Springfield Armory Museum - Collection Record
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|Title:||RIFLE, MILITARY - U.S. RIFLE MODEL 1903 .30 SN# 75162|
|Date of Manufacture:||1906|
|Catalog Number:||SPAR 5531|
|Measurements:||OL:110.4CM 43 1/2" BL: 60.9CM 24"|
U.S. RIFLE MODEL 1903 .30 SN# 75162
Manufactured by Springfield Armory, Springfield, Ma. in 1904 - Standard bolt-action Model 1903 rod- bayonet rifle with 5-round clip-fed integral magazine. Overall length with rod-bayonet extended is 53 7/8". Blued finish with full length walnut stock. Equipped with M1903 rear sight. Well in buttplate for cleaning rod, brush, etc. Cartridge: .30-03. Army card states the front sight has ivory bead. The bead is now missing.
Receiver: U.S./SPRINGFIELD ARMORY/MODEL 1903/75162.
Stock: 5/P in circle.
1909 Catalog #0451 - "Rifle. U.S. Magazine Rifle. Cal..30. Mod. 1903. No. 75162. With special attachment to front sight. Ivory bead attached to front sight."
Exhibit label: "MODEL 1903 - The initial production of the Model 1903 Springfield Rifles made use of a rod bayonet."
Notes: "THEODORE ROOSEVELT AND THE '03 ROD BAYONET - The tendency of the military to design one object which will perform more that one function is well known. Usually such attempts produce an item that is less than successful at any of its intended functions. Such was the case with the rod-bayonet.
Sliding bayonets and rod bayonets are not a recent development in arms design. Sliding bayonets were known during the 18th century, and the combination ramrod and bayonet appeared on U.S. military arms in the 1830s with the Hall-North series of weapons. After an absence of over fifty years, it reappeared toward the end of the 19th century with the 'trapdoor' series of arms produced at Springfield Armory. Even at that time there was criticism of the device and it utility was questioned.
The Spanish-American War had demonstrated the superiority of the Spanish Mauser design rifle, and upon the war's conclusion, the United States began development of a new rifle for its fighting man - the weapon that would become the famed '03 Springfield. At the time, the primary concerns were with the rifle itself; not much attention was given to a bayonet. The emphasis of combat was now on firepower and longer range shooting, and it was felt there would be fewer opportunities for close-in fighting requiring the use of a bayonet.
As a result, the earlier concept of a combination bayonet and ramrod was resurrected for the new rifle, and the earliest examples of the new pattern were equipped with several different variations. The rod was essentially the same as that used on the earlier 'trapdoors.' By depressing a button, it would slide forward, locking into place again in an extended position to form a long and thin bayonet. When full removed from the weapon, it would serve to clear the bore of obstructions in much the same fashion as a regulation ramrod. Such a bayonet was less expensive to produce than the separate knife type, and satisfied the reluctance of many to spend money on something that wouldn't be use very much.
Theodore Roosevelt, a President with military experience and known for his tendency to speak his mind, was not impressed with the new bayonet. Viewing a demonstration conducted by Chief of Ordnance General Crozier, Teddy was still unimpressed when shown that the rod could penetrate a board. According to a contemporary account, the President armed himself with a Krag rifle that had a knife bayonet and invited Crozier to assume an en garde position with his rod bayonet. Crozier complied and Teddy deftly engaged the rod with his Krag, snapping it in two.
In a letter to the Secretary of War written in typical 'Bull Moose' fashion, Teddy repeated his low opinion of the rod bayonet, adding his own recommendation:
'I must say that I think that ramrod bayonet about as poor an invention as I ever saw. As you observed, it broke short off as soon as hit with even moderate violence. It would have no moral effect and mighty little physical effect. I think the suggestion of a short triangular bayonet a great improvement. After you have gone over this subject of the bayonet and the sword, do take it up with me.
I wish our officers could carry rifles. If they carry any sword they ought to carry a swI am particularly anxious that we should have a thorough test made of the long and short rifle (that is of the 24-inch and 30-inch rifle) at some place like that in Utah where several companies of men can be employed at firing both weapons at long ranges. The ramrod bayonet business does not make me feel that we can afford to trust too much to the theory of the closet variety. I would like to have the opinion of Captain March, and then the opinion of the other military attaches who saw the fighting between the Russians and Japanese, about both the bayonet and the sword. I would like also to have the opinion of any of our officers in the Philippines who have seen the bayonet actually used.'
The war between Russia and Japan demonstrated to Western observers the necessity of a functional bayonet, and the rod bayonet once more faded into well deserved obscurity.
The Ordnance designers returned to their drawing boards, a few experimental bayonets were made, and the final result was the more substantial U.S. Knife Bayonet, Model 1905. The majority of the 74,000 Springfield rifles which had been manufactured with the rod bayonet were returned to the armory and modified to accept the new knife bayonet." - William E. Meuse, NPS Curator
Letter from Chief of Ordnance General William Crozier to Commanding Officer, Springfield Armory, dated 11 January 1905. "Sir: 1. Pending the final determination of what changes, if any will be made in the rod bayonet of the U.S. magazine rifle, model of 1903, you are authorized to suspend work on the rod-bayonet, rod-bayonet stud, rod-bayonet catch and rod-bayonet catch spring, to such an extent as will not require the laying off or discharge of any employees. 2. Until a more definite opinion is formed as to the extent of the changes, if any, that will be made in the bayonet, it is not deemed advisable to suspend work on the front sight stud."
Special Bimonthly Report of New Work Undertaken and New Supplies Issued for Service, 1 November 1906. 26791-0-1143 - "MODEL OF 1903 RIFLE: Steps are being taken to adapt this Rifle to the Model of 1906 ammunition (with new pointed bullet), the principle changes including a reduction in the length of the barrel of .2 inch, and a corresponding reduction in the sight radius; a different form of chamber; re-graduation of the rear sight leaf; and a change in the hand guard and length of stock."
