deadeye Dick. It figures prominently in From Here to Eternity by James Jones as soldiers drill and train with it, and fire it at Japanese aircraft on December 7, 1941. Sam Damon, the hero of Anton Myrer's war novel Once an Eagle (1968) used one in the beginning of his military career in World War I and later on in the Pacific theater in World War II as well. The Springfield is prominently featured in the first half of Leon Uris's novel, Battle Cry. His characters are issued M1903s at United States Marine Corps boot camp, train and qualify with them, and carry them until ordered to turn them in to be replaced by the infamous M50 Reising submachine gun.

In popular culture

At the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the Scottish-born military surplus magnate, Francis Bannerman VI (1851-1918), assembled 1,000 M1903 rifles from surplus parts which were rebored to accept British .303 ammunition. These he presented to the British Army together with the associated bayonets, pouches and webbing, as a patriotic gesture. Unfortunately, the conversion was not a success and it was found that the rimmed .303 cartridge would not feed properly from the magazine.[29] The rifles were stamped "DP", ie fit for "drill purposes" only, and presented to the City of London Volunteer Training Corps who were otherwise without any weapons.[30]

"Bannerman Springfields"

In regard to its military use, it is important to note that during World War I it was actually outnumbered by the M1917 Enfield for much of the war. Also, during World War II many remained in use early on, especially in the Pacific (generally replaced as M1s became available), in addition to service (along with other weapons) as a sniper rifle and to launch rifle grenades.

There are two main other types, various training types, and competition versions such as the National Match types. Aside from these there are some other civilian versions, experimental versions, and other miscellaneous types. Due to the duration of its service, there is also a range of smaller differences among ones from different periods and manufacturers.

  • M1903 (1903)— developed for the .30-03 (also known as the .30-45) cartridge. Used original Type S stock.
    • M1903 Bullpup (1903)— experimental bullpup conversion for the USMC.[25]
    • M1903 (1905)— changed from a rod type bayonet to the knife type Model 1905 bayonet and to the improved Model 1905 sight.
    • M1903 (1906)— modified again to specifically fire the new M1906 .30-06 cartridge ("Ball Cartridge, caliber 30, Model of 1906").
    • M1903 NRA (1915–1917)— sold to National Rifle Association members and stamped NRA on the forward tang of the trigger guard.[26]
    • M1903 Air Service (1918)— issued to aircrew with permanent 25-round magazine and modified Type S stock forend.
    • M1903 Mark I (1918–1920)— modified for specific use with the Pedersen device.
    • M1903 NM (1921–1940)— selected rifles produced at Springfield Armory for National Match shooting competition. Production barrels were measured with star-gauges, and those meeting specified tolerances were stamped with an asterisk shaped star on the muzzle crown. These barrels were fitted to selected receivers with hand-fitted and polished parts. The bolt was left unblued while the receiver and barrel were finished with a black Parkerizing process. Some bolts have the safety direction reversed to prevent it from striking the nose of a right-handed shooter, and those made from 1924 to 1929 have the knurled cocking piece removed to decrease lock time. Early rifles used the type S stock until the type C stock became standard in 1929. Rifles made for sale to NRA members (priced at $40.44) were drilled and tapped for a Lyman 48 receiver sight and had either a type B (or NB) stock with no grasping grooves and a noticeable drop at the heel for a long pistol grip, or a special National Match stock with a high comb and pistol grip. Total production was 28,907. Most were issued to service teams and 25,377 were reconditioned at Springfield armory after one year of match use. Reconditioned rifles have a large gas-escape port drilled into the left side of the receiver.[27]
    • M1903 Bushmaster carbine (1940s)— the barrel and stock were cut down 18 inches (460 mm) for easier use in Panama; 4,725 such rifles were made. It was a training rifle and saw no action. After World War II most were dumped into the ocean and surviving pieces are rare.
    • M1903 with 'scant' stock (1942)— in late 1941, before the 1903A3 was standardized, Army Ordnance wanted to standardize on a pistol-grip stock for all M1903 rifles. There were thousands of stock blanks that had been sized for the old straight stock. They weren't deep enough for the full pistol grip of the Type C stock, so they were modified to allow a "scant" grip that was the largest grip they could form. These "scant" stocks would only fit on a 1903, and would not fit an 03A3. Springfield only rebuilt existing M1903 rifles using this stock in 1942 and marked the cut-off seat with a small "s."
  • M1903A1 (1929–1939)— changed from a straight stock to a pistol grip type stock (Type C stock). The pistol grip stock was conducive to improved marksmanship and was fitted to National Match rifles until World War II. Pistol grip stocks became standard for later M1903 production and were subsequently fitted to older rifles. The Army considered any rifle with a pistol grip stock an M1903A1, but M1903 receiver markings were unchanged.[28]
  • M1903A2 (1930s–1940s)— basically a stripped A1 or A3 used as a subcaliber rifle with artillery pieces.
  • M1903A3 (1942–1944)— modified for easier production with stamped metal parts and somewhat different grip and stock (late model Type S stock; no finger grooves).
    • M1903 (Modified) (1941–1942)— Transition production of M1903 rifles by Remington Arms until the M1903A3 design was implemented involved modification of various parts creating a hybrid between the M1903 and M1903A3.[14]
  • M1903A4 (1942)— an M1903A3 modified to be a sniper rifle using an M73 or M73B1 2.75X Weaver telescopic sight and different stock.
M1903A4 with Type C stock and M84 sight
M1903 with 'scant' stock

