U.S. Rifle, Caliber .30, M1903

Here, a rifle can claim a good half-century on the firing line.  More if you count the legions of fans who collect and still actively shoot one (or several).  Of course in those days a rifle with a fifty-year service life was no great trick, but I digress.

Perhaps the consummate American rifle, the 1903 Springfield  is somewhat ironically a copy.  In the early years of the 20th century the U.S. Government looked to standardize a rifle and cartridge for use in all branches of the armed services; by and large the Army issued the various models of Krag and the antiquated heavy Trapdoor Springfield, the Navy and Marines the straight-pull 6mm Lee.  

Experience in Cuba in the Spanish-American War showed the way.  The answer was the Model of 1903, a licensed version of the then-recent Mauser action.  Initial production rifles were chambered in the short-lived .30-03 cartridge and fitted with an even shorter-lived rod bayonet, famously noted to be useless and stupid by none other than Theodore Roosevelt.  By around 1905 the design was finalized into the rifle we all know and love, and once in circulation accompanied the American serviceman to Mexico with Pershing, China with the Marines, and ultimately through the Bois de Belleau, the Meuse-Argonne, the Philippines, Pearl Habor, Guadualcanal, North Africa, and eventually to the desolate hills along the 38th Parallel.

The 1903 family is also devilishly addictive to collect.  A hundred-odd years on, pristine examples are getting scarce and rebuilds are the norm.  A matching-parts rifle falls into the realm of a pipe dream, but for the enthusiast who doesn't mind putting a little extra cash into one the occasional good deal can be found on gently sporterized examples.  

This rifle pictured is representative of the standard at the time of the United States' entry into the First World War.  It wears a Type S stock with a single reinforcement below the reciever, a bolt with an early straight (unswept) handle, and a front sight protector as seems to be favored by the U.S. Marine Corps.  The Army appears to have had less enthusiasm for the device; a small point of consequence as a minority of doughboys carried the '03 to the Western Front, supplied as they were with the upcoming 1917 Enfield.

Given time and a cooperative internet provider I may return and add an accoutrement card as displayed with the M1 rifle a few posts down. 

No comments:

Post a Comment