"The rarest of the '03s for the collector to add to his collection is the original model that has an under-the-barrel rod bayonet.
There are two reasons for this rarity: first was the elimination of the original rod bayonet and the return to the knife bayonet system of its predecessor, the Krag rifle Model of 1898, and second, the change from the Model of 1903 cartridge to the Model 1906 cartridge. Both of these changes required introduction of different manufacturing operations and the modification of existing rifles that were already in the field. As a result, very few of the early production rod-bayonet rifles have survived in their original form.
The rear sight of the first '03 is much like the Model 1902 rear sight of the Krag rifle, except that it is mounted on a band just forward of the receiver. The bolt body is polished bright and the bolt handle is the original heat-treat dark color. The extractors are a bright purplish-blue color. The lower band is a solid ring and not spilt like later variations. The hand guard is smooth on top, and extends almost out to the front sight. The stacking swivel, upper band, bayonet catch, and front sight are all different from any later models. All parts other than the bolt are highly polished and blued, except the receivers which are a grey case-hardened color. All '03s are oil finish.
Two different types of safety are found. The early type is like thThe original '03 was caliber .30-03. This cartridge had a longer neck than that of the 1906 cartridge and will not chamber in a 30-06 rifle. However, the reverse is possible.
The first alteration of the rod bayonet '03 was the change from the rod bayonet to the Model 1905 bayonet. When this was done, a new read sight (Model 1905) was also installed.
This change in the type of bayonet was the result of an order by President Teddy Roosevelt, dated January, 1904, to stop '03 rifle production. It appears that the president was not in favor of the limited-use rod bayonet and felt that the knife bayonet should be reconsidered. After a board of officers reviewed the subject of bayonets and tested a number of prototypes, the M1905 bayonet was wisely adopted and put into production.
The change to the 1905 bayonet and the 1905 rear sight required a new hand guard, new upper band with stacking swivel, new front sight, complete new rear sight (with 2,400-yard graduated leaf), and alteration of the long stock by shortening, reshaping, and plugging the front end.
Model 1903 rifles with only the modifications of 1905 are very rare, possibly as rare as the original rod-bayonet '03s.
The second alteration of the rod bayonet '03 (most frequently done at the same time and in conjunction with the first alteration) is the 1906 modification - to caliber 30-06. The change required removal and modification of the original barrel by shortening it, re-threading it, moving the 1905 rear sight forward (or installing the 1905 sight, if the slight change had not already been done) and re-cutting the chamber for the 30-06 cartridge.
Original Springfield Armory rod bayonet Model 1903 rifles were in the serial number range of 1 to just over 90,000. The barrels did not have a date stamped to the rear of the front sight.
Rod-bayonet rifles modified for the M1905 bayonet and sight are thus below serial number 90,000 and have shortened, reshaped and plugged stocks. The handguards are new, and have the sight-protecting hump at the rear end.
Newly manufactured Model '03 rifles with the 1905 modifications were produced from April, 1905 to about November, 1906. These rifles do not have the altered rod bayonet stocks and the barrels are dated.
An easy way to establish if an '03 barrel is the early long length (prior to 30-06) is to place a narrow flexible steel tape in the bore and measure from the face of the closed bolt to the muzzle end of the barrel. It should be at least 24.2 inches, if unmodified.
Pristine examples of the three variations of the original rod bayonet '03 can hardly be expected to be found, but examples of each in any condition should be added to an '03 collection, even if only representative of the type." - William Brophy, Gun Collector's Digest.
"The original Springfield used the now obsolete cartridge known as the Model 1903. This was a rimless .30/03 case with a slightly longer neck than the present standard .30/06 and first used the 220-graIn Krag bullet at a velocity of about 2200 to 2300 f.s. Krag performance was developed on that heavy-content obsolete nitroglycerine powder known as 'W.A.' named for Whistler and Aspinwall, the designers of that particular development originally manufactured by Laflin & Rand.
Being a nitroglycerine powder, this was extremely destructive on barrels, and it was found that with a velocity of 2300 f.s. the early Springfield barrels had a life of less than 1000 rounds. Accordingly, velocity was dropped back to merely 2000 f.s., approximately the same as the Krag.
In 1906 the Government adopted a cellulous powder or nitrocellulose composition containing no nitroglycerine. They also abandoned the 220- grain bullet in favor of a 150-grain cupronickel-jacketed number with a spitzer or pointed nose. Velocity was listed at 2700 f.s.
At the time it was found that the extra long neck of the 1903 cartridge was not practical and it was shortened approximately 1/10
Ball, Robert W.D. SPRINGFIELD ARMORY: SHOULDER WEAPONS 1795-1968. Antique Trader Book. Norfolk, Va. 1997.
Brophy, William S. THE SPRINGFIELD 1903 RIFLES. Stackpole Books. Harrisburg, Pa. 1985.
Campbell, Clark S. THE '03 ERA: WHEN SMOKELESS POWDER REVOLUTIONIZED U.S. RIFLERY. Collector Grade Publications Inc. Cobourg, Ontario, Canada. 1994.
Ferris, C.S. & John Beard. SPRINGFIELD MODEL 1903 SERVICE RIFLE PRODUCTION AND ALTERATION. 1905-1910. C.S. Ferris. Arvada, Co. 1995.
Flayderman, Norm. FLAYDERMAN'S GUIDE TO ANTIQUE AMERICAN FIREARMS...AND THEIR VALUES. 8th Ed. Krause Publications. Iola, Wi. 2001.
Sharpe, Philip B. THE RIFLE IN AMERICA. Funk & Wagnalls Company. N.Y., N.Y. 1947.
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