There were four main variants given official nomenclature, though there are a number of important sub-variants:


A feature inherent to the M1903 and not found on the Mauser 98 is the conspicuous knob at the rear of the bolt, allowing the rifle's trigger tension to be released without dry firing and damaging the firing pin.

The 1903A3 rear sight was an aperture sight adjustable both for elevation and windage.

The 1903 rifle included a rear sight leaf that could be used to adjust for elevation. When the leaf was flat, the battle sight appeared on top. This sight was set for 547 yd (500 m)., and was not adjustable. When the leaf was raised it could be adjusted to a maximum extreme range of 2,850 yd (2,610 m). The rear sight could also be adjusted for windage.

The bore of the rifle is 0.30 inches (7.62 mm) in diameter. It was then rifled 0.004 in (0.1 mm) deep, making the diameter from the bottom of one groove to the bottom of the opposite groove 0.30787 in (7.82 mm) of the barrel.

The rifle was a magazine-fed clip-loader and could fire at a rate of 20 shots per minute. Each stripper clip contained 5 cartridges, and standard issue consisted of 12 clips carried in a cloth bandolier. When full the bandolier weighed about 3 lb 14 oz (1.8 kg). Bandoliers were packed 20 in a box, for a total of 1,200 rounds. The full box weighed 100 lb (45 kg).

The rifle was sighted for 2,500 yd (2,300 m) and had a point-blank range of 500 yd (460 m). The maximum range of the ball cartridge, when elevated at an angle of 45°, was 4,890 yd (4.47 km; 2.78 mi).

  • Ball— consisted of a brass case or shell, primer, a charge of smokeless powder, and the bullet. The bullet had a sharp point called a spitzer bullet, and was composed of a lead core and a jacket of cupro-nickel (later gilding metal), and in the M1906 design, weighed 150 grains (9.7 g). The bullet of the M1906 cartridge, when fired from the rifle, had an initial velocity of 2,800 ft/s (820 m/s).
  • Blank— contained a paper cup instead of a bullet. It is dangerous up to 33 yd (30 m).
  • Guard— had a smaller charge of powder than the ball cartridge, and five cannelures encircle the body of the shell at about the middle to distinguish it from ball cartridges. It was intended for use on guard or in riot duty, and it gave good results up to 200 yd (180 m). The range of 100 yd (91 m) required a sight elevation of 450 yd (410 m), and the range of 200 yd (180 m) required an elevation of 645 yd (590 m).
  • Dummy— this was tin-plated and the shell was provided with six longitudinal corrugations and three circular holes. The primer contains no percussion composition. It was intended for drill purposes to accustom the soldier to the operation of loading the rifle.

