Interesting Articles. About OCAD
Inform yourself and fuel your passion. (Scroll down for our other articles)
The History of the Springfield M1903 Rifle
Kurt Whiteman of Legacy Collectibles
For militaria enthusiasts, the Springfield M1903 rifle may be a familiar name. During its active duty throughout the early-to-mid 1900’s, it became the standard U.S. infantry rifle and served as a base for several variations of sniper rifles for years afterward. It was widely considered to be a reliable, accurate, and beautifully-made firearm. The Springfield M1903’s history is layered with several innovations, which made it a reliable partner to soldiers and a coveted collectors’ item.
The Krag-Jorgensen Era
The story of the Springfield M1903 began in the late 1800’s. The United States Army, looking for a new standard service rifle, held trials from competing firearm manufacturers in 1892. Despite some objections from domestic manufacturers, the U.S. Army selected the Norwegian Krag-Jorgensen rifle design.
Mass production of Krag-Jorgensen began immediately. The Springfield Armory of Massachusetts was tasked with the production of the rifle, which earned it the nickname, “Springfield Model 1892.” The Krag-Jorgensen became standard issue for the U.S. military during the Spanish-American War in 1898.
However, during the conflict, the United States’ new rifle was evidently outclassed by the enemy’s weaponry. The Spanish forces used rifles utilizing a more effective loading method than the Krag-Jorgensen’s inefficient side bolt-action loading system. After this and other foreign innovations in weaponry, the Krag-Jorgensen design quickly became obsolete, and the United States began searching for its new standard rifle
Birth of the Springfield M1903
In response to the U.S. Ordnance Department’s request for a new standard rifle, Springfield began making variations of the Krag-Jorgensen to incorporate a more effective loading system with a practical design. Its production led to a few new designs in the late 1890’s, and a few years later, the fabled Springfield M1903 was created.
The rifle utilized a five-shot bolt-action loading system that was very similar to the German ’98 Mauser design, and a more effective loading design than the Krag-Jorgensen. The Springfield 1903 was also slightly shorter and easier to handle than its German counterpart. Most importantly, the rifle featured a bolt cutoff switch that allowed the user to flip the action between single-shot (individual round loading) and magazine chambered rounds (for faster firing). The overall craftsmanship of the rifle was extremely high quality, with most parts heavily polished and blued.
After less than ten years in service, the Krag-Jorgensen was replaced, and the Springfield M1903 became the new United States standard issue rifle. The original Springfield M1903, and its descendants, would see heavy military use over the next few decades.
While the base design of the M1903 stayed relatively the same throughout its active lifespan, there were several innovations on which it was improved. One such famous example was President Theodore Roosevelt’s input on the firearm’s bayonet. He purportedly inspected the weapon as was not happy with the current bayonet setup, saying it was too flimsy to withstand actual combat. In response, the rifle was given a shorter stock and was outfitted with a sturdier 16-inch bayonet.
Another notable improvement was in the early days of the rifle. The Springfield M1903 originally chambered a .30-03 caliber round that left the barrel at approximately 2,300 feet per second (fps). After the Germans implemented a superior spitzer bullet in 1904, the United States responded with their own update: a .30-06 caliber round that left the barrel at about 400 fps faster than the original. This new round, commonly referred to as the “.30-06 Springfield,” became the standard round for the M1903 and remained in use by the United States military until the 1980s.
As mentioned previously, the Springfield M1903 was a heavily-used firearm during the first half of the 1900’s. It was the standard infantry rifle for the United States during World War I. During this time, the M1903 proved to be an adaptable firearm. Several of these were converted to sniper-use during World War I, being outfitted by the Army with a more durable Warner-Swasey scope, while the Marines used a more precise Winchester A5 scope.
The Springfield M1903’s Legacy
Throughout its active duty, the Springfield M1903 was looked to as a reliable, accurate firearm for decades after its creation. Its extensive service record made it a respected piece of United States military history. Even today, hunters convert and use these rifles as their go-to hunting rifle. The Springfield M1903 is a coveted item of militaria and history collectors.
Kurt Whiteman is the Sales Director of Legacy Collectibles, a collector and supplier of investment grade handguns and military collectibles, such as daggers, medals, and rifles.
Copyright of the article text and photographs belong to the author.
M1 v. M75
THE HISTORY OF THE RUSSIAN STEEL HELMET 1916-1945
Attention all helmet collectors. An exciting new history-reference collector's book has just been released. Written by Russian collector Ivan Karabanov, it is entitled, "THE HISTORY OF THE RUSSIAN STEEL HELMET 1916-1945”, and promises to deliver ...
Understanding Austrian Army peaked caps.