Springfield M1903 - A Bolt Action Rifle of WW2

Rifle, Cal. .30-06, M1903 Series (1903)

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The Springfield M1903, a bolt-action rifle, was the standard issue rifle used by the Army from 1903 thru 1936, when it began to be replaced by the new issue M1 Garand. But it remained in use in many units during the first two years of World War Two, until 1943, when the Garand began arriving in large numbers.

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.

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. 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."

A major conversion effort was launched by Springfield Armory to convert over 80,000 rod bayonet '03 rifles to the new Model 1905 bayonet. An improved rear sight was another modification done during this period. The new sight was a folding leaf that included revised graduations on the sight ladder to accommodate the new ammunition being introduced by the Department of Defense.

By the time the United States had 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 the war, Springfield Armory produced over 265,620 Model 1903 rifles.

Other World War Two Bolt Action Rifles

Type 38 was the standard rifle issued to the Imperial Japanese infantry. The weapon had a high accuracy rate and was very reliable. Records indicate 3,400,000 were produced and were also used by the United Kingdom, Thailand, Russia and China. The rifle was long and able to be used with a type 30 bayonet. The type 38 was 4'2" long and was the longest rifle in service in WW2.

The British Lee Enfield Number 4 was the penultimate model in that series which had first appeared back in 1896. The reliability and accuracy of the weapon were legendary, and its service in the hands of British and a host of Commonwealth troops during the Second World War confirmed its reputation. At the outbreak of war, the standard rifle remained the Mark III Short Magazine Lee Enfield of Great War vintage, which was slightly lighter, but the same length as the Number 4. While the Number 4 was far easier to produce, there were no pronounced differences between the two models, excepting the simplified sights of the latter. As a basic load, each man armed with the rifle carried fifty rounds of ammunition in ten chargers of five rounds each. By 1944 the load had doubled to one hundred rounds, but the additional ammunition was earmarked for the Section Bren Gun.

M1903 Variants

The M1903 used the .30-06 standard military cartridge in five-round magazines. The M1903 was an accurate weapon, and was also used as a sniper rifle. It remains in use today as a ceremonial rifle (1,295,000).

M1903 (1903) initially used the .30-03 cartridge, but was modified to use the new standard model M1906 .30-06 cartridge.

M1903A1 (1929), with a straight stock, was the standard Army rifle until it began being replaced by the M1 Garand in 1936, and was in use during the early years of World War II.

M1903A2 was a barreled receiver used as a subcaliber rifle with artillery pieces.

M1903A3 (1942) was modified to simplify production by making use of stamped metal parts together with a pistol grip stock. Green Arrow Springfield M1903 series Cal. .30-06 rifle.

M1903A4 sniper rifle(1942) was a M1903A3 specially modified for use as a sniper rifle with the addition of a M73 or M73B1 2.2X telescope. The M1903A4 had a full pistol grip stock.

Information on this page courtesy of U.S. Army TACOM-Rock Island and the Springfield Armory Historic Site.

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