The U.S. rifle, Model of 1903 was 44⅞ inches (1.098 m) long and weighed 8 lb 11 oz (3.95 kg). A bayonet could be attached; the M1905 bayonet blade was 16 in (406 mm) long and weighed 1 lb (0.45 kg). From 1906, the rifle was chambered to fire the .30-caliber M1906 cartridge (.30-06 cartridge), later the M1 (1926) and M2 Ball (1938) rounds. There were four standard types of cartridge:

Diagram of the .30 Springfield Rifle


In 1977, the Army located a rather large cache of unissued M1903A3 rifles which were then issued to JROTC units as a replacement for their previously issued M1 Garand and M14 rifles, which were then returned to Army custody due to concerns about potential break-ins at high school JROTC armories. After the creation of the privatized Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) in 1996, the Army has located additional M1903 and M1903A3 rifles which have been made available for sale to eligible CMP customers. The CMP announced over Halloween weekend 2008, that they had a handful of M1903 and M1903A3s available for sale. The following Monday, the CMP received over 700 pieces of mail, and most of the rifles have since sold out, per the 11-17-2008 update from the CMP.

For safety reasons, JROTC M1903s are made permanently unable to fire by plugging the barrel with a steel rod, or having it filled with lead, soldering the bolt and welding the magazine cutoff switch in the ON position. To plug the barrel, a very cold steel rod is inserted; after it warms up it is too tight to remove.

U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps color guard rifles bear many similarities to the Springfield.

Contemporary hunters and shooting enthusiasts value the rifle for its beauty, dependability, and adaptability for almost all U.S. game animals. With proper gunsmithing, the M1903 makes a reasonably priced sporting rifle, comparing favorably with many modern firearms.

An excerpt from an AFJROTC drill team manual, "This is a United States rifle caliber springfield model 1903. It is a bolt action five cartridge clip loading shoulder weapon. it is 44.87 inches long and weighs approximately 8.69 pounds. A 16-inch bayonet weighs an additional pound. The M1903 saw notable use in World War one, and two and as a sniper in Korea and Vietnam. It is capable of delivering 20 shots per minute of accurate fire upon any designated point within it's [sic] 2,500 yard range." The USAJROTC manual lists the nomenclature of model 1903 as a "US Rifle, Caliber 30, M1903 is a light-weight, manually operated, magazine fed breech loading shoulder weapon."

Due to its balance, it is still popular with various military drill teams and color guards, most notably the U.S. Army Drill Team. M1903 rifles (along with the M1 Garand, M1917 Enfield and M14 rifles) are also common at high school Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) units to teach weapons handling and military drill procedures to the cadets. JROTC units use M1903s for regular and inter-school competition drills, including elaborate exhibition spinning routines. Exhibition teams often use fiberglass stocks in place of wooden stocks, which are heavier and more prone to breakage when dropped. JROTC Color Guards still favor wooden stocks over fiberglass because of their weight characteristics and appearance. The M1903 is also the standard parade rifle of the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets, which has over six hundred M1903s, a very small percentage of which are still fireable. The Summerall Guards of The Citadel South Carolina Corps of Cadets in Charleston, S.C. also use the Springfield 1903 model for their silent drill performances, which include annual trips to Mardi Gras, as well as many other notable performances.


After the Korean War, active service (as opposed to drill) use of the M1903 was rare. Still, some M1903A4s remained in sniper use as late as the Vietnam War; and technical manuals for them were printed as late as 1970.[4] The U.S. Navy also continued to carry some stocks of M1903A3s on board ships, for use as anti-mine rifles.

Post Korean War Service

Springfield M1903 rifles captured by the Germans were designated Gewehr 249(a).

The U.S. Army Military Police (MP) and the U.S. Navy Shore Patrol also used M1903s and M1903A3s throughout the war. Various U.S. allies and friendly irregular forces were also equipped with the weapon. The Brazilian Expeditionary Force (FEB), operating in the 5th Army in Italy was equipped with Springfield M1903 rifles. In August 1943, the Free French Forces of General Charles de Gaulle were re-equipped by the United States primarily with Springfield M1903 and M1917 Enfield Rifles. The M1903 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.

