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M1903 Springfield Sniper Rifle

M1903 Springfield Sniper Rifle

Date Adopted: 14 January 1943
Length:1098mm (43.21")
Weight:4.15kg (9.13 lbs.) (without sights)
Caliber:.30 M1906(.30-'06)
Muzzle Velocity:823mps (2700FPS)

Development History

The United States Rifle, Caliber .30, Model 1903 and its long, illustrious thirty-three year history as the standard long arm of the American military was started on 2 October 1900 as an experimental rifle derived from the designs of both the German Mauser rifle and the standard American long arm of the period, the United States Rifle, Caliber .30, M1898 . The experimental rifle proved to be a quite workable design, so plans were made to continue work on the rifle for the new rifle gave good performance with a barrel of just over 24" in length, so a "short rifle" could be used by both the infantry and the cavalry. After all the recommended design changes were incorporated into the rifle, it was adopted as the United States Rifle, Caliber .30, Model 1903, on 20 June 1903. Even though the rifle had undergone several design changes during its early development, there were still problems with some of its accessories, most notably its bayonet. The newly adopted Model 1903's rod-type bayonet was not liked by several high ranking government officials, including the President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, so in 1905, production was suspended until a conventional knife-type bayonet was created and subsequently, all existing rifles were immediately recalled to configure them to the new pattern. Prior to this event, the German military had begun experimenting with bullet design by using the new process of spark-gap photography to see how bullets flew through the air. The Germans found a pointed-tip bullet, as compared to the round-nosed bullets of the day, was more efficient, so they developed their S-Patrone cartridge, a round with a 'spitzer,' or pointed, bullet, giving higher muzzle velocities and better subsequent range and terminal ballistics. To counter this development, American designers created the Cartridge, Ball, Caliber .30, Model of 1906, known today as the .30-'06, which was adopted on 15 October 1906. This new round required every Model 1903 built had to again be modified, this time with new barrels and recalibrated sights set for the new round's ballistic envelope.5 With these changes made to the rifles built by both Springfield Armory and Rock Island Arsenal (and later by Remington Arms Company during World War II), the Model 1903 soldiered on until World War I . Because the Model 1903 had so many similarities to the Mauser design, the American government paid royalties to the German arms firm, Mauserwerke , up to the U.S. entry into World War I, with a final settlement made after the "Great War " was over.

The next modification made to the Model 1903 occurred during World War I , when a military requirement to give an infantryman the ability to convert his bolt-action rifle into a primitive form of automatic rifle came about. Many inventors tried to meet the requirement, but a design by John D. Pedersen was selected by the military. With his design, the infantryman would remove the bolt from his rifle and place the Pedersen device in position. A magazine of rounds stuck out to the right from the device to feed the "machine-rifle." To allow spent rounds to be ejected from the action, an opening was milled into the left side of the rifle's receiver. With this opening, the Model 1903 became known as the M1903 Mark I. The Pedersen device was never fully developed by the time World War I ended, so further development was discontinued, the remaining Pedersen devices were mostly scrapped and the novel, yet militarily unworkable concept was permanently abandoned. Other such concepts were tried, but never really adopted or developed after World War I ended. Early in the war production period, several Model 1903 rifles suffered from catastrophic failure when bad ammunition caused the rifle's receiver to burst. Subsequent investigation revealed poor heat treating of the receivers was to blame, so double heat treating was done to all new receivers, solving the problem. This production event allowed the United States Rifle, Caliber .30, Model 1917 to be made in greater number and was subsequently the standard American military long arm of World War I. The Model 1917 came very close to replacing the Model 1903 because it was made in larger numbers. Only the Model 1903's capabilities as a match rifle prevented this from occurring. The next change came on 5 December 1929, when a new stock pattern with a modified pistol grip was adopted as the United States Rifle, cailber .30, Model 1903A1, but very few rifles were ever converted to this pattern. Just after World War II began, the military was again in short supply of its new standard rifle, the United States Rifle, Caliber .30, Model 1 . To counter this problem, a much simplified version of the Model 1903 was adopted as the United States Rifle, Caliber .30, Model 1903A3. During the period from 1942 to 1944, nearly 1 million Model 1903 and Model 1903A3 rifles were built by the Remington Arms Company and L.C. Smith-Corona Typewriters. Also developed during World War II, the Model 1903A2 was a barreled action used as a sub-caliber training device inserted into the breech of large artillery pieces to reduce the training costs of these weapons. The United States military never had a true sniper's rifle before needing one during World War II , so Remington designed and developed a sniper's rifle based on the Model 1903A3, which was adopted as the Model 1903A4 on 14 January 1943.

During its thirty-three year reign as the longest-serving standard American military long arm, the Model 1903 had many design derivatives, among them several varieties of .30 caliber National Match and .22 caliber gallery practice rifles, including the .22 caliber Model 1922, the Model 1922M1 and the M2 and a wide variety of sporterized rifle used by hunters even today. One Model 1903, Serial Number 6000 in the original .30-'03 caliber, was also custom-built by Springfield Armory for President Theodore Roosevelt, who claimed over 300 animals in his hunting forays with the rifle. Roosevelt also had another Model 1903 (in .30-'06 caliber) built for his son, Kermit, who normally accompanied his father on hunting trips.

Service History

In service use, the Model 1903 was very robust, accurate and hard-hitting. Wherever the American infantryman went to protect democracy and American interests, the Model 1903 was there with him, from the humid jungles of Latin America and the Caribbean, to the rice fields of China, the volcanic island of the Pacific Rim and the hedgerows of Europe. The 1903's durability was(is) such that it is still used as a training rifle. It is also still in use by several military ceremonial units, including the U.S. Army Drill Team and the U.S. Navy Honor Guard. Due to political and economic considerations, the Model 1903's long service record may be overtaken by the United States Rifle, Caliber 5.56mm, M16 series rifle as America's longest serving rifle within the next three years, but the Model 1903 will remain a shining example of how the infantryman and his trusty rifle is still the best weapon to take the fight to the enemy and claim his ground.