Springfield 1903 rifle

From Academic Kids

The Springfield 1903 rifle (military designation United States Rifle, Caliber .30, Model 1903) was the bolt action rifle issued to United States troops during the First World War. It saw service through most of the first half of the twentieth century, and was replaced in 1936 by the faster-firing semi-automatic M1 Garand.


The rifle was developed due to observations of actions during the Spanish American War, in which Spanish troops were armed with German Mauser Model 93 rifles, which were deemed far superior to the U.S. Krag-Jrgensen rifles, in large part due to their durable internal magazines. Work began on creating a rifle comparable to the Mauser, and a prototype was produced in 1900, going into production in 1903, thus gaining its nomenclature.

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 bayonet used (a rod-type) as being too flimsy for combat. All the rifles to that point consequently had to be re-tooled for a knife-type bayonet, called the Model 1905.

The retooling gave an opportunity 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 American version of these rounds which were used in the Springfield were designated "Cartridge, Ball, Caliber .30, Model of 1906"; this is the famous .30-'06 ammunition used in countless small arms to the present day. The rifle's sights were redone to compensate for the speed and trajectory of the new cartridges.

Additionally, tests revealed that the design was effective with a short, "cavalry-style" barrel of 24 inches (610 mm) in length, so the decision was made to issue shorter rifles to the infantry as well, an innovation during a time when long rifles for infantry were the norm.

As a whole, these changes led to a vastly efficient and deadly shoulder arm. Some dubbed it the "weapon of the silent death," since a person could be struck by its bullet before ever hearing the weapon's report.

By the time of U.S. entry into World War I, 843,239 of these rifles had been produced; however the demands of the war spurred the production of an additional 265,620, not nearly enough to train and arm American troops. This prompted production of 2.5 million of the U.S. Model of 1917, also in .30-06 caliber, but from a British (Enfield) design. The 1903's similarities to the German Mauser were so numerous that the U.S. government was compelled, until World War I, to pay royalties to Mauserwerke. A settlement was reached after the armistice. It was ironic, as the Mauser design itself had been plagiarized from French and British designs, see Mauser.

After the end of World War I, several thousand unserviceable Springfield rifles were collected from the field and re-assembled from their interchangeable parts, some at ordnance depots in France, others stateside.

World War II saw another jump in production of the Springfield, with manufacturing taking place at the Rock Island Arsenal and by private manufacturers Remington Arms and Smith-Corona Typewriter, in addition to the Springfield Armory. It was produced as the M1903A3, a variant of the 1903A1 simplified for mass-production. The most noticeable difference in this revision was the replacement of the collapsable rear sight mounted to the top stock, with a smaller, simpler rear sight mounted near the bolt assembly. Indentations on the sides of the lower stock were also omitted.

The rifle was used by the U.S. military only in the opening years of the war, however, before being phased out in favor of the M1 Garand. It remained in service for snipers (using the M1903A4) and grenadiers (using the M1 rifle grenade launcher). It should be noted that the M1903A4 could only be reloaded one bullet at a time, due to the scope position directly over the action, which prevented charging (loading from 5-round stripper clips) the magazine.

Due to its balance, it is still popular with various military drill teams and color guards.


The Springfield rifle model 1903 was 27 7/8 in (1.098 meters) long and weighed 8 lb 11 oz (3.95 kilograms). A bayonet could be attached to the tip. The bayonet blade was 16 inches (406 mm) long and weighed 1 lb (0.45 kg). During World War I the rifle fired the .30-caliber model 1906 cartridge. There were four standard types of cartridge:

  • Ball cartridge — 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, and weighed 150 grains (9.7 g). The bullet of this cartridge, when fired from the rifle, had an initial velocity of 2700 feet per second (820 meters per second).
  • Blank cartridge — contained a paper cup instead of a bullet. It is dangerous up to 30 meters.
  • Guard cartridge — 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 catridges. It was intended for use on guard or in riot duty, and it gave good results up to 180 meters. The range of 90 meters required a sight elevation of 410 meters, and the range of 180 meters required an elevation of 590 meters.
  • Dummy Cartridge — 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 rifle was sighted for 2,500 yd (2,300 meters) and had a point-blank range of 500 yards or meters. The maximum range of the ball cartridge, when elevated at an angle of 45°, was 4890 yd (4.47 km) .

The rifle was a clip-loader and could fire at a rate of 20 shots per minute. Each 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 (1.76 kilograms). Bandoliers were packed 20 in a box, for a total of 1,200 rounds. The full box weighed 45 kilograms.

The following table gives the approximate maximum penetration in various materials.

Penetration of a Rifle Bullet.
Material At 200 yards
180 meters
At 600 yards
550 meters
Commercial steel 0.76 cm 0.25 cm
One-inch broken stone, gravel 12.2 cm 10.9 cm
Hard coal between 1-inch boards 23 cm 18 cm
Brick masonry, cement 5.6 cm 3.0 cm
Brick masonry, lime 6.1 cm 3.0 cm
Sand, dry 23 cm 31 cm
Concrete, 1-3-5 7.6 cm 5.1 cm
Oak 69 cm 30 cm
Sand, wet 38 cm 33 cm
Pine 66 cm 30 cm
Earth, loam 51 cm 41 cm
Grease clay 152 cm 81 cm

For single shot, 150 rounds concentrated at one spot will break a 23 cm wall of brick masonry at 200 yd (180 m).

The smooth bore of the rifle is 7.62 mm in diameter. It was then rifled 0.1 mm deep, making the diameter from the bottom of one groove to the bottom of the opposite groove 7.82 mm of the barrel.

The rifle included a leaf that could be used to adjust for range. When the leaf was set down, the battle sight appeared on top. This sight was set for 500 meters and was not adjustable. When the leaf was ranged it had four sights. The extreme range sight at the top of the sight was set for 2875 yd (2.60 km) and was seldom used.

The open sight at the upper edge of the drift sight was adjustable from 1400 yd (1.28 km) to 2750 yd (2.51 km). The open sight at the bottom of the triangular opening in the drift sight could be adjusted from 100 yd (90 m) to 2450 yd (2.24 km). The scales for the various ranges were listed on the sides of the leaf. On the right front end of the base of the sight is the windage screw. This could be used to adjust the wind guage, and each graduation was termed a "point".

See also


  • "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.fr:M1903

pl:Springfield M 1903 zh:斯普林菲尔德狙击步枪


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