The M1903A4 was the U.S. Army's first attempt at a standardized sniper weapon. M1903A3 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.[13] Barrel specifications were unchanged, and many M1903A4s were equipped with the two-groove 'war emergency' barrel.[21] By all accounts, the M1903A4 was inadequate as a sniper rifle.[22] The Weaver scopes (later standardized as the M73 and M73B1) were not only low-powered in magnification, they were not waterproofed, and frequently fogged over or became waterlogged during humidity changes.[13][22] When this occurred, the M1903A4's lack of open front or rear sights rendered the weapon useless. Normally used with ordinary M2 ammunition with a 152-grain flat-base bullet, accuracy of the M1903A4 was generally disappointing;[23] some Army snipers who came across Japanese or German sniper rifles quickly adopted the enemy weapons in place of the Springfield.[24] The Marine Corps declined to issue the M1903A4, favoring instead a modified M1903A1 rifle fitted with a Unertl 8x target-type telescopic sight.

According to Bruce Canfield's encyclopedic U.S. Infantry Weapons of WW II, final variants of the M1903 (the A3 and A4) were delivered in February 1944.[14] By then, most American combat troops had been re-equipped with the M1 Garand. However, some front-line infantry units in both the U.S. Army and Marine Corps retained M1903s as infantry rifles beyond that date and continued to use them alongside the M1 Garand until the end of the Second World War in 1945. The Springfield remained in service for snipers (using the M1903A4), grenadiers (using a spigot type rifle 22 mm grenade launcher) and Marine Scout Sniper units.

The M1903 and the M1903A3 rifle were used in combat alongside the M1 Garand by the U.S. military during World War II and saw extensive use and action in the hands of U.S. troops in Europe, North Africa, and the Pacific. The U.S. Marines were initially armed with M1903 rifles in early battles in the Pacific, such as the Battle of Guadalcanal, but the jungle battle environment generally favored self-loading rifles;[19] later Army units arriving to the island were armed with the M1 Garand.[20] The U.S. Army Rangers were also a major user of the M1903 and the M1903A3 during World War II with the Springfield being preferred over the M1 Garand for certain commando missions.

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 M1903 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.[18]

In late 1942, Smith-Corona Typewriter Company also began production of the M1903A3 at its plant in Syracuse, NY.[15] 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.[16] M1903A3 rifles with two-groove 'war emergency' barrels were shipped with a printed notation stating that the reduction in rifling grooves did not affect accuracy.[17] As the war progressed, various machining and finishing operations were eliminated on the M1903A3 in order to increase production levels.[17]

M1903 production was discontinued in favor of the M1903A3. 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 M1 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.[13] 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.[13] All stock furniture was also redesigned in stamped metal.

World War II saw new production of the Springfield at private manufacturers Remington Arms and Smith-Corona Typewriter. Remington began production of the M1903 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 M1903 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 M1903, 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".[14]

World War II

Camouflaged M1903 Springfield sniper's rifle with telescopic sight, in France, May 1918.

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 U.S. 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.[13]

The Federal Bureau of Investigation acquired some M1903 rifles configured like National Rifle Association Sporter Models in response to the 1933 Kansas City Massacre.[12]

In 1926, after experiencing the effect of long-range German 7.92×57mm Mauser and machine gun fire during the war, the U.S. Army adopted the heavy 174-grain boat-tail bullet for its .30-06 cartridge, standardized as 'Cartridge, Ball, caliber 30, M1'.[10] M1 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 M1906-round; the new M1 ammunition was issued to infantrymen with the Springfield rifle as well as to machine gun teams.[11] However, during the late 1930s, it became apparent that, with the development of mortars, high-angle artillery, and the .50 caliber M2 Browning machine gun, the need for extreme long-range, rifle-caliber machine-gun fire was decreasing. In 1938, the U.S. army reverted to a .30-06 cartridge with a 152-grain flat-base bullet, now termed M2 Ball, for all rifles and machine guns.[10]

Towards the end of the war, Springfield turned out the Model 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 modified sear and cutoff to operate 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.



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